Thursday, February 26, 2015


Plan Check Kitchen + Bar
1800 Sawtelle Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Tel: 310.444.1411
$$ ($15-30)
Fri, 02/20/2015, 8:00pm walk-in
    (4 Piglets)

Plan Check Kitchen + Bar is a sophisticated, yet casual gastropub, serving delicious burgers and pub food. Situated on bustling Sawtelle, the eatery is cool and hip. The name stems from its location neighboring alongside the Building and Safety Department, where architectural plans are sent. 

Comfort pub food and craft beers compose the bulk of the menu. The wait can be long; however if you're a drinker, you can kill time with a drink or two (I was able to bring my wine outside whilst waiting on the sidewalk). 

Baked Crab Dip ($12.50): Dynamite sauce, masago, charred tomato, nori, toast. This dip is not your average crab dip. A bit on the salty end, the dip bags a punch with some spice. The nori adds a uniqueness uncommon to the average crab dip. Although the flavors were all there, this was my least favorite dish. 

Double Cut Wing ($2.50 each wing; part of the specials menu): Buffalo sauce, large wing, micro celery. The wings were large and not a measly typical chicken wing. It had a good amount of sauce and generously coated the chicken. Simple and done well. 

Sweet potato waffle fries ($6.00): Beef tallow, peach ketchup. The waffles had great flavor, although some were not crispy (which is the way I like my fries). The peach ketchup added sweetness, which was a bit unusual. My preference of dip would probably be something more creamy and rich to go along with the fries. The sweet on sweet just was not my cup of tea. Nevertheless, the fries were tasty. 

Chefs Favorite Burger ($14.00): My favorite dish. Cheese two ways, bacon two ways, ketchup leather, sunny fried egg, hot sauce. If you have to resort to using an iron pan to place your burger in, then it must be really good. The bacon was crisp, the egg yolk coated the burger well, and the dehydrated ketchup was the perfect accompaniment. Order it medium-rare for the perfect burger.  

Overall, Plan Check Kitchen + Bar offers a casual and chic atmosphere. The food is pretty darn tasty, but the burger specifically is what makes this place special. Additionally, the service is pretty spot on at this joint. There are two other locations in Los Angeles (Downtown and Fairfax) to serve those in search for a good burger and beer. Word of advice: Come on a weeknight to avoid a crowd.

Notable dishes: Chefs Favorite Burger

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle
2057 Sawtelle Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Tel: 310.231.7373
Wed, 02/18/2015, 7:00pm walk-in
     (4.5 piglets)

What is tsukemen? Before Tsujita, I've never even heard of that term. I simply thought ramen was only considered to be noodles in a big bowl of soup. Then, Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle was discovered and my world of ramen was transformed. Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle specializes in the tsukemen ramen, a thick, slightly cooled noodle served with a warm, savory seafood-based dipping sauce. It is a branch of Nidaime Tsujita, a ramen shop considered one of the best in Tokyo. 

Tsujita La Artisan Noodle, which once served ramen solely during lunch hours, is now serving ramen until the wee hours of 2am. It is a cash only joint and the wait can be quite strenuous. Regardless of the queue, the tsukemen is well worth the wait.

Spicy Tuna Don ($3.99 with combination; $5.99 for bowl only): I'm a fan of the rice here: warm, sticky goodness with a hint of acidity. The spicy tuna was a bit on the mushy end (as having been pulverized), but had great flavor. I just wish there were chunks of tuna that I could bite into.

Char Siu Tsukemen ($13.95): My favorite dish. Tsukemen topped with Char Siu (slices of barbecued pork). Directions: Squeeze the lime over the noodles, take a small amount of noodles and place into the dipping sauce/broth, and enjoy! Deliciously perfect noodles cooked al-dente accompanied by luscious, melt in your mouth pork. The egg is cooked to a skillful texture. The dipping sauce is savory and thick, coating the noodles with a flawless consistency. The lime adds an acidity that complements and enhances the flavor.

Overall, Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle provides a ramen that is different from the traditional ramen, but in an impeccable approach. The flavors mesh well together. The broth at this eatery is seafood-based; however, if you want a broth that's pork-based, their sister restaurant Tsujita Annex across the street is your best bet.  Word of advice: Come during odd hours or you'll be waiting for awhile.

Notable dishes: The Char Siu Tsukemen.

Sunday, February 22, 2015


Grand Central Market
317 S. Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Tel: N/A; use website to contact
$ (under $15)
Tues, 02/17/2015, 11:30am walk-in
    (4 Piglets)

Eggslut is a concept redefining the key ingredient: the incredible and delicious egg. Located in the revamped Grand Central Market, Eggslut is just one of the many delectable options that gives you the egg in multiple variations. The egg is not solely for breakfast at this establishment. Alvin Cailan, the co-founder of Eggslut (and Ramen Champ), utilizes the egg to bring creations with the highest quality. 

The concept is pretty simple: cook the egg in the best possible way. From poached to scrambled, the egg is smooth and silky. The accompaniments to the egg are perfect additions, but the egg is what shines at this eatery. As a result, foresee a wait time that would probably exceed your expectations. And good luck finding a seat! 

The open kitchen:

Orange Juice ($3.00): Freshly squeezed. Refreshing. Delicious.

Slut ($9.00): A coddled egg on top of a smooth potato puree, poached in a glass jar and served with a demi baguette. Upon receiving the dish, it is important to have all the ingredients well mixed. What I was expecting was a a lightly poached egg, but I was disappointed to see that my egg was slightly overcooked and not a bit runny (which I was hoping). No jiggle in this jar! Regardless, the dish was delicious and went well when spread on the baguette.  

Gaucho Sandwich ($11.00):My favorite dish. Seared wagyu tri-tip steak, chimichurri, pickled red onions, shaved manchego cheese and seasoned arugula topped with an over medium egg, in a warm brioche bun. The sandwich was everything that I would want in a sandwich. The brioche was soft with a slight crisp, buttery layer. The wagyu was perfectly juicy. The chimichurri offered a balanced spicy and sweet flavor. It was a savory dish with the perfect bread to meat ratio.  

Inside the Gaucho:

Fairfax Sandwich ($7.00 with an additional $1.00 biscuit substitution): Soft scrambled eggs, chives, cheddar cheese, caramelized onions and sriracha mayo in a warm brioche bun (in our case, a biscuit). The biscuit was exquisite: ultra-buttery, flaky and slightly dense. The cheese melted and meshed well with the moist and luscious scrambled egg. This is a winner. 

Overall, Eggslut is delightful encompassing all aspects of the egg. The sandwiches are satisfying and can be so easily demolished. It is good food without putting a dent in your wallet. If you want to taste an egg in its perfect form, this is the place to try it. Word of advice: the wait can be pretty intense so weekdays are preferable. 

Notable dishes: Gaucho sandwich and the Slut

Thursday, February 19, 2015


3239 Helms Ave.
Culver City, CA 90232
Tel: 310.202.6808
$$$ ($30-45)
Fri, 02/13/2015, 8:30pm reservation
For reservations: OpenTable
    (4 Piglets)

Lukshon is a restaurant that brings South-East Asian cuisine with a modern flair. The king of Father's Office, Sang Yoon, is the ingenuity behind Lukshon. The ingredients are fresh and robust that can be tasted throughout each bite. Take for example the Sichuan dumplings: delicate presents made with kurobuta pork. The dish offers spices that numb your palate from start to finish (literally as a result of the Sichuan peppercorns).

Right behind Helms Bakery in the alleyway sits Lukshon's patio that is warm and inviting. A sophisticated fireplace is nestled at the entrance. The ambiance is relaxing and you feel a sense of ease amongst the other diners. The restaurant is classy, but provides comfort next to the bustling Father's Office.

The patio:

Hawaiian Butterfish ($13.00): Lime cells, thai chile, herbs, coconut snow. Light and refreshing, this dish is a must when ordering other dishes with plenty of spice. This dish cools the palate. The lime cells (which I felt tasted more like coconut than lime) was a perfect balance to the ultra-tender butterfish. 

Tea Leaf Salad ($11.00): My favorite dish. Cabbage, crispy chana dal, marcona almonds, peanuts, sesame, blue prawn. I would have never guessed that a salad of all things was my favorite dish, but it was. The salad was sweet, spicy, crunchy and tangy. The citrus balanced the sweetness and offered the perfect acidity to the dish. The only downside was the prawns as they were a bit overcooked. Regardless, I was willing to overlook the prawns as the salad was just that good. 

Sichuan Dumplings ($11.00): Kurobuta pork, spicy ma-la vinaigrette, sesame, peanuts. These delicate pillows of the most delicious pork was S-P-I-C-Y. It was a different kind of spice that numbs your palate and doesn't hit you until later (that's what Sichuan peppercorns do to ya). Good thing I like spicy or I wouldn't have liked this dish. Soft and juicy, this dish was quite tasty. 

Crispy Whole Fish (Market Price): Wok charred cucumbers, pickled onions, pecel sauce. This bad boy was delicious. It reminded me of how I usually order fish at the Chinese restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley (only this time, the fish is fancy). The skin was extremely crispy and the fish was flaky and cooked to perfection. The sauce reminded me of South American flavors, probably cause it tasted predominately of cilantro. 

Crab Fried Rice ($12.00): Blue crab, jasmine rice, egg, pea tendrils, serrano chile. This dish was nothing special and was my least favorite dish. I respect that Yoon tried to make this a special dish, but in all honesty, fried rice is just that: fried rice. 

Dandan Noodles ($8.00): Kurobuta pork, sesame, preserved mustard greens, sichuan peppercorns, peanuts. If you wanted a slippery and spicy, yet meaty dish, then this one is for you. The flavor was nice but it wasn't amazing. 

Warm Persimmon Toffee Cake ($10.00): Sichuan persimmon jam, brown butter ice cream, long pepper crumble, hibiscus. Sichuan again? Do you see a theme? This was not my favorite dessert of all time. I'm probably not a fan of persimmons or hibiscus. The cake had a nice texture but I did not like the overall flavor. Additionally, the amount of ice cream on the plate was minuscule. All I wanted was the ice cream. Is that too much to ask?

Overall, Lukshon taps into the realm of South-East Asian cuisine with substantial aromas. Considering that Yoon operates a burger bar, the Top Chef Master candidate has successfully created a menu that awakens the palate. Sichuan peppercorns seem to be a theme in respect to the cuisine at Lukshon. A bit more variety would be nice, but essentially, most of the dishes were good. 

Notable dishes: Tea Leaf Salad and Hawaiian Butterfish

Monday, February 16, 2015


Black Market Liquor Bar
11915 Ventura Blvd.
Studio City, CA 91604
Tel: 818.446.2533
$$ ($15-30)
Mon, 02/09/2015, 7:30pm reservation
    (3.5 Piglets)

Antonia Lofaso is from Top Chef Season 4 and the Executive chef for Black Market Liquor Bar and Scopa (which I will be reviewing in the future). Lofaso incorporates a bit of her Italian heritage into her cooking and menu. 

Black Market Liquor Bar has a cool, urban atmosphere. The menu changes daily and offers unique global cuisine that is comforting to the soul. Pastas are all handmade. The cocktails are crafted to sophistication. And, the best element about Black Market Liquor Bar is the variation. 

Americana Huckleberry ($4.00): Handcrafted soda pop. The soda was sweet, fizzy, with a relatively grape finish. 

BBQ Shortrib ($8.00): Raisin, fennel, arugula, confit tomato, brioche. The raisin offered sweetness that complemented the fennel and the peppery arugula well. The shortribs were gooey and messy, the way a sandwich should be. In general, a very good dish. 

Fried Cauliflower ($8.00): Lemon aioli. The aioli was nice and vibrant; however, the batter for the cauliflower reminded me of the batter for the KFC Original Recipe (which I'm not a fan of). 

Pappardelle ($13.00): Zucchini, ricotta, basil, parmigiano-reggiano. The pappardelle had a great texture and was perfectly cooked. The pasta dish was very light although I felt it was a little bland and under seasoned. 

Dill Potato Chips ($6.00):My favorite dish. Sea salt, malt vinegar aioli. Who would've thought chips could taste so good? The crispy flakes of potatoes are enhanced with dill to accompany the very delicious malt vinegar aioli. Together, the chips and dip are rich with depth that normally would be lacking if the chips were presented on its own. A great dish!

Deep Fried Fluffer-Nutter ($10.00) with House-made Nutella Ice Cream ($4.00): Peanut butter marshmallow, fresh bananas. The fluffer-nutter is coated with what seems to be panko breadcrumbs and deep fried. Although the dessert was crispy, the peanut butter marshmallow did not really come through in terms of flavor. The fluffer-nutter left me feeling a bit heavy. The nutella ice cream had a great texture and went well with the fluffer-nutter, but again, I could not really taste the chocolate hazelnut in the ice cream. 

Overall, Black Market Liquor Bar offers unique textures and brings comfort food to the Valley. Although many of the dishes lacked a cohesion in flavors, the Top Chef attempts to take a risk and think outside of the box (which I admire). The ambiance is great and gives you a sense of seclusion from the outside world. 

Notable dishes: Dill Potato Chips