Wednesday, September 28, 2022

What I Ate Flushing's Chinatown in Two Hours

I’m not sure if this analogy is apt since I’m a West Coaster, but after following the eating tips of Nom Life while visiting New York City, I have come upon this observation: if Manhattan’s Chinatown is like Los Angeles’ Chinatown, then Flushing’s Chinatown is like the San Gabriel Valley. 

It’s where the traditional old-school Chinese joints and chefs meld and mix with the newer generations of cooks and entrepreneurs. The result is a great (and affordable) concentration of every imaginable Chinese delicacy inside a few square blocks.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Paradise Dynasty - Costa Mesa

My wife and I agree on a lot of things. We agree that the new Star Wars series “Andor” is a bore but that “She-Hulk: Attorney At Law” is a delightful show with a charming lead. 

But on the subject of fancy xiao long bao restaurants, our opinions differ. She leans Din Tai Fung. I have a slight preference to Paradise Dynasty.

I think Paradise Dynasty’s xiao long baos are sweeter while my wife swears Din Tai Fung’s has more “flavor”. We both agree that pork chop fried rice at Paradise Dynasty and Din Tai Fung are virtually indistinguishable until I start poring over the finer details, such as how I think Paradise Dynasty’s pork chop seems less processed and is just a touch crispier.

But ultimately for me, Paradise Dynasty, despite its Crazy Rich Asians vibe and aesthetic, is the underdog here. This feels especially true after it was announced that Din Tai Fung inked a deal to open a mega-restaurant at Downtown Disney, its seventh branch in Southern California. 

And that fact makes it more significant that the Singapore-based Paradise Dynasty just marked its one-year anniversary in its first, and so far, only US location. To commemorate it, the restaurant has introduced a few dishes that show off its Singaporean roots more than ever before, dishes I was invited to preview. 

The limited-time Singapore Chili Crab xiao long bao, a two-toned dumpling that exploded in my mouth with a concentrated hit of moist crab meat and sauce, was crabbier and spicier than the chili crab XLB I ate at the Singapore branch of Din Tai Fung on Orchard Road several years ago. 

And the Singapore Sling, which was introduced recently after Paradise Dynasty got its full liquor license, is far too good and far too easy to drink—a cocktail Paradise Dynasty had to get exactly right on principle. 

I should also mention that as of this writing, the price for a 10-piece basket of XLB at Paradise Dynasty is 75-cents cheaper than Din Tai Fung’s. My wife rightfully argues that it’s “immaterial”, but the Crazy Modestly-Salaried Asian in me begs to differ.

Paradise Dynasty
3333 Bristol Street, BLM
1 Bloomingdale's
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Anajak Thai - Sherman Oaks

People line up for Anajak Thai’s Thai Taco Tuesday, but I think there should be lines for the grilled fish and the Southern Thai fried chicken (a.k.a. Gai Tod Hat Yai), one of my favorite recipes from YouTube’s Hot Thai Kitchen who rightfully declared in a recent episode that Thai fried chicken is the world’s best fried chicken. 

Anajak Thai was recently named by Los Angeles Times as its 2022 Restaurant of the Year. But if there were more restaurants that served this fried chicken, the paper would have to start giving out that award more often than once a year. 

14704 Ventura Blvd
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Why Cafe Hiro is My Favorite Restaurant

A co-worker returned from his third visit to Cafe Hiro and had something to say to me.

Though he had enjoyed the first two meals he ate there, this time he wasn’t pleased. He complained that the uni spaghetti tasted watered down and the service was slow. He vowed to never come back.

He asked me, “I thought you said it was the best restaurant in OC?”

I told him, “I never said it’s the best restaurant in OC; I said it was my favorite restaurant. There’s a difference.”

Restaurants we deem “best” win awards; Restaurants we deem “favorites” win our hearts.

I’m sure there are “better” restaurants than Cafe Hiro, just as there are “better” shirts in my closet. But I will always have a “favorite” shirt. And it’s the one I’ll wear the most.

Thursday, September 08, 2022

King's Fish House - Orange

Seafood chains. Every region has its iconic brands.

The Pacific Northwest has Anthony’s. The East Coast has Legal Sea Foods.

We have King’s Fish House, and we should be very glad that we do.

I’ve eaten at King’s for almost two decades, celebrating milestones there as well as dropping in for casual meals on normal weekends.

I do so because the service is good, the atmosphere is sophisticated, and the prices are sensible. Most importantly, the cooking is always consistent. And with seafood, consistency is important.

I’ve yet to have an overcooked piece of fish there. Anytime I order the trout Amandine, I can count on it to be bathed in hot brown butter, strewn with crunchy almond shards, and pan-seared perfectly with a light outer crackle but still moist interior.

But even the salads are compelling, like the roasted beet salad that had splotches of pungent goat cheese and toasted pecans I tried on a recent trip.

I noticed in the past year that the steamed clams got an upgrade. It used to be served in its own juices with little more than white wine. These days andouille and hot peppers are involved. But you can still request for mussels to join the party if there’s some available. But I sop up the broth with multiple rounds of the complimentary sourdough loaves just as I always do.

On this visit, I splurged on the Southern Fried Maryland Soft Shell Crabs, which was dusted with just the bare minimum of breading. The crispy crust and soft carapace offered a slight resistance to my bite before I encountered the sweet, briny meat that would take a half-hour to pick out from a hard-shell.

I’ve been to Maryland and did that once, which was fun. But I’m happy to be able to go to Orange and eat the entire creature at King’s with nothing but a fork.

Sunday, September 04, 2022

How to Spend $100 for Two People at Din Tai Fung