Gary Robins spotted cooking Oktoberfest food at Biergarten; Burgershnitzel! (Available today and next weekend only)

Chef Gary Robins seems to be the Where’s Waldo? of the Los Angeles and New York food worlds, just when you find him and finally taste his thoughtfully tasty food, he disappears. And, just as in Martin Handford’s Waldo series, we never know where the colorful main character will end up next.

Hell, he left Moko just a week after Jonathan Gold and I ( happened to write him up on the same freaking day too, haha) wrote him up. I was first impressed by his pretty bad ass fooding skills when he did his little pop up at Georgio’s Cucina. His food is, well, how shall I say…thoughtfully structured and deftly executed? Which seems to make for food that is foolhardy but yet somehow always spot on. He seems to adapt pretty damn well to whatever cuisine is placed before him. Well, at least the two (polar opposite) ones I have been fortunate to try myself.

This last weekend the unsung hero did a weekend warrior’s rendition of a pop up at Biergarten. And thanks to the burger “connect” homie Eddie Hah, I was informed about this earlier in the week and planned to show up to see what the guy had up his sleeve this time around.

I was rolling deep with the rest of YMFB (Young Money Foodbloggers yo!,) Garrett Snyder of Los Angeles Magazine and Los Angelicious Times foodblog. We showed up at around one in the afternoon to an unfortunately empty dining room.

First things first, we each got a beer. They tapped into a couple of Oktoberfest-style Dunkel German beers and we immediately spotted them on the menu and zeroed in for the thirsty kill. I went for Hacker Pschorr seasonal rendition of the celebratory Marzen, not as heavy as say, an Optimator but still as satisfying in the way only a German beer that is brewed in accordance to Reinheitsgebot, the German Beer Purity Law is, always palatable. As we banged our frosty glasses hard in cheers, Garrett informed me of the German tradition of looking dead straight into the other person’s eyes as you did this or else you would get seven years of bad sex; we basically had a staring competition at this point.

The guy actually remembered me and decided to send out a couple of his tater creations to supplement his “Shnitzel Burger” that Garrett and I decided to try.

Kartoffelpuffer: German Potato Pancakes with Williamsbire cured Atlantic Salmon

Truffle Rosti
Truffle Scented Rösti: [Mashed] truffled potato pancake with air dried ham, ginger crisp, mixed chicories

The German potato pancakes got the traditional Robins treatment, keeping true to the essence of the original dish but chef-ing it up just enough to add a delightful twist. The rectangular Kartoffelpuffer looked and crisped up like his Korean Jeon pancakes at Moko. It was a tad saltier than I would had liked but the sashimi-like salmon topping the perfect hash brown pancake made up for it.

The latter pancake was similar but even a little more golden brown and delicious with a creamier center. They reminded me of a fancier truffled version of those hashbrown tater tot things from Burger King…in a good way.

Wurst at Biergarten
Niman Ranch Wursts: Grilled Venison with sour cherries and sage; Weiss wurst with Riesling, Lambic and Green Chilies

Also in traditional Robins style, they made everything from scratch. From their Bavarian pretzels to their hand-straddled custom sausages, just for this dining event. He sent out his two fleshy creations for us to try by themselves but they are traditionally served on a roll for a complete meal. Both were juicy as hell but of course my favorite was the venison one. Leaner and more flavorful like only Bambi meat could be.

Shnitzel Burger
Wiener Burgershnitzel!: Lightly breaded [pan- fried] ground Niman Ranch veal, red onion marmalade, Sarugula and [caper] remoulade on toasted potato buns

Not surprisingly, the burger was the most complex and amazing thing on the menu. After all, esteemed 8 oz. chef, Eddie Hah, is the main cook any other day at Biergarten. The breading was brown, crispy and non-greasy. In fact, the breading was so light, when poked with a fork, the ground veal’s translucent juiciness exuded through the stuff. It was hella delicious with every burger element covered, a rich, full flavored cheese, skillfully cooked meat, a tangy dressing and accoutrement and even some esoteric, peppery greens.

The $12 price tag for this monstrously delicious burger is actually a bargain when you take into account that the juicy veal is all from Niman Ranch. It will fill you up good too.

Garrett and I were pretty freaking stuffed and mildly buzzed by the end of the heavy meal. Garrett spent some time studying abroad in Germany and said the food was not too different than the type of stuff you ate over there. As always, I did not feel let down and will be looking forward to whatever cuisine or restaurant he cooks up next. I hope Los Angeles will finally start to realize and appreciate his food before it’s too late and we end up with yet another great chef lost to the East Coast!

Oktoberfest at Biergarten
Happening again on October 1st and 2nd
206 North Western Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90004
(323) 466-4860
Open for lunch

The Glutster Burger Featured as Best “Fusion” Burger in Los Angeles Magazine!

best ethnic inflenced burger
Not a bad way to be welcomed back to your hometown, right?

Home, sweet home…kinda. Ok, so I left my heart in el rancho, drenched in freshly-extracted pulque along side thick, homemade tortillas. But until I man up and realize my subconscious dreams of moving to el rancho myself. Me tengare que aguantar! (I’ll bite my maseca-based tortilla tainted lips!)

In other news, I broke my five day internet fast to find out that the burger that has been cursed with my title actually won “best fusion burger” on LA Magazine!

Our favorite ethnic-influenced variation is The Glutster burger at Biergarten in Koreatown. Cocreated by blogger Javier Cabral (aka the Glutster), the all-pork slab is joined by guac, pickled onions, epazote aioli, chipotle black beans and fried green tomato slice on a King’s Hawaiian sweet roll.”

Yees! Pretty awesome right?

But none of this would had been possible without the excellent burger’ing skills of Eddie Hah, so a huge thank you to him!

Eddie and his Chosun One
Eddie Hah: The Burger Maniac

Now, to go celebrate by eating one, or two with a beer or five.

the glutster money shot
The Glutster Burger

The magazine is out now so go out and buy one! Or else, just wait until the internet version is available on the Los Angeles Magazine website


The Tables Have Turned! A Collection of Reviews on My “Glutster” Burger at Biergarten From Fellow Bloggers

So, as you all may have heard, I recently had a burger named after me at Biergarten, an awesome Korean-German Gastropub in Koreatown L.A. Now, If you hadn’t had the chance to go try it, you are lagging it, go try it now! Seriously, Eddie Hah must had done something right because I haven’t heard one single complaint yet! Well, except having “too much Guacamole” from my ex-brother-in-law, haha.

In the meantime, here are a few honest reviews from fellow blogger homies to hold you over…

Caroline On Crack Ate Me

Caroline on Crack called my burger “great”, [liking] [the] “spiciness and the creamy guac… accompanied with a bit of tang from the pickled onion and even char on the pork! She even goes as far as saying [it] “almost tasted homemade.” Although, she doesn’t recommend eating me “on a first date.” haha.

The Minty Ate Me

The Minty ate me as well. Although she was a bit skeptical at first due to the excessive use of high-calorie toppings of it all, she admitted “It was…good. Great, even! Yummy! I was surprised. And people eating the Glutster around me were also happy with their burgers.”

The Glutster Deconstructed on A Hamburger Today

The hamburger foodblog by Serious Eats, “A Hamburger Today“, indulged in me as well. Calling it a burger with a “delicious melange of Mexican flavors.”

And last but not least, my close friend and now successful ice cream entrepreneur Mattatouille featured my burger in his blog post titled “Good Things I’ve Eaten Lately.” Calling Biergarten’s new menu “the most exciting thing happening in Koreatown at the moment.”

Well, there you have it! If you get a chance to try it, please let me know what you think in the comment board.


The “Glutster” Burger Now Available in New Menu at Biergarten Tonight! Eat Me Now!

menu shot
Outta Nowhere!!!!!

1. Have a burger named after me.

Well, I can now scratch “having a burger named after me” off my bucket list. Yup, I can pretty much die a–very satiated–happy man now. There is now A BURGER NAMED AFTER ME at Biergartenahhhhhhh raaaaaza!

I’ve met some pretty awesome people along this long and winding journey of food writing self-discovery I took up back when I was 16. Although, I have learned–the hard way–that this industry thrives on fake and thirsty personalities, I have made some genuine lifelong friends that have all taught me so much. Eddie Hah is one of those homies.

Some of you may remember him from the post I did on him last year, hyping up his very own special burger at 8 oz Burger on Melrose. He comes from the lineage of the late Korean restaurant Sa Rit Gol, what many touted to be the best Korean place in L.A. And well, thanks to him, what started out as jocular late night texting is now…a full-fledged, meaty and balanced reality.

the glutster money shot
The Glutster Burger: Pickled Oregano-Onions, Epazote Aioli, Fried Green Tomato, Guacamole, Chipotle-Black Beans with an ALL-PORK Patty.

I present to you The Glutster: Eight juicy ounces of 100% pure charred ground pork loin, stratified with oregano-spiked, crisp-pickled onions, a thick and creamy Epazote-scented Aioli, a spread of Chipotle-laced black beans, two slices of fried green seasoned tomato and to finish the 2nd generation Mexification of it–a scoop of chunky, fresh Guacamole. All sandwiched between two toasted, soft, sweet and King’s Hawaiian burger buns.

For those of you that know me, you all may be smiling right now because you know that this is indeed a DIRECT homage to the way I eat. I didn’t call myself the GLUT-ster for nothing eyyy. I found out of my freakishly fast metabolism at an early age in life so basically, everything I cook for myself at home usually ends up being something stupidly ginormous like this, haha. Yes, with a giant mishmash of flavor-intensive simple ingredients like this as well.

And the bottom line? Well, bomb of course! I thought up of it! (burgers named after you do wonders for your low self-esteem apparently). Think of a glorified torta, one made with perfectly-balanced quality ingredients. In true nostalgic fashion, this burger reminds me of my fast-food driven childhood. I was skeptical at first, but the sweet buns really work awesomely with the burger. It reminds me of that flavor when the sweet ketchup adhered to the bread, remember?

My immortalization between two buns–along with many other interesting German-Korean bites–is part of the revamped new menu at Biergarten launching tonight (soft opening). Its a collaborative burger-fueled effort between Eddie Hah and Jacob Wildman (equally-abled burger bad ass formerly of 8 oz as well, Spago). Other chingon dishes include “German Fried Rice” (Kolbasa Sausage, Sauerkraut, Fried Egg, Dunkel Gravy; $9), “Pig Frites” (Korean Marinated Pork Loin, Fries, Celery Root Slaw; $14), grilled-chilled shrimp in Remoulade sauce, a new spin on the Korean classic Gol-bang-ee Muchim (Snail-Rice Noodle Salad with Chili but with fried snails instead!) and yes of course, the return of Eddie’s own “Chosun One” tasty Korean-fangled burger.

So come by and eat me tonight!

206 N Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90004
Neighborhood: Wilshire Center
(323) 466-4860

New burgers all available starting at 5 PM tonight for $10-$11 each.

Disclaimer: Money cant buy you real burger love! I DID NOT PAY Eddie Hah, Biergarten or any one to make this happen!

Korean Clay Roasted Stuffed Golden Duck Has Arrived to Los Angeles: Dha Rae Oak (Koreatown)

Dha Rae Oak
Behold: Roasted for 4 Hours in Clay Pot And Stuffed With Nuts, Purple Rice, Spices and Herbs

The best preparation of duck I have ever had in my life might be at the newly revamped Dha Rae Oak in Koreatown. It is stuffed with things like chewy Ogokbap (Five-Grain/beans “purple” Rice), whole meaty walnuts, chopped chestnuts, nutty pumpkin seeds, cooked sweet potatoes, Chinese herbs, dried fruit and probably crack. It just might make you forget Thanksgiving even existed.

Korean “Quack” has been hot lately thanks to Jonathan Gold’s recent word-candy writeup of the grilled duck specialist Sun Ha Jang not too far away. In it, he mentions this particular style duck actually ” [at] Il San Duck, you got the famous clay pot duck, stuffed with rice and ginseng.” Well…now thanks to owner Gil Rae Kim…it is back in L.A and it is here to stay.

450 degrees for 4 hours
korean clay pots used for duck
adobe oven

The classical fowl here is wrapped in cheesecloth, roasted for 4 glorious hours within a vertical clay pot inside a 450 degree specialized Korean ceramic oven Gil imported to the U.S himself. “The ovens can’t be found anywhere but South Korea, Malaysia and now….here.” he proudly says in Korean.

Gilrae Kim of Dha Rae Oak
Gil Rae Kim: Owner pf Dha Rae Oak And Fellow Duck Devotee

Gil is passionate about tender quack, he bellows out to everyone on the table in the most jolly of elder Korean enthusiasm about the health qualities of duck. “It is goooood for you, gives you stamina!” he says. He’s been wanting to bring this Ilsan style, highly prized duck preparation back to L.A for a while now and has been hitting the duck hard for the last few months.

He is actually the uncle of Neil Kwon, owner of the Korean-German Pub Biergarten in Koreatown . He invited me to be one of the first to taste it this last Thursday.

And what can I say other than wow. To describe it solely as “tender” would be an understatement. The taste will probably shock you, one word….LEAN. Gil says that 4 hours of cooking it allows a lot of the duck fat–that would otherwise stay within–drain to the bottom of the pot, leaving you with just flavorful, lean meat and skin that tastes of pure duck mostly with faint characters of aromatic herbs and sweet dried fruit.

But the best part is the stuffing, abundant and soaking up all the illustrious duck fat, I mean flavor. The purple rice is sticky and glistening with the stuff, clinging to the duck skin like some sort of inside out savory mochi. The creamy sweet potatoes and al dente mung beans, black beans, peanuts probably do the best job of of holding in them juices, creating an instant gourmet starch filler just by sitting inside the creature as it cooks. Not to take those nuts and seeds for granted, they will add crunchy texture and therefore crown this dish seemingly unfathomable.

Banchan on the day of my visit included meaty sauteed Shitake Mushrooms, sesame flavored Japchae noodles and a pungent onion salad doused in a soy-mustard dressing. And of course that ubiquitous korean bbq coarse salt and pepper mixture. The house kimchi is a little young but it makes up for it with the generous layer of chili paste on each napa leaf. But I digress…

Korean Duck Skewers Grilled then broiled
Duck Skewers: On Self Rotating, Propane + Korean Charcoal Hybrid Grill That Gil Rae Brought Himself From Korea

In a Transformer like fashion, our tables were turned into a makeshift hybrid grill that was somehow both gas and charcoal powered. The uniform blue flames embered through metal catwalks filled with smoky Korean Charcoal. In between them, their were self-rotating metal skewers each impaling some more of yup…you guessed it–fresh, chopped duck. This became more of communal celebration of the universal fact that one must wait for good food.

The inevitable annoying flare up will almost burn off your flourishing peach fuzz but it will also let you know when your duck is done and that most of the fat has drained to the bottom. They will now be ready for phase II of cooking, stainless steel flat tops that sits beside the catwalks, ready to sear the rotisserie duck to a crispy-skin heaven if you have the patience for it. Don’t forget to throw in the sliced garlic in leftover duck fat, you have already come this far.

Dha Rae Oak is now open but the clay roasted duck will not be available until Monday February 28th. Gil Rae is adamant about your experience always being consistent and the best, therefore you will have to CALL IN YOUR ORDER AT LEAST 4 HOURS IN ADVANCE. He warns that not all his staff speaks fluent English so be prepared to learn basic Korean to partake in this. The bird is easily enough for three people, maybe four (each one is 5 lbs, but once fat drains…) and it will cost you around $60 for an order, complete with Banchan of course.

In the mean time, the skewers are already available in the restaurant. They come three to an order for $22.99 and you must at least order two of them.

By the end of the night you will have duck fat all over your face, hair, clothes, pants and your pores will reek of garlic but that is a small price to pay for the best duck of your life.

Clay Roasted Duck Will Be Available Starting Monday, February 29th
$60 For One Whole Duck (3-4 people)

Dha Rae Oak
1106 Western Ave.
Los Angeles CA. 90006

(323) 733-2474

BierGarten: International Brew and Bites Moving Koreatown Forward

All Of A Sudden I Have A Green Thumb

So I’ve been finding myself in the same place out in K-Town every single day for the last two weeks–a surprising first for my usually attachment-free self. And no, I wasn’t eating seasonal banchan over at Mapo nor getting my Oaxacan fill at Guelaguetza but instead…sipping on some fine-drawn brews at a Bier Garten.

Bier Gartens Signage
German And Korean Signage

I remember being dumbfounded every time I passed by the Korean-German facade as I drove down Western. An actual German style Bier Garten in Koreatown? Naaah, it couldn’t be.Well, it was. And apparently, its something that this part of L.A desperately needed.

Bier Garten is the four month old project of Neil Kwon, a guy who really–really–likes beer. He happened to go to school right next to Pyramid brewery, a brewery known for their unfiltered, full flavored Hefeweizen‘s. He tells me it was love at first sip. And like any other lovestruck fool, he fell hard. He actually went backpacking through Europe for the sole reason tasting beer. “I had a chance to go to Hofbrau haus and the Chinese Gardens in Munich, the classic beer gardens.”

Neil Kwon Loves Beer
Neil Kwon Loves Beer

According to Kwon, “I was betting on that Koreatown is changing. More Korean Americans and non-Koreans are moving into the area. Koreatown is pretty exclusive by nature and I wanted to create a place where anyone and everyone who likes beer can enjoy.”

tap into this!
Over 25 Beers On Tap At BierGarten

Well, he certainly did. At only four months old, Biergarten already holds over 24 international beers on tap and more than 4 readily available as bottles. They range from an almost equal selection from the two beer powers of the world: Gernany and Belgium. And if you must know, the Kostrizer Schwarzbier, a minimal hopped German black lager with a faintly flowery aroma, and the house dark wheat Dunkelweiss are what most likely will always be in my frosted stein (pictured on header photo above). Not to say that I won’t drink anything new that Neil gets in, which seems to be pretty freaking often. Last new beer I remember was a pretty damn impressive IPA from DogFish Head brewery.

Dog Fish Head IPA
I Love Head

Maybe it has something to do with the Nitrogen Mixer that has a custom ratio for each classification of beer. Neil had it installed when he first bought the place, he would not have it any other way. But all the beer here somehow tastes crisper, cleaner and more refreshing.

beer enhancer
As If Beer Couldn’t Get Any Better

But I digress, its time to get back on the Glutster track….the full Korean-Mexican-German menu here. I’ll start with the beer bite essential basics from both spectrum’s first.

PBR Rings And Fries w: Chipotle Dipping Sauce
Pabst Onion Rings And Tempura Fries: Don’t Even Trip!

So I was a late ‘bloomer’ to the Onion Ring world but I came, and better late than never. The onion rings here are leavened with the one and only Pabst Blue Ribbon lager, aka “PBR” for all you fucken hipsters, ha ha. And each ring is a divine dinner-vention in itself. As crispy on the outside–moist on the inside–as a freshly fried Krispy Kreme donut, well…only savory and well seasoned. The tempura fries are good too if you swing that way. The best thing of all is that 4 beers later, both will be just as crispy and good, a fried rarity indeed. But, no matter what you get, ask for the house made Chipotle Ketchup and Jalapeño Mayo as dipping sauces….trust.

The menu that ranges from a traditional grilled Wurst plate to quite the assortment of ultra traditional Korean-Japanese foods. I should mention that Neil’s dad who works the back of the house kinda ‘breathes’ fish, he’s been working at Japanese restaurants since he was in 6th grade. So you should not be offended when you see an ultra-fresh Seared Albacore Tuna Salad or Grilled Eel served with uncolored slivers of fresh Ginger on the menu. I’ve had both more than twice already and have noticed the vast improvement in each dish.

Seared Ahi Tuna Salad W: Maraschino Cherry Dressing
Hey! Eating Salad With Beer Cancels It Out!: Seared Tuna Salad

I managed to sneak into the kitchen last time and see the masterful technique behind BierGarten’s enticing Drunken Chicken. A full bird that is cooked from the inside out via the flavorful vapors of a mixture consisting of mostly some Oktoberfest Marzen, Sapporo and Asahi when I was there. The juicy fowl is cut table side and served with a duo of mustard dipping sauces and a razor thin cabbage salad. Most of the fat seeps out the side of the bird during the cooking process and results in some surprisingly lean, moist flesh. I’ve seen people eat almost one joyously whole chicken like if somehow was all dark meat or something.

beer chicken

bier gartens drunken chicken about to roast
The Way Every Chicken Should Go

table side bier chicken
Table Side Drunken Chicken

But after all this, I am a beaner and no matter how cool all this other stuff is, the Korean Tacos will always be closest to my heart. Unlike their intense–sweeteer–Kogi predecessors, these are refined and subtle and balanced. Its served with less garnishes to interfere in the way of the flavorful filling and an emulsified smoky-spicy-sweet sauce that is made from two of the best heats in this world: Chipotle and Gochujang. And well…on a homemade Tortilla that I kind of taught them myself how to make. And that alone right there will warrant any taco a cut above the rest

handmade tortilla korean taco trio at bier gartens
The New Best Korean Taco In Town: On A Glutster Inspired Handmade Tortilla

The Kalbi is tender, the spicy pork rich and not too far from its Al Pastor brother from another mother. But my favorite is and shall always be the spicy tofu. The spicy sauce somehow adheres to the coarse grained tortilla just like the adobo does from the traditional al pastor ones. And yes, it has made me swoon one a many times.

The menu is still in its rough draft, but thanks to the selfless efforts Eddie Hah of 8 oz Burger and I, it is only getting better and better. Expect things like American style Corn Dogs with Korean Seafood Sausage and a Wasabi Mayo and Sliders made out of traditional Korean seasoned ground beef and pickles.

D.I.Y Beer Floats

And for dessert, there are glorious beer floats made with the most O.G of ice creams: Thrifty Brand. Don’t deny the fact that its bomb, we all grew up with it.

If you’re really down, ask for a Makgeolli float. The latest and greatest of contemporary Korean food fusion that Pulque-like unfiltered sweet, sparkling rice wine with a fat scoop of citrusy sherbert.

Now, if you excuse me I have to roll out to make their Pabst Pitcher 1¢ Happy Hour!

Makgoli Freaking Float!
Makgeolli Float With Orange Sherbert: You Don’t Even Know…

Bier Garten

206 N Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90004
Neighborhood: Wilshire Center

(323) 466-4860

Open Everyday

Price of Food Beer $6-15

$1.50 Valet

Manila Good-Ha!!!: My First Filipino Breakfast

Manila Good-Ha!!! signage
Filipino Nostalgia

It’s funny how you don’t realize just how delicious some things are in life until you really think back on them and reminisce. It is only through that hazy nostalgia that the then-unappreciated grace is fully admired…and missed.

Not too long ago, I had the for granted pleasure of being introduced to my first Filipino breakfast. And since first bite, it was instant affection.

warm topsilog
Topsilog: My Filipino Breakfast I Took For Granted

The dish was topsilog, a simple and satisfying meal revolving around the salty, vinegar-cured, spiced thin beef strips known as Tapa. The typical breakfast is served with soft-fried eggs along with a healthy amount of unseasoned garlic-fried rice. It was a breakfast unlike any other I’ve had before, exceeding all my self-set weird breakfast standards. The jerky-like strips were highly flavorful and the fried eggs were warm and consoling. The rice was bland but I did not care. I knew it was meant to be like that and bite after bite–I slowly learned to appreciate its acquired toasty simplicity without falling to my soy/fish sauce dousing habits. I liked it, a lot.

caramelized fish

It was the little things that this little quirky Filipino breakfast eatery had that really drew me in. Things like catering to my seafood slanted cravings by also having Dasilog, almost the exact same thing but with blackened fish instead of beef. They even had some nice tofu and greens sometimes in addition to 5-6 different renditions of pork something.

I still chuckle when I think of the name of the place, “Good-Ha!!!”. Its ambiance was comforting with its colorful walls and patrons of only humble Filipino elders.

colorful ambiance

I haven’t experienced any breakfast like this one since then and so far, don’t know if I’ll find any other like it...

Manila Good-Ha!!!

231 S Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90004

(213) 387-2492

Around $5 for complete Topsilog breakfast