Sunday, January 6, 2008

Whoa, Blossom: Blossom Vietnamese Restaurant, Downtown

The Militant thought, what better way to start off a new year than to check out one of the newest restaurants to have sprung up in Downtown Los Angeles in the past few months!

The Downtown restaurant scene is rather exciting, especially the new east-of-Olive ones that don't empty the Militant's wallet in one visit (of course, such high-end places would rarely, if ever, get coverage here in the Mess Hall).

One such place is Blossom Vietnamese Restaurant a relatively new spot on South Main and Winston streets (between 4th and 5th) that he was seemingly unable to escape during his visit to DTLA on Friday. Though it was cold and rainy, his natural inclination was for something nice and warm, but having been all pho'ed up for the past few weeks, the Militant decided to opt for something else, so he tried one of the rice dishes off of the menu. He tried the Cóm Gà Rô Ti (Fried Roasted Cornish Hen w/Pan Fried Egg, pictured above). It arrived, not very long after ordering, and it looked very nice...but it was so...small. The cornish hen was fried rather nice and crispy, but damn, it' The little soy and chili dipping sauce was nice, as was the three-leaves-of-lettuce and a couple onions salad, and the cute little scoop or rice with the fried egg on top of it. Don't get the Militant wrong, it was small.

Though very few individual dishes here are over the $10 mark, if you're into summa dat down-home, greasy-spoon, large-portion bang-for-your-buck Vietnamese cookin' (The Militant will grudgingly admit there's a place like that up in Frisco, on 6th St just a few feet south of Market), Blossom isn't the place (the fact that you'll likely hear Massive Attack or Radiohead rather than My Tam or Doan Trang coming through the restaurant's stereo is a sign), but at least it's not some whitewashed supergentro establishment like Silver Lake's Gingergrass, which is so...naw, the Militant's not even gonna bother.

The little "triangle corner" upon which sits the other dining room of the restaurant adds a lot of character to the neighborhood, which as we all know, wasn't much of a "neighborhood" a few years ago. So the Militant totally digs the impact it adds to the Historic Core of Downtown, especially since the last time he was around that corner was when he visited the miserably pathetic Rapid Transit District headquarters building, then located across the street, back in the early '90s.

The Militant was a little torn here. The quality of the food and service were nothing to complain about, but if you're looking for the kind of establishment that gives you bang-for-the-buck generous portions, this ain't it. But it's a nice addition to the growing Downtown restaurant scene, which apparently is now mature enough to break out of its longtime fru-fru high-end vs. longstanding affordable institution dichotomy.

The Militant gives Blossom Restaurant 7.5 out of 10 clenched fists.

Blossom Vietnamese Restaurant
426 S. Main St.
Downtown Los Angeles

Open Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Item: Cóm Gà Rô Ti (Fried Roasted Cornish Hen w/Pan Fried Egg), $8.25.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Burrito King

Being an L.A.native, born in the now-Scientology Center and having lived in east Hollywod, the deepest valley, West L.A., Hollywood and now Atwater Village, I was thrilled that the Militant Angeleno agreed to allow me to contribute to his food blog. So, thanks MA.

That said, after a couple libations this evening at the local (MJs on Hyperion), I sent a coconspirator across the stree to Burrito King. Holy Jesus (and I'm an agnostic Jew), the tacos at Burrito King are fantastic.

Now, they don't compare to the beef tacos at Tacos Villa Corona in Atwater Village, but the chicken tacos are FINE. By that I mean, sensational. They're like taking the best Jewish Chicken Soup and transferring it to a flour tortilla and adding generous spice. It's warm, it's inviting, it's just what the body (and the doctor) ordered.

Every chance I get, I get one of those chicken tacos. I can't speak to the Burritos, but lord, have mercy, the chicken tacos are that good.

And, while you're in the hood, grab the steak and potato burrito from Villa Corona and glory in the knowledge that things are ok in the universe...for at least as long as you are eating.

Burrito King
2827 Hyperion Ave.
Silver Lake/Los Feliz

Tacos Villa Corona
3185 Glendale Blvd.
Atwater Village

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Flakiness of the Good Kind in Hollywood: Golden State Bakery, Little Armenia

If you know the Militant, you know he abhors all the usual, cliche stereotypes directed at all things Angeleno. But a recent visit (back) to Golden State Bakery on The Boulevard in Thaitownlittlearmeniaeasthollywood proved that flakiness can be a good thing in Hollywood.

Always in search of the best borek in Little Armenia (those little baked pastries of stuffed goodness from Hyestan (and the surrounding region) are found in bakeries like Arax and Sasoun on Santa Monica Boulevard, each going for just around a buck or two, both inexpensive and convenient on-the-go food - the perfect kind of rations for a Militant), yours truly stumbled into this place a few months ago and discovered that Golden State was the only place that had boreks with a flaky shell - more like a Greek tyrpoita, with a subtle, cheesy coating that surrounds, but not fills, the hollow middle of the pastry.

But the Militant's hopes of frequenting the bakery after that were dashed after the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health shut it down for unspecified reasons.

Fortunately, it re-opened, put up a brand-spankin' new sign and they've cleaned up their act, with a bright blue "A" rating prominently displayed on the front door. The inside looks more tidy as well. Most of all the boreks are back, and they only cost 80 cents each (in both square- and triangular-shaped forms)! The Militant grabbed three and was in flaky goodness heaven again.

The bakery also had freshly-baked, unsliced loaves of bread, in different shapes and sizes. Judging by the lovely bready smell, he might just go back for summa dat. They also have a neato deli section with various Armenian and Middle Eastern meats and cheeses. The dude at the counter was also very friendly as well.

Welcome back, Golden State!

The Militant gives Golden State Bakery 8.5 out of 10 clenched fists.

Golden State Bakery
5158 Hollywood Blvd.
Little Armenia/Thai Town/East Hollywood

Item: Cheese borek, $0.80 (Dude, EIGHTY CENTS!!!)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pho Realz This Time: Pho 4000, Koreatown

Instead of doing a lengthy Militant Angeleno post, the Militant decided once and for all to get going on this Mess Hall thing. He was waiting for the right kind of establishment to review in this here food blog, but it would have been a tough call, especially since the more iconic eats in town have already been well-covered. So the Militant decided to start this here food blog the was he started his now-legendary main blog - by simply jumping in. So here goes...

Koreatown - quirky, vibrant and always open. It's also the home stretch for the Militant's now-weekly nocturnal bike rides between the compound and the Mid-City area. But on Tuesday night, after biking for several miles in chilly 45-degree weather, and trying to combat a mild cold, what better way to do it than to try something streaming hot?

Most people are puzzled why there are so many Vietnamese noodle soup joints in Koreatown - especially since the overwhelming majority are Korean-owned. The answer lies in an imported trend: In the mid-late 1990s, the biggest food rage in Seoul, South Korea was Vietnamese pho restaurants. With a local palate that was already accustomed to noodles, pho was the exotic new flavor in South Korea that got a whole nation slurpin'.

It wasn't long until Korean entrepreneurs, cashing into an already tested market, imported a cuisine which itself was imported to their country. Of course, a lot of the Militant's operatives of Asian-but-not-Korean descent have criticized the Korean expatriate business community for seemingly co-opting everything from karaoke to sushi...and now this.

Aw man, the Militant is getting lengthy again. Okay, on to the food...

So the Militant stopped by a join called Pho 4000 in Koreatown on Western Avenue near 4th St (all you 4th Street bicycle commuters might wanna check this place out), nestled in a lateral minimall called the Omni Plaza (Oooh, sounds like some sports venue, eh?).
He first heard about it from a certain food operative who told him that "Pho 4000 is twice as good as Pho 2000." The Militant had been to Pho2K many's aite, but it's another Pho-rean joint where authenticity is sacrificed and the mint leaves don't appear fresh.

He was ready to park his bike along the railing when the valet parking attendant started to get his attention. "Oh great," the Militant said. But all the attendant wanted him to do was to chain his bike further in (probably not to have the bike stick out into the parking lot). So all was cool.

Right, the food.

The Militant went ahead and ordered the "Number 6," which was the Pho Gai, a.k.a. Chicken Pho. Within minutes the plate of onions and an accompanying plate of bean sprouts, mint leaves, cilantro, lime slices and chiles appeared. All looked fresh and unspoiled. So far so good.

Then the soup came out. It really hit the spot, but of course it was 45 degrees outside. Nevertheless, the broth was good, yet subtle, but not sweet like the Pho-rean places are prone to do.

The best part? There was a television near the kitchen playing soap opera Vietnamese . The middle-aged woman attending to the counter and separating bundled dry noodles while watching the soap operas had a phone conversation in her native language, and the Militant knew for a fact that it definitely didn't sound Korean. And once he passed by the business license on display, the applicant was one "Kip Van Le." Yup, that sealed the deal. This was no Pho-rean joint, it was definitely Vietnamese run. The Militant was ecstatic at this discovery. This would make Pho 4000 the second Vietnamese-run pho joint n K-town (after Pho Viet on 3rd and Vermont). Hooray for authenticity!

The decor is nouvelle-spartan, the kind that looks more like a nightclub than a homey family-run business, which was fine in this case. There are also a few paintings depicting Vietnamese countryside life hanging on the walls. Its humbling simplicity is a welcome contrast to the aforementioned (Korean-owned) Pho 2000, which has the audacity to boast on its placemats not only the health benefits of pho, but the fact that President Bill Clinton once visited the original Pho 2000 in Ho Chi Minh City, despite the fact that the Koreatown Pho 2000 has no affiliation whatsoever with the original Vietnam-based eatery.

So the Militant's food operative was definitely right, Pho 4000 definitely was twice as good as Pho 2000. Being relatively close to K-Town and too far from Little Saigon in the OC, this is the Militant's go-to place for pho. The Militant's only complaint was that service was pretty much nonexistent once the food arrived. No one was around to fill his water glass.

The Militant gives Pho 4000 7 out of 10 clenched fists.

Pho 4000
414 S. Western Avenue #B (at 4th St.)

Open 7am-3am daily.

Item: Pho Gai (#6) , $5.95

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Coming Soon - The Militant Angeleno's Mess Hall

Turns out there are a large amount of food-related posts in the Militant Angeleno's blog. In the near future, there will be a spin-off blog (because Hollywood loves a good spin-off, lol) focused on food, but still from a Militant's point of view. The emphasis will be on ethnic good or longtime, relatively-obscure local establishments that deserve more press. And the majority of these establishments should be cheap and accessible to the masses (fine dining coverage will be rare, nothing fru-fru, chi-chi, ga-ga, ba-ba, wa-wa or any adjective named after repetitive syllables said by an infant). And you already know how the Militant feels about hipster spots.

This time around, the Militant will have guest contributors adding to the mix (because he's too busy being a Militant as it is). If you want to be enlisted as a contributor to the Militant Angeleno's Mess Hall, shoot off an email to militantangeleno at gmail dot com.

Will this spin-off be a Frazier, or a Joanie Loves Chachi? Who knows...only time will tell.