Getting outside of your bubble is tough. But one very easy way to get out is the knowledge that your bubble just doesn’t have everything you want. So when it comes to good old fashioned Asian food, it’s easy to break out and make my way to Mesa and the Mekong Plaza. On this occasion, the journey led me to Thai Spices.
The historical interrelationships of Southeast Asian countries is fascinating, especially for those in the Indochina parts. Amazingly, they have each maintained such strong individual cultures and that is no more apparent than in the food. You see, after some time in Vietnam a few of us were tired of Vietnamese food. So, obviously we wanted a burger or a burrito or pizza? Right? Wrong. We went for Thai food at a place called Tuk Tuk.
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!).
Generally Indian restaurants have Indian-sounding names. They might be named after a place, a name or a phrase, but Mint Leaf is not one of these. It’s Indian, but a step up in fanciness. In my experience, fancy Indian food is unnecessary because it tastes just as good as more cost-effective Indian, but I figured it was worth the try.
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.
It’s always important to have a solid Thai place nearby for when a) you want something delivered that is lighter than pizza, b) you have friends with dietary restrictions and c) you need some flavor in your life. Fortunately, I have Chao Doi nearby in Pasadena, which, after eating in the delivery style a number of times, I finally decided to dine in.
Few restaurants have been on my to-eat list longer than Jitlada, a Thai spot in the middle of Thai Town (which itself is kind of in the middle of Hollywood). The original plan was just to meet a couple of friends for some authentic eats, but we ended up biting off a lot more than we had planned for. You see, throughout the evening we had sporadic, then more significant conversations with Jazz, the woman (and Iron Chef competitor) behind the whole place.
Just off the main drag of South Lake in Pasadena is a little Thai spot that goes by the name Nine and Nine. What the name means is lost to me, but what wasn’t lost to me was their lunch specials for $7.50, which captivated me as I browsed the menu. Like most Thai places, the lunch specials menu was a small fraction of the whole, but it had curry and that’s all a guy like me could ask for.
While attempting to get our bearings on food in Pasadena, we stopped in Thai place called Daisy Mint, which promised to be more than just an ordinary Thai spot based on its eclectic furnishings and somewhat unique menu. It wasn’t easy getting a stroller into the tiny place, but we made it work and set about eating.
The name Verde Mesa is a little bit frightening for a restaurant. For one, it doesn’t really follow the rules of Spanish, weirdly translating into “table green.” The other reason it’s frightening is because of that whole “green” thing. It’s definitely a vegetarian-friendly spot, but it came with really high recommendations and the restaurant we really wanted was full.