January 16, 2017


In 2017, I'm aiming for minimalism.  Less is more.  Because you don't need a ton of things to be accomplished or lead impressive lives.  This is a lesson I learned from Baroo when I dined there over a year ago.  And while this post is long overdue, I have a strong feeling the innovative and creative minds behind Baroo have not changed this theme, even with Chef Kwang Uh on indefinite hiatus in Korea.  

A table of Korean gentlemen appreciating innovative Korean cuisine.

Baroo, now enjoying national acclaim, is located in an unassuming strip mall off of Santa Monica Boulevard.  There is one table and the rest is bar seating, that is, if you can manage to find a free seat in the hole-in-the-wall establishment.  At the time of my visit, they didn't even have a website, but that has since changed.  You'll see many cookbooks and (I'm guessing) vegetables (or is it kombucha?) fermenting in various-sized jars.  Despite the somewhat experimental and minimalist ambience, the food is beautifully presented and even with some unusual pairings, surprisingly refreshing and unique.  Best of all, it felt like high-class dining in a hidden gem -- special, indeed.

Bibim Salad -- grains (oat, bulgar, quinoa), vegetable crudite (thinly shaved fennel, celery, asparagus, baby radish, heirloom carrots), toasted seeds (sunflower and pumpkin), gochujang, tomato dressing, herbs, coulis, Asian pear, passion fruit powder -- $9 (Vegan)

Kimchi Fried Rice -- pineapple-fermented kimchi, amira basmati rice, sous vide egg, gremolata, pineapple jalapeno salsa, purple potato chips, roasted seaweed, toasted buckwheat and quinoa, and micro greens -- $9 (Gluten-free, Vegan)

Baroo's Ragu-Style -- handmade pasta with spicy oxtail faux ragu, tendon puff, gochujang, gremolata with cherry tomatoes, aged parmigiano reggiano -- $15

Classic Shortbread -- 84% butter cacao nibs with citrus bursts -- $2

With each bite, you find yourself recognizing a familiar taste countered by something new.  The ingredients are familiar, but the taste is unique in a way that makes you want to try more.  All this to say, this type of food may not be for everyone, or may be for you when you're in that creative mood/ not ravenously hungry (food is not entirely filling).  But for those who appreciate innovation and can tolerate Korean fusion, visit Baroo.

cuisine: New American with strong Korean influence (fusion)
location: East Hollywood (Wilton + Santa Monica)
hours: Sun-Mon: closed; Tues-Sat: noon-3pm; 5pm-9pm
websites: { Baroo | facebook | instagram | twitter }
attire: Casual
notes: No reservations and no sign.  There's a 7-11 next door and a small parking lot.
other: Bon-Appetit article | JGold review

Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee

While people are resolving to consume less sugar, less carbs, less calories, I'm continuing to champion one of my favorite breakfast (lunch, dinner, and/or dessert) items: the doughnut, aka - donut.  Glazed, sprinkled, cereal-topped, baconized, twisted, jelly/cream-filled, cake, crumb, bruleed, whole, hole -- you name it, I eat it.  Thankfully, LA is home to a multitude of doughnut shops.  But if I'm ever on the Westside (specifically, Santa Monica), Sidecar is a must.

Doughnuts + Stumptown coffee = a piece of heaven on Earth

Their claim to fame is probably the Huckleberry, a huckleberry cake doughnut with huckleberry glaze.  For those unfamiliar with huckleberry, the huckleberry is akin to the blueberry and is the state fruit of Idaho).  As you can see below, each doughnut is handled with care.

Huckleberry -- $3.50.  It tastes as good as it looks.  

Cinnamon Crumb Cake -- a classic cinnamon cake doughnut with a slightly sweet and spicy cinnamon glaze -- $2.75

An obligatory cup of Stumptown coffee for a perfect pairing.

Sidecar has certainly stepped up the doughnut game in Santa Monica, but like most things on the Westside, be willing to shell out a couple of extra bucks above what you would normally pay for a doughnut.  That said, you'll be in for a delicious doughnut made with quality ingredients.  Plus, in addition to their regular flavors, they offering some interesting flavors on a monthly rotation.  So do I recommend Sidecar doughnuts?  The answer is always yes.

cuisine: Doughnuts
location: Santa Monica
websites: { Sidecar | yelp | instagram | facebook | twitter }
hours: Daily, 6:30am - 4pm, except on Fridays and Saturdays, they're open until 9pm.
attire: Casual
parking: Small lot behind the store or street meters
other notes: If you're craving Sidecar while in Orange County, you're in luck!  You can check them out at their original location in Costa Mesa.

January 01, 2017

Little Sister DTLA

A year ago, I celebrated my birthday at a then-new restaurant in downtown LA called Little Sister.  While I'm ashamed of my inconsistent (or practically nonexistent) blog posts in 2016, I'm happy that Little Sister is continuing to offer some delicious Southeast Asian fusion food to those who are willing to give it a try.

Like its Manhattan Beach location, Little Sister "features East-meets-West inspired dishes served in a relaxed social environment that feels more residential than restaurant, as if you're being invited into the Chef Tin's home." [ link ]  Personally, Little Sister reminds me of a restaurant in New York -- tight, packed, and loud.  And I love it.

The dishes are primarily Vietnamese with a dash of Chinese, a pinch of Korean, and sprinkle of other Southeast Asian flavors.  Although I'm not typically a fan of Asian fusion, the wide variety of spices go beyond cross cultural divides in a way that is complementary and surprisingly pleasant.

Here're a few highlights from my meal, all of which come recommended:

Papaya Salad w/ Viet-style beef jerky, chili peppers, lime dressing, peanuts -- $12

Fresh, tangy, perfectly balanced flavors.

Steamed Black Cod w/ pork belly, shitake mushrooms, clams, jalapeno peppers, leeks, bitter greens, and fermented sauce -- $18

There's something delightfully refreshing about this fish dish.  Not only was it perfectly cooked, but it was light with just the right amount of salt.

Shaky Shaky Beef -- braised beef with watercress, baby tomatoes, burnt butter soy and tomato garlic fried rice -- $28

Goi Cuon Fresh Spring Roll -- Pork & Shrimp wrapped in rice paper -- $8

Vietnamese Coffee Flan with condensed milk creme and palmiers -- $8

Little Sister DTLA may not be an ideal venue for large parties, but it's a great place to experience well done fusion for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  If you still haven't had a chance to check it out, you really should in the new year!

cuisine: Upscale Vietnamese fusion
location: Downtown LA
hours: Daily, 9am-10pm
good for: Lunch, Dinner
websites: { LS | yelp | facebook | instagram | twitter }
attire: Casual
reservations: Walk-ins allowed, but reservations highly recommended
suggestions: Shaky Shaky beef, Fresh Spring Rolls, SGV banh mi.