12 August, 2009
I recently celebrated another year of this life o'mine with many loved ones. A girlfriend of mine (whose birthday is the day after mine) and I decided to co-party it up this year by combining our celebrations. We thought it would be so much fun to just have one big soiree and call it another year.
So we began to investigate restaurants where we could have a nice intimate dinner with just immediate close friends, small enough where finalizing the bill wouldn't require a half hour. We wanted to have fun and go somewhere we hadn't previously been, and we soon landed upon a new French restaurant in West Hollywood, Bistro LQ, which I will be blogging about in the next day or so - stay tuned!! However, we struggled a bit with finding a central and fun place for drinks after dinner with our larger group of friends. Wanting to try somewhere new and not too "edgy" as we would normally frequent, we landed upon a recommendation by UrbanDaddy for a bar called Madame Royale. The write-up about this Hollywood newbie made it sound fresh and very French, in line with our French dinner and rounding out a nice theme for the evening. Plans, however, seldom work out the way you plan them.
UrbanDaddy's positive review of the Moulin Rouge-esque bar appealed to us because it was different and seemed to be a less than pretentious Hollywood bar whose Parisian atmosphere and (hopefully) strong drinks would make the birthday celebration one we would hardly forget (or remember, if the pours were done right). HOWEVER... I am here today to tell UrbanDaddy, my fellow bloggers, blog readers and friends that Madame Royale nearly ruined our birthday night of fun.
As is typically the case, our dinner party ran a bit later than we wanted. We invited a large group of friends to meet us at Madame Royale, the previous location to Goldfingers and Play on Yucca at Cahuenga, at 9pm. We knew that a 9pm invitation time would translate to closer to 9:30 or 10pm, which it did. As we were quickly trying to leave the restaurant and head to Hollywood, our phones began to ring. The few friends who arrived "early" at 9:30 were told that Madame Royale was not yet open for business. Mind you, it was a Saturday night in Hollywood. We rushed the couple miles into Hollywood, fearful that our friends were standing outside waiting for the women of the hour to arrive.
When we finally did arrive, close to 10pm, we exited the cab to find two large bouncers, equipped with stupid Secret Service earbuds, standing outside of the front door with a small velvet rope. My fellow birthday-er and myself don't frequent Hollywood clubs at all, but this bar was not on Cahuenga, Hollywood Blvd, or Sunset. We weren't intimidated by the velvet rope or the bouncers. We saw our few stranded guests outside waiting for us, and we immediately asked the bouncers A) what time the bar opens, to which they responded, "Sometime between 10 and 11," and B) where the manager was, who I had previously spoken to about making a reservation at Madame Royale. The bouncers' ambiguous and fuzzy answer about business hours was LESS than acceptable. What kind of bar, old or new, doesn't open by 10pm on a Saturday night in LA???? Here we were, anticipating a party of thirty people or more, all drinkers of alcohol, waiting for this stupid pretentious bar to open, but it was too busy trying to create a line of people outside to build buzz while it sat COMPLETELY EMPTY INSIDE.
It was our birthday, and we weren't having any of this kind of stupidity. I ::possibly:: used a couple choice words for the bouncers, and we immediately left, all 10 of us thus far, down the Cahuenga corridor where we found another bar that would take our green money and serve us some stiff drinks. Our French theme quickly turned into a Mexican theme, which was fine with us. Alcohol tastes just as strong in both countries.
So, UrbanDaddy, please take this review as a big fat FAIL on your part to find a place that wouldn't even bother SERVING the supposed "discriminating" patron like myself. Just because I live near Hollywood doesn't mean I'm going to play it's stupid games, especially when it comes to my birthday and my alcohol.
As for you, Madame Royale, you will last just about as long as a pretentious and presumptuous bar typical to the Hollywood scene. I give you less than a year before you start to financially fail, not because you don't have a fun and unique atmosphere, but because you won't let people enjoy it and spend their money on you.
Parlez vous FAIL?
I have been an Angelino for over 10 years now, but growing up in San Diego, I did not have the opportunity to become acquainted much with the Korean culture. Of course there were Koreans in San Diego, but they were often among a large diverse mix of Hispanics, Japanese, Samoans, Filipinos, etc. However, living in Los Angeles where the largest Korean population exists outside of North or South Korea themselves, it is nearly impossible not to become acquainted and grow very fond of Korean culture and, more importantly, food.
After attempting to dine solo on a Korean lunch once about five years ago, I failed to understand the pairings of so many side dishes with noodles and meat. I just didn't get all of the little containers in my gigantic take-out paper bag. So when I was invited last night by my girlfriend and her Korean fiance, I gladly accepted the invitation to learn more about this wondrous and healthy culture and culinary experience.
We drove into Koreatown and emerged onto Vermont just north of Olympic to one of hundreds of strip mall Korean BBQ eateries in a two mile radius. Our eatery of choice was Soowon Galbi, packed with patrons at every table on a Tuesday night. The aroma of grilling is irresistible - it beckons you from the parking lot. We waited patiently for a table and were seated thankfully near a door. You see, Korean BBQ requires you to grill your own meat and veggies on a small tabletop grill in front of you. So I knew I was going to come out of there smelling like a steak. Not that I minded at all...
I had experienced Korean BBQ before with friends, but I did not get to enjoy it with a Korean friend who could speak and joke with the waitresses like my friend's fiance. Well prepared for the plethora of side dishes, I was comforted by having an ambassador at the table to explain the history and technique behind the cuisine. He quickly ordered three meats for us to enjoy, and before I knew it, here came the twenty or so tiny dishes, covering the table.
Chris (friend's fiance) explained the different sauces, some hot and some not, that you could enjoy with the pickled seaweed, bean sprouts, kimchi, radishes, fish and vegetable cakes, and everything else lining the table. Koreans love spicy, and I love spicy, so already I was loving my meal. The waitress came back to the table and said a few words to Chris, who she assumed spoke Korean fluently (he doesn't speak it but understands it... good thing he's cute enough to just laugh and get away with speaking to her in Kor-English), and before we knew it she was slapping a gigantic plateful of thinly slices brisket onto our hot grill. It was a site to behold! What makes Korean BBQ such a fun experience is the interactive way you eat it. You help each other out by watching the meat and making sure it doesn't burn. The Koreans aren't really afraid of germs from person to person, as we each dipped our chopsticks over and over again into the side dishes and meat. Germs are overrated anyway. Our ambassador had shown us how to eat our meat in a small wonton-like taco, wrapping it up with some salad and hot sauce in a flat square rice noodle. I'm half Mexican, so I instantly felt at home with this technique. It was second nature!
The second round quickly came after we devoured the thinly cut brisket, which was so tasty and the perfect start. We segued into a plate of 3 large strips of pork belly - I just fell more and more in love as the night went on. Our lovely waitress cut the pork belly pieces and threw in some onions and mushrooms onto the grill. We fried up the small pork pieces, while we found a second round of small plates being ushered onto our overflowing table. Two favorites of mine were the fluffy omelette in a bowl, and the bean paste soup.
The omelette was so light and seasoned with scallions, and quite hot. Apparently the Koreans are very keen on freshness, which also translates into the hottest temperatures possible for food just out of the kitchen. Equally as hot was the bean paste soup, which after letting cool down a bit, I enjoyed thoroughly. Fresh pieces of tofu and meat as well as jalapeno and zucchini made the soup a nice break from my meat overload.
Our final victim on the grill was an order of beautifully marbled rib eye. The Koreans know me so well! They served so many of my favorite flavors - beef, pork, sipcy, egg... We almost thought we were all too full to continue, but after smelling the rib eye grilling up into a nice medium rare, it was nearly impossible to turn away, full belly or not. The meat was tender and juicy, and at that very moment, I thought to myself that this was possibly the best dessert I could ever have. What I appreciated most about the meal was that as full as I was, the small bites of meat and side dishes allowed for a slow digestive process - the entire dinner took just over two hours. Oh, and we were all wrong: we had PLENTY of room to finish off the rib eye.
Finally, as I was looking up the Korean names for our meat entrees, I noticed the very back of the menu had instructions and history on the side dishes and techniques for a Korean BBQ meal. This was perfect for the naive like myself, and I found it refreshing and very kind for the restaurant to share this information. Or they were probably just sick of trying to explain it all to ignorant patrons like myself over and over again everyday...
All in all, I can't wait to have Korean BBQ again. I am feeling just confident enough to even try it on my own! No more wondering what the hell I do with this pickled cabbage or spicy hot sauce and bean sprouts in my takeout bag. Kamsanida, kamsamnida!!
07 August, 2009
Hi friends! I know it has been a little while since my last lovely little post, but I'll have you know, I have been quite busy!! Life has a great way of reminding you that you are just a weeeeee speck of dust in the large universe, while larger forces move around you bringing birth, death, future plans, career moves, etc. Before I knew it, weeks had gone by without updating my bloggy-blog!! Believe me, it isn't because I haven't recently dined anywhere fabulous, but rather it was just that a few recent challenges came my way for me to kick their butt. Now that I've done that, here's a post to get you through your weekend: we're going on a Magical Ghetto Burger Tour!!!
Not to be confused with a psychedelic Beatles-esque acid trip in the woods while staring at trees and kaleidoscope figures, but rather this is the start of a tour of some of LA's less popular or known burger joints in some of the more colorful and exciting parts of town. We'll visit those parts deemed "notorious" and seek out the peaceful and uniting power of food. No matter what race, nationality, color or orientation, EVERYONE loves good food.
Our first stop is Mom's Burgers in Compton, CA. Situated just north of the industrial area of the 91 freeway, the small traditional burger stand sits quietly along Alondra Avenue across the street from an inviting Southern Baptist Church. It was a warm Saturday afternoon when we made the trip to try a famously big and juicy Mom's burger. While there wasn't a line of customers waiting, business was quite steady at 3pm.
The menu includes various burger options including a bacon burger, a double meat burger, a turkey burger, and even Mom's special with a fried egg on your burger. Being my first trip, I decided to try a good starter burger - the bacon cheeseburger. Because each burger is made to order, your service is definitely not "fast." They also don't ask the customer how they like the burger to be cooked, but I feared not. A meal comes with a side of fries, which are not just salted, but SEASONED salted. We were off to a great start.
The burger is cooked medium without a hint of pink. Not really my preference, but it was still juicy and tasty. The burger itself stood out with its peppery seasoning and slight char. The bacon, on the other hand, could have used another minute or two on the grill, as it was a bit undercooked. But the burger was definitely worth the drive to the 91, and even with a full belly of burger, the fries were hard to resist.
Overall, Mom's Burger did not disappoint. The traditional burger stand proved it could compete against many other lauded joints, and I look forward for the next stop on the Magical Ghetto Burger Tour - stay tuned!!