You know what’s great about being Jewish? No Lent. No Ramadan. Sure, there’s been thousands of years of persecution and an annual fast or two, but nothing that compares to the longevity of the institutionalized pain of those two holidays. Worse still, sometimes Ramadan falls in the summer and you can’t even drink water. With all of these thoughts in mind, I found myself in Malaysia in the summer in the middle of Ramadan. And in Sandakan in Borneo, this meant the nightly Ramadan Market. The most impressive part about it is that observant Muslims somehow manage to walk up and down the market and order food without eating a bite of it until the sun goes down. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait.
While Malaysia is a majority Muslim country, it’s a very mixed country as well. Thus, finding pork is not a problem and, in fact, it is one of the highlights of Sandakan. And that’s because Sandakan has a strong history with a fried pork noodle stall dating back to 1940. Of course, basically the entire city was burned down in World War II so the stall physical stall itself is a bit newer. That, however, doesn’t seem to stop the locals from coming by.
For most travelers, Sandakan in Bornean Malaysia is just a stopping off point on the way to see orangutans and other types of wildlife in the jungle. But as for me, I would be spending a couple days in the city and wanted to make the best of it by trying out local foods and getting to know the area. But that would have to wait until after our first meal, at the English Tea House.
You don’t really associate Japan with fried chicken. I mean, sure, if you’ve spent enough time in Japan or with Japanese food you have undoubtedly discovered karaage and more, but those aren’t exactly Earth-shattering compared to the fried chicken of the American South or even the fried chicken of Japan’s neighbor buddy (kind of), Korea. But Tokyo Fried Chicken in Monterey Park is doing its best to change that perception. So when it came down to choosing new restaurants or eating at old favorites before making the move to Phoenix, Tokyo Fried Chicken is where I found myself eating my last reviewable meal as a resident of Southern California (at least for now!).
Melt It! in Pasadena refers to itself as “A Grilled Cheese Co.” I’m not sure what else would have been expected from a place called Melt It! (except maybe like fondue or a ton of patty melt options, which are basically just grilled cheeses with burgers in them anyway), but I was eager to see what kind of twists this place would make on the old standby.
Restaurants come and restaurants go. But I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a restaurant come and go as fast as TLT in Pasadena’s Playhouse District. Fortunately, there was almost no delay in replacing it with The Stand, a burger concept that already had a few locations around LA and Orange County. The burger options were pretty unique and at a reasonable price, so I had a hard time choosing.
One thing that will make the transition from Pasadena to Phoenix doable is the fact that La Grande Orange and its family of restaurants originated there. There’s no Luggage Room yet, but hopefully some day…
Nonetheless, there is a spot called Chelsea’s Kitchen that I hoped would please me and ease me. The menu even sported the same font and design as the aforementioned restaurants, almost as though to get me excited about Chelsea’s Kitchen.
It’s not easy to go across town for breakfast or brunch. Especially if you’re like me and consider noon to be the beginning of the day on a weekend. But, I managed to pull myself out of bed for brunch downtown at a place called Artisan House. Surprisingly, it didn’t just have the kind of upscale brunch items I have grown used to, but a couple items I hadn’t seen before.
When you need breakfast or brunch in Encino, where do you go? Well, when the opportunity presented itself to me I found myself at Claudine, which is like a bakery and restaurant in one. You order at a counter, and seats are hard to come by on the weekend, but I managed to snag a table right out from under an old lady. To be fair, all she needed was 2 seats and we needed 6 so I found another table for her. Sheesh.
When I found out that a Taiwanese fried chicken place had opened next door to my office, I knew I had to stop by, especially because I would soon be paying a visit to Taiwan. It’s called Hot Star, and for some reason it specializes in flattening the fried chicken to make it look massive. I don’t know if this is meant to make it taste or look better, but I was ready to find out.