The Glutster on “Anarchy in East L.A.” Live Today on KPFK’s The Pocho Hour of Power (4-5 PM)

I will be talking about my “Anarchy in East L.A.” article I wrote for LA Weekly live today on KPFK’s The Pocho Hour of Power.

Apparently, a lot of people really dug it, so cheers to that!

Don’t worry, I won’t do a dramatic recital of it with the dramatic sound effects in the background or anything worthy of beatnik finger snaps but he show is recorded live so this should be interesting. I have no idea what I will be talking about yet. But if you’re down, tune in to laugh at my stumbled words at least! For sure I will be talking about many of the bands that didn’t make the cut, or maybe even some sound clips from my old band Bad Influence? Let’s see what happens, can it be even more raw than what I wrote? Ohh, fuck yes!

I received word that freaking Alice Bag of the legendary L.A. punk band The Bags will also be on the same show so I will try not to be a giddy little fan girl on air.

Listen in live at around 4:20 PM (I didn’t choose that time slot, I swear!!!) wherever you are! If not, just catch the show whenever you can on their archives.

Lates and fuck you stay punk!

Finally Amongst My Own Kind! My First Group Scooter Ride and an Ode to My Bajaj (San Gabriel Valley Vintage: Pasadena)

Ok, so this post isn’t either food, alcohol or music related but its just as cooool!

So as many of you know, I chose the two-wheeled way of life instead of the conventional safety cage when I graduated High School. Just like pretty much every other aspect of my life, I decided to go counter-culture in my way of transportation too! Haha. Yup, no used, 90’s Honda for me! Instead, my heart fell in love with the scooter way of life. I bought my baby back in 08′, a pitch-black 06 Bajaj Chetak, off a craigslist and that was it, scooters and motorcycles it would be for the rest of my life!


Maybe it was my endless fascination with motocross growing up or maybe it was the U.K mod influence listening to British Punk Rock, whatever it was…I’ve just always wanted a motor bike of any kind. So, when push came to throttle and it was time for my dad to HELP me pay for a vehicle (I worked hard for it and paid most of it myself man!) I went for the Bajaj baby!

my baby back from the shop
my baby
my baby's behind

Bajaj isn’t technically a “Vespa” but it looks a lot like a P-Series one and much of the same parts are used and its still vintage-scooter-clutch style, so, it still gets some respect from the sometimes-snooty vintage scooter crowd. Bajaj is an Indian, 4-stroke scooter (no pre-mixing gas and oil for me thank you very much!) and its built like a freaking tank! Not to mention it requires very little maintenance, which is highly ideal for one, extremely busy and lazy me!

Of course my parents warmed me about the consequences of riding beforehand: “Y que cuando llueve?” (How about when it rains?) Or even the motorcyclist essential…”te vas a matar menso!” (you are going to kill yourself!) But if you are of the two-wheeled way of life, people and parents can try to stop you all they want but it won’t mean anything after you go on your first ride…

Anyways, this last weekend I partook in my first “group ride” through the San Gabriel Valley Vintage Scooter Club . The ride was themed “Here comes the summer!” and it was one of the best experiences in my life. They get together and ride on the first Sunday of every other month – meet at 11, ride at noon. My hardcore hangover didn’t stand a chance against the combined positive energy formed by a bunch of loud, two-stroke beautiful scooters. We met at Lucky Baldwin’s in Pasadena and rode to the Rose Bowl, down Colorado…all thirty of us!

hang a left
fill her up
looking back
the last resort shirt wearing guy
I like your red vespa
scooters invade suburbia
posted on his lambaretta
photo opp!

By the end of the day, I realized I rode over 100 miles as I also use my scooter as my car, not just for leisure! My skin was left extra crispy by the sun and my left wrist hurt after holding the clutch all day. But I finally felt amongst my own kind. People that decide to ride a scooter in their life are unique individuals, in a geeky way but also a passionate way. Not really accepted by the majority of riders out there (Harley’s and Pocket Rockets) so to be amongst so many other like-minded people felt goooood.

There is a new awesome scooter exhibition and ride going on next weekend at the Petersen Auto Museum called “Scooters: Size Doesn’t Always Matter” on Wilshire and Fairfax. So check that out if you guys want to find out more about this powerful two-wheel phenomena.

Even if my bike wasn’t technically “vintage” or a Vespa, I didn’t really care. Like my very good friend from East LA Carlos “Pee-Wee” Escamilla–the only other guy amongst my group of friends who decided to buy a motorbike too (a sweet 250 Ninja) said, “It doesn’t really matter what you ride man….as long as you ride”

Me on My Bike the Very First Day I Bought It

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

Mapo Kak Du Gee Jip: Seoul Food For The Soul

It was a lazy ass Wednesday evening and I had been in bed for the most part of it. I had gotten up in the wee hours of the morning with a throbbing fever. It had been a long day consisting of early rising farmers markets and a heavy, unpleasant lunch. But where I would of probably stayed in, only to probably fall sicker….the homie Mattatouille gives me a call. And an hour later I was up and ready to go.

A visit to this Korean spot I had seen on his blog was long overdue, and I was going to go whether I was miserable or not. Especially, since he just realized his vital Korean food credentials. It was time to respect Mattatouille’s authority…

mapo koreatown signage
Mapo Kak Du Gee Jip

Of course, it wouldn’t be a dinner with the Glutster without arriving 25 minutes late. But my failed punctuality that day was quickly forgotten as the assortment of colorful banchan started rolling out on to the table.

Panchan at Mapo
Banchan At Mapo

This is what I look forward to whenever I am on my way to any Korean restaurant, taste-whetting restaurant hospitality at its finest. The signature banchan (the restaurant is named after it) is kak du gee, chunks of raw daikon radish that is fermented until funky, crisp acidic joy. The rest of the sweet and spicy array included things like Mook (a bland solid jelly made out of acorns), in a vinegary dressing, sweet seaweed salad, cooked greens of both a savory, white pepper flavor variety and a sweet, sesame leaf flavor one. There was also pickled, crunchy cucumber and chewy fishcakes in red chili paste. And of course the essentials: a zippy, well aged Kimchi made out of baby napa cabbage and the L.A K-town exclusive of a miracle-whip enhanced potato salad.

Good thing we came with Matt and his innate Korean food ordering skills.

Kimchi Jjigae At Mapo
Kimchi Jjigae: Served Boiling

A bubbling hot kimchi soup was served first. In a clay bowl, its broth was deep, rich and heavy on the umami factor, suggesting of maybe beef or pork tallow used. It was brimming with tender pieces of kimchi, soft tofu and chewy oval shaped rice cakes. All the better to soak up that luscious broth.

ee myun soo gui at Mapo
Ee Myun Soo Gui

No one could tell what kind of fish this was but it didn’t really matter as we all took the first bite. “G.B and D” in its truest sense of the word! Juicy, light and meaty. It was not hard to eat these with chopsticks like other more fragile fish.

black rice at Mapo
Korean Purple Rice

An honorable mention has to go out for the bombski purple rice that complemented all this spicy Korean deliciousness. It was chewy, wholesome and satisfying.

Steaming Yook heh jang at Mapo
Yook Heh Jang: I Wasn’t Going To Wait Until It Got Cold!

There was no chance I was going to miss out on what was described by Matt as his “death bed” meal. Spicy beef broth, yam starch-vermicelli noodles, long roots, green onion and tender brisket all braised ’till sublimity . First taste has you with its tasty spices, a mixture of peppers and garlic for sure. Matt instructed us on how he used to eat it, scooping in some rice and letting it soak up all the juices first.

Just as I finished the last spoonful of the kimchi broth, I noticed that my fever was no longer bothering me. This was truly Seoul food that was good for the soul! ha ha.

Thanks to Kyoung Sun Lee–the proud owner of Mapo–for her generosity. She would simply not allow neither of us to pay or tip anything, she says that business has been absolutely great since her feature on Saveur Magazine and the L.A Times Review. I’m sure it didn’t hurt that Matt had been here at least 8 times this month too. According to The Times piece, the part of Korea that she is from (Gyeonggi) is known for having signature banchan of a certain slightly dry, clean spiciness.

I hear another must-order item here is the black cod stew, not to mention her lunch specials that include things like hand-cut noodles or bibimbap for $5.99, and of course…all of that wonderful banchan! Damn, I’m lagging it!

mapo owner
Kyoung Sun Lee: Representin’ Gyeonggi Right!

Mapo Kak Du Gee Jip
3611 W 6th St
Los Angeles, CA 90020
(213) 736-6668

$12-15 Per Person (if you go all out, ha ha)

Red O: Rick Bayless Stamped Mexican-esque Cuisine In L.A

It finally came, the highly anticipated L.A expedition of the Mexican-cuisine Top Chef Master himself–is here.

Red O Gift Wrapped Facade
Red O: Mexican Cuisine By Rick Bayless

I’m not going to lie that I almost did a back flip when I received an invitation to eat here. I remember one a many Saturdays when I wouldn’t go out just to catch Mexico: One Plate At A Time, his show on PBS. His passion for Mexican food culture seemed so genuine, so ardent. And the way he strived to recreate regional dishes himself as traditional as he can was truly inspiring. I learned stuff about my culture’s food that I didn’t even know about.

I remember I would try to cook up what I saw on his show on a daily basis at times, the only food show that has ever made me do that.

Although I heard that its technically not his restaurant and he will not really be cooking there, his name is on it and he did consult with the menu. Well, better than nothing. The actual executive chef is Michael Brown, a veteran from Wolfgang Puck catering and the Patina group.

With a web like metal facade, the unique looking building catches your attention. It was designed by Gulla Jonsdottir, a respected architect who was in the team responsible for The Getty Center. She wanted it to look like it was ‘wrapped’ kinda like a present.

I’d never seen this before at a restaurant but there was a bouncer type guy in front making sure no unreserved shmoozers got through. Pretty harsh I thought, but could only imagine the hotness of the seats inside.

ritzy ambiance
Suave Resort-esque Ambiance

Inside, the place is pretty nice. Lit mostly by natural light, the main dining area looks like an indoor patio but with long chandeliers that drop in from the retractable roof. There is a bar on the side with seats and a pair of beach resort style swings. And of course, there is the “Tequila Tunnel” that takes you to a ritzy Tequila lounge that is built around real tree.

Tequila Tunnels!
Yup, A Tequila Tunnel

I was rather surprised by the menu, it was not the signature Southern Yucatan slanted Bayless specials that he is known for back in his restaurants in Chicago. Instead, the menu highlighted his contemporary radical approach to more Northern and Central style Masa-based Antojitos dishes, things like braised duck Taquitos and pork belly topped Sopes. Only seven renditions of Mexico’s traditional dishes are available, he calls these “Mexico’s Celebrated Seven” and they are the more pricier options. Overall, the rest of the menu is pretty affordable actually.

Red O Mexican Mojito & Tamarind Re-Fashioned
Just A Couple Of Cocktails: Mexican Mojito & A Tamarind Re-Fashioned

We started off with some mixed drinks. Matt opted for the Tamarind Re-Fashioned, a Don Julio Añejo Tequila based drink with Luxardo Cherries, orange bitters and tamarind syrup + soda. It ended up being too sweet for its own good, got a little better–but flatter–as the ice melted. I settled for the Mexican Mojito, a lighter cocktail that used the swanky Arrete Blanco Tequila mixed in with the popular Serrano + Cilantro + Agave preparation with a little mint. Again, that dang ice doing its thing. Watery. After voicing my concern, I was told that the cocktails are still “a work in progress”.

Topolo Margarita Straight UP
Topolo Margarita: Served Straight Up

The best drink ended up being Bayless’s signature Topolo Margarita that everyone else on the table ended up getting. It consisted simply of the Conmemorativo Sauza Tequila, a decent low- note Tequila that works fine when mixed. Along with Gran Torres Orange Liqueur and fresh Limonada it was clean and smooth.

RED O guacamole artsy shot
Guacamole: Fresh, Tasty, Fail Proof

Some food was ordered for us. First up was the essential classic of Guacamole served with thin, warm tortilla chips. Guacamole is one of those minimalist dishes that almost can’t be messed up, especially if the ingredients used are exemplary like here. Props for choosing to fly in Aguacates from Michoacan, this variety has an unparalleled creaminess with a neutral taste. Not like local ones that often times imparts an unwanted semi-rancid/light anise flavor when used to make Guacamole.

Red O sole ceviche
Pacific Sole Ceviche: Not Your Everyday Ceviche

With sun-dried tomatoes, Manzanilla olives, serrano chiles, and jícama. This was not your basic Mexican Ceviche, not to say that was a bad thing when the opt in ingredients make as much as sense as the traditional. Firm to the bite, the bland jicama crunch was a pleasant one against the acidity of the small pieces of olives.

Salmon "Tostadita"
Goat Cheese, Tomatillo, Arugula & Wild-Caught Salmon On Grilled Baguette ‘Tostada’: Why Not?

Its hard not to like any combination of tangy Tomatillo with some sort of creamy agent, its just one of those food matches in life that cause swoon no matter what. And a beautiful fish too, with its different hues of crimson flesh. Peppery Arugula was the final touch. Of course, the La Brea Bakery designer Baguette was chosen for this.

Red O Mushroom Ceviche
Woodland Mushrooms, Grilled Knob Onion, Sun-Dried Tomato, Serrano Chile

I was fascinated to see this on the menu. A ceviche made out of mushrooms is not that nouveau in the Central-Southern parts of Mexico. I once had some after spending a long, brazen day walking climbing the pyramids of Teotihuacan after our Taxi driver took us to a nearby town to eat. The version here is served on tasty sweet plantain chips which added a nice touch, we just couldn’t get over the acidity of this ceviche. It tasted of that artificial “Limon 7” lime flavored salt Mexican candy, I didn’t mind it as much as everyone else did though. But I basically snorted it back then.

Flight Of The Red O Tequilas
Flight Of The Red O Tequilas: This is L.A, Not Chicago

It was around this time that we finally received a flight of Tequila that I had requested. Although Tequila is not the most ideal drink to be had with food, I wanted to see what they would serve us. My appreciation of Tequila has recently been growing fast since I started hanging out with a certain Tequilero recently.

The chosen flight was:

(From Left To Right)

Oro Azul
Tequila Blanco:
Highlands, Aged Less Than 6 Weeks, Somewhat Vanilla Notes,

Corralejo Reposado
From Guanajato, Aged for 6 Months, Peppery

Don Julio Añejo Tequila
Highlands, Aged for 2 Years, Ripe Apples, Whiskey Like

Jose Cuervo Reserva De La Familia Extra Añejo
Highlands, Aged For 3 Years, Cognac-Like, Smooth

I will not try to front and romanticize about each one of these, my tequila knowledge–and wallet, ha ha– is not of that much experience yet. But I will tell you that with the exception of the pleasant Whiskey-like añejos, most of these were kind of harsh. Harsher and not as clear tasting as other Blanco’s and Reposado’s I’ve been having lately. It seemed like most of these Tequilas are under the Diageo, a British multi national corporate company who has bought a lot of independent Tequila companies lately, including Don Julio and Jose Cuervo. It seems as if no real consultation for the Tequila list was made upon opening up in Los Angeles since many of great locally distributed Tequilas that are around every other Mexican food restaurant…were not found here.

Now, back to the food!

Red O Pork Belly Sope
Gleason Ranch Pork Belly, Black Beans, Salsa Negra, Sesame: Sopes

I’ve had one a many Sopes in my life, but never with pork belly! Sopes are usually a special occasion food in my family, a church fair food favorite too. Its basically fried corn masa that is formed into a little fluted platter of sorts, then topped with usually a smear of beans, meat, crispy garnish and a dry cheese.

Here it was black beans, and the crispy thing was pork belly that was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. With that black mole like Salsa Negra, Ay Guey! Me chupaba los dedos! Good quality, white corn masa too.

Red_O Duck Taquitos
Slow-Cooked Sonoma Duck, Tomato-Arbol Chile Sauce, Arugula: Taquitos

It would not be a Mexican American restaurant without Taquitos, some moist duck was the filling of choice. The tomato-Arbol Chile sauce had a stunning color and nice viscosity, all the better to coat the crispy Taquitos with. Peppery Arugula was a way better garnish than the usual shredded iceberg lettuce.

Red O Tamal Dulce
Sweeet Tamal With Tomatillo Salsa and Crema: Classic

The subtly sweet tamal was not too different from the ones you find in the roaming Tamaleros in the wee hours of East L.A mornings. Not as moist as homemade ones but not too dry and inedible as some. Again, you can’t go wrong with anything topped with cream and tomatillo.

Red O Queso Fundido
Sonoma Jack Cheese Queso Fundido: On A Cazuela

Props earned for serving stuff on cast iron cazuelas. First of all, really adds a home-y and rustic feel when eating off from them. Second, I swear that some Mexican food made on cast iron just tastes better somehow. This queso fundido was topped with a Sofrito type guiso, with only tomatoes, garlic and onion with a little cilantro. Simple, tasty and all the better to scoop up with the soft, steaming handmade tortillas.

Red O Tortilla
Tortillas: The Foundation Of It All

It would not be a true Mexican meal be without Tortillas. And these…well there were not the best ones in town. Tasting vaguely handmade, as they were on the flatter–machine made–side. Also, not as toasty as I would of liked them, a little bready and underdone. But, alas they did the job way better than any other machine made ones.

Red O Steak and Heirloom Tomato Salad
Steak & Heirloom Tomato Salad: [compressed]watermelon, red guajillo chile dressing, wood-grilled scallions, grilled Creekstone skirt steak, [añejo] cheese

I don’t know where the Mexican inspiration for this dish came from and didn’t care too much for it. Think it was made to appeal to those who can’t bear the guilt of eating anything less than a “salad”. Quality of beef was good and nice funk to that aged crumbly Queso Añejo that was sprinkled through out.

Enchiladas Suizas
Crab & Shrimp Enchiladas Suizas: creamy roasted tomatillo sauce, freshly-made corn tortillas, melted Sonoma Jack, black beans, ensaladita

Being a straight-up beaner, I was excited to finally see some jet black ones on the plate that were perfectly al dente and smeary to boot. This dish was easily, the tables favorite of the night. Comfort food in its zesty and wholesome finest with the folded and seafood stuffed soft tortillas. And really generous with that wonderful zippy yet creamy sauce of roasted Tomatillo and creamy cheese melted in the sauce too.

Red O Albondigas Al Chipotle (better)
Albondigas al Chipolte: beef & pork meatballs, smoky chipotle roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, Yukon Gold potatoes«

I’ve never had Albondigas in this Italian meatball style presentation, its usually a Mexican stew with lotsa veggies. Albeit, I didn’t mind these, they were not as tender as you would expect and the potatoes were a bit mealy. The tomato-based, smoky chipotle sauce and caramelized onions were this dish’s saving grace.

Red O Cochinita Pibil
Cochinita Pibil: Tortilla-Fed, Gleason Ranch suckling pig, achiote-marinated & slow-roasted in banana leaves, black beans, pickled red onions, roasted habanero salsa

The first the signature Yucatan fangled Bayless dish that he is known for of the night finally. The pork was pulled apart and re-formed into rectangular cubes for a more stunning appearance. It was pretty tender–probably because the pig knew what’s up and only ate tortillas!–but that was it. Very one dimensional and lacking in those stronger trademark exotic flavors of Yucatan Mexican cooking. Pickled red onions were bright and much appreciated though.

Red O Lamb In Chile Colorado
Sonoma County Lamb: Ancho & Guajillo chiles, roasted garlic, cumin, in Chile Colorado, black bean

Red O’s take on the Mexican classic of Birria I’m guessing, the quality of the lamb was the first thing I noticed. More on the friendlier “beefy” taste spectrum than actual lamb gaminess. The chile broth was smooth with very nice viscosity that adhered to the fork-tender meat generously. And you can’t go wrong with adding fried onion to anything, here it elevated the dish with its Funyun taste.

Red O Mole (The Moment of Truth)
Pollo en Mole Poblano: grilled Mary’s young chicken, homemade mole poblano, black beans, watercress salad

The moment we had all been waiting is here. I am no stranger to Mole Poblano, all my old punk band members were from puebla, not to mention all the surrounding poblano party animals neighbors in my complex! This means that almost every other weekend there will be a bowl of steaming hot, painstakingly made Mole from either the Tepeaca, Tepaclasco or Cholula region right at my doorstep. Neil of Food Marathon and Kat of Eater can attest to this as last time they happened to be around and taste the Tepeaca one…

And it was not that bad here. Super smooth in its medium body texture and…rather spicy surprisingly! But with great spice, comes great sweetness. As it was quite sweet too. The grilled chicken was charred and succulent with a high quality clean poultry taste . By this time in the meal, I learned to appreciate the fresh greens that came in almost every plate. The watercress here enlivened the dish and kept you going for more.

It was finally time for desserts.

Crispy And Golden Empanadas
Golden and Crispy Empenadas: wild strawberries & mango, mojito sorbet

These ‘Empanadas’ were basically the Mexican Pan Dulce known as Ojaldras (puff pastries) with fresh and ripe fruit. These were light and tasty. But the best and most refreshing part was the Mojito sorbet.

Red O Buñuelos
Veracruz-Style Buñuelos: Salted cajeta ice cream, warm Kahlúa chocolate sauce

Only being used to the northern style paper thin, crispy Buñuelos that my mom pumps out by the hundreds every Christmas. I had trouble grasping the concept of these Sopaipilla-type donut things that the waiter poured hot chocolate sauce all over. A bit heavy. The best part was the salted caramel ice cream.

Red O Creamy Goat Cheese Cheesecake
Creamy Goat Cheese Cheesecake: caramel corn, Mexican “root beer” sauce

Last but definitely not least, my favorite part of this meal probably. These were ethereally velvety and rich without being cloyingly sweet. And of course….that unique goat-yness flavor that is loved by few and hated by many. Its’ a slightly gamy flavor…of fresh pastures and blossoming alfalfa sprouts. It seemed to be atop a Mexican cookie crumb crust–I think. And that single caramel popcorn kernel brought it all together with its sweet and salty crunch. The lush green “root beer” sauce tasted exactly like what it was called, lightly anise like at that.

And now for the low-light, out of focus, paparrazzi shot of Rick Bayless:

Rick Bayless Paparrazzi Shot!

He came out briefly during the dessert course to say what’s up to the table. The only time I saw him come out out the whole evening. He seemed winded and out of voice, I was buzzed and star struck. But it was now or never, so I poured my heart out to him from across the table and told him thank you for making Mexican food haute, and finally making it known in the American mainstream of food.

In conclusion, Red O is cool in my book. Acknowledging that I am coming back for classic Mexican rooted fare that is executed with lighter–arugula spiked?–flavors and rockstar meats/produce. This is not signature Rick Bayless but this is Los Angeles not Chicago, northern Sopes and Enchiladas will always prevail over southern Panuchos and Papadzules. But will the true enthusiasts score those 7:00 PM seats over the Hollywood-scenester-Rick Bayless-groupies who just want to be seen eating here?

Comments are now open…

Red O
8155 Melrose Ave
(west of Crescent Heights)
Los Angeles, CA 90046

$9 Apps. (Snacks) – $30 Entrees
$8 Desserts
$10-$12 Cocktails

Red O in Los Angeles on Fooddigger

Bonding Over Burgers & Beer: 8 oz

bonding over burgers and beer

It was Friday night, Fernando Lopez had just closed up shop at his restaurant and I was in dire need of calories after my Friday night fencing club session. The homie Eddie Hah had been wanting to hang out for a while now and he surprisingly wasn’t working the line tonight.

To bad we had to bring ’em back to his dear but rigorous avocation.

8 oz

8 oz Burger is the beefy pride of Govind Armstrong. A chef of Iron Chef fame who was once a a judge at top chef.

The place was mad cracking on a Friday night with a wait of half an hour to 45 minutes. We had to wait just like everyone else. Inside, the place was sprawling with the combined inaudible clamor of guys trying to impress girls and rambunctious dudes just having a trago. The bar stays open until 2 AM and they had done 600 covers in one day last weekend.

ambiance shot

To make time fly by, Eddie insisted on getting a classic Sazerac. His favorite, probably due to the unique complexities of the two different bitters used along with an absinthe rinse. And of course…we were seated shortly–I think–thereafter.

kobe corndoggies
Kobe Corn Doggies

The delicious onslaught was imminent. Our first conversation we had was a long and drunken conversation about how they made everything in-house. And the conversation was to continue as we each ordered a pint of California Telegraph White Ale to accompany our American Wagyu Corn Dogs. “The batter isn’t as sweet as the county fair’s and the violet mustard is made with white wine and purple mustard seeds, pretty complicated”. Well, I’m pretty sure that the fair’s wieners weren’t slightly game-y neither. Yum.

escarole ceasar
Escarole Caesar

I like to think that having every burger on the menu is ok before having some salad first. The Caesar is made with tender Escarole here with an acquired saltiness. I think the two thick anchovy fillets on the side of the plate have something to do with that.

haricot verts
Duck Prosciutto w/ Honey Truffle Vinaigrette
: A Table 8 Favorite

Eddie had told me that the dressing was a bit overwhelmingly sweet but the duck Prosciutto and toasted hazelnut duo just seemed to interesting to pass up. Well, it was sweet, but the truffle essence seemed to help it out. I wouldn’t mind getting this again.

grilled artichoke
Grilled Artichoke W/ Herbed Aioli

I’ve always seen Grilled Artichokes on endless food shows, I was always intrigued by how they pulled each petal and ate the meaty root part. I found the flavor to be somewhere close to a corn flavor. I basically ate this whole thing and saved the aioli for future use through out the meal.

grilled cheez
Grilled Cheese w/ Short Rib, Bel Paese and Onion Marmalade

A rec from blogger Mattatouille to Fernando, he wasn’t wrong. Utmost pleasure in every bite, oozing with that buttery Italian cheese, thin, crispy and meaty.

chicken pot pie croquettes
Chicken Pot Pie Croquettes

Tasted exactly like it sounds. Crispy and piping hot, I asked him if was gravy was roux based. He confirmed yes. This was served with a Paprika sour cream but I wasn’t able to taste the correlation between the pairing here other than just having something cold and creamy to dip hot fried stuff in.

hot wings
Hot Wings: Flaming Hot Flavored

The wings were wings, quite succulent with a nice spicy vinegary kick. Enjoyed a nibble or three.

stout battered onion rings
Stout Battered Rings

It was time for the official burger sides finally. Lately, I’ve been getting excited over onion rings whenever I see them on a non-franchise menu. I was a late bloomer with the stuff I guess. Here, they were not offensive but not amazing neither. They simply just did the job. “It could be worse” said Eddie, acknowledging this.

parm truffle fries extra crispy
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Kennebec Fries: Extra Crispy With Truffle Oil Glaze

Having just eaten some the overrated Pomme Frites at Wurstküche in the same week, I was vastly satisfied with this variety and preparation here, WAY better. Kennebec’s have a firm and bright potato flavor, and they stay firm and crispy a little longer than other spuds. Eddie goes on and rants about a couple of times when the purveyors accidentally bring Yukon Gold’s, getting mushier almost immediately even after the first blanch in oil. The truffle glaze and fried parsley specked papitas won the ring vs. fry battle this time around.

pork burger

It was finally time for the damn burgers. I’ll start off with my number one thing I look for: The Buns! Here, they alternate using a thick-skinned, buttery Brioche and a standard but indifferent sesame bun that they get from the nearby Melrose Bakery. We got pretty much every burger they had. The standouts being three only, the Pork Burger was the tables favorite. Juicy and the lightest tasting out of all the bunch actually. Topped with a kitschy coleslaw that added nice contrast.

8 oz with "Melrose" setup

Per Eddie’s recommendation, we got the house special 8 oz with the “Melrose setup”. Basically, this meant getting arugula, garlic roasted tomatoes and red onion jam instead of the “special sauced” house burger. The patty consisted of sirloin, tri-tip, short rib and chuck. The beef itself had a chunky texture in the mouth but came together when you bit the whole thing.

veggie burger

My favorite though was the Estancia. Grass fed beef with heirloom tomato ketchup, charred escarole and roasted mushrooms. We got this baby rare and still bloody. I enjoyed the most bites from this one. Perhaps because it was the leanest and most cleanest tasting out of all the beef, and I always like that minute gamieness that grass beef has. An honorable mention also goes out to the lamb burger, with harissa and a cool raita. But at that point I was burger’ed the hell out.

house made sorbets

Don’t worry, this hedonistic meal is almost over. A few scoops of their house made sorbets couldn’t had tasted fresher after eating everything off the menu. A cool, Mint Julep flavor and coconut ginger flavor being the ones I devoured. Yes, I still devoured this.

Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding w: Espresso Whip
Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding Anyone?

But of course, this is the Glutster. And the meal would not be complete without a whole serving of bread pudding made out of a ton of krispy kreme donuts made into a dessert. Served with an espresso whipped cream, this tasted exactly like a breakfast of donuts and coffee.

We capped off the night with a nice Hennepin, a medium bodied fruity British golden ale. Why not?

Hennepin Eddy
Thanks Eddie

Now if everyone excuses me, I think I’m gong to go eat some sprouts and iceberg lettuce for dinner.

8 oz.

7661 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90046-7442
(323) 852-0008