LA Day 4 – A Cross-Cultural Mash-Up of Epic Proportions

After shaking off the emotional crap from the previous night, we headed out and did an epic day:

  • Quan Ngon Nha Trang (San Gabriel)
  • Fugetsu-do Sweet Shop (Little Tokyo)
  • Far Bar (Little Tokyo)
  • Angel City Brewery (Little Tokyo/DTLA)
  • Wurstkuche (Little Tokyo/DTLA)
  • Pie Hole (Little Tokyo/DTLA)
  • Pizzanista (Arts District)

So in this one day, we were able to pack in Vietnamese noodles, Japanese sweets, German sausages with Belgian fries, American pie, and New York(ish) pizza. We could’ve easily added in Mexican food (of which there are a ton of regional styles available in LA) but surprisingly we didn’t have a drop of during our entire trip because we just couldn’t fit it in.

Quan Ngon Nha Trang

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This shop, Quan Ngon Nha Trang, is only open 8:00am to 4:00pm daily (closed Mondays). We went here for breakfast 🙂

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This is their entire menu. Only 6 items (plus 3 drinks). Vancouver needs more places like this — places that have really tight menus and try to do fewer things but do them better. This place almost does an awesome job, if it weren’t for the excess MSG and lack of banana blossom.

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Accompaniments for the noodle soups: lemon, lettuce, cabbage, and some Vietnamese herbs buried in there.

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Without onions, for Wicca.

Bun Bo Hue (Spicy Beef Noodle Soup with Pig’s Feet). To me, pig’s feet are critical for bun bo hue. I can live without the cubes of pork blood (which turns out is a North American addition to bun bo hue, and isn’t so common in Vietnam bun bo hue), but I frown when BBH is missing pig’s feet.

A big negative for Wicca was that they were missing shredded banana blossom to add to the BBH. If a restaurant is missing the selection of Vietnamese herbs and accompaniments, it’s a sign that the restaurant isn’t doing everything it can to make a great bowl.

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Standard bun bo hue with the onions.

Wicca still detests onions, so here’s a shot of someone else’s bowl with the onions.

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Soup was clear but too heavy on the MSG for me. I don’t mind a bit of MSG to help punch up the stuff that’s already there, but when it’s overused or used to mask the fact that there’s nothing much behind it, it sucks. I got that buzzing, electric feel on my tongue which was too bad cuz I think there’s a good base broth behind all the MSG.

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Bun Rieu (Crab Meat and Tomato Noodle Soup). This was pretty damn good. Rich, tomatoey flavour. I think the MSG was tempered by the tomato flavour, thankfully. Wicca missed having a side of stinky shrimp paste for the bun rieu.

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Great crab meatballs too. I liked how they do meatballs instead of big cubes of crab meat mixture. There was also fried tofu in there — well, it was either fried tofu or fried fish cake that had negligible fish meat content 😛

So, a pretty good bowl of Bun Rieu, held back a bit by the slight overuse of MSG. The Bun Bo Hue definitely had way too much MSG but was otherwise good. This restaurant is almost a great place.

Nha Trang on Urbanspoon


Fugetsu-do Sweet Shop

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After breakfast we headed to Little Tokyo. It’s a bit touristy but we enjoyed our time here in 2012 and like how there’s a fair amount to explore in this neighbourhood.

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We’ll take one of these! The do myoji is sticky rice wrapped in a sakura leaf (cherry tree) with white bean paste inside. The shopkeeper said that these were a special item for cherry blossom season.

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And one of these yokan maki! A jelly-like cube inside of a pancake.

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The imo contained sweet potato, and they make it look like an Asian sweet potato cut up.

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The shigure is an egg yolk, white bean biscuit with red bean filling.

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Our selection. Lovely pastel colours, perfect for Easter!

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The dense consistency of the jelly centre reminded Wicca of the Japanese red bean jelly candy (wagashi yokan). Unlike the super-sweet jelly candy, however, the jelly centre was only mildly sweet with no distinct flavour.

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The white bean filling was creamy, the sticky rice soft and chewy, and the sakura leaf was perhaps pickled because Wicca detected a hint of salty vinegar. Divine!

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Wicca’s favourite. The combination of egg yolk and white bean paste resulted in a heavenly velvety texture and the richness of the egg yolk complemented the sweet red bean filling.

Fugetsu-Do on Urbanspoon


Far Bar

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Down this narrow alley in Little Tokyo is the rear part of Far Bar. There’s a main part of the restaurant that faces the street but I like the tucked-away rear bar 🙂

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The beer list. Great selection.

Little story about a guy I met here: his name’s Alex and he’s a Filipino/Honduran/Mexican guy in his mid-20s who works in the restaurant industry. He lives in South Central LA, which to my mind is a somewhat tough neighborhood. He told me that they’re drinking stuff like Chimay in the hood now! They love that stuff!! Man, how beer tastes are changing in every pocket of society. Interesting thing about this guy (besides the atypical — for me — ethnic background for a craft beer lover) is that he’s a sensitive dude too. He broke the ice by showing me a poem on his phone that he was writing to some girl. I actually didn’t settle down to read it, but Wicca thought it was not bad…

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Firestone Walker Pale 31 (4.9%) – American Pale Ale with a fruity and dank aroma. Rich golden colour. Long, gentle dry finish. Pretty good.

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Telegraph Oak-Aged Los Padres Saison (7.6%) – Aged in “oak barrel for six months with multiple strains of brett”. The funk was mellow but multi-layered. Not an obvious brett funk. Great texture with a fine, fizzy, bubbly quality. Dry. The oak is obvious at first but fades as you drink to become a supporting player. Reminded me of oranges that have a bit of funky, moldy or fermented quality, but in a good way! Lingering funky citrus. Good stuff!

I had a great burger here in 2012. I didn’t have any food this time but would gladly come back for beer and food next time I’m in LA!

Far Bar on Urbanspoon


Angel City Brewery

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A few block away from Far Bar, towards the direction of the Arts District, is Angel City Brewery.

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It’s a massive warehouse space.

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They have daily food trucks outside. Today it was a pizza vendor with their own mobile brick oven!

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Nice selection but I couldn’t partake today.

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View from the entrance.

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The bar area. It’s bar service here, like all the breweries I visited.

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Big slide that no one’s allowed to touch.

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It was non-stop classic rock on the sound system…even some depressing tunes like “The Sound of Silence” 🙁

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Promising list of beers. Look, a Berliner Weisse!

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I walked around the place a bit and saw these barrels from past beers they did. It would seem that they take their beer seriously and like doing some funky experimentation.

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Hmm, a dark rye lager in a brandy barrel with champagne yeast? Very interesting.

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My flight:

  • Angel City IPA (6.1%)
  • Berliner Weisse (3.3%)
  • Social IPA (4.4%)
  • White Nite (4.3%) – Golden Stout on nitro
  • Red Headed Nun (4.1%) – English Mild on nitro
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This was all that I could finish…

I couldn’t properly review these beers because I couldn’t get over this overwhelming aroma of bandaids that I suspected was caused by some infection. I posted this to Instagram later that night:

 

I was really disappointed and thought that my number was up and that not ALL of my beer experiences in LA could be good. I looked around the brewery and saw tons of people genuinely enjoying their beers and I thought, “Are these people drinking the same beers I am??!” Then I thought about those barrel-aged beers Angel City did in the past and thought that there’s no way that a serious brewery would let some infection ruin most of their beers.

BUT, the next day I got an email from the head brewer at Angel City who explained that they investigated the brewery top-to-bottom after seeing my post and that this bandaid-like infection was a VERY serious matter for them. It turns out that they’ve been having issues with their dishwashing equipment! Their dishwasher uses an iodine-based rinse cycle and it was spitting out too much iodine, thus causing the bandaid smell I was getting from all the beers. They’ve since fixed it and I was SUPER impressed that they acted so quickly to fix the problem and also contacted me personally about it. I wish more restaurants/bars/etc were more responsive to fix problems like these guys. It also goes to show how important clean glassware is, and how everything along the brewing chain needs to be clean as well.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to visit Angel City again to reassess their beers. It’s a really cool space and would love to come back next time I’m in town.

Angel City Brewery and Public House on Urbanspoon


Wurstkuche

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I was in the mood for some serious sausage action, and this LA Weekly article (“10 Best Sausages in Los Angeles“) recommended these guys, so luckily Wurstkuche was just a short walk from Angel City Brewery. I’m growing to love this part of Los Angeles!

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You order at the counter in the small front area. Also spy the guy on the right wearing a Cochon 555 t-shirt!

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Their daily sausage selection.

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The article recommended this Louisiana Hot Link for its heavy spicing.

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And we had to try one exotic sausage, Rattlesnake & Rabbit with Jalapeno Peppers.

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If I had more stomachs, I would’ve tried this Duck & Bacon one too. But the strategy this whole trip was to sample just enough and not overdo it so we become saturated. My motto was, “it’s good to leave wanting more”… 😉

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If you don’t wanna do beer, they’ve got sodas. That cucumber drink sounds refreshing.

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Every sausage gets two toppings.

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For the Belgian Fries, I chose the Blue Cheese Walnut & Bacon sauce.

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A solid list of Belgian and German beers on tap. Wait a minute, a St. Feuillien and Green Flash collaboration beer??!

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The larger dining space at the back with a second bar.

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Turntables set up battle-style. I’m liking this place already. The soundtrack here was indie/dance/electro, so right up my alley. Bands like Phoenix and Passion Pit. I dunno why I only remembered the bands that started with “P”…

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St. Feuillien + Green Flash Belgian Coast IPA (7.5%) – Amazing! Big Belgian yeastiness, dry hop bitterness, but not over-the-top in any one element. Lots of depth. A study in balance. Drinks way easier than the 7.5% ABV would suggest.

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Five mustards and one ketchup, free to use. We used the dijon the most.

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Rattlesnake & Rabbit with Jalapeno Peppers, Louisiana Hot Link, and small (“klein” size) Belgian Fries with Blue Cheese Walnut & Bacon dip.

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These double-fried fries were so creamy. I would’ve liked more crispiness but the creamy potato flavour was so good, I didn’t mind so much — especially after a few swigs of beer! The blue cheese dip was good too, with noticeable smoky bacon flavour. We also enjoyed the fries with ketchup, cuz the bottle was right there!

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The Louisiana Hot Link was great! Spicy and juicy.

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The Rattlesnake & Rabbit was a bit drier than the hot link, perhaps unavoidable because it uses leaner meats. If you didn’t know it was rattlesnake and rabbit, you probably think it was chicken or some other leanish white meat. Flavour was good but (and this is a slight problem with both sausages) it’s a bit too much bun for the amount of sausage, so the taste of the sausage gets buried a bit. The buns are also charred on the grill too much, so you get that smell and taste of charcoal. Not good. The amount of toppings also overwhelm the sausage a bit. The Louisiana Hot Link fared better in this regard because it’s a punchier sausage. There should be an option of getting a sausage with toppings but without a bun, but then you’d have to deal with actually getting cutlery for this whole restaurant…so maybe if they used a smaller bun and didn’t burn it, things would be better.

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When you add up everything though — the space, the vibe, the beer, the food — I still think the positives outweigh the negatives and I’d have no hesitation coming back here!

Wurstküche on Urbanspoon


Pie Hole

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Just across the street from Wurstkuche is The Pie Hole! Note: this is a completely different place than The Pie Hole in Vancouver. The weather in LA is so good year-round that outside seating is a common sight. Jealous?

 

We (well actually just Wicca) were looking forward to another great pie experience!

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I think Wicca already made her decision with this Earl Grey Tea pie, but let’s have a look around anyways…

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Mexican Chocolate! LA shows its cultural diversity. We’re not quite there yet…

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Salted caramel is still big.

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Hmmm, a Bananas Foster-inspired pie.

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This is way more up my alley! If I wasn’t full from sausage and fries, I’d totally do this.

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A wide shot of the display case.

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Read and weep at the choices.

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Earl Grey Tea pie with pistachios on top. Really good! Light ‘n fluffy, not too heavy or rich, and not too sweet. It’s that balance and level of richness that leaves you with a comfortable yet satisfied feeling.

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Smart layer of chocolate on the bottom prevented the crust from getting soggy but also just tasted good!

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Funny stuff.

I liked the hip hop they were playing here. Old school stuff like A Tribe Called Quest. A bit of indie music too. If we come to LA again, this is another must-visit. I feel like the pies at The Pie Hole are more accomplished and assured than most of the pies in Vancouver. Yes, that includes the hipster artisinal pies here. There’s definite room for improvement here in Vancouver.

The Pie Hole on Urbanspoon


Pizzanista

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Continuing our walk from Little Tokyo to the Arts District, we passed by the Belgian beer cafe Little Bear. Another case of not enough time and not enough stomachs.

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Our final destination of the night, Pizzanista!, which was featured on this episode of Munchie’s Chef’s Night Out:

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They’re the first (?) place in LA trying to do New York style by-the-slice pizza, which is surprisingly rare in LA.

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Small space. There’s a bar next door to the left where you’re allowed to bring in your pizza.

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Meat Jesus (hah!). Seitan in a pizza?! Ugh… 😛 Really funny names though.

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Every place seems to have branded swag you can buy.

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Stacks of old Thrasher magazines here, so the soundtrack was all skater rock.

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A hot (spicy) ginger ale. Sweet but hit the spot.

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A single slice of Meat Jesus that took forever (well, 15 minutes) for them to heat up for some reason. I like the pepperoni “cups”.

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This wasn’t a fantastic-tasting slice, but good enough if you’re really craving some thin crust pizza.

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We went heavy on the chili flakes to boost the slice. I wouldn’t say the pizza is great, but it’s not terrible either. I enjoyed strolling through this desolate warehousey Arts District at 8:30pm. There’s more to explore in the neighbourhood, so maybe next time!

Pizzanista! on Urbanspoon


Continue with LA Trip Report Day 5 or go back to the index.

2 thoughts on “LA Day 4 – A Cross-Cultural Mash-Up of Epic Proportions”

  1. I’d like to go on vacation with you and Wicca one day. I can only imagine the eating opportunities… however, unlike you… I would probably have a hard time sticking to the mantra, “It’s good to be left wanting more”…

    That pie looks like heaven. Although, I’m often left thinking about the Thai ice tea pie you guys had back in 2012… yes, I don’t even know what it tastes like but I think about it all the time because it looked so good!!!

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