Heading towards the tail end of our trip. A couple of these places just sort of fell into place in our schedule and it was really rewarding to be able to fit some of these places in our visit, in particular Elysian and Smog City.
- Elysian Food + Bar (Glendale)
- Phantom Carriage (Carson)
- Smog City (Torrance)
- Hwal Uh Kwang Jang (Koreatown)
Elysian Food + Bar
I was tipped off about this Sunday brunch thing from this great Lucky Peach article, Profile in Obsession: Sonoko Sakai. Sakai (Instagram) teamed up with chef Roxana Jullapat (Instagram) to put on these Sunday brunches (more info here) featuring a dish that contains Sakai’s authentic buckwheat soba noodles. Practically all of the “buckwheat” soba noodles available commercially in North America contain mostly wheat and relatively little actual buckwheat. The Lucky Peach article goes into more depth about this issue, but needless to say I was excited and aroused to try the true taste of buckwheat.
Elysian is located in the southern part of Glendale, so it was a bit of a trek to get there, requiring a couple buses and a short walk. LA’s transit system doesn’t have the best coverage, but it’s not that bad. You will get to your destination, it just might take a while 😉
We stepped off our last bus, walked under this overpass, then…
…walked past this pickle factory…
…past the LA Department of Water and Power…
…and just when you think there’s nothing but industrial stuff in this area, you turn a corner and see all these cars parked on the street.
Here we are!
Clockshop (also located in this space) isn’t actually a clock shop. They’re an arts organization that puts on events.
Holy shit! What an oasis! This was totally unexpected considering our journey here.
This particular series of brunches featuring Jullapat and Sakai is ending
April 19 unfortunately (looks like they’ve extended it to April 26!). Elysian itself is more like a cafe pop-up space that has no set schedule.
I was here to try the Hand-cut Soba Noodle salad!
I was suprised to see some really good beers on the menu!
The kitchen space.
A view of the space from the entrance. The natural light in here was incredible. I had to take a few moments to settle down because I was mesmerized and excited by this whole setup.
Lagunitas Pils (6.2%) – Golden, hoppy, with aroma of grain and lager yeast. Long bitter finish. Dry. Pretty good! This would actually be the first of three different pilsners I would drink on this day. I didn’t plan it that way, that’s just the way it turned out 🙂
Hand-cut Soba Noodle with spring vegetables and meyer lemon-miso vinaigrette.
Also contained fresh peas, broad beans, dill, black sesame and nori.
The soba noodles are cut thicker than I’ve had before. Great firm texture that stayed firm throughout the entire meal. The flavour of the noodle itself was full and delicious. The light dressing complemented and enhanced rather than overwhelmed. I loved this dish and felt so healthy yet satisfied eating it. How can something so “simple” taste so good?
Wicca got the Breakfast Galette with dungeness crab, egg, pea tendrils and meyer lemon.
Very flaky pastry. A great light and savoury option for brunch. Wicca liked it a lot. Felt very light in the stomach even though it was a breakfast pastry with probably lots of butter 😉
We also shared some pastries: a Jelly Donut and a Ginger Scone.
The donut had a delectable light texture and great strawberry rhubarb (?) filling that tasted of freshness without being too sweet. The texture was almost like a cross between a yeast and a cake donut. A little hard to imagine unless you actually bite into it. I liked the cute, guilt-free size 🙂 So good!
The ginger scone was crumbly, with a cookie-like texture and great flavour with hits of candied ginger. Wicca said this was like a giant cookie, it was that good. Jullapat can really bake!
We were so glad to have experienced this never-to-be-repeated meal. We chatted with the host a bit afterwards and I told her we were going to check out this new sour beer brewery called Phantom Carriage and she recommended I also check out Smog City since it was close to Phantom Carriage. I originally was just going to do Phantom Carriage cuz how can you go wrong with sours? I’m so glad she pushed us to check out Smog City too, because it was awesome.
Phantom Carriage is a new brewery that just opened up in late December of 2014. They specialize in sour beers! Let’s see if they’re up to snuff!
The brewery is located in an industrial area of Carson, close to Torrance. You really need to want to come here, you won’t just stumble across this place, ever.
Their whole shtick is old horror movies, hence the skeleton.
They keep it really dark in here! They had a room playing campy horror movies.
Horror movie posters.
Another horror movie poster.
The bar area. It looks a heckuva lot darker in person than it does in the photo.
An Upright Brewing bottle for $10? Not bad… They also had an Easter Egg Hunt going on cuz it was Easter Sunday.
The beers, listed in campy horror movie font. Mostly their own beers with a few guest beers.
A selection of bottles to drink on site. They also had a small menu of food but we weren’t hungry.
Looks like a private room you can rent.
The main area with a view of the barrels. Nothing but death metal on the sound system 🙁 It was only as we were leaving when they started playing stuff I liked, like The Clash.
My first flight:
- Muis (6.5%) – Wild Belgian-style Blonde with 100% Brett. Very wild, funky and sour smelling. Not as tart as it smells though. A little sweet. Tastes like it’s 3% ABV, not 6.5%. I expect more flavour and complexity for 6.5%.
- Simcoe Muis (6.5%) – Muis dry-hopped with simcoe. Mellower aroma than the Muis. Sweeter and fruitier too. This beer is definitely better with the dry-hopping. Quite good and my favourite out of this first round.
- Broadacres Wild Berliner Weiss (3.7%) – Hey, another Berliner Weiss! Tart wheat aroma. Way more sour than the first two beers. Acetic sourness. Not bad, but maybe a bit too thin and lacking in depth, especially when compared to the Berliner Weisse at Golden Road.
- Ambler (7.8%) – A malt-forward farmhouse ale. Sweet with a perfumey character. Seems off-balance for a malty farmhouse ale. They need to take lessons from The Commons in Portland.
- Bergman (8.4%) – Blonde sour. Sour and funk. Fermenty. Medium-high tartness, probably the best outright sour beer I’ve tasted here so far.
- Lugosi (12.8%) – Strong dark sour. Acetic, tart, bit of funk. A sense of dryness with winey, dark fruit notes. Actually quite good.
As a whole, I was a little disappointed with Phantom Carriage. I had the nagging feeling that there wasn’t enough flavour or complexity for the ABV. But they are a new brewery and they will doubtless improve with time and experience. I think they charge a bit much for their current product and aren’t at the same level as more established breweries like The Bruery that also do sour beers. But like barrel-aged sour beers, give them time. They’ll get there.
A short Uber ride away from Phantom Carriage is Smog City Brewing in Torrance.
Smog City were also featured in the LA episode of Brew Dogs, so I was happy to fit in another Brew Dogs recommendation.
The day’s beer list.
Hmmm, I believe Zwickel Bo is the unfiltered version of their Little Bo Pils. They have Zwickel in CO2 and Nitro versions!
I don’t love the graphics, but it’s the beer inside that counts.
A few bottles for sale too.
It’s a barebones tasting room setup, right in the midst of all their brewing equipment. Still, there were a ton of families with kids running around. One kid even threw up and left a lingering aroma of baby vomit in the air. Thanks.
From left to right:
- Zwickel Bo Pils CO2 Version (4.4%) – Clean, clear, with a crisp aroma. Lemony citrus hops. Nice dry finish. I REALLY liked this! Amazing.
- Zwickel Bo Pils Nitro Version (4.4%) – Smoother, and hops less sharp than the CO2 version. It’s almost weird to drink a pilsner on nitro. I actually prefer the CO2 version a lot more. It’s a VERY different beer when on nitro.
- Hoptonic IPA (7.3%) – Sweet mandarin orange aroma. Already smells awesome. Amazingly smooth mouthfeel and flavour. I can see why this beer was featured on Brew Dogs when they visited Father’s Office.
- Amarilla Gorilla (7.8%) – Fruity hop aroma and a fruity citrus bitterness on the tongue. This is good but Hoptonic is better!
We met this kid from San Diego who was taking this Business of Craft Beer program at SDSU. He shared his notes with me 😉 Really cool dude who wants to eventually open up a craft beer bar and be on the business side of beer, rather than the brewing side. I really should check out the scene in San Diego sometime!
I took a chance and bought their bottle-only Saison Contraire to go.
Smog City is another example of a brewery that knows what they’re doing. Total opposite from Phantom Carriage — no wonder the host at Elysian recommended I check out Smog City over Phantom Carriage. Smog City felt more assured and accomplished while Phantom Carriage felt a bit shaky and undeveloped. Super happy that we checked these guys out!
Hwal Uh Kwang Jang
I read that this place in Koreatown, Hwal Uh Kwang Jang, had live baby octopus (sannakji). The first and only time I’ve had live baby octopus was almost 9 years ago in Seoul. So it was a 9-year craving that had to be satisfied!
This restaurant specializes in Korean-style sashimi.
Unfortunately they were SOLD OUT of live baby octopus! I think these Culineer guys must’ve ate it all 🙁
A soup that seemed to have egg or fish roe in it. Tasty and comforting.
I got the sashimi salad bowl. It doesn’t look like it from the photo but it was a massive bowl! Also contained slices of Korean apple/pear.
It tasted even better with some of the tableside kochujang sauce. I dunno how a bunch of veggies and raw fish filled me up, but it did and then some!
Wicca got the BBQ Eel.
I believe they cook it fresh. It looks different from the usual prepackaged overly sweet bbq eel that’s served in a lot of Japanese restaurants in Vancouver. Very tasty and a little decadent to be eating two big slabs of eel.
Sad that I didn’t get to eat live baby octopus but this was a fine meal anyways.