The Mekong Plaza in Mesa is a great place to get real, authentic Asian food to bring people back to their roots or at least to get them away from crappy Americanized Asian food. And among those more traditional restaurants is something that doesn’t fit the mold at all. It’s called Kingo Bowl, and it has taken the concept of rice bowls with molecular sous vide.
Long before it was cool to do fusion food, Chino Bandido arrived on the scene in Phoenix. This was back in 1990 when interracial marriages were barely okay, let alone interracial food. But Chino Bandido found something that worked – Asian and Hispanic food and hasn’t looked back. So while the name is a reference to Chinese and Mexican food, things like Cuban Beans and Teriyaki Chicken tell a larger tale.
Arizona State University is home to about 90,000 students, and while they don’t all go to the main campus in Tempe, that is unbelievably massive. So, I figured they had to have some good ethnic food because when you throw out such a wide net the students can’t all be white. Thus, when given the option of a couple of different ramen spots, I picked Umami in Tempe because I thought it had a better chance of being good than one in another area. Plus, school was out for summer and that always helps.
Sometimes the world feels dominated by American chain restaurants. It seems that anywhere you go you can find McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway and KFC. Yet, we are not the only ones pushing our fast food abroad, as evidenced by MOS Burger. MOS Burger is a Japanese fast food burger spot that I was a pretty big fan of when I was living in Japan, and I was so happy to find that it is also available in Taiwan (as well as a number of other Asian countries, and even Australia) that I had to have some.
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!).
Summer out in San Gabriel means 626 Night Market. It’s easily one of the greatest events LA has to offer and there are only a few chances to visit. I popped in for the August 2016 iteration and came out so full and so happy. Below were my highlights.
Bacon and Avocado Musubi – What Floats UR Boat
This place specializes in literally only 3 musubi options and they are all nothing like what you would expect from “sushi.” If you get all three they come in a boat, but I needed to conserve stomach space and stuck with one filled with chipotle caramelized bacon and avocado. The avocado was insanely creamy and the bacon was insanely perfect. The rice and seaweed added perfect balance to an already great mix of food.
Part of me feels like the whole fusion fad is behind us, but that just means that when a new fusion spot appears on the scene and gets good reviews it’s probably worth going to. Thus, the world has Humble Potato in Westchester (and Culver City), which merges Japanese and American food. Fortunately, they offer a whole lot more than potatoes.
Nonetheless, we ordered some regular fries and sweet potato fries just to see how humble they would be. Turned out they were pretty humble. Seriously, there was nothing extravagant about either potato as they both put up some solid flavor without trying to do too much.
As for my meal, though, I ordered the Katsu Sando, which is Japanese for chicken cutlet sandwich. It’s typically topped with HP and tonkatsu sauce, as well as some slaw, but I got the slaw on the side for the ladies at dinner with me. I also ordered a fried egg on the top along with some curry on the side for good measure.
The sandwich was more than just humble, which is good because it was not a potato. The cutlet was perfectly fried, there was just enough sauce on top and the egg was nice and runny. The curry was even pretty good, but not anything special, plus it was packed with veggies for no good reason. Nonetheless, I had never thought to eat chicken katsu as a sandwich and now I can’t comprehend not having that as an option. In that sense, Humble Potato did me good and I would love to get back and take down one of their Hambagas.
In the world of ramen, Los Angeles generally dishes out some of the best in the country. Yet, New York may have produced one of the most famous. Momofuku Noodle Bar is by no means known for traditional ramen, but its success has spawned other Momofuku offshoots in New York and even internationally. Thus, when I found myself hungry at an off-peak hour I decided I had to take the opportunity to hit up the noodle bar.
The USA is a wonderful place. Part of what makes it wonderful is its mix of different cultures. Fortunately, this has resulted in culinary intermarriage, such as Bachi Burger, which came out of Las Vegas and brought itself to Pasadena. It’s a fusion of Japanese and American and I couldn’t wait to give it a try.
Pasadena isn’t exactly known for being at the forefront of the food world. Often a restaurant finds success elsewhere in LA and decides Pasadena is a good outpost for a sequel. You could say that is the case with Ramen Tatsunoya, which first found success in Japan, then as a popup in Torrance, but Pasadena was officially chosen as it’s first location for a long-term foray into the United States. The incessant hour-long line out the door proves that this wasn’t a bad idea.