Sushi-gen and again and again…

Ξ August 11th, 2009 | → 2 Comments | ∇ Highland Park |

Besides the high prices, ridiculous valet parking and poor service, the fact that
Mia Sushi remains open is even more unbelievable considering our proximity to Little Tokyo. Time off this summer has created a new tradition/addiction as we have spent nearly every Friday getting the $15 sashimi lunch at Sushi-Gen downtown.

Lunch begins with miso soup, some pickled cucumber and cabbage and a dish of tofu soaked in broth. I don’t know the name of the tofu dish, but it’s soft and delicious and melts in your mouth, if you can manage to pick it up with your chopsticks, that is. After that is the pièce de résistance—a plate practically overflowing with fresh fish and a bowl of steaming white rice. Among the spread is calamari, crab, snapper, yellowtail and several styles of tuna. The spicy tuna is good but I’ve definitely had better, while the toro is simply amazing. Commonly called “fatty tuna,” toro is the sought after, tender and flavorful belly of the tuna. Best of all, Sushi-gen gives you a huge portion of it.

Sashimi Special

Sashimi Special

To be honest, I don’t actually know what everything on the plate is, but to be fair there is never an opportunity to find out. The service is fast and efficient, as the waitresses try to move the customers in and out as quickly as possible. That’s not to say service is unfriendly, but Sushi-gen is confident in their product and the ongoing line out the door only proves the point. A queue begins forming a good 30 minutes before opening (at 11:15) and you will always find a wait for lunch from then on. The check is brought to you without asking, and they always appreciate it if you don’t linger after your food is finished. This is not the place to chat up the sushi chef or to take a leisurely lunch. So long as you don’t expect that, you can go and enjoy the amazing selection of delicious sashimi for what it is, and move on with your day. I do every Friday. Fifteen dollars and fifteen minutes away, you really can’t go wrong.

Sushi-Gen
422 E 2nd St Los Angeles
(213) 617-0552

Open Weekdays 11:15am-9:30pm; Sat 5pm-9:30pm

 

Cacao Mexicatessen

Ξ August 11th, 2009 | → Comments Off | ∇ 90041, Food |

I firmly believe that if I were to graph the relationship between a Mexican restaurant’s price and it’s quality it would look like an inverse bell curve.  $5 in Highland Park should buy you 3 excellent tacos and a drink.  $13 for a plate of enchiladas at a restaurant that has a margarita menu a yard long but no aguas frescas to be found is usually somewhere the food is going to be clean, safe, and bland.  $50 for duck with mole poblano or snapper brushed with guajillo chile at Mexico City’s Aguila y Sol (or the soon-to-open Rosa Mexicano at L.A. Live) will lift the quality back up above El Cholo levels.  If it seems like I’ve put a lot of thought into this, I have.

graph2Eagle Rock’s new Cacao Mexicatessen tries to bridge this middling Mexican cuisine gap by bringing quality food to an informal environment at a slightly lower price than a sit-down restaurant.  The result: Cacao’s cuisine has a little too much in common with the easy listening they blast over their speakers.

Cacao has a very nicely decorated interior with a potpourri of Mexican items for sale, including chapulines (crickets) with chile.  Their large menu ranges from entire plates, to tacos, to soups, and while they don’t serve alcohol (they may in the future), they do have a full cafe to cater to your other addiction.  While the presentation of the food is excellent, and the service is friendly, the flavors are unfortunately a bit too safe.

Shredded Chicken with Mole Poblano

Shredded Chicken with Mole Poblano

On my first visit I tried the Mole Poblano with shredded chicken which was good but not great.  The mole had a strong aftertaste of cloves, which isn’t what I usually want in the dish.  Nevertheless, I sopped up the last of it with some delicious handmade tortillas.

Sope and Tacos

Sope and Tacos

On my subsequent visit, I sampled the sope with flor de calabaza and the carnitas tacos.  The homemade sope was nice and it’s good to have a restaurant with flor de calabaza on their menu (hopefully they’ll add huitlacoche soon).  The carnitas tacos were also fine, but as with the sope, I was adding their homemade hotsauces to the meat hoping to give it a bit more flavor.

Abuelita's Enchilada

Abuelita's Enchilada

Cacao’s enchilada with red sauce was good but drew equally ambivalent noises from a friend who had no tangible complaints beyond “It just needs more flavor”.  Again, it was a target of the homemade chipotle sauce.

Hongo de Portabello

Hongo de Portobello

The one dish that earned raves was ironically the least Mexican dish I’ve tasted there so far.  A vegetable panini, that they call a torta, with portobello mushrooms and red pepper was excellent.  (Incidentally, next time someone uses the word “panini” correct their Italian grammar and let them know that unless they’re talking about more than one sandwich, it should be called a “panino”.  I nearly fought a server at the Cheesecake Factory over this.  I hate that place.)

Ultimately, Cacao isn’t bad, it’s just safe Mexican food in an area with so many incredible choices from that part of the world.  They should do fine with the north of Colorado crowd who don’t want to eat their meal off a paper plate.  Maybe if they swap the Boy George out for some Vicente Fernandez, their recipes can follow suit.

 

Caribbean Dream Texas BBQ

Ξ August 9th, 2009 | → Comments Off | ∇ 90042, Food, Highland Park |

Caribbean Dream Texas BBQ

Caribbean Dream Texas BBQ

Bucking the trend of all things mobile, the ambitiously geographically named Caribbean Dream Texas BBQ serves their food out of a catering truck that seems to be permanently parked in the parking lot of their unfinished building at the corner of York and Hazelwood.  They didn’t have the chicken or sausage on the day I visited, so I tried the brisket and ribs, which came with a small salad and side of red beans and rice for $10.  Since the demise of Dante’s, now the Taco Stop, I’ve been hoping for a great BBQ spot in NELA.  As Caribbean Dream hasn’t moved into their restaurant yet, the jury is still officially out, but last night’s sample wasn’t Gus’s West.  The homemade sauce was good but the servings were fatty and a little tougher than I’d like.  Maybe slower cooking or a better quality of meat will come with the move into the restaurant.  I’ll try back then.

The Goods

The Goods

 

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