Eggslut (Los Angeles)

Overall Rating: N/A

The Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles rests at the bottom of the famous, but currently decommissioned, Angels Flight funicular railway. And although both are notable 20th century Los Angeles landmarks, the market is open for business while Angels Flight is convalescing back into working order.

Although I used to work in downtown LA, I had no awareness the market until I moved away. Now that I am no longer an LA local, I finally get a chance to visit during a business trip. Anyway, when I arrived on a Saturday morning right as the market opened at 8 a.m., most the stalls were closed.

However, there was already a jovial and eager line snaking around Eggslut. Although I was reluctant to wait, the dreaded fear of missing out gave me the fortitude to endure the wait. Luckily, the line moved at a good pace, and I was ordering before I could finish a Sudoku puzzle on my phone.

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Fairfax ($7) – cage-free soft scrambled eggs and chives, cheddar cheese, caramelized onions and sriracha mayo on a warm brioche bun ($1.5 extra for avocado – curse my millennial sensibilities!!!)

This was just too much of a good thing. The eggs were soft and buttery. Combined with the buttered brioche bun, melted cheddar, and ripe avocado slices, then the whole thing just melted on contacted. The richness overwhelmed the onions and the sriracha. There was nothing to establish a contrast, either in taste or texture. Still, I inhaled the sandwich in about one minute, giving the old ticker some heavy-duty lifting for the rest of the day. Overall, I get Eggslut’s appeal, but the experience was one-note for me. I would like to try it again some other time.

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Eggslut (Los Angeles)

Ma’Ono Fried Chicken (University Village)

Overall: 4/5

/blows dust off blog

/checks last posting date

/faints

I know, it’s been a long time since my last post. I wish I had better a good excuse for the inactivity, but it was nothing more than laziness and procrastination overtaking my ambitions. Anyway, time to get off the snide and get back to (non-income generating) work! And what better way is there to get back in the groove than to start off with something deep fried?

In the newly christened University Village location of Rachel’s Ginger Beer is a walk-up order window for Ma’Ono Fried Chicken, a renowned local institution for Hawaiian fried chicken. Judging by the heat that radiates from the walk-up window, there is intense deep frying going on in the kitchen. On a recent trip home, I was lucky enough to avoid the crowds and place a large order to go.

Fried Chicken Sandwich ($11) – Chicken breast on King’s sweet bun with bread and butter takuan (Japanese pickled radish), ono sauce, and iceberg.

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With their fried selections, you can customize the heat level between naked, mild, medium, HOT and BRING THE PAIN. When I asked for BRING THE PAIN, I was discouraged, in a friendly but unmistakably ominous manner, to stay away from THE PAIN. I was glad to follow her advice because the HOT version brought plenty of heat.

This is a well-conceived sandwich. The hearty piece of fried chicken breast protrudes beyond the reach of the sweet King’s Hawaiian bun. The crust on the chicken was crispy, the interior was just a touch dry but did not affect my enjoyment. The heat arrives fashionably late for the hot sauce glazed on the crust. When it does arrive though, the “HOT” level delivers a long-lasting sear. The crisp lettuce and pickles work to offset the heat. The choice to use daikon instead of cucumbers for the pickles was a wise substitution. Daikons have less water content and prevent the sandwich from getting too soggy. The ono sauce, which appears to be some kind of aioli, was overshadowed by the heat level.

Chicken Fried Tofu Sandwich ($10) – Chicken breast on King’s sweet bun with bread and butter takuan, ono sauce, and iceberg.

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The vegetarian option replaces the chicken breast on the chicken sandwich with a large piece of chicken fried tofu. This was disappointing because the tofu in the interior was flavorless. Thus, the flavors from the sandwich condiments dominated, supported by a crispy, but bland custardy tofu patty. The sandwich looks great, but falls far short of the chicken version.

Chili Kimcheese Fries ($6)

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The melty-greasy chili cheese sauce goes well with the crispy fries. Surprisingly, but the kimchee flavor is pretty muted. Their chili cheese sauce has hints of chili oil and mild heat. But there is little here that calls to mind the acid or fermented flavor that one associates with kimchee. Overall, this was pretty good, but those looking for a pronounced kimchee flavor might be disappointed.

Fried Chicken Digits ($8) – Honey hot-mustard dip, bread and butter takuan

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Without a doubt, this is far superior to the equivalent from Chick-fil-A. As with the chicken sandwich, there is little to complain about with regards to the chunks of crispy breaded breast meat. The hot honey mustard is also fantastic. There is a horseradish/wasabi-like kick to the otherwise sweet mustard. As you can see from the picture, the heat level for this order was also HOT. It may be overbearing for some to mix the heat from the hot sauce with the kick from the mustard. Even as someone who enjoys spicy foods, I was overwhelmed when I dunked the HOT tenders into the mustard.   I would recommend ordering the tenders as mild for full enjoyment of the mustard.

Overall, the Ma’Ono walk-up counter delivers an excellent fried chicken experience. The non-chicken selections could be improved, but these guys know they do that one thing very well; so much so that they named their store after it. So why tempt fate when the right choice is staring at your face? Sit down, grab a fizzy drink, order some fried chicken – your reward awaits.

Ma’Ono Fried Chicken (University Village)

Marination

Overall: 3.5/5

Apologies for the extended hiatus. As much as I would like to say that my absence was due to a worthy cause, I am afraid that more trivial pursuits caught my attention. As part of our annual ritual of Spring cleaning, now is as good of time as any to clean out the camera cache and write some posts.

Speaking of absences, the food scene in Seattle has long lagged behind West Coast mate Los Angeles in terms of Asian-fusion eats. The folks at Marination capitalized on this opportunity approximately five years ago to introduce its interpretation of Hawaiian-Korean comfort food to Seattle. From its humble beginnings as a food truck, the Marination brand has expanded to three brick-and-mortar locations in the King County.

The team’s latest eponymous venture sits in Amazon’s Doppler complex (dubbed the Regrade). The interior is in the shape of a Tetris block, with just enough room for a single row of counter seating.

Tailored to serve the grab-and-go lunch crowd, the young and friendly staff fuss about rapidly to crank out orders. And you might as well take your order to go since the angular, 3-legged stools lining the counter are very uncomfortable. [Editor’s Note: the abstract stools have been replaced with more conventional, 4-legged ones]

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You should expect a crowd during lunch times on weekdays. You can also use Amazon’s Prime Now service to order in advance.

Tacos (Kalbi Beef (L), Sexy Tofu (R), $2.75 each) – with slaw, pickled jalapenos, sesame seeds, and Nunya Sauce.

First of all, what’s Nunya Sauce? The cashier told me that “nunya” means “none of ya business.” After a taking a good look at my puzzled expression, he said that it’s a spicy aioli/mayo, but the ingredients are kept secret. For what it’s worth, it tastes like tangy mayonnaise. For what it’s worth, I don’t think I will be taking home a jar of Nunya Sauce available for sale in the cold case anytime soon.

But, I digress. The tacos were good but had some flaws. The kalbi had a very nice salty-sweet flavor from the marinade, but the meat lacked tenderness and was jerky-like. The tofu was semi-firm. The lightly fried tofu was and had a light soy-sauce flavor. The slaw brought an appropriate crunch. The jalapeños were more briny than spicy. The tortillas were limp and soggy by the time I brought these home – experience may vary for those who eat these on the spot.

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Fish Tacos ($3.00 each) – Fresh cod in a miso-sake marinade, corn tortilla, cream, pickled onions, and cilantro.

The cod was moist and flaky. The miso flavor was subtle. Again, the acid from the pickled components unbalanced the flavors. And again, the tortillas leave a lot to be desired if you do not eat the tacos on the spot.

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Tater Tots ($4)

Complements the menu. Crispy on the outside, molten starchiness on the inside. Note that it comes with “special seasoning”. From what I can discern, it the seasoning is nori-based. Having ordered these on several occasions, the umami flavor comes through at times. Other times, not so much.

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Kimchi Quesadilla ($8) – with kimchi, cheese, Korean-style crema, slaw and pickled jalapeños.

If you like the concept of mixing kimchi and quesadillas together, you will probably like this. With the slaw and the pickled jalapeños, the quesadillas feel redundant to the tacos, so I recommend picking one or the other if you go in for a meal. In contrast to the tacos, the grilling prevents the tortilla from getting too soggy or limp. The kimchi was appropriate pungent and sour.

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Korean Cheesesteak ($9) – Kalbi beef, grilled onions, jalapenos, melted cheese, mayo, baguette.

The beef along with the onions suggested a traditional cheesesteak, but the cheese and mayo were not very noticeable. The unyielding baguette was also a poor choice for a cheesesteak sandwich.

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Pork Katsu Sandwich ($11) – Pork cutlet with panko crust, ciabatta, tonkatsu sauce, mayo, red onions, and tangy slaw.

The best thing on the menu. The pork katsu had a crunchy crust, giving away to a nice patty of tenderized pork. The tonkatsu sauce and the mayo brought some tangy moisture to the denser cutlet. The slaw brought some additional crunch. The use of the soft, giving ciabatta here works well here. It may be the most expensive thing on the menu, but it is undoubtedly the best.

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Kimchi Fried Rice ($7)

No explanation necessary. Loaded with a sunny side egg on top, breaking the yolk on top coats the rice with the viscous yolk. The furikake topping brought umami and fragrance. Note that you can pay extra to add protein to the fried rice, but you would be sacrificing the amount of kimchi that’s in the fried rice. I prefer to stick with no protein for this.

The experience at Marination can be a little uneven at times and a little redundant. Your degree of enjoyment will primarily depend on your receptiveness to fusion cuisine. The price is reasonable considering the location. Despite its flaws, those with a diverse palate will probably have a good meal at Marination.

 

Marination

Great State Burger

Overall: 3.5/5

The latest addition to Amazon’s Doppler complex is Great State Burger, a new venture from the Huxley Wallace Collection restaurant group. Led by chef Josh Henderson, the group “owns and operates restaurants throughout the greater Northwest, providing handcrafted food, spaces, and experiences in beautiful Washington State.”

Common to other Huxley Wallace restaurants such as Westward and Quality Athletics, the Great State Burger offers a carefully curated dining experience. Emphasizing quality over variety, Great State Burger offers a limited menu focused on burgers. Aesthetically, the place pays homage to old school diners, like an indoor Dick’s Drive-In with a fresh coat of paint and high ceilings.

The menu entirely consists of beef burgers (either with single or double patty), veggie burgers, fries, shakes, soda (Jones instead of the Coke/Pepsi lines), and beer. You can opt for a “Top That” option on the burgers, which gets you grilled onions, picked, and extra sauce for an extra $1.50.

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Double Combo (burger, fries, soda $12)

About five to six dollars more than a McDonald’s combo meal, but there is a difference in quality. The beef patties were juicy, with a slight touch of pink in the center. The beef patties had some chew to it, suggesting beef that was not overly processed. The patties also had a strong black pepper taste, similar to Japanese pepper-steak. The State sauce felt like a creamier and blander version of thousand island dressing.

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On a separate visit, I ordered one with cheddar cheese and topped with the extra options. This was less preferable because the cheese and extra sauce undermined the pepper flavor from the patties. However, the briny pickles and the caramelized grilled onions were nice touches.

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Also, the crinkle-cut fries were excellent. Crispy and golden on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and seasoned with just a right amount of salt.

Veggie Burger ($8.5)

This was disappointing because the grain-and-vegetable patty was completely overwhelmed by the State sauce and the cheese. It would have been nice if they doubled the patty or limited the sauce for balance.

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Vanilla Shake (8oz, Vanilla, $3.5)

Shakes were made from Parfait organic soft serve. Thick with a very assertive vanilla flavor, this was also good except for being too sweet.

Great State Burger accomplishes the goal of serving burgers made from high quality ingredients at relatively reasonable prices. The place has the goods to grab your attention, even in the increasingly crowded Seattle burger-chain scene (along with Dick’s, Burgermaster, Blue Moon Burgers, Lil’ Woody’s, and Lunchbox Laboratory). Those craving for burgers in downtown Seattle could save a few bucks by going to the McDonald’s just a block away, but splurging for Great State Burger instead would be the wiser option.

 

Great State Burger

El Techo de Lolinda (San Francisco)

Overall: 3/5

Landing in SFO the night before a conference, I had budgeted some time to meet up with old friends. Getting picked from the terminal curb just as the sky turned up the dial on the waterworks, we careened towards the Mission District for some after-hour eats.

Through luck, karma, and an assortment of unexplainable cosmic forces, we ended up at El Techo de Lolinda, which my friend eloquently described as a “Mexican place? Tapas place? Whatever, it will be ok.” (Google, on the other hand, provided a more comprehensible description: “Chic Mission hangout with Argentinean grilled meats & small plates plus a terrace & 2 cocktail bars”)

The place certainly was chic. A rooftop terrace enveloped by a transparent tarp to shield the patrons from the pelting rain, this looks like an appropriate place for a good time. If nothing else, the large Hispanic gentlemen hysterically laughing and tumbling towards the elevator as we arrived served as confirmation.

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The wait staff was friendly, enthusiastic, and completely indistinguishable from the other customers. The kitchen was closing as we were sitting down. Thankfully, somebody came around right before last call.

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Guacamole ($7)

Nothing to complain about here in terms of taste. The addition of cotija cheese on top added some salty contrast to the smooth avocado.

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Flautas ($10)

The tortillas were crispy without being overly greasy. The filling of chicken and potatoes within were too dry, although chimichurri layered underneath helped with the moisture problem. The slaw on top was a distraction.

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Empanada de Carne ($8)

Again, a good job with the frying as the exterior of these dumplings was crispy. Unlike the flautas, the mixture inside was moist, probably due to the egg added with the ground beef and potatoes. The menu said the filling also contained raisins, but you wouldn’t know it unless someone told you. The accompanying chimichurri was unnecessary.

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Skewers (6 for $35, with carne (add $1), chicken, and shrimp (add $3)) *Apologies for the poor picture quality*

The carne skewer comprised of flap meat (a cut of beef from the bottom sirloin), onion, zucchini, and panda (mild, sweet pepper from Peru) glaze. The carne skewers were uneven, some of the pieces of flap meat were appealing caramelized and tender. Other pieces, however, were over grilled and were covered with a charred crust.

The chicken skewers were included red onions and an aji amarillo (Peruvian yellow chili pepper) glaze. The chicken was more consistent than the carne in execution. The pieces appeared to be a combination of breast and thigh meat, and were properly grilled to include just the right amount of char. The red onion added some mild pungency.

The shrimp skewers came with white shrimp, aji amarillo glaze, and salsa criollo (a type of salsa typically comprising of onion, red bell pepper, tomato, vinegar, and oil.) The shrimp suffered some of the same consistency problems as the carne, as some pieces felt mushy from being undercooked while other pieces were firm and had a nice snap. The salsa provided acid which made the skewers taste a bit like ceviche.

For tapas-styled food in San Francisco, the prices are within expectations. Yet, something feels amiss. Perhaps a little more care in the way the food is prepared, perhaps a little bit more generosity in portion size. But all of this is perhaps beside the point. Submerged in a sea of patrons busy consuming margaritas and cervezas to either wind down to relax or gearing up to party, a few friends took advantage of a rare opportunity to catch up and talk about things profound, profane, and everything in between. As to my ultimate recommendation, I defer to my friend’s succinct remark: “Whatever, it will be ok.”

El Techo de Lolinda (San Francisco)

Serious Pie & Biscuit

Overall: 3.5/5

Serious Pie & Biscuit is a part of Tom Douglas‘s Seattle restaurant empire. While Seattleites have appreciated his contributions to the local food scene, many grouse about the premium they have to pay at his establishments.

Serious Pie & Biscuit is located in the South Lake Union (SLU) neighborhood (there are other Serious Pie locations near Belltown and Capitol Hill), right next to the Amazon campus. The SLU branch is situated to feed the ravenous life science researchers, college students, and Amazon employees that roll through the region on a daily basis. It was the perfect place for some to-go breakfast on a wet and chilly Sunday morning before a Seahawks game.

“The Zach” – Biscuit with Fried Chicken, Tabasco Black Pepper Gravy Biscuit, Fried Egg and Bacon ($14)

Good, but could have been even better had the gravy been served on the side. The gravy had a strong black pepper flavor with a tailing kick of Tabasco. But given the richness of the other ingredients, the gravy was overkill. The fried egg was disappointing because the yolk hardened from overcooking. Drenched in gravy, it was hard to discern any unique taste or texture from the biscuit. On the plus side, the fried chicken was juicy, and the bacon was thick-cut and a jerky-like texture.

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Biscuit with Truffle Frittata, Tomato, Caper, Arugula ($9)

This is more balanced and refined than the Zach. The frittata lacked airiness but had a faint garlic/earthy truffle flavor. The tomatoes and caper provided a good combination of sweetness and brine. The arugula added some herb-like fragrance and contrast in texture. The biscuit was appropriately flaky and fluffy with a good crust on top.

If you intend on dining on site on the weekends, I recommend coming before there is a line during the peak breakfast and brunch hours. The sandwiches are not cheap, but it is very unlikely you will walk away hungry. More than likely, you will want a nap afterwards. Plan accordingly.

Serious Pie & Biscuit

Rain Shadow Meats

Overall: 4/5 (tentative)

Within a Russell Wilson throw from Century Link Field on Occidental is Rain Shadow Meats, an artisanal butcher shop that straddles the divide between modernity and nostalgia.

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The decor is coherent with the brick and cobblestone aesthetic of Pioneer Square. When you walk in, you will immediate notice the carefully manicured meats lining the display cases. When I visited, the place was immaculately clean, despite the fact that there was a cadre of butchers busy plying their wares.

In addition to being a butcher shop, Rain Shadow Meats also offers a menu of sandwiches, salads, and charcuterie. Seating is limited though there is a standing counter available.

Ranger: seared steak, caper aioli, grilled rosemary red onions, arugula, french bread ($12)

This was a fantastic sandwich. The pleasant surprise was the grilled french bread. Warm, crusty and firm enough to hold all the ingredient piled underneath. The sliced steak retained a pink, juicy center. The aioli kept the sandwich from being too dry. The abundant arugula balanced the sweetness of the caramelized onions. The accompanying pickled veggies were tart and laced with a hint of celery salt. The quality and the substantial portion size redeemed the price of the sandwich.

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House Greens, romaine, herbs, pecorino, croutons, green onion vinaigrette ($7)

To make myself feel better about downing a massive sandwich, I ordered a salad to balance the scales. The salad was tasty but probably did not do my waistline any favors here. The greens were on the verge of being overdressed. I suspect that any potential health benefit from eating my greens were whittled away with the inclusion of the buttery pecorino and the crunchy croutons.

I am leaving the score incomplete for now because I want to come back and sample some other fare. But, so far, I’m impressed.

Rain Shadow Meats