Saturday, February 08, 2014

Chego! Kimchi Spam Bowl

Chego! Kimchi Spam Bowl, originally uploaded by ~db~.
I have heard a lot about the Kimchi Spam Bowl at Chego!. No less than Jonathan Gold suggested it might be Roy Choi's "dish for the ages," with its unexpected combination of buttered-fried kimchi and rice, sesame, baby bok choy, egg. Oh, and Spam. Wonderful, glorious Spam. I had expected the little chunks of canned meat to be much more assertive, and was quite please to find its flavor to be subdued, and much more about the texture. A really excellent dish, and yea, terrific drunk food. Or so I would imagine. About $9.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Slater's 50/50

The Slater's 50/50, originally uploaded by ~db~.

I have heard a lot about Slater's 50/50 over the last couple of years. And it's no surprise when you're signature product is a burger made of 50% bacon! I mean, what burger lover wouldn't be interested? So it was that when I visited Pasadena yesterday and found myself near the restaurant, I was compelled to try it out.

And it was good. Very good. Much better than I thought it would be. It addition to the beef/bacon patty, there's mashed avocado, pepper jack cheese, and chipotle adobo mayo, topped with a "sunny side up" egg, all set in a nice and soft white brioche bun.

If I may digress for a moment. I put "sunny side up" egg description in quotes here because it wasn't sunny side up at all. The whites of the egg were completely solid, with the yolks almost fully set. In fact, the entire egg pretty much slid out as one piece when I took my first bite. This is almost always the case when I get an egg on a burger and completely defeats its purpose, which is to allow the yolk to break and drench the burger with its creamy unctuousness. It's unfortunate and usually results in my setting the egg puck off to the side.

Now, back to the burger itself. When ordering, I was told they didn't offer it medium rare, because of the bacon. So I ordered it medium and this turned out to be the correct choice. It was juicy and (obviously) full of flavor. My two biggest concerns about a burger made of 50% bacon, that it would be too salty or that the bacon would overwhelm everything else, were thankfully unfounded. The creaminess of the avocado balanced the salt, the bit of heat from the cheese and mayo cut through the fat. And while much of the bun was left behind, it was soft and tasty and perfect for sopping up the juices. It's a messy meal, but not overly so. The pickle was fine, but in place of the egg, it could have really used some crunch inside the burger.

Still, despite the worthless egg and lack of fresh-veggie crunch, it was a good burger and I'd gladly have it again. Also, the place was fun, busy but not overly loud, and all the staff were helpful and pleasant. Oh, and there are something like 100 different beers available. I sat at the bar and ordered a draught Harp Ale, which went well with the sandwich. Burger and beer, about $16.

S'Links Three Cheese Burger

S'Links Three Cheese Burger, originally uploaded by ~db~.
After several visits, the biggest problem with S'Links is presentation. Unlike a master, such as Willie at Vicious Dogs, too often my meals at S'Links have that "just thrown together" feeling, taking away from otherwise fine ingredients.

Such is the case here with the Three Cheese Burger. Rather than giving me a coherent package, I'm essentially given the components to assemble myself. Which usually isn't a problem, if it's given to me actually ready to assemble. But you'll notice here that many of the ingredients below the meat are literally falling out, meaning I've got to lift the patty, setting it aside while I reassemble the veggies before replacing the burger. Also, you may not notice, but they literally set the burger onto the Thousand Island dressing on the top bun, meaning a good amount of the sauce on the bread was left behind on the side of the burger. None of this affected the taste, mind you, but it does effect the experience, and I only mention it here since it's been a consistent issue at S'Links. There just isn't much care given on how the food is presented.

Now that's off my chest, the burger itself was fine. The meat was over-dense and overcooked, but not by much. The Cheddar, Provolone, and Monterey Jack cheeses keep things very moist. The veggies are fresh and the Monrovia Bakery bun is a great sop for all the drippings. So a good, if not great cheeseburger, dropped in a paper basket, ready to be reassembled. About $8.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Pepper Steak From Andy's Subs

Pepper Steak From Andy's Subs, originally uploaded by ~db~.

It was my first time at Andy's Subs in Canoga Park, chosen using the sophisticated "I'm hungry, where can I eat?" method. It was a fortuitous choice, and hopefully won't be my last visit.

I ordered a regular sized pepper steak sandwich and it was easily one of the best I've ever had. Unlike many others, the beef wasn't overcooked. Instead it was a perfect medium rare, with each thin slice somehow still pink in the middle. The veggies are fresh and the bread soft, which was good, given the amount of juice dripping through my fingers. I ordered a regular sized only because I was in a hurry, but could have gotten a large for only 50 cents more. Well worth it. Pepper steak sandwich, under $6.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Truffle Dog

The Truffle Dog, originally uploaded by ~db~.

This is my favorite hot dog from Umami Burger in Toluca Lake, and the only one I've ordered more than once, well at least so far.

The Truffle Dog is the standard Umami beef frank and custom bun, topped with their excellent roasted garlic aioli, creamy truffle infused port onions, and melty house truffle cheese. It is good. You want one. Or two. My only issue is that in toasting the bun, it sometimes ends up being too dried out, as was the case here. I ended up picking off a lot of crunchy bits of bread. You might like this. Me? Not so much. Still, that's a small complaint because did I mention it was good?!?

I also ordered a half-dozen Cheesy Tots. Crunchy and full of flavor, they too were pretty excellent, especially just as they are served, hot and ready to be dipped into one of the sauces provided. Hot Dog and Cheesy Tots, under $11.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

S'Links West Virginia Slaw Dog

S'Links West Virginia Slaw Dog, originally uploaded by ~db~.

I went to S'Links yesterday, thinking I'd try one of their burgers, but instead opted for a chilidog. My mistake.

The West Virginia Slaw Dog is their regular wiener, topped with the house chili and coleslaw, along with mustard, sweet onions, and pimento cheese. All of is in set into the new, slimmer Monrovia Bakery bun.

The main problem is that it's so overstuffed. For many people I suspect this is a feature, but in practice is means that the whole thing falls apart once it's picked up. And after a couple of bites, the bun, soaked with the chili, begins to disintegrate.

The flavors are okay, but I found the spicy heat of the chili overpowered everything else. Again, your mileage may vary when it comes to the amount heat, but for me it was too much. The slaw was nice and crunchy, but rather bland and unable to cut through the chili. After a few bites, I ended up just setting the thing down and eating it with a fork. I hate eating a hot dog with a fork.

So, while not bad, I doubt I'll try it again, at least for a while. But if a messy, spicy hot dog which falls apart in your hands sounds good, then this in the one for you. Hot dog, about $6.

Friday, November 01, 2013

S'Links Sonoran

S'Links Sonoran, originally uploaded by ~db~.

For my latest visit to S'Links, I got the Sonoran which is their version of an LA Street Dog. In addition to their natural casing frank, there are a lot of toppings, including bacon, tomatoes, onions, mayo and mustard, pinto beans, tomatillo salsa, cotija cheese, and avocado. As always, that's all set in a bun from Monrovia Bakery.

The good news is it tastes pretty great. The bad news is that it's a mess. It's the kind of overstuffed dog that requires a fork to eat all the stuff that falls off. It seems the buns have been adjusted from my previous visits and are a bit longer and narrower. Ironically, where I didn't like the extra bread in the previous two dogs I ate, that wider bun would have served its purpose well with this Sonoran Dog. As it was, much of the toppings just fell off, to be scooped up later.

So, definitely a good dog, and a full meal. Just don't plan on eating it without making a huge mess. Hot dog, about $6.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Buffalo Wild Weiner from S'Links

From my second visit to S'Links, the Buffalo Wild Weiner (their spelling) is their natural casing 8" frank topped with blue cheese, chopped celery, and both buffalo ranch and wing sauce. This all inside a puffy Monrovia Bakery bun.

It was very good, though like my first dog there was a bit too much bread left over. Since this was taken, they've changed the bun, making it a bit longer and more narrow. Also they are now making it with cheddar or Swiss cheese, which is unfortunate since it worked so well with the blue cheese. Hot dog, about $6.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

S'Links Memphis Dog

S'Links Memphis Dog, originally uploaded by ~db~.

S'Links is a new gourmet hot dog place which opened down the street from my home a couple months ago. This Memphis Dog is from its first or second night of being officially opened.

It's an 8" beef frank, with two bacon slices, a Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce, sliced green onions, and shredded cheddar cheese. That's all set into a custom bun made by the local Monrovia Bakery. It's a good dog. The slightly obscene frank is nice and beefy, if a bit bigger than I'm used to (I think they've since slimmed it down a bit), and the toppings are all good. The natural casing provides an terrific snap. The bun is excellent in taste, though it's size meant there was a lot of extra bread in the middle, and not so much on the ends. They've also since adjusted this so the bun is a bit longer and thinner.

It wasn't perfect. I wished the cheese was melted. I wished there was more sauce on the dog. I wish there wasn't so much bread left over. But all in all it was a good start for a new local restaurant and worth a return visit, or two. Hot dog, about $6.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

3pm Meatballs & Charred Asparagus

3pm Meatballs & Charred Asparagus, originally uploaded by ~db~.

My go-to meal at Chego during the Summer.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Umami Slashburger

Umami Slashburger, originally uploaded by ~db~.

For my latest trek to Umami Burger in Toluca Lake I had been intending on finally trying out their Original Burger. But when I sat down I was reminded about their special Slashburger, named for the former Guns 'n Roses guitarist. It's a couple of dollars more expensive than their other burgers, but at least one of those dollars is to be sent to the Los Angeles Youth Network, so there's that. The burger starts with the standard Umami Portuguese bun and house-ground beef burger, with braised shiitake mushrooms, caramelized onions, house American cheese, avocado spread, wasabi aioli. It's then topped a Parmesan crisp, which looks a bit more Kommunity FK than GnR, but still a nice touch.

The burger was pretty fantastic. The wasabi aioli especially opened up the flavor. And it's a great example of why that big puffy bun is the perfect way to sop up all the juicy juice. And as with other times I've enjoyed an Umami burger, I ate every bit of it, which is not something I can say about most burgers I order. Definitely worth it. Burger, about $15.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Dirty Laundry

Dirty Laundry, originally uploaded by ~db~.
It was Sunday and time to clean clothes. Fortunately one of the local laundromats is next door to Baja Mar Fish Taco, a favorite of mine. Rather than going with my usual order of fish tacos, I went with the menudo.

It's a fine menudo. Nothing bad about it, it's pretty much the same bowl I can get at any number of good Mexican places around the Southland. It's not the transcendent menudo of the now-closed Sahuayo, but it's surely something I'll order again while waiting for my raiment to dry. Menudo, under $10.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Umami Chili Dog

Umami Chili Dog, originally uploaded by ~db~.
When choosing my third dog from the new Umami Burger in Toluca Lake, I decided to go with a classic. Their chili dog starts with a mustard sauce smeared inside one of Umami's custom hot dog buns, then beer cheddar, house chili, and minced fresh onions go atop the all-beef hot dog. And it is all about that frank, which is the star of the show. Dense and full of flavor, Umami has these dogs made to spec, and it's probably the best hot dog frank I've tasted. All the rest of the ingredients, in this and all the other Umami hot dogs I've had so far, are in service to that central player, the dog itself.

The chili too is pretty excellent, very meaty and not overpowering with its spices. Yet for a chili dog, this was a little too refined, and if I had a wish it's that there was more of the actual chili. The minced onions provide nice crunch and freshness, with the cheese and mustard sauce rounding things out. My only real complaint is the bun was either stale or, more likely, under-toasted. It was rather dry around the edges, as if it had been sitting on a shelf for a few hours. A fair amount of it was left on the plate.

The sweet potato fries were flavorful, but a little disappointing. I like a fry which is big and firm enough to be eaten one-by-one. These I had to eat by the batch, as they were mainly small pieces and a bit too limp. That said, the house-made ketchup was excellent, as always, and the garlic aioli went well with the fries. All told, a good meal, though next time I'll probably choose a different side dish.

Hot dog and fries, about $10.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Charred Asparagus from Chego!

Charred Asparagus from Chego!, originally uploaded by ~db~.

The grilled asparagus at Chego! has been their veggie of choice, I think, since they opened their new place in Chinatown. That's going to change soon, so I thought it best to get some while I could. The asparagus is topped with Roy Choi's excellent blueberry habanero salsa, lots of garlic, along with chilies, Parmesan, and some lemon.

For me this has unfortunately been the biggest miss so far in my visits to Chego! Mainly because the asparagus was overdone. It was impossible to bite through anything but the tips without having to gnaw through the blackened, stringy spears. The flavors were all there, and the dish itself would be a winner, except for the above-mentioned issue with the asparagus itself. The hot/sweet salsa, the abundance of roasted garlic slices, all the crunchy peppers and fried bits were all good. So, far from a failure, it would have been so much better had the asparagus not been overdone. Charred asparagus, about $6.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ooey Gooey Fries

Ooey Gooey Fries, originally uploaded by ~db~.

More drunk food from Chego! Yes, these fries are ooey. Indeed, they are gooey. The beer-battered fries are combined with sour cream sambal, monterey jack and cotija and cheddar cheese, chillies, cilantro and pickled garlic. Lots of pickled garlic.

This is not refined food. Like I said, this is drunk food, meant to be eaten late at night with friends, while drunk. And while it's really tasty, I was neither drunk nor with friends, and I was barely able to make my way halfway through this pile of food. Yes, the fries are soggy. Yes, it's a mess. But that's not the point. Because when you're drunk and out late at night, you just want to stuff your face with something tasty and satisfying. And there's a whole lot of that going on right here. Ooey Gooey Fries, about $6.