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 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