Shik Do Rak

April 7, 2010

Because I’m currently in Saint Louis, I haven’t been able to update this blog and enlighten you with the good eats in the SFV.  However my friend Gideon Park who hails from Valencia has gallantly decided to help me (and all you readers) out by guest blogging about a Korean restaurant in Northridge called Shik Do Rak.

On the corner of Reseda and Devonshire, in the heart of a barely-existing Korean community, one will find that the food is still the same. I’m talking specifically about Shik Do Rak, a Korean BBQ restaurant that still maintains its brand name by providing high quality service and most importantly, plenty of food to go around.

So I took my mom and my Jetta to this desolate spot, ironically right next to a gas station, and went about my business. When I first opened the door, I was greeted by brisk formality and quickly assumed self-seating because all formality aside, Korean restaurants tend to assume that people come in families and not in parties, entourages, or etc. Although not handsomely decorated, denoted by its plain orange walls, the smoky interior and fumes appealed to my senses fondly, and the many cherry oak tables made me feel already accustomed to their, or perhaps my, tradition.

While being handed a menu, I noticed that the depictions of set meals, meat, vegetables, ban chan (Korean appetizers), and lunch meals, were much too confusing, even for a native Korean. If you are a first-timer to Shik-Do-Rak or Korean BBQ, you should definitely order from the Bo Ssam section. Other sections include lunch, dinner, and Wang Galbi, but I will only go into the Bo Ssam section, as dduk bo ssam, a rice cake wrapping is what the restaurant is really known for. It really is an edible binding factor to the variegated dishes to come.

In the middle of the table is a giant circular grill pan, fueled by a gasoline-based fire. Directly above is a structure that takes in all the vapour and energy you will be expending in order to properly grill your food.

First, the waitress brought out Korean appetizers (ban chan), which includes fish cakes, kim chi, and other green vegetables that I normally disregard due to my more animalistic desires to eat meat. Next, she brought a plate full of onions and mushroom, standard to intensifying the flavors of meat, followed by a huge plate of red, raw meat. One was choice boneless short ribs, and the other a black angus brisket point.

Usually from here, the experience of grilling is just blurry and hazy, but the distinctions between the meat and the vegetables still holds strong. The black angus brisket point is much thinner and can be eaten separately, while the short ribs will definitely need to be eaten with dduk, salad, and hot sauce.

Remember, there are by now close to 12 dishes in front of you, which makes the combinations, or permutations, very large. Take the time to find the best way of eating for you, and forget the fact that the food is greasy. If you are concerned with your health, I do want to note that everything is somewhat of a big oily mess. Imagine oil, the fat of the meat liquidating into oil, the oily dduk, and oil dipping sauce having to go somewhere. There is in fact a hole in the large circular grill pan I’ve described above, in order to fix the problem of how much oil there really is.

But all of this oil serves a purpose. It really does make all of the small dishes texturally irrelevant in the sense that most of the flavor gets lost in juiciness, which is precisely what I come for when I go to Shik-Do-Rak. But of course it doesn’t have to be this way. You can choose to eat mostly rice, fry the kimchi, fry everything, fry nothing, get a diet coke, or simply disregard the aromas that will constantly fester your nose until you want to eat more.

By the time the check came, which came out to 29.99$ (roughly 40 dollars with tax and tip), I don’t know if I was pleased or just flat-out full, but it definitely was worth it. Some might argue that soju makes the food taste even better, but then they usually don’t know what they’re talking about.

I finally left the restaurant in this congested state and noticed that the maximum capacity sign read 92 persons. If you do decide to come to Shik-Do-Rak, try to bring people that don’t just take up empty space, but people who will sometimes distract you from the fact that a feast is order. And don’t forget to tip the kindly Korean waitresses as well, because they really do just about everything to service your every need.\

Address:18434 Devonshire St, Northridge, CA 91328


Pink Elephant

January 13, 2010

Good news, guys… I decided to write one more post because I’m back in the Valley!!! just for 2 weeks though…

So today for lunch I went to Pink Elephant, a Thai-Japanese restaurant on Sherman Way because my brother recommended it to me.  My brother found this restaurant because Yelp recommended it to him.  THUS even if you don’t trust my reviews and my opinions, at least you now know that everyone else liked it, so you should like it too.

Pink Elephant sticks out as a bright little restaurant sandwiched between a number of older pizzerias, bars and eclectic shops.  With the sun streaming in from the store front, the interior of the restaurant looks like a page right out of an Ikea catalog, with bright orange chairs and white tables.  Walk up to the counter, and you’ll find baskets filled with Asian snacks and a bright menu overhead with mainly Thai cuisine.  So if you’re craving sushi or some other Japanese food, this is not the place to go. For the full menu, go here

A lot of the dishes here were spicy (they apparently have a spicy scale from 3-10), but I’m not really a fan of anything spicy.  So I stuck with the Pad See Ew.  Classic flat rice noodle with beef, onions, egg and broccoli — everything tasted pretty good, the ingredients all tasted really fresh and it had a lot of flavor.  There was also a lot pepper on it, not sure if that was a plus or a minus.

We also ordered the Pineapple Fried Rice which not only had pineapples but also cashews, raisins, onions, chicken and curry powder.  Overall the flavors were a lot more subtle than the Pad See Ew, and it tasted a bit dry.  Still I loved the mixture of the sweetness of pineapple and raisin, the crunchiness of the cashews, and the saltiness of the chicken and the rice.

I also ordered a iced Thai tea that was good, but a bit overwelming in its sweetness and flavor.  In the end, I enjoyed the meal because of its flavor and ingenuity, however it didn’t make it to my list of “must-eats” when I come home.

Address: 22039 Sherman Way
Canoga Park, CA 91303


Porto’s Bakery

September 13, 2009

Unfortunately, I’ll be leaving for Northwestern Tuesday (my summer is officially over), so this will be my last post on the SFVguide…for now.  I hope you enjoyed reading my reviews and checking out these restaurants.  I’ve got to say that it’s been a lot of fun discovering new places to eat and things to do, and it definitely made my summer more exciting.

This is one of the posts I am MOST excited for. Why? Because it brings back such good memories of a delightful brunch I had.  And looking at these pictures just gets me hungry again.

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Porto’s Bakery has two locations: Burbank and Glendale.   I went to the famous bakery in Burbank and it was a LOT bigger than I imagined it to be. Inside the Spanish-style of the building, there is a snake of a line leading up to glass cases filled with the most delicious-looking pastries.  There was also a dining area that was filled with people carrying their bakery boxes to sit down and eat with a cup of coffee.

Porto’s is a Cuban-style bakery that has been in Glendale for over 35 years serving specialty cakes, pastries, desserts and even sandwiches.

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The long line moved quickly and before I knew it, we reached the glass cases before I could decide what I wanted.  Oh my goodness. The choices were overwhelming…cakes, red velvet cupcakes, fruit tarts, rolls, creme brulee, cookies, and all different types of pastries!  However, my research and the advice from friends was to head straight for the potato balls and cheese rolls because they were Porto’s best.

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Potato Balls

The Potato Balls were different than I expected – they were fried potatoes with a savory meat interior.  They are delicious to eat piping hot and the flavors juiced out with each bite.  I soon realized that ordering one potato ball per person was definitely not a good idea, I wanted more after I finished.

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Refugiado - guava and cheese pastry

We also orderd the refugiado, which is a guava and cheese pastery.  It might seem a little strange because guava’s not a fruit you typically see in a fruit pastry, but this little number proves that it should be.  It’s the perfect mix of tart sweet (guava), creamy sweet (sweet cheese) and flaky sweet (the pastry).

cheese roll

cheese roll

The cheese rolls from Porto’s are made to perfection with delicate flaky pastry coated with a sugared glazed and filled with sweet cheese, sort of like a Danish.  It leaves your fingers all sticky, but the constancy of the thin pastry combined with a smooth sweet cheese creates a wonderful texture.

Pear Danish

Pear Danish

I also loved the Pear Danish, which actually had half of a peeled pear in the center of the pastry, surrounded by sweet cheese.  All this made me wish we had ordered more savory pastries, but hey, you live and you learn right?

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I really want to go back and try all the different goodies that I wasn’t able to try the first time, because everything looked so, SO delicious.  Porto’s, you have a new biggest fan. :)

Locations:  Glendale – 315 North Brand Blvd, Glendale, CA 91203

Burbank – 3614 W Magnolia Blvd, Burbank, CA 91505



Good Ole’ Grandma Kim’s

September 8, 2009

This is another one of my favorites around these parts, a little restaurant tucked away in a nearly abandoned shopping center near the intersection of Roscoe and Topanga.  I keep going back because there’s always plenty of seats available and simply because I like the food.

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Grandma Kim’s is a family-owned restaurant that started nine years ago with very humble beginnings, according to Richard Pai, the general manager.  The idea came from fellow churchgoers who loved to eat the food Grandma Kim made.

“They asked her to open a restaurant, and she did,” said Pai.

Although Grandma Kim has since passed away, her family keeps her legacy alive and continues to serve authentic Korean food.

Seafood Pancake

Seafood Pancake

This is my favorite appetizer Pachan, or seafood pancake.  It’s another one of those savory pancakes that is made of various types of seafood and green onions all fried together with dough.  You cut it up like a pizza and give everyone a piece to dip into black vinegar/soy sauce.  When you eat it hot and crispy it tastes simply delicious

Kimchee Tofu Soup

Kimchee Tofu Soup

This is best eaten when its really cold outside, so you can warm yourself up to a steaming bowl of spicy Kimchee Soon Du Bu, or soft tofu soup.  But…consider its summertime in the Valley, prepare to get all sweaty.

Galbi

Galbi

The classic Korean BBQ -Galbi, or thinly sliced boneless beef with a tangy sauce.  I can’t say I’m an expert at Korean food (or any type of food for that matter), but in my humble opinion, this Galbi is really good.

The food at Grandma Kim’s is a little more pricey, around the range of $10-20.

Location: 8384 Topanga Canyon Blvd, Canoga Park

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Brent’s Deli

September 8, 2009

Hello San Fernandians! I just got back from a trip to Taiwan, and so I apologize for the long haitus since my last post .  I know you must all be dying to know where to eat next, so here it is…the top rated deli in LA!

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Located in a shopping center on Parthenia, I knew that Brent’s Deli would be a big deal from the fact that they had valet parking outside the unassuming restaurant.  And for good reason too – I couldn’t find a parking spot for the life of me!

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Inside, the customer is first greeted with a bakery and a bunch of people waiting to be seated.  The owner didn’t have time to talk to me because of the lunchtime rush, but according to the menu, the deli was bought by the current owner, Ron Peskin, in 1969 when it was failing and in debt.  Peskin ran the deli until it became the number one deli in LA, and has since opened another store in Westlake Village.

I found the prices on the menu to be a bit more pricey than I expected, with their famous pastrami and corned beef sandwich about $13.  But once the dish arrived in front of me, I found out why it cost so much.

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Pastrami and Corned Beef Sandwich

In a few words: it was HUGE.  If you’re looking for your run of the mill one piece of pastrami sandwich, then this sure isn’t it.  But if you’re looking for meat MEAT MEAT with a few slices of bread, then OH BOY you are at the right place.  It took me a while to figure out how to fit the sandwich in my mouth (I finally had to contend with first taking a bite of the pastrami sections, then of the corned beef section), but when I finally tasted it, it was SO good.  The meat is sliced so thin that it’s delicate and tender and every bite is FULL of flavor.  Half the sandwich made me full.

Potato Pancakes

Potato Pancakes

We also ordered latkas, which are potato pancakes that came with apple sauce and sour cream to dip in.  I didn’t think it was anything too special, but then again, I might of just been wayy too full from the sandwich…

I would definitely recommend this place, just be prepared to wait for a table if you come at lunchtime and be SURE to come with an empty stomach.

Location: 19565 Parthenia Street, Northridge

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Las Fuentes

August 13, 2009

Uf! Just realized that I haven’t updated in a few days, I just feel like I’m getting lazier and lazier–like I’ll eat at all these amazing places, but get too lazy to post about it.  But fret no longer! I am back!!

SO, let me introduce you to a Mexican restaurant I ate at a few weeks ago…Las Fuentes!

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Walk inside the Reseda restaurant, and you are greeted with bright bursts of color. If you want me to describe the decor in one word, I’d say BOLD.  In two words maybe FIESTA FIESTA! Ok on to the real deal.

So when you first enter, you walk up to a cashier where you order your food and pay for it, then you pick it up at a different window and seat yourself at one of the colorful tables (with hand-painted chairs too!) The menu includes a number of your usual Mexican dishes like burritos, tacos, quesdillas and tortas for a pretty inexpensive prices – $6 for burritos and around $10 for dinner plates that come with rices and meat.

Carnitas Burrito
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Carnitas Burrito - inside and out!

I ordered a burrito with carnitas and it came covered in a pool of cheese (which just made it so much better).  The burrito was pretty good, not too spectacular and the carnitas was a bit too salty.  Later on I found out that Las Fuentes is known for their amazing carne asada and that I totally ordered the wrong dish.  Hmm, well I guess I need to go back and try it again.

Address: 18401 Vanowen Street, Reseda


King’s Burger

August 4, 2009

When I tell friends that I’m making a blog introducing restaurants in the Valley, they starting listing off their favorite restaurants. And a large number of them start with “Well, of course, King’s Burger…” So, I brought a camera, a friend and an empty stomach to check out this unassuming restaurant on Reseda Blvd.

Inside, the restaurant looks like any other burger joint, but one glance at the menu and you’ll see something a little bit different.  More than just having the usual fare of cheeseburgers and pastrami sandwiches, the menu includes quesadillas, teriyaki bowls, and sushi.  It’s perfect if you’re in a group of friends who can’t agree on a type of food to eat, King’s Burger pretty much covers it all.

The reason for the Asian foods that you usually don’t find at your usual burger place is because a Korean couple bought the restaurant 15 years ago.  They asked their son, Young Cha, to help them run the restaurant.  Cha had previously worked at a number of high-end sushi restaurants and after he started working at King’s Burger, he found some free time to make sushi.  Cha’s sushi menu is filled with different rolls that he had made for high end restaurants, but the only difference is the price.  The sushi here is around the $7-$11 range as opposed to the more expensive fish found in his previous restaurants.

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King's Special Roll

I tried one of Cha’s creations, the King’s Special Roll.  It consisted of a imitation crab and avocado roll, fried, covered with fried lobster and fish roe, drizzled with sauce.  Oh my goodness.  The quality of the sushi here was top-notch.  If I closed my eyes, I could imagine myself in at an expensive sushi restaurant on Sunset Blvd with dim lighting and minimalistic furniture and, of course, an eye-popping bill to top it off.  But instead, I was at a burger joint surrounded by families and everyday people on their lunch breaks and best of all, I just spent around $9 for this roll that completely filled me.

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King's Burger

To prove that King’s Burger does have its namesake, this is a King’s Burger.  It’s HUGE with a generous portions of beef patty and pastrami.   My friend found the burger really tasty and extremely filling.  If you get this one, good luck opening your mouth wide enough to fit that in your mouth.

Cha admits that working at King’s Burger is a really different atmosphere from working in Hollywood, but he likes seeing regular customers coming back time and time again because they really like the food.  On the particular afternoon I visited the restaurant, Cha said that he pretty much recognized everyone at the restaurant and because of this familiarity, he plans to continue making amazing sushi affordable in the Valley.

Rating: 9.5 for quality + price

Location: 9345 Reseda Blvd, Northridge

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