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