Thursday, April 22, 2010

Post 17: Red Hot Kitchen (East LA)

When I first heard that Red Hot Kitchen served Korean BBQ tacos, it seemed like just another player in the recent Korean-Mexican fusion craze.  However, after I got a chance to stop by with Rose to sample their nine-item tasting menu.  With its stationary stomping ground (not a truck) and plenty of peculiarities such as the jalapeño bomb and mushroom popper,  it was clear that Red Hot Kitchen had set itself apart from the others.  

This was the bonanza in my box:

Item 1: The avocado mango salad consisted of a colorful array of fruits and vegetables.  It was pleasing to the eye as well as the stomach, for it provided a refreshing start (or end) to a not-so-light meal.

Item 2: The spicy pork and kimchee quesadilla had a smell so strong that it reminded me of foods like Taiwanese stinky tofu that pack powerful, pungent punches.  That didn't mean I didn't like it though.  My appreciation for pungent foods goes far and beyond... the smellier the kimchee, the better.

Item 3: More like a jalapeño torpedo than a jalapeño bomb, this was one of the most creative items on the tasting menu.  If you think the typical gooey, cheese-filled, breaded and fried jalapeño popper is delicious, try one that is stuffed with crab and cream cheese and topped off with not just Sriracha but the ever-popular spicy mayo. Placing it in your mouth is like a slow-mo, clock-ticking countdown to an explosion of spiciness.

Item 4: The beef chimichanga was more like a bomb or a bean flower in full bloom.  At first glance I thought it literally looked like a tub of beans held together with a deep fried tortilla.  It probably wasn't such a good idea to have the chimichanga after the jalapeño bomb because the Sriracha and spicy mayo started mixing together, so it became a bit difficult to discern the flavors.  Regardless, the outer layer was fried to a distinct crisp, and who's to refuse a crispy, deep-fried crunch?

Item 5: Upon first bite of the bulgogi slider, I knew I was in love.  It wasn't the meat that captured my attention but the bread.  It was so soft, so sweet... like biting into a pillow of bread.  I might have even closed my eyes for just a bit when as I was savoring the sweet and savory taste.  I discovered later on Yelp that the rolls were the original King's Hawaiian sweet bread.  Although it's great to know that the chef knows his bread, the King's roll may have stolen the bulgogi's thunder just a bit.

Item 6: There's no way I could have simply popped the mushroom popper into my mouth, but because of that I was given an opportunity to repeatedly crunch on the popper's ridiculously crispy shell.  I had thought that perhaps the mushroom would have been diced or somehow blended in with the crab, but surprise! Like opening a time capsule (which I've never done... horribly analogy), an entire mushroom cap tumbled out when I sliced the popper in half.

Item 7: By the time I had reached for the short rib taco, it was cold... not lukewarm or cooled off... but cold.  No matter.  The flavor of the meat was just napping, and a squirt of the lime definitely woke it up from its slumber.

Item 8: I could tell that the chicken taco would have been better had it been warm, so I took it home for a minute-nuke in the microwave.  The chicken was still tender and still moist, but the short rib had left a stronger flavor on my palate.  I may have to try it on-site again in its solitude for a better taste reference in the near future.

Item 9: The slice of Mexican pizza is not the prettiest item on the menu; I'll tell ya that right away.  But after a few bites, this petite piece of pizza begins to be a bit addicting.  This quesadilla on crack is cheese sandwiched between tortillas... topped off with beans, guacamole, onions (both green and white), and sour cream.  Did I forget the meat? Something red (perhaps tomatoes or salsa... no more Sriracha!) may help its aesthetic appeal.

The tasting menu was a great way to get a glimpse of what the little bungalow could create.  The menu is extensive, so I'm sure anyone can find at least one item to enjoy.  If it's your first time there, the japaleño bomb is a great way to whet your appetite.  Props to this local business for sprouting in this tough economic environment. 

Thanks to Rose for dragging me out to get my mind away from a difficult day.

ML - 20100417

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