Thursday, February 16, 2017

Mian: Gourmet Chongqing Noodle in Los Angeles

House Beef Noodles at Mian.

The highlight of our journey to Los Angeles last year was going to eat at the two Chengdu Taste locations. Since then, they've opened up a third location in Las Vegas, and now this new restaurant, dedicated to making Chongqing Noodles from scratch. As their website says, "Noodles from Chongqing city in Sichuan is one of the favorite traditional Chinese dishes to 13 million Chinese people." Definitely eating at Mian was one of the highlights of our Los Angeles trip this year.

To the left is slightly pickled cabbage authentic Sichuan restaurants serve as a starter, and to the right, two cups of soup broth, chilled and recommended for drinking along with slurping/eating the noodle dishes you order.

Chengdu ZaJiang Noodles with Pork. Ground pork, noodles, baby bok choy, scallion, and a rich bone broth.

House Beef Noodles. Very tender beef, noodles, scallion, baby bok choy, and a bone broth that tasted intensely of chile and classic Chinese five spices.

Close-up of the House Beef Noodles. Amazed I finished it, my face was all red and bathed in sweat.

Closeup of the ZaJiang with Pork Noodles. Great stuff, very affordable and absolutely tasty. A bit reminiscent of the ramen craze, and perhaps places like this will inspire a Chongqing Noodle craze.

Here's a funny story. We got there right when it reopened on Sunday at 5pm, and only one other table was seated: Boomer Anglos. I overheard one of them complaining about how there was nothing but noodle dishes on the menu (actually not true, technically, as there's plenty of non-noodle appetizers). I don't understand why you would go to a Noodle place if you've got a Gluten-Free diet.

301 W Valley Blvd, #114-115
San Gabriel, CA, 
United States 91776


Shamshiri Grill: Persian Cuisine in Los Angeles

Fesenjan at Shamshiri Grill.

Above & below: complimentary appetizer of freshly-baked Lavash (Persian flatbread) served with butter, mint, radish & red onion. From the start, Shamshiri was signalling that it does things differently from other Persian restaurants I've been to.

Pomegranate juice & fresh mint tea.

Shirin Polo: slivered almonds, pistachio, orange peel mixed with basmati rice in a sweet Saffron sauce. Can't think of many rice dishes I've had better than this.

To accompany the Shirin Polo, we chose Lamb Shank. It was completely tender, falling off the bone, and appeared & tasted like it was braised in a mirepoix (or Sabzi, in Farsi). Utterly sublime combination.

Thinking it couldn't possibly get any better, they brought out the Fesenjan, a sweet & tart stew with grated walnuts, pomegranate juice & pomegranate molasses, served with Basmati rice (suffused with some Persian saffron, I think). Again we chose Lamb Shank. This tasted a bit like sweet dark Oaxacan Mole, which I had on my mind since I had just bought some at Grand Central Market, but is that so far off? Dark moles are made using sweet chiles like Pasilla & Ancho, and nuts (typically pumpkin seeds and sesame), plus I'm sure there was minced sauteed onion, probably some garlic, and even some spices like cumin, cilantro and black pepper--perhaps not, but spices like those could easily be a part of this rich dish. 

At long last, it was time to loosen a button on the waistcoat and reckon with the leftovers, of which you can see there was ample. Without a doubt one of the most memorable meals I've ever had. 

Shamshiri Grill
1712 Westwood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90024

Monday, February 13, 2017

Grand Central Market in Downtown Los Angeles

Mexican cuisine at Grand Central Market. Great place to start our culinary adventure, with kinds of choices, & convenient parking garage next door.

We didn't expect to find a gourmet take on some Berlin classics. Above is Currywurst's take on Sauerkraut that was so delicious we'd almost finished it before I got a snapshot.

Bratwurst Breakfast with eggs.

Currywurst with bread.

Huge line for the hipster breakfast spot Eggslut, soon coming to the Bay Area.

Mexican grocer with all kinds of Mole on offer. I got some Oaxacan Negro & Verde.

Scallop Ceviche.

Los Angeles Botanical Gardens, February 12, 2017

Highway 33 to 198: Avenal, Coalinga to Salinas River Valley

Left Los Angeles yesterday evening to get a few miles out of town to miss Monday morning rush hour traffic, and woke up this morning in Buttonwillow, CA. A few miles north on Interstate 5, we decided to seek out tacos a few miles to the west, first here in Avenal, CA. Taqueria not open, we decided to try the next town down the road.

We then traveled up Hwy 33, running parallel to I-5, towards Coalinga, CA. Above and below are some shots I took around 7:50 am.

Breakfast at Taqueria "La Piedad" in Coalinga. Hibiscus Agua Fresca, Adobada, Cabeza and Carnitas tacos, with salsa rojo & verde.

Highway 198, heading WNW towards King City on Highway 101. Peaceful two lane highway with nobody tailgating us because we're not exceeding the speed limit by 35 mph.

Plenty of evidence of recent rock & mud slides along these roads.

There was a fire here last July, and flooding just a few days ago. This is roughly 30 miles inland from the south end of Big Sur. King City is about 15-20 miles due east of Tassajara Hot Springs.

From the high point of Hwy 198 you can see a long thin line at the base of the mountains: that's the morning fog creeping up the Salinas River Valley.

On Hwy 198, fairly close to 101.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Skyview Noodle & Tea

Simmered Beef Shank at Skyview Noodle & Tea.
Superb Chinese regional fare from Anhui, a province just west of Shanghai and south of Shandong, thus noticeable similarities to the Bay Area restaurants specializing in that cuisine, particularly hand-shaved noodles and dumplings.

Yet another extraordinary Chinese restaurant. And another one in the suburbs where the rent is cheap. Mind-blowingly good.Mom and pop type place. Boba Tea galore. Free parking on the street. Great looking brewpub across the street.

Skyview is located in the old downtown part of Pittsburg, close by the Marina, in a 19th Century building that once housed the Liberty Hotel, and more recently, a series of restaurants.

Here we are at table with hot tea, dumplings & noodles. The atmosphere is nice here, and unlike any Chinese restaurant I've dined at. Along with the architectural details of the old hotel, restored to its former glory, the classical music was a nice touch. 

Dumplings stuffed with lamb and cilantro. Hand made & steaming hot.

Dipping sauce for the dumplings.

Inside the dumpling is a mix of shredded lamb, cilantro, spices, and a touch of stock, making each dumpling very moist with an appetizing texture. There's a world of difference between dumplings of this calibre and frozen ones from the supermarket. The red liquid on the plate is a bit of chile oil I poured.

Zha Jiang Mian Pork Noodle (hand-shaven), prior to mixing. Note that there are julienned strips of both carrot and cucumber in this dish, the latter a particularly delightful inclusion. As good as Chinese noodles get.

Green Onion Chinese Pancake. Been ages since I've ordered one of these, clearly made from scratch & in-house. Perfect blend of crisp exterior and slightly moist interior. Great scallion flavor.

And finally the Simmered Beef Shank, a meat and vegetable appetizer, redolent with sesame oil. Tender beef with carrot and cilantro.

This is one of the great regional Chinese restaurants of the Bay Area, on par with the best establishments in San Francisco, Milpitas, Millbrae, Oakland, Berkeley, and elswhere in the East Bay suburbs. Like other Northeastern Chinese restaurants that come to mind, Skyview offers a combination of highly nuanced regional specialties at a price that is surprisingly reasonable. 

Skyview Noodle & Tea
200 E. 3rd Street, Pittsburg, CA 94565