Tuesday, December 10, 2013

160. Please Experience the Softness of Kakuni Pork at Tsujita LA (West LA: Sawtelle)

Grace and I stopped by Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle for their ever popular tsukemen for dinner, but we found out that this main location serves the famous noodles only during the lunch rush.  We were not the only guests that were met with this unexpected news... but while everyone else crossed the street over to Tsujita Annex where the ramen is served during dinner, the two of us stayed to explore the evening menu.

The uni tempura with matcha sea salt combined some of my favorite Japanese ingredients with an adored method of preparation.  For this dish, a shiso leaf is dipped into tempura batter on one side only and deep fried to an unbelievable crisp.  Next, luxuriously creamy pieces of fresh sea urchin roe top the delicate and crunchy shiso.  Finally, sea salt blended with traditional green tea powder is sprinkled over the top.  The sea urchin itself is not actually cooked, thankfully, because only raw uni is ever so rich and creamy.  This uni tempura is unforgettable and must be ordered.

Since it was promised to be super fresh, we also got the sea urchin in uni shooter form.  Hidden under the cover of quail egg and green onion was fresh urchin with ponzu sauce.  It was cleverly presented, but it isn't my preferred way to savor fresh uni.

Okay, hold onto your chopsticks.  The one dish that Grace and I could not stop fawning over was the pork kakuni plate.  It is basically a cube of fatty pork belly that is slowly stewed in soy and sauce along with other spices until the fat renders down and infuses itself back into the meat.  The menu suggests to "please experience the softness," which is exactly what we did.  When we tried to break off pieces of it to eat over the rice, the sinews of the pork pulled apart the way melted cheese would on a pizza.  It was juicy beyond comprehension, succulent beyond compare, and tender beyond all possibility.  It melts in your mouth.  It really melts.  You barely have to chew.

The eggs and greens are a nice addition, but they pale in comparison to the pork.  Because the pork is so fatty, the greens perhaps may have been better served outside of the sugary soy sauce... and to really complement the supple texture of the pork, a soft boiled egg with the orgasmic runny yolk would have been a wise choice.  But forget about the sidekicks.  The star is the soft kakuni pork.  I don't even recall picking up the miso soup.

While it isn't something many would think to order, the handmade tofu with green onions and grated ginger is highly recommended as well.  Anytime tofu or cheese is made my hand, there is extra depth to the flavor possibly due to the naturally imperfect textures of the curd.  It tastes much fresher and less processed.  But who wants tofu when you can have delicious pork belly? It's not to be missed.  Until next time, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle
2057 Sawtelle Blvd.
Sawtelle, West LA
Los Angeles, CA 90025

ML - 20131017

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

159. A Burmese Spread at Daw Yee Myanmar Café (LA-SGV: Monterey Park)

After my first experience with Burmese food at Burma Superstar in San Francisco, I have been intrigued by the food from the country now known as Myanmar.  We visited Daw Yee Myanmar Café to eat more of this unique cuisine that blends Chinese, Indian, Thai, and Lao influences into its own native fare.

A must-order dish that provides a glimpse into traditional Burmese fare is the tea leaf salad.  Diced tomatoes, roasted peanuts, fried lentils, and toasted sesame accompany shredded cabbage, whole chilies, and fermented tea leaves imported directly from the mother country.  Our Burmese server-host-instructor extraordinaire tossed the hodgepodge of ingredients table side until it created a harmonious blend of rainbow colored, texturally titillating, fragrant salad.

One of our favorites was the kima platha, a sort of grilled flatbread in finger food sized pieces folded over ground chicken seasoned with Indian masala.  It is almost like a potsticker, but a more bready, heartier, fuller version of the usual fried dumpling.  The kima platha comes with a dipping sauce, but we used it to soak up all the leftover curry goodness on our plates.

Speaking of curry, the egg curry was a highlight of the night.  Get this... the eggs are hard boiled and deep fried, then added to the mix of tomato and onion sauce.  The colorful curry covers the eggs, making them gleam in the golden pool of glory.  Cut the eggs up and let them fall into that sauce... douse the eggs with more sauce, and you've got a spoonful of bliss.  Whoever thought of this (someone Burmese I presume) was a genius.

There are many more items on the menu that are great to share as well.  We also ordered the mutton curry, which was robust in meaty flavor with a tinge of lemongrass.  The mohinga, Myanmar's national dish, should not be missed.  Rice noodles submerged what is known as a catfish chowder piques an initial interest but results in a complete addiction to the comforting noodle soup.  We are definitely returning for more.

Happy birthday, Ron.  Until next time, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

Daw Yee Myanmar Café
111 N. Rural Dr.
intersection of Garvey Ave.
Monterey Park, CA 91755
Closed Tuesdays

ML - 20130909