Monday, June 29, 2009

The Little Next Door

So I've been wanting to try this place for sometime, but Dumpling Man is not a fan of the frenchy stuff. So I was just waiting for the right friend to come along to suggest a nice brunch place to try. Unfortunately we didn't make it to the place until after noon at which time they stop serving breakfast. Not too big of a loss since I probably would have ordered some lunch fair anyways. The place is next to The Little Door which offers a fancier more formal French dining experience. As you can see from the picture, The Little Next Door is more like a French deli and cafe.

I started off with their Lemonade Du Jour which to my surprise was a deep crimson as opposed to pale yellow. If I heard the Frenchy waitress correctly, it has currants in it which gives it the color. It also gives it a different flavor, like cranberry juice + lemonade. Not particularly special for the whopping $5 price tag.

Of course, being a French eatery they serve the traditional french baguette with butter. I've definitely had better French bread. This one certainly had the crisp crustiness, but it coulda been softer and more fulfilling on the inside. Just seemed a bit on the dry airy side. We ordered the "Little Next Door Terrine Selection" which was comprised of duck terrine + rabbit rillete appetizer. Although I couldn't quite describe what all of those words meant, I could only my friend that I thought it was something spreadable, I was thinking something along the lines of pate. I do LOVE pate. I don't think most people eat or have eaten it, but growing up it definitely was something my family ate. I mean its in Vietnamese sandwiches so maybe more people have eaten it, they just don't know or care to acknowledge they've eaten a spreadable version of an animals unmentionables, haha. I could only guess which was the rillette and which was the terrine, but I liked the triangle that's not standing up. The baguette served with the dish was certainly toasted and just too dry. The green salad was unimpressive. The mustard or "moutarde" as my mom would say was a nice touch and something I would not have thought of to accompany the pate. In general, I've had better pate even from Trader Joe's but I'm sure my palette just isn't refined enough. I wouldn't order it again.

My friend ordered the Ahi Tuna Tartare which I thought was going to be strange being tuna, hummus in pita bread. It was actually refreshing but I still found the texture of the hummus to be in opposition to the smoothness of the tuna. The flavors were nice though, very mediterranean. The little cucumber salad had similar flavors so I guess went well. My friend really enjoyed it.

I got the Croque Monsieur which I probably would never have ordered had it not been for that episode of Barefoot Contessa where she talks about this very well-known dish. Thinking myself mildly-versed in French food, I was surprised to hear about this dish since I never tried it. It's basically a fancy French ham and cheese grilled sandwich. I believe this one was made with Gruyere cheese which you can see melted on top and sandwiched between and the bread and ham must have been a type of bechamel sauce. Overall an extremely rich dish but very tastey for my first croque monsieur and I'm not even a cheese lover.

Although, I was thoroughly stuffed, I felt obligated to try dessert because its a French place and they're experts in the dessert department. My friend got the eclair, but I've never been a fan of eclairs so don't take any of my opinions to heart. She felt like the eclair was purchased from Costco. To me, it was just like any other eclair, soggy-tasting on the outside and some forgettable cream on the inside. This one had a chocolate cream.

I got the Panna Cotta with rasberry coulis and I was totally underwhelmed. I'm no expert in panna cotta having only had it one other time when my friend made it for me. So based on my past experiences, I imagined its texture to be smoother and softer, something like creme brulee. But maybe I'm just wrong and panna cotta is supposed to taste like overcooked cheesecake. The rasberry coulis was no different. They must have added gelatin to get it to have such a firm jello like texture. The panna cotta had a hint of almond extract which 80% of the time I abhor. All in all, not a good dessert.

Despite the dessert disappointment, I'll still come back to try the other things and probably the breakfast items. I was digging the French waiter and his frenchy accent, but was not digging his seemingly sprayed on orange tan emanating from his face. It was a hot and sunny weekend so maybe he forgot his sunblock, but in this town I wouldn't doubt the "spray on tan gone wrong" scenario. As for the waitress, I found it strange that she would ask us how we were doing but never stick around to hear our answers. She was also frenchy. Props to the place for keeping it as "authentic" as possible.

8142 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 951-1010

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Myung Dong Kyoja

To my 2 readers,
I apologize for the lack of updates. I have been "overworked" and I've been forgetting my camera like crazy. It's very hard to document everything that you eat. Props to all the real food bloggers out there. Now on to the good stuff!

Apparently Myung Dong Kyoja is actually a restaurant chain in Korea, very popular for the "knife cut" noodles also called "kal gook soo"...i think. Whatever, I'm not Korean so don't quote me. Anyways, you will soon find out I love noodles and, well, you know who loves dumplings and this place has em both. What I don't like about this place is the lack of panchan. You go there and you get 2. Their infamous kimchi and some other pickled cabbage/raddish thing. I really love going to a Korean restaurant and getting like 5 or 6 diff things, oh heaven!

So let's start off with their kimchi, rumoured to be a first date's worst nightmare. It is true that this kimchi has two main ingredients, cabbage and GARLIC. Lot's and lot's of garlic. If you even eat just 2 pieces, you'll be burping up garlic fumes for the rest of the night. Despite the stinkiness, I still eat it, not as much as I would at any other korean restaurant but I still power through like the champion I am.

I guess that kimchi balances well with the next which is crisp, sweet/sour, and refreshing.

The mandoo cannot be compared to the chinese xiao long bao. Korean just make their dumplings different. This one in particular has a lot of chives as their base vegetable as opposed to cabbage or kimchi. There is a little bit of juice in the dumpling but I don't think its meant to be a "soup" dumpling. The juice seems mostly like fatty juices as opposed to soup. Some mandoo I've had have big garlic taste but these are pretty clean tasting. My one knock is that it comes in a plastic steamer! Really takes away from the "authentic" feel, but whatever.

Ugh, so the next dish was a hot mess. Ironically, it was a cold noodle dish which I had fair warning about after reading the reviews on yelp. After reading the description as an "acquired taste" or as a "soybean milkshake" with noodles, I wasn't really looking forward to trying. In fact, I didn't want to order it at all, but after 5 trips to this place, the Dumpling man insisted we order it out of undying curiosity. I expected soymilk with noodles, but it really was more like a gritty thick soy shake with noodles. I had 2-3 bites and after that I couldn't pretend to like it anymore.

I spent most of my time eating the "knife-cut" noodles. The noodles are pretty soft and chewy, and ppl say the soup is made with MSG, but my MSG-ometer says the MSG content is very low to non-existent. I'm not screaming for water 30-45 min after dinner. I also enjoy the veggies and ground pork that seems pre-sauteed and then added to the dish. I can never finish one bowl, so it's pretty big. It also comes with dumplings that have the same filling as the steamed dumplings.

The place in general only has like 8 things on the menu, which has been revamped to include pictures of all the dishes. The place is pretty affordable and street parking hasn't been a problem.

Myung Dong Kyoja
3630 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90010
(213) 385-7789
Find it on Yelp

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Dumpling 10053

The dumpling man and I have spent the last 3 years searching for the best dumplings in the SGV. Our favorites, in no particular order, are Din Tai Fung, Luscious Dumpling, and Dumpling 10053. The latter is probably my favorite. Conveniently named after its address 10053 Valley Blvd. Those China ppl, soooo creative! Haha, jk. This place has changed slightly in the past few years. Dumplings got smaller, broth tastes less rich. Generally speaking its still one of the best overall. We always get the same dishes when we go, but first off, the dipping sauces!

Your standard rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil

Their special chili sauce/oil.

It's not really that spicey, but adds good flavor to the dipping sauce

Beef & Tendon Noodle Soup (Niu Rou Mien). I think they do it well, but lately I feel like they use more MSG these days. The noodles definitely are made fresh.

It's best topped off with their pickled greens. I could eat the whole damn jar, by itself, by the spoonfuls. Alas, the salt load really catches up with you later and you'll regret you ever so much as sniffed the pickled greens.

Now on to the dumplings! Their dumpling skins are slightly thicker than the wrappers you can buy in the store, but not super thick like at Luscious Dumpling.

Pork, Crab, and Sea Cucumber Dumpling. Probably one of their most popular dumplings. FYI they don't use real crab!

Shrimp & Leek dumpling. Now this one is my favorite. I love anything shrimp, and this one is just loads of shrimp.

Another dish I love is their Beef Wrap, which unfortunately we don't order too often because it just gets to be too much food for 2 ppl. It's certainly better here, than at 101 Noodle Express, where everyone on Yelp raves about their beef wrap.

Dumpling 10053

10053 Valley Blvd Ste 2
El Monte, CA 91731
(626) 350-0188
Find it on Yelp!

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