The International House of Pancakes is not, by any standard, a hip place to eat. Leave it to Chef Roy Choi (a chef I cooked with for my cookbook, best known for starting the Kogi Truck) to turn an IHOP into a must-visit L.A. dining destination, one that effortlessly oozes panache and cool.
A funny thing about L.A.: you can drive past a place over and over again, not think anything of it, and then–out of the blue–have a food friend tell you to meet them there on a Thursday afternoon, at which point you discover that this place you’ve been driving past and ignoring has really excellent food.
Such was the case with Rodded and my friend Zach Brooks of Midtown Lunch. I met him and Noah (who gave me that great Katz’s Deli advice) and Zach’s “Food is the New Rock” co-host Chuck P for lunch there last week.
I remember reading the New Yorker in 2002 when Nora Ephron declared the pastrami sandwich at Langer’s in Los Angeles “the finest hot pastrami sandwich in the world.”
As a New Yorker who grew up on the east coast (both in New York and Florida, major pastrami territories) I found this hard to believe. When I shared this tidbit with others, they’d be offended. “The best pastrami’s in L.A.? No way,” would be a typical response. On Saturday I brought Craig, Mark and Diana to Langer’s to experience this blasphemy firsthand. All three of us moved to L.A. from New York in the past year; would Langer’s really hold a candle to Katz’s? Was Nora Ephron just being provocative? Did we really want to eat pastrami on a hot summer’s day? These were important questions and after a short drive on the 101 (exit: Alvarado) we were ready to answer them.
Mad at myself, I flung open–as much as you can virtually fling something open–Jonathan Gold’s epic article “60 Korean Dishes Every Angeleno Should Know” and said to myself, “You big jerk! You’ve been in L.A. almost a year and you’ve barely scratched the surface of Koreatown. You’ve never eaten any of this food. Eat some of it right now!”
My eyes settled on something called “Shaken Dosirak” and I decided I would go eat that thing, whatever it was, this very instant.
As many of you know, since moving to L.A. I’ve been coping with a loss of decent bagels. My coping led me to Everything Bagel Bombs (which were an enjoyable but unrealistic substitute) and to frozen Murray’s bagels, over-toasted in my toaster to compensate for their cross-country staleness.
Commenters in both posts asked if I’d been, yet, to Brooklyn Bagel here in L.A. I hadn’t. I realized I was being unfair to my new home city, criticizing its bagel culture without really exploring it. So off to Brooklyn Bagels I went.
A food writer friend is coming to L.A. this week and asked for my tips on where to eat (specifically, Mexican and Thai restaurants). For Mexican, I expressed my love for Loteria and my admiration for La Casita Mexicana; for Thai, I brought up Jitlada and Saap and Pa-Ord but finished my sentence by recommending Night + Market, where I ate this past Saturday, as “my favorite Thai meal I’ve had so far in L.A.”
Last week, we went to see “Follies” at the Ahmanson Theater (my second time seeing this production) and, beforehand, we needed a place to eat. I Tweeted out to the world and received a response from @StarryKitchen: “Starry Kitchen’s not a bad place to start.. Oh wait a minute, that’s my restaurant. (Tee hee hee) we’re only a block away ;).” I already had Starry Kitchen on my mental radar so the fact that the restaurant itself (or its Twitter handle) was beckoning me in (and that it was super close to the theater) made this dinner decision easy.
If we were playing a game called “Would That Be Delicious?” and you just started to name things–“chocolate dipped beets” (no), “lemon Parmesan chicken wings” (yes)–I have a feeling, for many, the response to “warm tofu” might be a resounding “blech.”
Warm tofu; may as well say “warm pudding” or “warm Jell-O.” All of those things sound terrible because all of those things are gelatinous; and we don’t like eating warm, gelatinous things, do we? And yet, last week, I returned to Robata Jinya (where I had my first L.A. ramen and loved it) and found myself eating the most alluring, most decadent dish I’ve had in a while–a dish of warm tofu.