Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Built Burger

The Built Burger, originally uploaded by ~db~.
I was at the LA Times Festival of Books at USC last weekend and, instead of waiting in long lines for one of the food trucks, I headed across the street to Built Custom Burgers. It's an assembly-line setup, where you choose your protein, then bun, then toppings... You get the idea.

This is a beef burger on a regular bun. I got Swiss cheese, fresh onions, lettuce, and grilled red peppers. It was a very good burger. My only issue was that the grind of the meat was a bit too coarse, meaning there was the occasional chunk of cartilage one needed to deal with. That's not an uncommon problem with burgers, and doesn't ruin the meal, but it's not wonderful biting into one of those chunks. Also not wonderful were the (overpriced) sweet potato fries. The potatoes had good flavor, but were undercooked and flaccid. Plus a large part of the order were little 1 or 2 inch bits. So, a good meal but next time I'll go with a different side. Burger and sweet potato fries, about $12.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Chiu Chow Salted Duck & Pork Kidneys

I've been on the lookout for duck lately. This is much more difficult than it should be. Duck should be a common item in restaurants throughout our megalopolis. But alas this is not to be. The good news is that duck is available all over LA's Chinatown, both in markets and in restaurants, making it just a Metro ride (and a couple blocks walk) away. Yay!

Of the few places I've tried so far, the Chiu Chow Salted Duck at Kim Chuy is my favorite. It's pretty straightforward, with no frills. Let's call it rustic. A half duck chopped into big pieces served with steamed cabbage and carrots. The skin is cooked well, though I do wish it was just a little bit crispier. The meat is cooked well but is still moist. There's lots of bones, so be prepared to work for it. While I'm still looking for my transcendent duck, this will do for now.

This time I also got an order of pork kidneys. The good news is that they were cooked perfectly. Like much offal, poorly cooked kidneys can become inedible balls of rubber. Not here. Very tender. Also, the scallions were very nice, with a good amount of fresh ginger. Now the bad news. The kidneys had no flavor whatsoever. None. I'd say they tasted like clay, but at least clay tastes like dirt. I'm not sure how the chef did it, but he completely removed the taste of kidney, leaving only the, admittedly good, sauce to flavor the dish. Not inedible, but not so good if you're looking for kidneys.

So I'll be back for the duck, if not the kidneys. This lunch, along with steamed rice and hot tea, was about $14.

The Goomba Returns

The Goomba Returns, originally uploaded by ~db~.

Willie had it back on as a special yesterday. It was even better the second time. It's like a little Italian sausage sandwich. Dog and onion rings, about $9.

Vicious Pappy El Guapo

Vicious Pappy El Guapo, originally uploaded by ~db~.

Another really good hot hot dog from Vicious Dogs. The Pappy El Guapo is a bacon wrapped jalapeno cheddar link with chipotle sauce, pico do gallo, and a little chopped jalapeno, all in a poppy seed bun. It's my go-to dog when I want some heat. Enough to make me sweat, but not so much as to overpower everything else. Hot dog and onion rings, about $8.

Samster II

Samster II, originally uploaded by ~db~.

The Samster has become a new favorites of mine at Vicious Dogs. The way the mango salsa keeps everything moist under the melted cheese is real nice. Plus, that salsa offers a cool balance to the spicy (bacon wrapped) jalapeno link. The only thing different from the last time is a regular, rather than a poppy seed bun. My mistake. The poppy seed buns rule. Hot dog and onion rings, about $8.