The Skinny: On April 8, 2011, I was suppose to go on a food crawl with some TMF247 people and end the night watching The Naked and Famous perform live at the Echoplex in Echo Park. However, one by one, people started to drop out and so I ended up going there by myself.
While I was at Echo Park waiting for the show, I hit up El Flamin Taco Truck and Xoia Vietnamese Eats since they were close by. I usually drive by the El Flamin Taco Truck when I’m on Alvarado Street and on the way towards the Dodgers Stadium. It would be my first time eating there that day. Xoia is a fusion style restaurant that serves up Pho and Vietnamese influenced Street Tacos.
The Good: The truck that wears “El Flamin” decals proudly all over it’s body, was quite impressive. It had television sets playing Napoleon Dynamite, a LED lit sign greeting costumers in different languages, a rotating spitfire for their Al Pastor, and a full open salsa bar. They obviously must be doing something right to have their colorful truck to be pimped out like that.
While I was at El Flamin Taco Truck, I ordered the Buche and Al Pastor tacos, 2 of each. From the Salsa bar, I added the red sauce and some of the Cilantro Onion mix on all of them. I definitely liked the Buche because it was clean tasting, had a nice texture, and was flavorful. The red salsa was nice, but for me it didn’t really add much to the tacos themselves. Their hand made fresh tortillas were a first for me, but unfortunately I couldn’t really taste the difference.
At Xoia Eats, I got the 3 Chicharones Tacos combo and Vietnamese Iced Coffee. The Chicharones Tacos were tasty and the Iced Coffee was Vietnamese style strong. The red salsa that came on the side was a good palette cleanser.
The Bad: First off, I’m just not a fan of Al Pastor at the moment. I just don’t get it or at least I haven’t had some where I understand that “that is what Al Pastor is supposed to taste like!” Not too long ago, I had some that tasted like Chinese style BBQ Pork, and I liked it. The first Al Pastor Taco I had at El Flamin was kind of bland, crunchy from a piece of gristle, and greasy. It reminded me of Korean Pork Bulgogi that is void of sugar. However, for some reason the second serving of the Al Pastor had better pieces of meat and it tasted much better than the first. The grease became greasy in a good way and the marinated pork was tastier. Weird.
At Xoia Eats, the Chicharones Tacos was disappointing because I was expecting pieces of Crispy Pork in it. Instead, the Pork seemed to be regular cuts of meat fried up in a pan. If there was Vietnamese style seasoning on the meat, I didn’t notice it. The tortilla the Chicharones came bedded on had the texture of thinly sliced re-hydrated stale corn chips and I just wasn’t a fan of it.
The Fail: So after killing 2 hours of time in Echo Park and waiting in line for 2 more hours for the Naked and Famous show, it turns out my ticket was for the following night. I did see them the next day, and they didn’t disappoint as a live band.
Would you come back? Yes on both accounts. I’m sure the taco meats and other items at both locations are worth exploring, especially since I’ll be coming back to The Echo/Echoplex for other shows.
Xoia Vietnamese Eats: www.xoiaeats.com | 1801 W Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026 | Cash Only
The Skinny: After a four game winning streak on the road in a tight race to make it into the NHL playoffs, the LA Kings are back home at the Staple Center. Everyone was dressed in green because of St. Patty’s day and for 25 bucks, I got to watch the Kings get shut out by a team that lost the previous night. But hey, at least I was in the box seat area that has it’s own open bar.
Kike’s is a taco spot that’s in a parking lot on 2nd St & Beaudry Ave. It started off as small street stall with just a fire pit, lawn chairs and tables. Then years after good fortune and loyal customers, they got enough money saved up to buy a truck. But accordingly to Spreewell of Ramen + Tacos, there was a fallout between the workers and now there are two different locations not to far from each other.
The High: I was at the Staple Center and I got to watch the Kings lose while sipping on Jameson, nibbling on Staple Center bar food, and saw some old roller and ice hockey teammates from my High School years.
After the game, some of us went to Kike’s Taco Truck and from there I ordered the Buche. Of all the ones I had before, Kike’s version was actually the cleanest tasting one so far. Texturally, it was perfect, like tender calamari. And because of a mix up order, the sweet girl working by herself in the truck, gave me an extra one for free. So for only 4 bucks, I technically only paid for 3 tacos and a can of Fanta Pineapple. Ramen+Tacos guy Spreewell and a cousin of mine who were both there, ordered the Pastor and Carne Asada. They were both happy with their selections as they talked about stories that will only stay out of Vegas for that moment in time.
The Low: The Kings lost and while I have stopped following them since the addition of purple in their jersey colors, the new owner, and players being 10 years younger than me….it was still a bummer. Also, the cooks at Staple Center must be getting lazier and their waiters walking on cruise control. We ordered Chicken Wings, but they came out lukewarm. The whole Organic White Carrots that came with them still had that unclean outer layer on. Along with those wings was a “where’s the Pulled Pork?”….Quesadilla. No bueno!
As for the Buche Taco, while texturally it was good, it was kind of bland. The Salsa Verde didn’t really add much to it either, it was just cold.
Would you come back again? Yes, just because the Buche was lacking in seasoning doesn’t mean their other stuff are too. They also have sweet breads (throat glands), something I’ve grown to like after trying them at King Taco.
More Info: 621 S Western Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90005 | Cash Only | 1 dollar Tacos | They also serve Danger Dogs if you are in the mood.
The Skinny: I’ve been hearing about this place for years and mostly from all my UCSB friends. Being that we live in the HUB of great Mexican Taquerias you can understand this Angelino’s Skeptical outlook on the hype aurounding the Freebirds burrito. Walking up to the place you could hear a familiar rock tune and you could smell a familiar smell of Carne Asada and other Grilled Meats. Walking in you see the Chopper hanging from the ceiling and random foil Sculptures that looked like a two year old went postal on box of Reynolds. As you walk to the counter to order you realize you’re in something that resembles a Chipotle on Acid.
The High: High is right…I could definitely see stoners, potheads, green fiends, etc…going crazy at this spot and ordering a 15 dollar burrito, and yes it is possible to make your burrito 15 dollars. I had the Carne Asada and it was pretty tender and there tons of options which may or may not be a good thing.
The Low: The Tomatillo “Hot Sauce” was ummmm…not hot…especially for a place that looked like Dog the Bounty Hunter rolled his pseudo badassness all over it. The burritos are decent…but my biggest complaint is that you pay 8 dollars for a burrito and you don’t even get a drink or CHIPS!? On top of that I don’t really enjoy watching the workers shoot my guac and sour cream all over my burrito with a calking gun (GROSS).
Would I go to again? I’d probably give it a second try at another location to see if it was any different…
More info: www.freebirds.com
The Skinny: Discovered Flores Meat Market on Yelp and the one hype that made me want to test the place out was that it was a spot a reviewer didn’t want others to find. A few other reviewers wrote about how the Carne Asada burrito was tasty and that it couldn’t get more authentic, especially since no one spoke English there. So I checked it out with my brother lived and his family.
The High: Just on sight alone, going into a meat market and seeing the way they had the food laid out, got me excited. My brother ordered something I can’t name, but it’s basically a red beef stew with rice and re-fried beans as sides. That was the only good thing I had. It was moist and tasty, thanks mostly to the gravy that kept it lubricated throughout the day.
The Low: Everything else was dried out. I ordered Tacos with Buche for myself, but they were salty and it felt like I was eating overcooked pieces of squid that’s been laying around for a few days. I also tried the Carnitas and Pastor and both were tough to swallow. The Carnitas especially was hard to chew thanks to the lack of moisture. The place was also pretty stingy about their condiments, like bags of chopped onions, sour cream, and salsa. Even though we got over 30 dollars worth of food, they only gave us one of each and if my brother had not been there with his fluent Spanish, we’d probably have to pay for the plastic forks as well. Also, their Chicharones was tougher than a tree bark laid out on top of the hottest salt flats. It won’t go to waste though, it’ll be chopped up and used for soups and salads later.
I was really disappointed with Flores, especially since I really wanted to eat tacos that day. There was actually an El Gallito truck in the same parking lot, I should have just went there…even though Flores Meats and El Gallito are somehow connected.
Would you come back again? No….even though I might have came at the wrong the time. I went there for dinner, so maybe it would have been better if I came during lunch hour when the meats haven’t been laid out all day long.
More Info: Yelp | 1200 W Anaheim St. Wilmington, CA 90744N | Credit Card Friendly
The Skinny: El Gallito is a taco truck that can be found almost anywhere in Los Angeles. The one I went to was on Pacific Coast Highway in Lomita and on Washington Blvd near Culver City. Taco Sinaloa #3 is a sit-down restaurant in Torrance which I found on Yelp. Reviewers recommended the Pastor, so I got that along with their Buche (pig stomache), which is my favorite meat of choice. So I got the Buche at El Gallito’s, along with their Carnitas and the little more expensive Tripas.
The High: El Gallito’s Buche and Tripas were great, both texturally and in flavor. The Tripas were chewy and the amount of Buche was plentiful. I just wish the Tripas were a bit crispy around the edges.
The Low: El Gallito’s Carnitas wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. The pork was a bit dry and lacked flavor, even with the chopped onions and red salsa I put on top. I would have used the green salsa they provided, but it was frozen….so I couldn’t.
Taco Sinaloa #3’s version of the Buche taco started off well because some of the pieces were crispy and it was packed with flavor. The second bite I took felt like I was chomping down onto a soft salt lick doohickey. I could literally feel my brain fluids be sucked out by all the sodium that was in that taco.
The Pastor that people raved about on Yelp was a complete disappointment. I ordered two of them but only managed to finish one. My biggest problem with it was that it just tasted like bland pieces of pork puffs that got re-hydrated by the amount of oil used to cook it. I was expecting chucks of pork that were sliced off a gyro looking hunk of mystery meats….but got mushy blobs instead.
Would you come back again? Yes to El Gallito and no to Taco Sinaloa #3. I just hope I went to Taco Sinaloa on a bad day because their Buche could have been my favorite
The Skinny: I have been blessed to try 9 restaurants on the MGM Grand property seeing what they have to offer for good eats. This is part 1 of that dine around with 4 restaurants on the board. First stop: Joel Robuchon. This is the one restaurant I’ve been told is a MUST try once in your lifetime. That’s absolutely a restaurant I want my rich husband to take me too. lol Second stop: Shibuya, one of my favorites Japanese Restaurants on the strip. Extensive sake selection! Third stop: Fiamma. This is a trendy Italian restaurant equipped with a fireplace in the middle of their lounge. Fiamma is designed to be seen, so if you want to be noticed, this would probably be the best place to go. Final stop for the evening: Diegos. Great place for you and the girls or even you and the guys to go hang out and grab a margarita before going out. See the high for more details of all these restaurants
Joel Robuchon: The minute you walk into that restaurant is amazing, with the amazing chandeliers & purple velvet upholstry, down to the beautiful table settings. For a lot of people I’m sure they’ll feel misplaced, this IS a high end Forbes 5 star restaurant so yes it’s an intimate, elegant atmosphere. Joel Robuchon is definitely for a more of a sophisticated palate. They came over to the table to show us their bread cart and explained which seemed like a hundred different types of bread, but really it was like maybe 10 or so? Then he came over with the awesome butter display, I don’t know what they do but the bread + butter was amazing. I could’ve just ate that all night alone. Then came the “lobster ravioli” Small bite in the middle of a dinner plate. It was delicious. I didn’t see it on their online menu to give you a description. That mini experience makes me want to go back for the full Joel Robuchon experience…..even if it’s for $400 per person. Remember: It’s a once in a lifetime experience.
Shibuya: Inspired by Tokyo’s Shibuya district, this is a the ultimate Japanese dining experience. Aside from the sushi bar, and regular dining tables they have 3 teppanyaki tables in the back of the restaurant. They also have an extensive Sake list. I tried the KANI SALAD (King, Snow and River Crab, Pickeled Cucumber, Seaweed, Lotus Chips). This dish is definitely unique as it is served on top of a fish bowl….yes! with a live beta fish swimming around while you’re eating the goods placed in a cone shaped bowl on top. I also tried the AUSTRALIAN KOBE BEEF TATAKI (Lemon Tamari Soy, Garlic Chips, Red Onion, Tarragon Oil) I LOVE beef tataki if it’s made right. This was good, I’ve definitely had better, but still great nonetheless. The sake I had to accompany all these good eats was the Junmai Ginjo. When I first took a whiff of it it had a fruity smell to it, and when I took a taste it, it was one of the best easy to drink sakes I’ve ever tasted. Definitely recommend having this with your dinner.
Fiamma: Traditional Italian recipes in a trendy fine dining atmosphere. This is my kind of place. I had tried their food at this event I went to called Wet Your Appetite during Restaurant Week and it was my favorite. I had the GNOCCHI ALL’ARAGOSTA (Soft Potato Dumplings With Maine Lobster Mushroom and Black Truffle) This is everyone’s favorite out of the whole night, but then again you can get me to fall in love with anything that has black truffle. The gnocchi was just the right texture, some restaurants make it too chewy or too mushy. Fiamma did it just right. We also had a vegetarian dish that had a spinach stuffing in these little handkerchief pastas w/ marinara sauce. I liked this dish too, but the gnocchi get the trophy for the evening. The restaurant has a very “sexy” feel to it. The restaurant is pretty open and faces the restaurant row so everyone that walks by sees you. You definitely don’t want to look broke eating in that restaurant. The lounge area is pretty nice too, has a nice big fireplace right in the middle of the lounge. If you’re tired of the nightclubs in Las Vegas, this would be a cool place to hang out, people watch and have a few drinks.
Diegos: Your traditional mexican recipes with a twist. The table side guacamole is THE BEST!! I LOVE Guac and I’m very particular about my guac. By far Diego is the best. All fresh ingredients prepared table side. Diegos has 125 different 100% agave tequila lables…..need I say more? If tequila is your friend, this is the place to be. They have this unique waterfall slide right in the middle of the restaurant. It’s definitely a fun non traditional atmosphere.
The Low: Shibuya: The last dish I tried was YELLOWTAIL SASHIMI (Shichimi Pepper, Garlic Ginger, Yuzu Juice). This wasn’t the most memorable dish that’s why I put it as a low. It really isn’t too much of a low because it was still good, it’s just not something I’d order at a hotel Japanese restaurant. I like to try something I can’t get anywhere else. Give me something different, something unique…..like the fish bowl Kani 🙂
Would you come back again? I loved all 4 restaurants and only having a taste of each restaurant, I absolutely want to go back and try the full experience.
More Info: Joel-Robuchon-French-Restaurant // Shibuya-Japanese-Restaurant // Fiamma-Italian-Restaurant-Bar // Diego-Mexican-Restaurant// Diego’s has a happy hour! Available at Bar & Lounge Area Only: Sunday through Thursday 4:00 P.M. – 5:30 P.M. They also have Latin nights Friday & Saturdays.
– Sniper Tam *Pew Pew Pew*
The Skinny: Ortega 120 is a Mexican restaurant located in Redondo Beach. It is headed by Thomas Ortega who has been featured on Fox’s “Hell’s Kitchen” and according to LA Weekly, his restaurant has the best margaritas in Los Angeles. The style of the food can be described as traditional and simple Mexican fare but with the use of alternative methods, like Duck Confit in an enchilada.
The High: I went to Ortega 120 for the first time with my older brother and cousin. The interior and decor of the restaurant had a hip and colorful Dia de los Muertos celebration feel to it. As we sat down we were served warm chips and salsa that were endless and tasty. They even had a spicier version of the salsa that the waiter challenged me to try, but it wasn’t that bad. It had a nice heat that lasted, but it didn’t make me regret using it over and over again.
While I should have ordered something more traditional in the Mexican sense, I saw that they had an American Kobe Burger. At that time I was on a “Great Burger Hunt,” so I went with that dish. My “Ortega 120 Kobe Burger” came packaged in an 8oz beef patty, lettuce, tomatoes, Ortega chiles, queso asadero, spicy mayo, and on a pan de leche bun. It also came with crisp skinny fries that were good even though they came out a bit cold. The medium well Kobe Burger itself was nice and beefy while the bun was squishy and quite sweet. All the extra fixings within the burger were subtle but added welcome complexities to the patty, especially the Ortega chiles. I can’t say it’s the best burger I ever had but it was solid and delicious.
My brother had the “Tour de Tacos” and my cousin ordered the “Duck Confit Chilaquiles.” I didn’t try my cousin’s dish but I did take a bite from one of my bro’s tacos. The “Tour de Tacos” came with 5 street style tacos topped with pastor, carne asada, shrimp, carnitas, salsa, and on top of flour tortillas that were preferred by my brother. I nibbled on the shrimp taco and it was quite tasty. I can’t say I remember exactly how it tasted, but at the time I was tempted to steal the rest of it away. However, the flour tortilla did change the texture a bit, giving the whole bite a nice extra chewiness. The Duck Confit Chilaquiles my cousin ordered is casserole styled “with green enchiladas, corn tortillas, roasted poblano chiles, queso oaxaca, onions, cilantro, Mexican sour cream, queso cotija, and salsa verde.” While I didn’t get a chance to try it, my cousin did mention the duck wasn’t as tender as the last time he had it, but he did finish it all….again.
The Low: While the interior was pretty cool, it did have that Buca Di Beppo feel of trying too hard to be authentic and yet commercially corny. Thankfully, it wasn’t as bad as the Italian latter thanks to the deeply dark wooden chairs, tables, and bar.
I also wanted to get one of their margaritas but I was persuaded by the waiter to try their tequila taste test special where they infuse 3 blanco shots with bacon, pineapple, and jalapeno. So I gave it a go and it just reminded me of flavored rum you can get off the shelves at supermarkets. It was a waste of booze space, but it wasn’t horrible.
Would you come back again? Yes, the place has a fun atmosphere and the food is good. They even have a patio section to hang out on for summer nights. There are also more dishes I need to try out.
More Info: 1814 S. Pacific Coast Highway, Redondo Beach, CA 90277. Credit Card Friendly. Full Bar! Expect to pay $10-25 for food and around 10 bucks for a margarita.