All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013
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My boyfriend, Miles, has a confusing palate. At times it is confoundingly conservative & inflexible – expecting each restaurant to serve a standard dish (fried chicken or green pepper beef) exactly as he has come to expect it at his favorite Little Rock haunt. The tiniest variation can inspire him to push his plate away. He hasn’t tried arugula and regards it with suspicion. Goat cheese? No way! Vegan food? He is burned out on it – despite living in Arkansas (not exactly famous for pioneering vegan food) and despite the fact that he is a degenerate carnivore. Still, he eats sushi & oysters on the half shell and other things like that – things you would never expect him to enjoy.
That said – he is still wary of Thai food – though he eats it. It is CHINESE food he always requests. Now, I live on the edge of Thai Town. In Los Angeles, Thai food is everywhere – especially in east Hollywood – and it is typically cheap & almost always pretty good. Chinese food, on the other hand, is often expensive & seldom good. Chinese food in Hollywood is most commonly found in strip malls at establishments that boast serving “Chinese food! Donuts! Hamburgers! Tacos!” Panda Express is the high end of the Chinese fast food world. Ew.
Still, frustratingly, Miles’ response to my query, “Whattaya wanna get for lunch?” remains, “Chinese?” And, something in me tells me that Miles will more likely respond positively to an average Chinese restaurant than a really good Thai restaurant. Standard beef & broccoli? Yum, says Miles! But a Thai mint leaves beef or some such – will be unfairly compared to its Chinese counterpart & likely disappoint. Mint? With beef?
Ugh. So – I hunt & hunt for decent Chinese that doesn’t require a trip downtown. Chi Dynasty (in Los Feliz) is very good but it is costly. In fairness, their portions are enormous but I like to mix it up a bit & try new things. Especially as I am always feeling pressure to find content for this blog.
I took him to Frontier Wok in Burbank once. It was pretty crowded at lunch, despite the bizarre frontier-like exterior of the building & this seemed a good sign.
Miles has incredibly bad food karma in that – his order gets fucked up most of the time. It really does. I need to start placing his orders for him because, of all people, he is least likely to roll with an incorrect side dish & he doesn’t like to remind a server if something he ordered didn’t show up. His standard order at his local Chinese joynt is – green pepper beef, beef sticks, egg rolls & hot & sour soup. He placed that order almost exactly (Szechuan beef instead of green pepper beef & less the beef sticks) at Frontier Wok. They never brought the spring rolls.
Here is the menu.
I ordered a veggie soup & Kung Pao shrimp. I find Chinese immensely uninspired as a food group but the soup was pretty tasty. Miles approved of the hot & sour soup.
Here is the beef dish.
It looks pretty good to me but Miles was unimpressed. My shrimp was really good, though, as a Kung Pao dish goes.
The little salad was barely more than a garnish but there was lots of food & we both took some home. Personally, I’d recommend Frontier Wok to a person looking for predictable but good Chinese – though I don’t think I will get Miles over the threshold again.
Next effort at Chinese? Bamboo in Sherman Oaks.
Bamboo has two large dining rooms & the interior is far prettier than Frontier Wok. I didn’t bother with the menu as it looked like any menu at any Chinese place. Miles ordered – wait for it – egg rolls, hot & sour soup & beef & broccoli. I got Kung Pao scallops or something. The hot & sour soup was vegetarian so I got to have some. It had been years since I’d had it at a restaurant. (I make a veggie hot & soup soup. You can too! My recipe is HERE.)
Here is the food at Bamboo.
They offered brown rice which I appreciated. And they served tea – another Chinese restaurant staple I have not had in years, if not decades. Miles seemed to like the beef & there was enough there for two, easily. My scallops were right on par with the Frontier Wok shrimp – though both of us found the dishes a quite a bit less spicy than they could have been. Hilariously (to me), Miles declared the side salad seen here:
to be “almost insulting,” and he pushed it away. That cracked me up – maybe because the little salads are never more than a decoration and also because it just seemed very Anthony Bordain of him. Taking offense at a Chinese gesture at salad just hit my funny bone.
So – the only real success I have had with Miles & Chinese (so far) has been Chi Dynasty.
With Miles safely back home, I was free to try something a tad more adventurous. My friend Dave has been prodding me forever to try Highland Park’s Good Girl Dinette so, this Sunday, I joined Dave & his wife Rose there.
Good Girl Dinette is a modern take on Vietnamese food – meets diner food – two of my favorite things! And even better, these hipster joynts seldom disappoint with their vegetarian & vegan options.
My only complaint is ANY PLACE with bare walls. I have so much great art that I cannot hang due to lack of space that when I see a place like this – I feel it in my gut. I get surges of anxiety just looking at those white expanses. But the menu was really interesting & pulled my attention away from those taunting bare walls.
Eventually, I opted to try the mini-size pho & the mushroom banh mi with spicy fries & a side of (I think) cilantro aioli.
All of it was fantastic! The fries were wonderfully heavily dosed with garlic & herbs & the aioli was awesome! The bread for the sandwich was as good as it gets & Good Girl serves a far better veggie banh mi that they do at the wonderful Golden Road Brewery. The pho was tasty & substantial, despite being the mini-sized version. I ended up taking the soup & half the sandwich home.
Dave got a white nectarine hand pie & some roasted pork hash.
I tried the nectarine pie & it was buttery & flaky & delightful!
Rose ordered one of their homemade sodas. The soda of the day was pink grapefruit juice – which they basically just carbonated & Rose loved it. She also got chicken curry.
I couldn’t try that either but Rose seemed quite pleased. Then – the kitchen brought us two free desserts!
Those top two images are a dose of Fosselman’s ice cream with and OUTRAGEOUS caramel sauce & some crunchy stuff in the CUTEST glass Weck’s jars. Just stupid awesome. And the other is an orange bread with oranges & whipped cream. It was lighter & far more delicately flavored – more along the lines of what I would generally prefer as dessert (as I am not a sugar freak). But that ice cream – and the presentation in those lidded jars – just made us all crazy.
And finally, I spotted these for sale in the corner.
In a bizarre coincidence, just the evening before, I had been searching for pasta recipes using ether arugula or avocado. I came across one which I have since tried (see below)
and which I will soon post – but that required this special fish sauce. I had another brand already & sniffed it & could not IMAGINE wanting it as a primary ingredient in a pasta recipe so I just made a pasta with both avocado & arugula. But when I saw this at Good Girl the next day? I could not resist. And I made the pasta with it. And it was crazy good so when I post a recipe using it – TRUST ME! And – in all honesty – I think any fish sauce will do but this Red Boat is the fish sauce equivalent of a high end balsamic vinegar. Some can tell the difference – others not so much.
So there you have it. Now I am going to pick my mother up at the airport! Have a great day!!!!