THINGS I ATE: Hwe Dub Bap at A-Won; Also, Dessert at Cafe Mak

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For a few years now, I’ve been hearing about the Hwe Dub Bap at A-Won Japanese Restaurant here in Los Angeles. This Korean dish, which is basically sashimi piled on top of lettuce and other veggies, has been thoroughly documented by the local media, blogs, and various Yelpers over the years. However, I’d never actually tried it before. I certainly had come close — going so far as to actually sitting down at the restaurant with every intention to order the dish. The thing is that A-Won also specializes in albap, a rich rice bowl topped with a beautiful assortment of caviar, and try as I may, I simply am not one who can ever resist a giant bowl of fish roe.

This weekend, however, I finally decided to MAN UP and go for the much-heralded Hwe Dub Bap. I had spent much of Saturday afternoon ambling about Disneyland (as one does), and while there had been a midday corn dog to stave off a wave of violent hunger pangs, the shocking truth is that it simply was not enough to sustain me. By the time dinner at A-Won rolled around, I knew a meager bowl of fish roe simply would not due. Delicious, yes. But enough to counter a ravenous post-Disneyland appetite? Hardly. And thus, the landmark decision by me to eschew my beloved albap for hwe dub bap was made.

This was a good thing.

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THINGS I ATE: Papa Cristo’s

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Image via Food GPS

Los Angeles is not a city brimming with Greek food. In fact, I can only think of about six or seven Greek restaurants total — Le Petit Greek in Larchmont Village, The Great Greek in the Valley, Tony’s Taverna in Malibu, Ulysses Voyage at The Farmer’s Market, Petros in Manhattan Beach, and Joseph’s Cafe in Hollywood, which I think is probably closed by now, and I wouldn’t eat there anyway. But I digress.

Supposedly at the top of that Aegean totem pole is Papa Cristo’s, located in the Byzantine-Latino Quarter of Los Angeles. And yes, LA does have a Byzantine-Latino Quarter. It’s basically Koreatown. Anyway, Papa Cristo’s has earned raves from newspapers, magazines, and of course, lowly blogs. I’ve wanted to visit the place for some time, but annoyingly, the restaurant closes at 8 PM, which is highly inconvenient for me.

Nevertheless, the other night I managed to finally make my way into the BLQ an snuck into Papa Cristos with just under 25 minutes left before the doors shut. Did the place live up to the hype? A few grainy pics after the jump…

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THINGS I ATE: Cobb Salad at Square One Dining

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Square One Dining has hands-down the best French toast in Los Angeles. Canelé and The Griddle come close, and BluJam has its oh-so-tasty crunchy variety, but Square One still takes the crown with its brioche french toast with bourbon-pecan topping and vanilla whipped cream. This is the stuff dreams are made of, people. It’s also, however, the stuff that love handles are made of too, and we don’t want those.

Luckily, Square One offers up some pretty amazing salads too. Take the Cobb salad, for instance. Square One does a mean Cobb salad. I am aware that one does not often use the word “mean” when describing a salad, let alone a boring Cobb salad, but people, this is truly a MEAN Cobb salad. I’m surprised it didn’t arrive at my table on a motorcycle with a blaring electric guitar signaling its presence. And then the salad can take off its helmet, and we discover that it’s really a hot lady, maybe even Claudia Schiffer, and as she wags her head back and forth in slow-mo, her blonde hair cascades down and our jaws drop. Yeah, that’s pretty much sums up this salad. It’s awesome.

And as a healthy alternative to French toast, it’s an excellent choice. Although, buyer beware: this salad does feature bacon, humbolt fog cheese, and a buttermilk dressing; so it’s not like the pinnacle of low-cal dining… But you will feel much less guilty when you see restaurant regulars / professional beanpoles Adam Levine and Jake Gyllenhaal at the next table over…

Square One Dining
4854 Fountain Ave Los Angeles, CA 90029
(323) 661-1109 • SQUARE ONE DINING

THINGS I ATE: Bagel Broker Edition

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Looking for a bagel in LA? Good luck. The city notoriously misses the mark when it comes to this hallowed specialty. Some say it’s because the water in LA isn’t the same as NY. Others blame general Los Angeles stupidity. I don’t really know where the problem lies, but I can assure you that hope is not lost. I’ve tried most of the top bagel spots: Brooklyn Bagel Bakery, Sammy’s, Noah’s, Western Bagel, The Nosh of Beverly Hills, and more. Some are solid (Western, The Nosh), some are overhyped (Brooklyn), and some are just expensive and wrong (Sammy’s). In the end, there’s only one bagel place that does it right (or as right as an LA bagel can be): Bagel Broker.

I’ve been going to Bagel Broker since the first week I arrived in LA back in 2001. It’s the best. Bar none. These aren’t perfect bagels — they’re slightly small, and sometimes they have a tendency to dry out on the bottom — but overall, it’s the best we’ve got in LA. I can assure you that I’ve had many divine moments of personal happiness biting into one of those doughy rings. My order of choice: sesame bagel with veggie spread (or lox spread if I’m feeling like a baller), toasted, and open faced. You can of course order in classic sandwich form, but I’m telling you: try open faced. There’s a difference…

Oh, one more warning: this bagel place has become increasingly popular over the years. Not only is it common to now see celebs like Seth Rogen and Charlie Hunnam in the mix, but also long lines. Don’t worry: the queue moves quickly, even when it’s out the door on the weekend. Additionally, the parking lot (located just off Orange Grove Ave and Beverly Blvd) is hellacious. It fills up quickly, often with idiot drivers. The good news is that people leave just as quickly as they arrive. Be patient. Or look for street parking. A good bagel is worth it.

Bagel Broker
7825 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
(323) 931-1258 ‎ · bagelbroker.com

Keeping It Cute at Mignon

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The Downtown Los Angeles renaissance continues (minus the occasional corpse found in a water tower), and nowhere is that more apparent than at the corner of 6th and Main where a variety of bars and restaurants have sprung up over the years. Between Artisan House, Cole’s, The Varnish, The Association, Las Perlas, and the new Black Sheep. Slightly hidden behind all these spots is the cute, grab-your-date-and-go French wine bar, Mignon. Of course, I’m loath to call Mignon cute because, well, that’s so literal (the name truly means “cute” in French), but the truth is that Mignon is just so damn… CUTE.

A former dry cleaners-turned-watering hole (look for the chandeliers formed from hangers dangling above), Mignon is first and foremost a wine spot. It’s helmed by Santos Uy, who curates an extensive wine list (keep an eye out for an Austrian wine night on April 11th, call for details: 213-489-0131) and features bistro food designed by Chef Tim Carey of Papilles in Hollywood. Recently I was fortunate to enjoy a media-comped dinner at Mignon where I was able to sample many of the dishes magically conjured up behind the bar (there is no kitchen). After the jump, check out pic of the meal…

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Healthy Dining From ‘The Biggest Loser’s’ Devin Alexander

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Well, it’s January, which means most of the country is still feeling rather bullish about eating healthy and finally getting into shape. You can count me in on that bandwagon, and while I do feel rather cliché for adopting a lighter diet (I’ve already made quinoa twice in the span of eight days — what is happening to me??), I’m hoping I can ride this nutritious journey all the way to the Xanadu that is Summer Abs. Of course, it doesn’t help that I spent ten boozy hours in Los Angeles’s Koreatown on Saturday eating things like fried chicken, cheesy corn, and kimchi pancakes. But I digress.

The point is that I’m aspiring towards a healthy lifestyle, and so I was most excited when my friend Devin Alexander invited me down to the Shade Hotel in Manhattan Beach to sample her healthy menu at Zinc Lounge. Devin, you see, cooks healthy. Real healthy. How healthy? She’s written all the Biggest Loser cookbooks (in addition to several of her own). In fact, Devin appeared on the show just last night to demonstrate her nutritious wares. Clearly, I needed to dive into Devin’s low-cal menu (named “30 Days of Devinly Decadence”).

I only had one concern: what if the food didn’t taste good? I mean, no disrespect to healthy dining, but it doesn’t always cause the tastebuds to sing. Would I be headed down an awkward path of me pretending to enjoy my friend’s menu??

Answers after the jump!

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Smashburger Opens First LA Store

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Exciting news in the world of burgers: Smashburger has finally arrived in Los Angeles. The chain, which has been growing steadily since opening its first outpost in Denver several years ago, is known for its patties, which are actually smashed from meatballs. The resulting burger is thus juicier and more evenly cooked, according to Tom Ryan, the founder of Smashburger. I was able to sample one of these “smashburgers” today during a media-comped event to kick off the restaurant in Culver City. Pics and impressions after the jump…

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Le Ka Serves Up Le Tasty Food

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There’s a bit of confusion about the relatively new downtown eatery Le Ka. Some people think it’s called Leka, others Ka Le, and perhaps a few truly misguided souls believe it’s something named Kale. Let the record show that the restaurant is named Le Ka. The story — as I remember it after a few glasses of wine — is that “Ka” means “family” in Chinese. Furthermore, “Ka” is the surname of the owners. Meanwhile, “Le,” as you may know, means “The” in French, and so the restaurant name literally means The Family… in Sino-Franco language fusion.

Sino-Fanco fusion is also at the heart of several of Le Ka’s dishes, which I recently enjoyed as part of a media-comped dinner. Located in Downtown LA (where everything cool is these days), Le Ka boasts a big, glassy space and a hearty menu full of some definite hits (and a few near misses). Check out pics of the food after the jump…

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Seasonal Fare at Mohawk Bend

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A few weeks ago, I attended a media-comped dinner at Mohawk Bend in Echo Park in order to sample some of the seasonal items creeping up on the menu. It was a cold, rainy night, and being plopped down next to the restaurant’s roaring fireplace was kind of the best thing ever. Luckily, the food was good too. After the jump, check out some (grainy, blurry) pics of what we tasted…

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Osteria Drago Serves Up Hearty Fall Fare

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It may be shocking to believe, but there are seasons in Los Angeles, and even though the temperatures still linger in the high 60s, restaurants have filled their menus with braises and root vegetables and all that hearty fare we expect at this time of the year. One such spot is Osteria Drago, which has taken up residence in the former Il Sole space on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. Fun fact: Il Sole was where Victoria and Jonathan of The Amazing Race took J-Unit and I to dinner i order to clear their names after the infamous Shovegate of 2005. They paid for dinner, and all was forgiven. What can I say? I’m an easy mark.

Nevertheless, I was recently invited to a media-comped meal yet again at Osteria Drago, but this time I can assure you the intentions were far more noble. After the jump, check out some pics of the food, and prepare yourself to be very, very hungry.

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