Ramen in Santa Monica, Finally!

Let’s talk for a second about how deprived Santa Monica has been when it comes to really damn good asian food. I’ve worked there on-and-off for the past five years. While there’s no shortage of green juices, if you get bit by the noodle bug, you’re shit out of luck. Better make the drive out to Sawtelle or Venice because there’s no ramen here for you my friend. 

However, in the past year, SM’s finally got its act together and opened not one, but two new ramen spots right off the main promenade. 

Silverlake Ramen

Silverlake Ramen is a chain hailing from (yup, you guessed it) Silverlake, CA! From the chain itself: 

“Silverlake embodies the free-spirit & casual vibe of Los Angeles. An unpretentious, original way of thinking. Similar to the  environment in which ramen was invented. Now, we are taking that vibe and serving up bowls of it in locations across California.”

I haven’t tried the regular ramen because I will honestly always choose the thick noodles and rich broth of a tseukemen first if it’s on the menu. That being said, the tseukemen is delicious! Tsujita is the gold-standard in my book, but Silverlake Ramen comes pretty damn close. The broth is deep with flavor and tastes amazing with the huge slab of fried pork belly it comes with. I always ask for a side order of spicy paste to mix in, too. Fair warning, you’re in for a heavy, salty AF lunch with this one. 

Ippudo Ramen

Just a five minute walk away, you’ll find Ippudo Ramen tucked into a non-descript alleyway on second street. Look for the small square sign with the squiggles, that’s your cue that ramen time is near. This Japanese chain made the big move to the States in 2008 with its New York location, shortly followed by its San Francisco one. 

Their ramen is more Hakata style. While there are slight variations (vegan, spicy, etc), they’re all more or less the same.  Expect thin noodles, a somewhat lighter broth, but no less in flavor or oil.  They do appetizers too, but honestly, skip the buns. They’re not worth the money and your tummy space is better spent on Kaedama (extra noodles).  My personal favorite is the Akamaru Modern.

Which is better? Honestly, it’s impossible to decide. They’re different styles and both hit the ramen spot perfectly! I’m so sad I don’t work right on that corner anymore. Maybe it’s better for my blood pressure anyways.

Dessert Goals | Downtown LA

Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 10.42.11 AM.pngThe Museum of Ice Cream. Candytopia. Smorgasburg. Dessert, food festivals and art exhibits are all the rage now. Anything for the gram, right? Dessert Goals was the latest addition to these growing foodstagrammable events. It’s been going on in New York for quite some time, but 2018 was LA’s first.

As usual, it looked much better on the gram than in real life. The event was basically one large floor in a building in Downtown. Dessert vendors lined the edges and there were cute photo op sets scattered in between. In the center, there were smaller booths with treats you could get to go, a few picnic tables with boardgames and some merch. The desserts weren’t actually that exciting though. Most vendors were ones that had already been around for a while and I had already tried. Or they just weren’t offering anything that exciting. Macarons and rolled ice cream are kind of old news, folks.

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We still treat ourselves to a few sweets and had plenty of fun in all the photo sets they have scattered around the room. It was getting pretty warm in there though so we eventually headed out after about an hour to go get our savory fix elsewhere.

It was a fun novelty thing to check-out, but one time seems to be good enough for this gal.

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Bon Shabu | Koreatown

Eating out can be really difficult when you’re trying to lose weight. Shabu shabu or hotpot, however, is probably one of the tastiest ways to treat yourself in a healthier way. If you haven’t done shabu before, it’s a pretty easy concept. You get a pot of broth on a stove top as well as an assortment of raw meats, veggies or noodles to cook in it. Imagine fondue but clean and soupier. Typically, you can mix and match sauces on the side to add extra flavor. My personal favorites are a garlicky ponzu and goma, a deliciously creamy goma sauce.

Unfortunately, there’s not a ton of shabu places on my side of town. A quick 30 minute drive out to K-town though means plenty to choose from. My sister was in town visiting her boyfriend so they swooped up and we headed out to Bon Shabu!

They do a split pot, so we got half Organic Beef Bone Broth and half Spicy Original. The spicy one had a kick to start, while the beef bone was really light in flavor. We dropped in a bunch of crab to start though and by the end of the night, with all the meat dipped in, it was a slightly sweet, deep flavor. Yum!

It’s AYCE so we tried pretty much all of the meats minus the chicken and basa fish. Most of the cuts were really lean. If you want tender, fattier cuts, go with the pork collar, pork belly, or the chuck top blade. On top of that, there’s a shrimp, mussels, crab, crawfish, fish balls, squid, ramen, udon and an assortment of vegetables – all available salad bar style.

One of my favorite parts was that they offered a bunch of Korean appetizers on the side. My favorites were the tangy fried chicken and the tteokboki!

Shabu’s one of my favorite all-time meals and I can’t wait to go back again! Or maybe I’ll venture out to somewhere new. Where are your go-to spots?

Met Her At A Bar | Miracle Mile

I was lucky enough to have a couple weeks off this holiday season – a rarity in the 9-5 office adult world. It was kind of surprise time-off so I didn’t have time to make any big plans. Instead I spent lots of time with family and peppered in one-on-one friend dates in between. Friend dates should be a more frequent and celebrated thing. I absolutely love them. Anyways, this particular day a friend and I opted for a morning hike through the Hollywood Hills followed by brunch. We were originally trying to go to République, but even on a Tuesday morning, that seemed to be impossible.

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Way too hungry to wait an hour or more, we went a couple blocks down to Met Her At A Bar. Honestly, I was so hungry I wanted literally everything. Figured I would settle for something a little savory, a little sweet and ordered the You Wake Me Up Happy.  As you can see above, that’s a classic waffle with maple syrup and berries and all the proteins on the side. Proteins weren’t mind-blowing, but that waffle was perfectly crispy on the edges and fluffy in the middle. I ate every bit of this.

My friend ordered the Bello Bello Wafflebello Sandwich, a portbello waffle sandwich with tomatoes, arugula and a side of syrup. I didn’t get to try hers because quite frankly, I had enough on my plate. She also ordered a Hibiscus Cooler, but didn’t seem too impressed with it.

It’s a tight space with communal seating and an order-at-the-counter style. I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to get there, but if you’re in the area, it’s a pretty great brunch option! There’s plenty of sandwiches and heavier lunch options as well.

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I felt obliged to provide some photo evidence to prove we somewhat earned our brunching that day, ha. The weather was perfect for this short hike up to Wisdom Tree and the Hollywood sign. Here’s to many more friend adventures!

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Mee & Greet | Culver City

So I’m kind of a skeptic when it comes to Vietnamese food in Los Angeles. Best case scenario it’s just okay and regardless, it’ll be overpriced. Make the extra 40 minute trek down to Westminster or Garden Grove. It’s just so much more worth. Or for me, the hour and half drive home to my parents, where everything is delicious and free. When Mee & Greet opened, I was kind of cautiously excited. It’s fusion. Most Vietnamese fusion is a banh mi but with non traditional ingredients. Or pho, but not. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Mee & Greet walked the fusion line pretty well. I apologize in advance for the terrible looking photos. I only had my phone with me and the restaurant is lit like a lounge with dim, neon lighting.

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First course we ordered was the Hainan chicken, served cold with garlic, soy and spicy dipping sauces. Not too much of a twist here, but also not a bad hainan chicken. The portion was pretty sad though.

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My favorite dish of the night – Bo Luc Lac Saltado. Traditionally, Bo Luc Lac is stir-fried marinated beef tips, usually served on a sizzling hot plate or on bed of lettuce with slices of tomato and cucumber. A simple salt, pepper and lime vinaigrette will either be used to dress the salad or left on the side to dip the individual tips into. On the side you’ll get a small bowl of a light clear broth and white rice. This was one of my favorite dishes growing up. What could make it even better? Turns out french fries will do the trick. Preparing the the dish Peruvian style, stir-fried with onions, tomatoes and french fries, was a brilliant idea. Everyone please put more french fries in everything, thanks.

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Tofu Family Style – prepared with serrano peppers, cilantro and spring onions. Silken tofu, deep fried and sitting in a light flavorful sauce. Yum! Pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this one.

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Turmeric Fried Chicken – These weren’t as exciting. One of my friends absolutely loved them, but I have a hunch she feels that way about all fried chicken.

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Mad for Garlic Noodles – Imagine a less greasy, less heavy-handed version of the garlic noodles you get at crawfish places like Boiling Crab. Not exciting, but when has the classic combination of carbs + garlic ever done you wrong?

I also ordered the grass jelly drink, which was basically the canned version I drank as a kid. Points for nostalgia, but negative points for having to pay LA drink prices for it. Overall, I actually really enjoyed the food. The prices were kind of unexpectedly high for the portion sizes though. I wanted more meat with all of the entrees we got. Especially the saltado. There were a few tiny tips of beef amidst all that onion and rice.

That being said, I liked the vibe of the place and the food was good. I would definitely go back for a snack and a drink or two.

Happy Eating!

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Cafe Vida | Culver City

Cafe Vida | Black Coffee
Two coffees straight up!

I wish brunch was some hidden secret that only the lucky few got to know about. Unfortunately, brunch is pretty much a lifestyle for Los Angeles foodies and all the good spots are a far cry from secret. Cafe Vida is one of those places. Right in the heart of Downtown Culver City, this Latin-New American cafe always has a crowd. Expect at least a thirty minute wait even if you roll up in the earliest of brunch hours on a Sunday.

Their fresh-squeezed juices and smoothies are super popular menu items. They’re good, but honestly, a little overpriced. So I skip the blended greens and always start with black coffee. They keep you topped off all brunch (yay for being way too over-caffeinated) and give you two tiny thumb-sized muffin bites to go with it. They’re itty-bitty, but so sugar packed that they go great with a straight-up cup of joe.

Cafe Vida | Brunch
Passed on the powdered sugar & butter, that makes this healthy right?

Every time I come back, I tell myself I’ll try something further down on the menu. I never make it past the pancakes. Namely the brown rice pancakes. I’m a sucker for crispy, crunchy, warm your heart pancakes covered in berries. So my go-to is the turkey burger scramble (gotta get those ‘teins) with a side of brown rice pancakes. You can’t go wrong with their blueberry corn cakes either, a little grittier, just as tasty.

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The boyfriend, on the flip side, has never gotten the same thing twice. Though he never makes it down the menu either. He almost always orders whatever brunch special is available that week. Wet burritos, skirt steak benedicts, banana french toast… whatever the new shiny food is for the week. It’s usually a “latin” twist on a traditional brunch food or a brunched up version of a latin dish. I keep putting latin in quotes because this is hip LA latin-inspired more than it is a diverse array of latin food. We’re talking chilaquiles, huevos rancheros and some sort of taco and burrito. That’s about as far as it goes. Donde estan mis pupusas y ceviches?

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This week was the short-rib breakfast burrito. Delicious! I was spooning off some of that burrito sauce to drizzle all over my scramble.

Disclaimer! If you’re already miles beyond hanger though, skip Cafe Vida for the day. The kitchen can be pretty slow getting food out. Even just getting your coffee can take a good ten minutes. That being said, the waiters and hostesses are all friendly faces (even when you ask them for a fifth tiny pitcher of syrup – no shame).

TL;DR? 

Service: Attentive, friendly but slow.

Food: Not quite “latin”, but delicious nonetheless.

Parking:  Plenty of meters and paid lots within a five minute walk.

Wait: 25 min – 1 hour

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