Little Sister (Los Angeles, CA)

Little Sister
523 W 7th St
Los Angeles, CA 90017
Dining date: 12/6/15, 12/31/15 and 2/20/16

Little Sister

Little Sister first opened in Manhattan Beach in 2013, becoming a popular neighborhood spot for southeast Asian flavors in the South Bay. I’d heard good things, but never made the trip out to visit. However, Little Sister came closer to me by opening this downtown location just a few months ago. It’s right off the popular corner of 7th & Grand, next door to Q Sushi. I’ve visited three times since its opening and this post recaps all of those visits.


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The Slanted Door (San Francisco, CA)

The Slanted Door
1 Ferry Bldg
San Francisco, CA 94111
Dining date: 11/28/15


It’s been five years since I’ve been to the Slanted Door, Charles Phan’s flagship Vietnamese restaurant in the Ferry Building. The restaurant is as popular as ever since opening eleven years ago, recently noted as the highest grossing independent restaurant in California last year. Given the announcement of the second Slanted Door location opening up in downtown Los Angeles, I thought it was a good time to revisit. I made a reservation pretty far in advance for a Saturday lunch while the Ferry Building farmers market would be open. Two birds, one stone.


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Charles Phan @ M.B. Post (Manhattan Beach, CA)

Charles Phan (The Slanted Door)
M.B. Post

1142 Manhattan Ave
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Dining date: 8/12/13

Manhattan Beach Post (M.B. Post) has been a hot spot in the area since opening over two years ago (helping to spawn another restaurant, Fishing with Dynamite, earlier this year). Chef David LeFevre hosts a recurring guest chef series called “Can You Dig It?” that benefits partner charity Common Threads. For this iteration, he teamed up with chef Charles Phan of San Francisco’s The Slanted Door.

mb post exterior

Charles Phan is one of the old school notable Asian chefs in America; he’s best known for his flagship modern Vietnamese restaurant, The Slanted Door, which opened in the mid-1990s. His mini-empire now spans 7 restaurants in the San Francisco area. I don’t think he can be found in The Slanted Door kitchen as much nowadays, so this was an opportune chance to sample some of his cooking straight from the source. Chef LeFevre’s food has a lot of Asian influences and I was curious to see if he could adapt his cuisine to seamlessly fit in with Phan’s.

mb post interior

kitchen window

The menu for this evening was a collaborative effort, with 5 dishes being prepared by Phan and 3 by LeFevre for $75. Phan brought a couple of notable The Slanted Door plates as well as a few new ones. As far as I know, LeFevre’s dishes were making their first appearance here at M.B. Post.

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Red Medicine (Los Angeles, CA)

Red Medicine
8400 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Dining date: 3/30/13

red medicine exterior

Red Medicine is easily one of the city’s most controversial restaurants and it doesn’t really have anything to do with the food. Indeed, I think the outing of LA Times food critic S. Irene Virbila and the public admonishing of no-show diners has brought the restaurant nationwide attention, but it has likely overshadowed the food. More quietly, I’ve heard that the food coming out of Red Medicine’s kitchens are some of the more interesting, beautiful and delicious in the city, finding an ideal balance between Vietnamese influences and more modern American cuisine.


I first sampled Red Medicine at the debut of revolving pop-up Test Kitchen in 2010, just before its opening in November of that year. Soon after the opening I stopped in for lunch, but it took me just over two years after that last visit to stop in for a proper dinner meal. I’ve been many times for dessert, but a full dinner was long overdue.

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Red Medicine (Los Angeles, CA)

Red Medicine
8400 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Dining date: 2/21/11

This was my first time having President’s Day off since beginning my professional career (damn public accounting), and similar to Veteran’s Day, I wanted to make it count by hitting a lunch spot that I normally would not be able to. Enter Red Medicine, a Vietnamese-inspired restaurant that is undoubtedly more (in)famous for its treatment of the LA Times food critic than for its food. However, the food reviews I’ve read have generally been very positive from those who still opted to give the restaurant a try. While I did not like how that situation was handled, it didn’t stop me from paying a visit.

The lunch menu is much simpler than the dinner menu, more closely resembling the restaurant’s lounge menu. However, it still presented a number of interesting options and had a full dessert menu (a must here).

We started with iced oolong tea and iced Vietnamese coffee; both made in-house and both pretty good.

CRISPY SPRING ROLL squash, fennel, caramelized onion, tamarind

I really liked the delicate crispiness of these rolls and the differing textures within them. I could see how one could find the butternut squash, caramelized onions and tamarind sauce to be too sweet, but I didn’t mind.

CHICKEN DUMPLINGS caramelized sugar, pork fat, lemongrass, confitures

These weren’t so much dumplings as they were chicken meatballs. I didn’t have a problem with that, as they were delicious – very moist and flavorful. Looking at the interior, it looked like white meat, so I’m not sure how these were so moist (well, pork fat helps). Accompaniments included fried shallots, lime, hoisin and sriracha sauces, and lettuce for added flavor and playfulness. One problem, though, was that the lettuce wasn’t large enough to cover the circumference of the ‘dumplings.’

BÚN CHÀ wagyu beef, chilled rice vermicelli, herbs, lettuce, peanuts, nuoc cham

The server called the beef here “A5 wagyu,” which I’m pretty skeptical about. I liked the multitude of textures; the peanuts, bean sprouts and pickled vegetables gave each bite some chew, while the skirt steak and fish sauce brought the bulk of the flavors. Cool and refreshing, this would be a popular dish in the summer.

BÁNH MÌ heritage chicken lemongrass, carrot pickle, coriander, kewpie mayonnaise, green chili, cucumber

I’ve heard much about this sandwich at Red Medicine, and this was definitely a solid variation. The baguette, from Bouchon, was toasty, warm and soft. I liked that the chicken was pounded flat, so that it could be laid perfectly in the sandwich; each bite had an equal amount of chicken. There wasn’t anything particularly special about this banh mi, but it’s not trying to be.

I couldn’t come here without trying some desserts. After all, chef Jordan Kahn made his name as a pastry chef, and his coconut bavarois at Test Kitchen’s debut was probably one of the strongest I had in 2010.

COCONUT BAVAROIS coffee, condensed milk, thai basil, peanut croquant, chicory

This is the same dessert from Test Kitchen, with a couple of differences…nonetheless just as good. There are a number of flavors and textures involved; coffee, thai basil, peanut and coconut are the chief flavors, while the chicory and peanut croquant (like  Reese’s peanut butter cup) add the textures. These all melded together so well.  So good.

BITTER CHOCOLATE kecap manis, oats, parsnip, brown butter, soy milk sorbet

This was a new dessert to me, and also a good one. Kahn plays with textures very well, and we had some cookie crumble here which provided some bite. The chocolate was good as well, though this was somewhat overshadowed by our other dessert.

I was pleasantly surprised by this meal. I thought the strength was in the appetizers and desserts; the appetizers showed some different renditions of familiar dishes, while the desserts were imaginative, unique and delicious. I had no issues with the entrees at all, but they weren’t necessarily better than your go-to Vietnamese restaurant (which I’m sure is cheaper). Still, I am definitely planning a return visit…this time, for dinner.

Out the Door – 1/10/10

Out the Door
2232 Bush Street
San Francisco, CA 94115

La Boulangerie
2325 Pine Street
San Francisco, CA 94115

For my last lunch meal in San Francisco, my mother and I were very indecisive about where to go. We talked through a number of places but finally picked out this one. Out the Door is the casual sibling of famed Vietnamese restaurant Slanted Door. This is their newest outpost in the up-and-coming Fillmore area.

The best way for me to describe Slanted Door/OTD is probably as “Vietnamese cuisine catered to the Americanized palate.” The menu is a mix of some of the typical dishes you’d find at an authentic Vietnamese restaurant, as well as some more modern creations. Chef Charles Phan does focus on using high quality ingredients including a number of local purveyors, so the prices are higher as well.

crispy imperial rolls, shrimp, pork, mint, rice vermicelli, peanuts

I’ve had these rolls before and enjoyed them. Same story here – they were really crispy with a good filling of pork, cabbage, carrots and herbs.

beef phô, prather ranch eye of round, thai basil, thin rice noodles

My mother was feeling like pho, so she got this bowl. I’m pretty confident you won’t find many bowls of pho with such high quality beef (Prather Ranch, in this case). The broth had a nice, deep flavor and the noodles were good as well. Definitely on the pricier side for a simple bowl of pho, but a really good one.

grilled lemongrass pork over vermicelli noodles, crispy imperial rolls

I liked the tender, meaty chunks of pork here – they were grilled and slightly charred, giving them a little bit of smoky flavor as well. I liked the cool noodles, as well as the crispy carrots for some texture. The restaurant’s fish sauce is definitely less pungent than normal, which I liked here. And…more of those imperial rolls! Yum.

chicken porridge, rau ram, crispy shallots, black pepper

This was the last dish we ordered. This was one of the best (okay, and most expensive) rice porridges I’ve had. It’s a pretty simple dish, but there were a number of different flavors within each scoop – the crispy shallots, the rau ram (like cilantro), and the tender chunks of chicken. It had the perfect amount of salt and the consistency was spot on.

For the flight back to LA, I picked up both “dessert” and “breakfast” for the next morning at one of my favorite bakeries in the city – La Boulangerie of the Bay Bread Co.. It’s just a block away from the restaurant.

The breads are great here, but I really like the croissants. I picked up a chocolate and hazelnut chocolate croissant. Eaten fresh or warmed up quickly in the oven, these were delicious.

I was pretty happy with this meal at Out the Door. It definitely met, and probably exceeded expectations a little. The food was comforting, tasty and executed well. Yes, it’s a little more expensive for Vietnamese, but I thought it was worth it.