Bosco Bakery roti cafe buns!

I’m a big fan of Korean bakeries. The baked goods are not too sweet, the breads are airy and light, and the buttery bread just melts in your mouth. Recently, I went to Bosco Bakery in Koreatown with some friends after dinner to gorge on some almond roti cafe buns.

No, not all of those are for me. We each ordered one. This was actually the first time I actually tried the almond bun here – I was not disappointed. From the outside, it’s a perfect simple dome – no glaze, frosting, or sprinkles.

Don’t let the plan look fool you. The dome-shaped treat is filled with sweet almond slices that add great texture to the soft buttery bread.

The photo above makes me salivate every time I look at. I remember my first bite – I sank my teeth into the toasted sweet exterior into the soft bread. But I have to say my favorite bite was the second one when I actually got my first taste of the sweet slivered almonds.

A tale of two Brazilian churrascarias

Not all Brazilian BBQs are created equally. Fogo de Chao is one of the popular Brazilian chains that most people are familiar with when it comes to Brazilian churrascarias (tchu-ras-ka-ria). Churrascaria literally means house of barbecue. The meat is savory and simple. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Fogo de Chao is a bit fancy and here in LA, the chain is located in Beverly Hills. However, there are other alternatives if you’re looking for your cut of Brazilian BBQ. On the more affordable side, you can check out Pampas Grill in the Farmer’s Market off of 3rd and Fairfax (also a new location in Culver City). You plate your own food and at the end, you pay buy weight. Here’s my plate:

I loaded up my plate with a salad, collard greens, rice and black beans, fried plantains, picanha (top sirloin cap) and linguiça (sausage). This plate cost about $10.

Here’s a close-up of the BBQ meat…

Pampas Grill is great for a quick Brazilian BBQ fix. However, this place can get crowded and you have to compete for a table with all the Farmer’s Market patrons. Here’s a tip, I went around 11:30am and the line wasn’t that bad. It’s a good place to wet your palate to see if you like this style of BBQ. When you’re ready to advance to the next stage of BBQ, you might want to drive east to Koreatown’s M Grill.

It’s not a fusion restaurant – it’s Brazilian. They serve 17 different cuts of meat…

The restaurant is smaller than what I expected and it was a little hard to find (entrance is on the second floor) but once we walked in, the service staff was very attentive. Definitely A+ for the excellent service and recommendations on cocktails. The all-you-can-eat lunch goes for about $23 and the dinner is about $43 but you do get your money’s worth.

Because this is an all-you-can-eat restaurant, they give you a card – one side is green which means servers should stop at your table and the other side is red to tell the servers to move on.

This is a basket of the Brazilian style cheese bread – it’s light and airy… and delicious! I could eat a basket of these alone.

Here is the linguiça and smoked sausage slices.

Here’s the hunk of sirloin. If it’s a little too rare, the server will take it back and cook it to your liking.

And before I forget, they also have a large selection of veggies and sides at their buffet. My favorite was their creamed corn and collard greens.

For dessert I got the sorbet trio – coconut, passion fruit, and mango. It was the perfect way to end the meal because it was light and sweet. And it turns out they get their sorbet from Fosselman’s in Alhambra!Oh wait! I almost forgot that I also had s slice of their grilled pineapple with cinnamon.

sdLooking through these photos, I think I’m having food coma flashbacks. I hope you enjoyed my recent outing to fulfill my Brazilian BBQ craving.

My cold remedy: Sul Lung Tang

I had a cold for the past two weeks. You know, the one where you think you’re getting better but it doesn’t quite go away. Don’t worry, I’m cold-free now. While I was sick though, I had the biggest hankering for some sul lung tang (or seolleongtang… pronouncer: SUH-loong-TAHNG). It’s a Korean soup which is equivalent to a chicken soup for me. Why? Because I crave it whenever I get a cold or flu.

It’s a simple soup but takes almost the whole day to make. Basically, you boil ox bones for hours that make a milky broth without seasoning. You can add Korean glass noodles and also some brisket, tripe, or both for some protein. Then when you are ready to eat it, you can add garlic, green onions, and salt to flavor the soup — you season it yourself right when you’re going to eat it and no before. Here’s my soup that I got as take out from Han Bat Sul Lung Tang in Koreatown.

Han Bat Sul Lung Tang is a no-nonsense restaurant – this soup is pretty much all they serve but I’m sure you got that from their name. You can eat at the restaurant but since I was pretty sick, I got my meal for take-out.

My mom always told me if I craved sul lung tang, go to the place that only makes this — mama Kim was right because this place didn’t disappoint. For $9 I got the soup with brisket (you can choose from brisket, tripe, tongue, or flank), two types of kimchi (cabbage and radish), rice, chili paste, green onions, and sea salt. Here’s the spread I made when I got home…

Before I spooned the rice into the soup, I added green onions and then the sea salt. I matched the flavor first then I added my rice. NOTE: I try not to add too much salt to be healthy.

If you’re looking for some Korean comfort food soup, I highly recommend Han Bat Sul Lung Tang. By the time I was done with it, there wasn’t an extra drop left in the bowl.

TIP: If you get the soup for take out, put it in the fridge for a little bit and the fat will collect to the top of the broth and you can easily spoon it out – this is what I do so it’s less fatty.

Korean-German fare at Biergarten in Koreatown

I’ve had my share of Korean food and I’ve had some German food but for the first time in my life, I had Korean-German food. Where? Biergarten in Koreatown. I thought there would be an outdoor beer drinking area like most biergartens but this one happens to be all indoors. But don’t be too disappointed because it’s pretty swanky inside – it has that “we just opened” kind of feel with the flat screen TVs and the clean spacious dining area.

I met some people at Biergarten for the Happy Hour drinks but we couldn’t help ourselves from the food menu. Immediately, I was won over by their fresh potato chips and a horseradish type dip.

The chips were hot, crispy, and well-seasoned. I love my potato chips but sometimes I’m not a huge fan of fresh potato chips because the potato slices could be a little too thick and absorb too much oil, making the chip soggy — not this kind. This one had a great light crunch when you took a bite.

Next up, we ordered the sweet potato strings… don’t expect french fries. This is an entangled ball of thinly sheared sweet potato. You take a big glob and eat it — there’s a great CRUNCH! sound that makes you want to get seconds.

I saw deep fried artichoke hearts on the menu and I was curious to taste this. I had high expectations for this one but it missed with me. The other two fried dishes had the right texture and flavor but the artichoke hearts seemed a bit bland to me on its own. I admit when I drenched a piece in the dipping sauce, it was good but it’s too bad that it didn’t taste good on its own. Perhaps, it’s best kept in a salad.
Speaking of salads, we did order one! This is the green bean salad and I think it was one of my favorite dishes – it was fresh, light, and flavorful. The green beans were accompanied by tangerines, hazelnuts, frisée, and a truffled honey vinaigrette. I would definitely order this again.

I have a weakness for short-rib and grilled cheese sandwiches. So when I saw that Biergarten served up a short-rib grilled cheese sandwich, I knew I had to have a bite (at least).

The sandwich was served on sourdough bread with fontana cheese and a onion type of marmalade. It was sweet and savory and the bread was nicely grilled to give you that hearty crunch when you bite into it.

And of course, the Biergarten stays true and serves brats! You get your choice of bockwurst, bratwurst, kolbasa, or knackwurst.

And if i didn’t mention it before – they have 25 types of beer, sake, soju, and they even serve alcoholic cider (which is what I got). I could have blogged about the beer but I found the food to be pleasantly surprising and it wasn’t the normal biergarten fare one would see.

NOTE: The prices are moderate and I suggest going in a group (like many small plate places) so you can get your fair share of the various dishes.

Cold eats: mul naengmyeon

This post highlights one of the dishes I talked about last weekend on public radio’s Splendid Table. The theme was cold eats in Los Angeles and one of the dishes I highlighted is the Korean dish called mul naengmyeon [pronouncer: mool nay-ng-me-yuhn]. It’s basically buckwheat noodles in a cold beef broth soup with a tangy flavor (vinegar and a little sugar) served with julienned cucumbers, sliced beef, sliced Asian pear, and a hard boiled egg.

It’s a light (but filling) noodle dish that’s perfect for the summer. A lot of people may not realize this but mul naengmyeon’s origin is actually from North Korea and it became popular after the Korean War. The noodles are intentionally long because it represents long life but most restaurants will cut the noodles so it’s easier to eat. If you go to a mul naengmyeon restaurant, don’t be surprised by all the slurping noises because that’s the only (and best!) way to eat the dish and show your appreciation for the food.

The mul naengmyeon in this post is from Chosun Galbi in Koreatown. They serve banchan (Korean side dishes) with the noodles and the best part is they have a nice outdoor patio where you can dine – perfect for a summer afternoon lunch.

I think the best mul naengmyeon I had was in Seoul last year. Why? The broth. It was the perfect balance of savory, tangy, and sweet. I’ll try to post it later so you can compare.

Note: If you like spicy dishes, there’s also another variety of naengmyeon called bibim naengmyeon which is served in a red hot spicy dressing instead of a broth.

Patbingsu: the other shave ice

In my previous post, I craved shave ice – the Hawaiian type. But last week I had the South Korean shave ice known as patbingsu. What makes the Korean version different is that the ice isn’t as fine and it’s more like a meal. Take a look at the “Monster” that we got at Ice Kiss.

Patbungsu is all about layers. On the bottom you typically have red bean, fruit salad, and ice cream. Then you get the layer of shave ice and some fresh cut fruit like bananas and strawberries (like you see above), more ice cream on top of that, whip cream, and some chocolate sauce. It’s also common to have some bites of mochi and condensed milk on it. For our dish, we also added a dusting of taro powder. This is definitely a dessert to be shared with many friends.

Here’s a close-up photo of the dish just in case you really want to drool over your computer on this hot summer day…

Special note: When I was in Korea, I had a craving for this (even though it was at the tail end of winter) and I couldn’t find it anywhere. Apparently, it’s served in the summers over there. Thank goodness I live in the paradise called Los Angeles which has it year-round.

Bites from Korean BBQ Cook-Off 2010

Finding good Korean BBQ in Los Angeles isn’t that hard. The reason is because if you drive through Koreatown, the smell of sesame, soy, and garlic waft through the air and lures you to a Korean meat-serving establishment. But what’s the best Korean BBQ in LA? The 2nd Annual Korean BBQ Cook-Off answered that question this past weekend.

I took some out of town friends to the cook-off in Koreatown. Close to a dozen Korean BBQ restaurants set up tents so you could eat your way to find the best Korean BBQ LA has to offer for $5 a plate. But before I continue, I want to let you know that Korean BBQ isn’t one type of meat or one recipe or marinade – it’s a variety of meats that are marinated or cook in a traditional Korean way over gas or charcoal grill.

Judges for the cook-off included Pulitzer Prize winning writer Jonathan Gold, Chef Ludo Lefebvre, actress Sandra Oh, and Consul General Jae Soo Kim.

I admit I’m a bit biased because I think my mom makes the best Korean BBQ but I did have my favorite BBQ dish of the day… pork ribs from Ham Ji Park. Take a look at these succulent ribs that are slightly carmelized on the edges and sweet and juicy when you bite into it.

Right before I ate these finger-licking good ribs, I also had the spicey pork bulgogi with a side of rice from Olympic Restaurant. It was a little too spicy for me but I sniffled through it because it was too tasty to pass up. By the way, if something is too spicy, don’t drink water… eat more rice or drink dairy. It definitely helps!

In between all the BBQ tasting, we had some non-BBQ items like these sticky rice seaweed wraps. I admit I wanted to save room in my stomach for the meat so I just took a bite of the spicy tuna.

For those with a sweet tooth, dessert food trucks like Sprinkles cupcake mobile were serving up cupcakes in individualized cupcake boxes.

Also, I can’t forget the Cool Haus truck! Check out this guy’s Thai iced tea ice cream and lychee ice cream with brioche and chocolate chip cookie dessert… and yes, that’s all in just in ONE dessert pictured below.

But you’re probably wondering – Angela, who won!!!??!? The winner the judges chose for the best BBQ went to Park’s BBQ.

I had their bulgogi which was tender and perfectly marinated – sweet enough for the flavors to sit on your lips for you to lick and want to take another bite. The meat was served next to a potato salad which was basically foreplay for the BBQ – in my opinion.

Congrats to all the winners and also all the vendors who endured the heat and crowd to bring good food to the people. Can’t wait for next year!