b.o.s. (Los Angeles, CA) [2]

b.o.s.
424 E 2nd St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 9/13/14

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A couple of weeks ago, b.o.s. announced it would close its doors on Sept. 27th. I was very disappointed to hear the news, but knew it wasn’t exactly packing the tables despite mostly positive reviews. Its nose-to-tail concept seemed like it could be a good fit in the area, but I’m not sure it ever caught on with the local crowd. Its closure just seems way too soon. I visited almost a year ago, soon after the restaurant opened, and enjoyed my meal there. I wanted to stop in at least one more time to see what’s changed.

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During my first visit, we dined at the omakase-only bar. On this subsequent one, we sat in the dining room and had the full a la carte menu to choose from. To me, the menu is just as interesting as before with a mix of “exotic” like tongue, heart, brain, and intestines but also some more typical beefy items like oxtails, short ribs, and a handful of steak options.

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The Spice Table (Los Angeles, CA) [2]

The Spice Table
114 S Central Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 12/14/13

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The Spice Table opened about two and a half years ago and quickly made its mark on the city being named one of the city’s best new restaurants by a handful of publications. Its most notable accolade was when chef Bryant Ng was named a 2012 Best New Chef by Food & Wine, propelling him and the restaurant into national awareness. While the restaurant still feels relatively new, it will be meeting a sad and unique demise at the end of the year to pave the way for a new metro station.

I revisited the restaurant one last time to sample Ng’s fiery Southeast Asian flavors. Influences from all around Asia can be found on The Spice Table’s menu, as well as a small but well-curated craft beer list (and wines!) featuring local brewers.

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b.o.s. (Los Angeles, CA)

b.o.s.
424 E 2nd St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 11/12/13

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b.o.s. is one of the newest restaurants to open in the Little Tokyo area. Inside the Honda Plaza next to the ever-popular Sushi Gen (and across the way from Men Oh Tokushima), the restaurant has a rather unique focus: beef nose-to-tail dining. Mainstream diners have become more engaged in this concept and I think Little Tokyo is an ideal location for a somewhat upscale opening of this type.

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Like most restaurants in Little Tokyo, it’s a small place with the prime seats being a six-seat chef’s counter looking into the kitchen. Chef David Bartnes is the point-man behind the counter; having spent much of his life traveling around the world, Bartnes combines these worldly influences (primarily Asian) with his classical cooking background. The resulting fare is an interesting mix of flavors that change frequently but could include an oxtail ravioli, beef cheek risotto, tongue carpaccio, grilled heart or roasted bone marrow. Both an omakase and an a la carte menu is available; on this first visit, we sat at the chef’s counter and had the 5-course omakase ($55).

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Le Grand Fooding (Los Angeles, CA)

Le Grand Fooding Crush Paris – Los Angeles
The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
152 N Central Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Dining date: 4/26/13 and 4/27/13

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This past weekend, Le Grand Fooding made its first foray into Los Angeles. The traveling event, hosted in San Francisco and New York in past instances, seeks to promote chefs of both nations cooking a sort of bistronomics concept – fine dining concept in a more affordable atmosphere. The event was a two-day affair at downtown’s Geffen Contemporary at MOCA (in addition to an exclusive pre-event dinner cooked by Craig Thornton (Wolvesmouth) and Miles Thompson (Allumette) – full pictures here).

The chef lineup was pretty impressive, with 11 big-name chefs from both LA and Paris. Some of the chefs cooked on only one day and a handful cooked on both days. General admission tickets were $50 and included one dish from each chef and a glass of champagne. Ticket prices went up in three tiers, all the way up to a $125 VIP ticket that included early entrance, a secluded dining area, and an extra dish from a VIP-only chef. Tickets sold out in a hurry, but I managed to purchase a base level ticket for each day.

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For the two evenings, MOCA’s outdoor venue was set up with a DJ tower, multiple chef booths and an impressive Veuve Clicquot tower.

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Ikemen (Los Angeles, CA)

Ikemen
123 Astronaut E S Onizuka St #108
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 1/28/13

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Ikemen is the latest ramen chain to open up shop in Little Tokyo (following other notables Shin-Sen-Gumi and Men Oh Tokushima). Located in Weller Court (the plaza shared with super-spicy Orochon), it kind of replaces the recently-closed Chin-Ma-Ya. Ikemen’s first location opened up in Hollywood in late 2011; I’d read mostly positive things about the shop but never made it out to Hollywood.

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Ikemen isn’t your traditional ramen shop; it’s actually kind of weird (modern?). The philosophy is very clear (it’s painted on the wall) – they aim to create edgy and stylish ramen.

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The specialty is what Ikemen calls ‘dip ramen,’ essentially a tsukemen where you dip noodles into a warm broth before eating. Except, they call the soup au jus here, and an option for the Ghostbuster Dip Ramen combines this jus with heavy cream, truffle oil, roasted marshmallows. Yep. My coworker and I weren’t quite brave enough to go that route, and stuck to some of the slightly more conservative options. Continue reading

Men Oh Tokushima (Los Angeles, CA)

Men Oh Tokushima
456 E 2nd St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 10/9/12

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Men Oh Tokushima is the latest Japanese ramen chain to hit Los Angeles. Like the gourmet pizza/cupcake/burger, these shops seem to be popping up everywhere. However, the Little Tokyo scene has been rather quiet, with the likes of Tsujita, Yamadaya and Jinya opening up a presence outside of downtown. Sure, Shin-Sen-Gumi opened up a year ago to finally bring some competition (and relief for long waits) for stalwart Daikokuya, but there isn’t a whole lot of variety in the category (I dislike Orochon and find Mr. Ramen, Kouraku, and Chin-Ma-Ya to be second-rate at best).

Just this past week, Men Oh Tokushima opened their latest US branch in the Honda Plaza of Little Tokyo. They already have 12 locations around Japan and a couple in Northern California, so it seems like a successful concept. Their ramen is a little bit different from what I’ve had before, a shoyu-tonkotsu hybrid native to the Tokushima prefecture in the south of Japan. I’ve had both shoyu and tonkotsu (probably my favorite) separately but never together, so I was definitely intrigued. Standalone shoyu and tonkotsu broths are also available.

GYOZA pork pot-stickers

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The gyoza had a delicate skin and a good balance of pork and cabbage. I would’ve liked more of a crusty sear on the pan-fried side though, and the fact that the gyoza rested in small puddles of its own oil resulted in some greasy, soggy dumplings if not eaten quickly.

KARAAGE japanese-style fried chicken

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The karaage came out piping hot with a great crust and moist thigh meat. They did a good job of trimming the skin and fat, leaving an ideal ratio of meat to fat. An addicting sweet/salty sauce of soy, sesame and scallions completed one of the best examples of chicken karaage that I’ve had.

TOKUSHIMA RAMEN house-made noodles in rich pork bone and soy sauce-based soup topped with Chashu Pork (simmered pork), Butabara (stir-fried pork belly), Menma (bamboo shoots), Negi (green onions), Raw Egg

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The Tokushima ramen tasted, as advertised, like a rich hybrid of shoyu and tonkotsu broths. The milky pork broth was there, but the sweet soy depth was also present making something pretty unique for me. I enjoyed it (though I may like pure tonkotsu broths better), and the toppings were tasty too between the two different types of pork. I liked the noodles but thought they could’ve been just a tad more al dente, they were a bit soft for me…particularly as I finished the bowl.

TONKOTSU RAMEN house-made noodles in pork bone-based, salt-seasoned soup topped with Chashu Pork (simmered pork), Seasoned Boiled Egg, Menma (bamboo shoots), Kikurage Mushroom, Negi (green onions), Nori (seaweed)

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I also wanted to try the pure tonkotsu, something more familiar and comparable in LA. I thought this one felt lighter in flavor than what I was expecting, though still with a nice fatty sheen on top. Bamboo shoots, scallions and mushrooms made things a little more interesting, but this broth lacked the depth that the Tokushima offered. Noodle-wise, I had a similar opinion with the texture, though I preferred them over the straight Hakata-style variety.

I thought Men Oh put together a pretty good meal. Their Tokushima ramen is something rather unique so it’s hard to directly compare, but I probably like the tonkotsu bowls at Daikokuaya and Shin-Sen-Gumi better (though I definitely prefer their tonkotsu over Men Oh’s tonkotsu). Having said that, Men Oh is something different and quite tasty on its own, so I’d say its worth a try (maybe for the chicken karaage alone). At the very least, I’m glad to have found another viable ramen shop in my neighborhood.