Monday, May 26, 2008


11266 Ventura Blvd
Studio City, CA 91604

Truthfully, I've been having a bit of difficulty writing new entries into this blog. I started this thing because I have such a passion for eating and such a great love for this city. I mean, some people eat to live, others live to eat. For me, it's more of a drug. Finding that next incredible meal brings me that rush that's not unlike doubling down on a $500 blackjack hand and hitting the perfect card. The rush is what it's about for me.

I guess I've been in a rut...I've actually been to a bunch of restaurants recently, but I have not been inspired to pen my thoughts. I have realized that the experience is much more important than I previously gave it credit for. To make a meal amazing and touching, great food is a must. But I'm learning that the company, the experience and a myriad of other factors make a meal memorable or forgettable.

My experience at Yuta was definitely a great experience. I went with a group of friends the other night and right away, I could sense a special night. From the moment I entered, I felt a familiar sense of family. Chef Yuta and another gentleman were the only ones working that evening. It was a slow night, as we were the only ones in the small restaurant. This really played to our advantage, as we had the complete attention of the staff.

Throughout the evening, we paired different wines and different sakes with different dishes. Pictured above we have spicy tuna on toasted rice sheets, topped with avacado. It was a bit strange, but the dish definitely inspired a lot of conversation. Below, we have beef sushi. The Kobe-like meat was sliced and heated with a blow torch. The hot flame quickly softened and caramalized the fat in the well marbled meat. Chef Yuta described the beef as better then Kobe, and I could not disagree...which is why I ordered two more orders for each person.

We not only had sushi, but we had a variety of izakaya dishes. He served an incredibly moist and flavorful beef tongue, an amazing squid ink pasta, and pictured below, a spinach pasta with seafood, to name but a few.

Overall, the impeccable palate of the chef came through with each cooked dish and with each sushi creation. Throughout the meal, the chef participated in conversation with us. He explained how fresh the fish was; how he polished his own brown rice for the sushi; how he only used the best imported Japanese soy sauce, etc.
On the menu, it clearly states that soy and wasabe can be requested, but otherwise the fish would come with Chef Yuta's specific preparation. I've read up on this establishment and have not seen too many positive reviews. I think this has a great deal to do with it. We are used to using soy and wasabe with our nigiri and sashimi. Chef Yuta takes the sushi experience to another level...a level that may be too complicated for most. For a new and exciting experience, I think this is the place for sushi.

Mr. Baguette

8702 Valley Blvd
Rosemead, CA 91770

I'd heard so many good things about Vietnamese sandwiches that I had to try. I found myself hungry one day while driving around, and as I looked up, I saw Mr. Baguette. Why I was driving around Rosemead I cannot explain. But that's an entirely different issue, I suppose.
As I walked in, I passed by tablefuls of old men, smoking cigarettes and having coffee. It made me feel like I was in a cafe in Vietnam. If only I'd ever been to Vietnam, I could confirm that feeling.
Upon entering the bright and clean room, I noticed a display case of a bunch of different French and Asian pastries. Not a bad sight for someone so hungry, but I was focused. As I walked up, I asked the cashier what was good.
"Do you like Banhg Mi?" she asked.
"Excuse me?" I responded. "Uh, my wife..."
"Do you like Banh Mi?" She repeated.
"Not sure, but how are your sandwiches?"
"That is our sandwich, sir".
She was looking annoyed. So I just ordered a combo sandwich and a coffee. The sandwich, as it turns out, was a foot long baguette filled with goodies. The baguette with super crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. By itself, it would have been amazing. The filling in my combo sandwich, according to the menu, was pickled carrots, picked daikon, jalapeno slices, cilantro, pate, ham, and...head cheese? That didn't sound all that attractive, but like I said before, I'll eat anything. And besides, after the cashier asked if I wanted to Banhg Her, I wasn't about to ask any more questions.
Actually, I'm just playing stupid. If you're not sure what head cheese is, it's a terrine of meat made from the head of a calf or pig. The noggin is boiled until tender. The collagen from the bone and the meat are extracted and finished in a mould. Then, it's sliced, giving you head cheese.
Back to the sandwich...the combination of the flavorful pate and headcheese, mixed with the vinagery carrots and daikon, tied well with the slight spice from the fresh jalapeno slices and made my eyes pop out. It's almost difficult to explain, but every bite was amazing. It was so good, I got up and ordered another one to go. At $2.55 a piece, it was a no brainer.
So now, I'm a huge fan of Banh Mi. Since then, I've been to other places, like Mr. Lee's and Saigon Sandwich, but this place is still the best. I've heard of another place called Banh Mi Cho Cu. Until I try that place, though, Mr. Baguette is my place.


1751 Ensley Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90024
When I was a child growing up in Calexico, my tastes were a bit on the unrefined side. I guess I wasn't so bad mom and grandma would cook everyday, and my family would share a late lunch together. My mom would cook anything from black bean clams to lengua guisada. I had the best of both worlds, with my mom cooking Chinese delicacies one day and Mexican food the next. We seriously had Mexican neighbors asking my mom to cook up some frijoles or tamales for them.
Some days, my mom or grandma would be too tired to cook. So at least twice a month, we hit the golden arches. Actually, there was this one point when I was in sixth grade, we frequented the Establishment everyday for a month. That was during the steak sandwich special time, where they would give you a free steak knife for every steak sandwich you bought. I'm not sure if it was my mom's cheapness coming out or what, but she collected those knives like jewelry. They lasted well into high school, so maybe she was onto something. With all this said, I have to say growing up, that was the best sandwich I'd ever had. The tender steak on that funky bread just did something for me. Since then, there have been a few comebacks of that sandwich, but it's never been the same. Also since then, I've had a few more sandwiches. My tastes have matured, to say the least.
So many sandwiches in LA. I know it's not like New York, where there's a deli on every corner. But there is some serious quality here. Bay Cities, Factor's, Langers, Phillipe's...really good stuff. For some reason, though, I always crave Clementine's rare roast beef sandwich. I almost feel bad that my favorite sandwich isn't from a deli, with their stacked meats and huge portions. But this sandwich is spot on. The chewy, crusty bread with tender and thinly sliced rare roast beef topped with baby arugula, whole grain mustard and horseradish mayo is such an amazing experience. On the side are thinly sliced pickles that are slightly sweet and sour, a perfect accoutrement to the sandwich.
In addition to the sandwich, they have an entire menu of salads, sandwiches and baked goods. That's another thing...I don't feel like I have to order a sandwich when I come here. I have many options, and that makes me feel good. They also have great soups, mac and cheese and other dishes that can be taken home and heated. The vibe is really mellow, and the crowd ranges from moms with newborns to businessmen in suits.
Even though I still have a soft spot in my heart for that McSteak sandwich, I know that memory must remain a memory. I've moved on...and Clementine's rare roast beef sandwich has nudged it aside in my heart. Please note, though, that there is no free steaknife with the rare roast beef sandwich.