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Wok the Ph贸?
October 8, 2009, 1:59 am
Filed under: Beer, Grub | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


Food *****
Beer Selection ****
Service ***
Atmosphere ****
Eye Candy the way you’re slurping?

***** WOW | **** Damn Good | *** nice | ** average | * WACK

What is better than a big, steamy bowl of goodness? Nothing according to Anthony Bourdain. Neat, simple, and brightly lit, Ph贸 Cafe dishes out just that: big bowls of action packed ph贸, including vegetarian friendly options!

First, the place has no sign which makes it terribly hard to find. However, the glowing interior shines through the glass storefront to help catch the eye. Upon walking in the first thing I noticed was that they carry a great (and my favorite) Asian light lager, Taiwan Beer. For some reason or another this is not a common beer to find in restaurants. Needless to say, this delighted me greatly and was enough to rank them high on the beer selection 馃槢

I went with a bowl of the whole shabang, rare beef, meat balls, tendon, and tripe…then added tofu. Of course, it came with the requisite sides of basil, bean sprouts, jalape帽o, and limes (all fresh, juicy, and aromatic). The broth is nice. Not too salty nor lacking in flavor. All the while maintaining its clarity, as you can see from the pic above. All the usual condiments reside on the table (Hoisin, Sambal, Siracha), but the broth is good enough that you don’t have to add any sauces except to make it spicy. I can say now that the addition of tofu was a bit ambitious and I left with an uncomfortably full belly. Don’t get me wrong, at around $8 a bowl I’m not at all complaining.

I would easily return to Ph贸 Cafe as this has been the best ph贸 experience I’ve had in LA. Cheap, clean, simple, and delicious, it has all the right ingredients. The place is pretty popular so expect a short wait and don’t plan on bringing the whole entourage.

  • 4 people is a good sized party
  • Plan on waiting if during peak dining hours
  • Date friendly
  • Same plaza as Rambutan Thai



Food ****
Beer Selection ***
Service ***
Atmosphere *****
Eye Candy ****

***** WOW | **** Damn Good | *** nice | ** average | * WACK

From the dynamic duo of Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne comes the newest addition to their restaurant empire, Tavern. Located in not-so-parking-friendly Brentwood, Tavern is far from a quaint neighborhood watering hole. The place is big yet cozy, crowded but comfortable, a bit of a scene and a bit rustic all at the same time.

Despite walking into a stiflingly small reception that barely fits more than 3 people, Tavern is a big and complicated joint. To the left is the Larder/Blue Room which serves as their own bakery and takeout deli. On the right is the bar and beyond that is the glorious Atrium. A big, glass structure with potted olive trees and velvet armchairs around the tables, the Atrium is where you want to be. It’s the biggest room in the restaurant but still quieter than the bar. Prices are not outrageous for the quality; dinner entrees range from $20-$30. Besides, with nine (9!) different menus, you’re sure to find something to appease your wallet and stomach.

Tavern is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It also has a brunch menu, a pastry menu, a kids menu, a desserts menu, a bar menu, and a cocktail menu (!). I started with the bar menu that consists of small plates and burgers. While I hear the Pork Manchego Burger is good, I know the fried oyster & bacon brochette with tabasco a茂oli is great. Salty, rich, fried and high in bacon content, this thing is dynamite. After a tasty Old Fashioned or two I moved on to the dinner menu. I was far from disappointed. Everything was perfectly cooked and well executed but I did find a couple items a bit heavily seasoned.

In a nutshell, Tavern has great atmosphere, good booze, and very good food at a reasonable price for its kind. Definitely a place worth going back to a couple of times and reservations are highly recommended. This place gets packed but has a good spatial arrangement and high ceilings to alleviate the congestion. With several menus to choose from and service all day, you’re sure to find something to like at Tavern. Hats off to the Goin & Styne tag team.

  • Make reservations!
  • Sit in the Atrium for dinner; Bar and Blue Room are good for small plates/lunch
  • Appetizers are the best
  • Good place to bring a date
  • Rotating Menu

Business in the front, party Backstage
July 28, 2009, 5:06 am
Filed under: American, Booze, Full Bar, Grub | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Weeks have passed as I traveled across the pond to Greece, split the Black Sea to Ukraine, and motored through the Bosphorous to Istanbul, but I won’t bore you with tales of my journey 8)


Maximum 3====D
Food 3=D
Beer 3==D
Service N/A
Atmosphere 3==D
Eye Candy 3===D

My return to LA also meant my return to homeostasis – bar hopping. Upon arrival I found myself rooted at Backstage Bar in Culver City for some drinks and pub fare. Sort of a “Welcome Back to America” night if you will. What I didn’t know was that it was also Karaoke Night at Backstage. Upon hearing this I almost immediately bolted. Don’t get me wrong, I think singing and dancing is a vital part of social interaction, but I am completely and irreparably tone deaf. Not to mention that the sound of drunkards belting out off-notes to ancient power ballads requires a certain BAL that I had yet to reach. Nonetheless, curious to see why every table in the joint was reserved, I stayed to have some grub and watch the night unfold.

Standard bar items like quesadillas, onion rings, and fries line the menu. Certainly nothing to call home about, but the food is greasy and does a good job of coating your insides for a night of heavy boozing – which of course goes hand-in-hand with karaoke for us Westerners.

After putting down a few Glenmorangies with my steak quesadilla and onion rings, people began filing in and the place quickly filled. Karaoke started somewhere between 5 and 6…drinks. I think it was somewhere around 9:30pm. To my pleasant surprise, there were some patrons that could actually sing and were even enjoyable. The place wasn’t La Cita packed but since I was comfortably perched on my stool at the bar I can’t be certain how hard it was to get a drink. Atmosphere was casual, fun and aptly putting out a “Let’s Get Drunk and Screw” vibe. Overall it was a good time worthy of going back with a group and consuming copious amounts of alcohol; I would go somewhere else beforehand for food.

After I had my fill of the local American Idol contest, I made my way over to Lost & Found around the corner on National

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Bottle Rock the Party

Maximum 3====D
Food 3===D
Beer 3====D
Service 3====D
Atmosphere 3===D
Eye Candy 3=D

The once Culver City confined Bottle Rock now has a new location in downtown LA just for the Eastsiders. Just blocks away from LA Live, Bottle Rock LA serves up the traditional wine bar cheese and charcuterie plates with the addition of a full menu of seafood, meats, pastas, and desserts.

The cheese and charcuterie plates were very well paired with varying spreads, pastes, and fruit. The food has a delicate touch with Asian and Italian influences. Specifically, the Pig Ear Terrine and Pork Belly Risotto tipped me off that there must be a Taiwanese chef in the kitchen. This was a very pleasant surprise as both my parents are from Taiwan and it is far from mainstream fare in the U.S.

This similarly chic downtown location boasts more space and an even larger wine selection than their predecessor with nearly 1,000 bottles to choose from. Alex Macy, who recently coordinated the LACABAL event in May, has done a killer job as the beer buyer stocking some great craft bottles like Duchesse de Bourgogne and Allagash’s Hugh Malone while the taps list features gems like Old Rasputin (on nitro) and Allagash Curieux

A very enjoyable experience overall, Bottle Rock LA is definitely a go-to. Atmosphere is a bit cold with lots of concrete and metal in the room, but that can be easily overcome with some great beer and good company. The beer and wine selection is certainly among the best in LA but the food is nice and not to be overlooked.

  • Good place to start a night of debauchery downtown
  • Accomodating for large groups but may be difficult when busy
  • Good place to bring a date to impress with knowledge of food/beer/wine
  • Great stuff but gets pricey quick so beware when eating and drinking
  • Beer selection is phenomenal

Here Piggy Piggy
June 20, 2009, 10:51 pm
Filed under: Beer, Booze, Diners, Grub, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Maximum 3====D
Food 3==D
Beer 3===D
Service 3===D
Atmosphere 3==D
Eye Candy at place called Oinkster?

Oinkster has recently been featured on a certain Food Network show and is now all the rage in the center of the Universe, the Eagle Rock-Glendale-Burbank area.

The Oinkster, a fast-casual concept from acclaimed fine-dining chef Andre Guerrero, invites diners to kick back and enjoy high-quality American classics in a relaxed, modern and fun environment.

via O I N K S T E R : a slow fast food restaurant.

Serving up burgers, house-cured pastrami sandwiches, rotisserie chicken, fries, and salads, the Oinkster is truly all-American cuisine…except the Belgian fries of course. While people rave about the pastrami, I think the stars of the show are really the fries and house made condiments. The Belgian fries are fresh and crisp, the chipotle ketchup is a nice way to get some smoke on your burger, and the Oinkster mustard MAKES the pastrami sandwich.

They also maintain a more than palatable tap selection usually featuring Stone‘s Arrogant Bastard, Pale Ale, Smoked Porter, and a rotating tap featuring various craft brews. It’s also nice to see pitchers available as fewer and fewer places in LA are doing that. If none of that suits your fancy there are plenty of bottles to choose from too. Milkshakes are a must for a place like this and they’re good. If you’re a fan of Auntie Em’s, which is also in the area, then you’ll be glad to know that they cater desserts to Oinkster.

The service is pretty good, the runners are friendly and helpful, but one order is inevitably forgotten about when with large groups. That said, they are always quick to fix the problem. While there are indoor and outdoor seating areas, tables are limited and it is a royal pain in the a$$ to seat a large group there if it’s at all busy.

The Oinkster is a respectable establishment making almost everything in house and supporting local business as much as possible. The food isn’t mind-blowing nor is the atmosphere, but it’s a diner and it is certainly worthy of Gay Fieri’s lil’ show. It’s good ol’ fashioned American made with quality ingredients. Besides, the fries and beers are enough to get me (and many others) back through the door any day.

  • Sometimes orders get forgotten in large groups
  • Service is friendly and generally quick
  • Difficult for large groups
  • They use Carolina BBQ sauce so don’t expect the goopy stuff
  • I hear a dirty rumor that they will be featuring Eagle Rock Brewery one day

Silverlake Barbarella
June 19, 2009, 6:16 pm
Filed under: American, Beer, Booze, Grub, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Barbarella taps

Maximum 3====D
Food 3==D
Beer 3====D
Service 3==D
Atmosphere 3===D
Eye Candy 3===D

The same people that opened the Bungalow Club bring a beer haven to Silverlake in the form of Barbarella Bar. The name may evoke images of surreal space scenery with shiny outfits and phallic rockets reminiscent of the movie…don’t worry, it’s not that tacky. The place is spacious and pretty massive sprawling 4300 square feet with high ceilings so elbow room is plentiful.

There isn’t much wow factor to the menu but ingredients are fresh and local when possible which is a plus. The fare is pretty standard consisting of some appies like modified bruschettas and Ahi Tar Tar, both of which were good but not “OMG I just creamed my pants” good. Items like pumpkin ravioli, mac & cheese, burgers and pizza comprise the entree section. While this is far from the most innovative menu in town, it is accessible and gets the job done for a decent price with quality ingredients. The mac & cheese hits the spot.

Bartenders and servers are attractive, friendly and maintain the leather and heels sort of ambiance. However, their knowledge on the available taps is disappointing to say the least. I didn’t order wine so I can’t speak to their level of expertise in that sense, but when I ask if a beer is on nitro I don’t expect bewildered looks from both server and bartender. Nonetheless, their tap selection is impressive with about 25 varieties ranging from SoCal hop to Belgian malt. I had the Old Rasputin on nitro which was tight, but I wouldn’t have known had I been relying on the staff to tell me.

For those of you curious about this nitro nonsense, here’s the skinny: Conventionally beers are carbon dioxide carbonated. On nitrogen the bubbles are finer and make for a creamier, softer mouth feel (that’s what she said) typically used with stouts and porters.

Overall, I would say that the tap selection is the big draw while the food is mildly above pedestrian and the price point is reasonable for both. The majority female staff balances the heavily male population of the East LA scene while providing enjoyable scenery and ample opportunity for light conversation. Will definitely go back for drinks, but dinner would mostly be out of convenience.

  • Don’t expect the staff to know much about their beers
  • Service is friendly pleasant to look at
  • Good place for a group to meet or to start/end the night
  • Again, more of a group spot than a date thing
  • I saw Keanu Reeves and his beard there

Pizza Face

Maximum 3====D
Food 3===D
Beer 3==D
Service 3==D
Atmosphere 3===D
Eye Candy 3===D

I heard about Gjelina through a Food & Wine article about the “New Pizza Artisans.” It was one of two local LA pizza joints that got mentions, the other of course being Nancy Silverton and Mario Batali’s Pizzeria Mozza. I love me some Pizzeria Mozza and it’s definitely one of my favorite LA establishments so I thought I’d give Gjelina a try.

Upon walking in I was impressed with the scenery, although it was unmarked and f*cking hard to identify at night. Tall unfinished wood doors welcomed me to a very clean Alpine cabin-esque environment filled with a lot of wood and tall windows…not to mention very good looking female clientele. Some old school lighting gave it a nice effect and kept the lighting very mellow. I sat outside where there is a fire pit amidst about 10 small tables in addition to the 20 or so tables indoors. Note to the owners: small round tables with large round pizzas make for a very inefficient use of surface area, stick to tops with 4 corners.

Tap selection was extremely limited but good enough boasting Green Flash IPA and Allagash White. Unfortunately I arrived late and was subject to the “Late Night” menu that consisted of only oysters (Kumamoto and Malapeques) salads and pizzas. Nonetheless the pizzas provided an entertaining selection with some not-so-mainstream pies. I opted for the Lamb Sausage, Broccoli Rabe, Tomato Con铿 t & Asiago. The pizza was great, thin crispy crust, good balance of toppings, and the broccoli rabe really worked well with the lamb sausage. A couple of beers and a pizza amounted to a whopping 30 bucks, not bad at all for West LA.

Service was mediocre and the server was rather icy not once cracking a smile. I would still say that I enjoy the dining at Mozza a bit more, but overall the impression was good and I will definitely return for a run at the full menu.

  • There are no modifications so don’t bother asking
  • Music is trying a bit hard
  • Service seems hit and miss
  • Good place to bring a date, just don’t get caught with wandering eyes
  • Pies are about 12″ rounds – good for 2 people
  • Get a square table if possible, small round tops are wack large ones OK