Showing posts with label hollywood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hollywood. Show all posts

Eat Drink Style Ord Noodles and Thaitown Noodles, Hollywood - Mini Bowls of Joy

Just kidding... they aren't THAT small.  Just wanted to bring to light, some of my favorite soup noodles from the Thai Town area in Hollywood.  When I was writing the Noodle Whore blog, I started out researching the Thai Town area – places like Yai, Sanamluang, Sapp Coffee Shop and Rodded were definitely popular.  In a matter of 5 years, my dad (Noodle Whore Sr.) and I have seen Thai Town change quite a bit.  A few changes in ownership and new chefs really kept it dynamic.  So it's not a wonder that I, maybe you as well, jump around the restaurants a lot in Thai Town.  In my opinion, one thing remains true though.  Besides the spicy curries, hand-mixed food, soups and stir-fries, the Thais are outstanding at producing tasty soup noodles.  And it's why I continue to eat here at least twice a month.  

It was only a few years ago that Thai Town introduced their version of a Jack-in-the-Box/Burger King slider, or as they call it Mini Sirloin and Burger Shots.  My Dad said that I was being too much of a fat, greedy, over-consuming American because this is how they do it in Asia – smaller bowls.  Face it, we all like miniature things.  As much as I hold myself back in using the C-word, miniature things are CUTE.  And I think the same thing can be said about these smaller bowls of soup noodles – or as I call them, Diet Soup Noodles.  It's not that they are healthier in any way, it's just that you get a smaller serving.  For anyone that enjoys soup noodles, this is great because you can try more than one type of noodle each time you visit. Or you can be a Debbie-downer-pessimist and see that you're actually spending more money for two miniature bowls than a regular sized bowl.  Whatever the case, your stomach will thank you.

Ord Noodles, Thai Town Los Angeles

Ode to Ord
This place has always been solid.  The crowd here is typically younger and the clientele primarily speak Thai.  At any time of the day, you can find yourself bobbing your head to Thai R&B slow jams busting out from the mini stereo system here.  Ord has also started closing daily at midnight – oh joy.  

They have 4-5 different types of noodles you can pick from in the mini $3 bowl category.   Not everything is offered in a midget form, just a few.  Most people come here for the Crispy Pork & Basil Rice and Thai Boat noodles, but Ord prides itself most on these noodles called hoy khaa. Literally, it means 'dangling feet noodles'.  Don't worry, the cooks weren't soaking their feet in your broth, it's a reference to the makeshift-seating at this particular noodle shop along the rivers in Thailand.  I believe Ord is the name of the city this family is from. When you go in, look at the photos of the dangling feet and you'll know what they mean.  $3.50 for diet bowl, $5 for regular bowl.

Ord Noodles, Thai Town Los Angeles

Ground Pork, Pork Ball, Dried Shrimp & Pork Liver Soup Noodles (#1 Hoy Kha)
This is a true pork-heavy treat.  Nice chunks of ground pork, a toothsome pork ball, slightly-bloody pork liver with your choice of noodles - served dry or with soup.  I almost always go with the soup and thin rice noodles.  The soup has a nice pork bone base with a sharp sweetness and a bit of tartness to it.  There are so many delicious things to pick at and excavate from the bowl. Thinly sliced green beans and fresh bean sprouts are added for texture.  

Note: medium spicy is pretty SPICY.  I'd go with mild and add your own chili flakes.  Also, for some reason, if you order hoy kha with glass noodles, you can't get a small bowl – only a large bowl.  Also #2, I sometimes find the regular-sized bowl isn't filling enough, simply add $1 more for noodles.  

Recommendation: Thin or thick rice noodles with soup.  Egg noodles just don't seem to work well with this.  

Ord Noodles, Thai Town Los Angeles

Thai Boat Noodles (Kuay Tiao Luh)
This is the most common bowl of soup noodles in Thai Town, much like Chinese beef noodle soup in San Gabriel Valley.  The soup is made with Thai soy sauce, fish sauce, herbs, spices and of course, beef blood for the rich flavor.  I really enjoy their soup, as it has a nice beefiness and vinegar kick to it.  Compared to Sapp Coffee Shop's bold kick-in-the-face TBN, this is more on the delicate, sour side.  I used to eat at Sapp a lot, but lately, it has become a bit salty for my taste.  But they do a great TBN.  

Recommendation: Thick rice noodles with soup.  Choose from Beef or Pork, both are good.  

Ord Noodles, Thai Town Los Angeles

Thaitown Noodles, Thai Town Los Angeles

On the other side of the street and just a few blocks east is another strip mall gem that doesn't get as much attention. We've been coming here for years to this noodle shop run by a mother and daughter.  In January '09, the mother retired and sold the business to another woman.  My Dad and I still call it "Mama's Noodle shop" though because it's so homey.  The space is no bigger than your average dining room/kitchen, seats approximately 20 pigs and really feels like you're eating at someone's house.  The chef is pretty much within arm's reach.  And they barely have any room to contain their restaurant products.  I remember one time having to use the restroom.  The place was so small, the cook AND the waitress had to stop cooking and move out of the way just so that I could walk through haha.  

Thaitown Noodles, Thai Town Los Angeles

On the outside of the restaurant is a giant hint as to what you should order.  I want one of these to hang over my fireplace but I think you-know-who would be upset. Nam tok can be translated as 'beef blood' noodle soup.  But it doesn't matter, just saying these two words will get you to a happy place.  $3 for a diet bowl, $5 for a regular bowl.

Thaitown Noodles, Thai Town Los Angeles

You are looking at one quarter of the restaurant.  

Thaitown Noodles, Thai Town Los Angeles

Here's another soup noodle worth trying.  Think TBN with tendon and minus the blood.  

Thaitown Noodles, Thai Town Los Angeles

Here's the chef in the second quadrant of the restaurant. 

Thaitown Noodles, Thai Town Los Angeles

Preparing the nam tok noodle soup.

Thaitown Noodles, Thai Town Los Angeles

Nam Tok Beef Noodle Soup (Kuay Tiao Nam Tok)
I'm sad that the previous owner is no longer here because she truly made a great bowl of nam tok noodles.  Although these are a bit different, I still think it is decent if you don't want to wait at Ord, which can sometimes be crowded.  The major difference between this version and Mama's is that they add a lot of fried garlic, fried pork skins (chicharrones) and have a clearer soup.  Mama's was way more rich in beef blood, while this is stronger on the five-spice powder flavor.  Still, both are good.  Meat is cooked perfectly as I love my liver pieces to be more on the bloody side. 

Thaitown Noodles, Thai Town Los Angeles

Tom Yum Pork Noodle Soup (Kuay Tiao Tom Yum)
I usually order a small bowl of this along with my nam tok noodles.  It's nice to have two different flavors going on.  Tom Yum, as you're probably familiar with, describes a distinct sour taste in food – almost limey and spicy.  The soup noodles here don't employ the same broth, but something way more delicate than its counterpart, tom yum goong.  This is served with similar ingredients as Ord's hoi kha, and also includes fish cake, fish ball, fried garlic and fried pork skin.  Try this out sometime.

Thanks for reading.  Both places are cash only.  

Ord Noodles
5401 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA  90027
(323) 468-9302
Monday - Sunday  10am - Midnight

Thaitown Noodles
5136 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA  90027
(323) 667-0934
Monday - Sunday  8am - 8pm

Eat Drink Style Carlsbad Aquafarm - An Oyster Purveyor

Carlsbad Aquafarm

My first encounter with a raw oyster was about eight years ago and I remembered feeling curious and anxious as I stared at this soft, slimy-gray creature that resembled a bodily organ. It was peacefully floating in a bed of salmon roe and fresh uni, and drowned by a nameless sake. It wasn't on the half-shell but it was definitely a real oyster. My friends passed the glass to me and we all held it up in a strange, gratuitous toast to friendship and whatever oceanic concoction brewing in my glass.

First, the taste of the cheap sake. Gross.
Second, an avalanche of salty salmon roe and mushiness that is uni. Mmmmm.
And finally, the soft foreign object that feels like an oblong egg yolk. *Gag*

This is the point in time where your brain has the finger on the gag reflex switch in your body. It will either project the foreign object as your eyes well up in tears, or it will let it go down smoothly like a fat kid on a water park slide. But instead of swallowing it all, I sank my teeth into that creature as though I hated it. And to my surprise, my eyes lit up in sheer happiness. This. Was. Delicious. I watched as my other friends uttered their enjoyment for that same oyster. The next question I asked was, "can we do some more?" We ended up ordering oysters on the half shell, not that circus bullshit in the glass. And it was that day that I developed an appreciation for one of the world's most unique, pure and delicious foods – the oyster.

To me, there is nothing hotter than a raw bar. Unadulterated food, tasty beer and good company – that's all that's needed for a good time. As an oyster predator, I love eating at Swan Oyster Depot and Bar Crudo in San Francisco, Grand Central Oyster Bar in New York City and of course, Los Angeles's Hungry Cat. I also heard that Anisette in Santa Monica has a decent raw bar. But the problem is, eating oysters outside can prove to be a bad move during this recession. J wasn't too happy with my $90 tab at Grand Central Oyster Bar... a place that touts over 38 types of oysters and nearly 200 types of wine. Bad bad bad!

But I found an economic solution to one of my many bad habits. J and I were checking out the Hollywood Farmers Market for the first time a few weeks back and like a person seeing Machu Picchu through the sharp, jungle brush for the first time, I found what I was looking for: a vendor selling fresh oysters on the spot.

Carlsbad Aquafarm
, located in uh, Carlsbad, comes to the Santa Monica Farmers Market on Saturdays and Hollywood Farmers Market on Sundays. Rob of Carlsbad Aquafarms drives up each day at 5 am with a van full of seafood candy. On this day, Rob had four types of oysters on display: Catalinas, Lunas, Carlsbad Blondes and Endless Summers. In addition to oysters, CA offers California Ocean mussels, Sunburst clams, medley mixes and live scallops (call in advance and he'll bring the following week).

Carlsbad Aquafarm Catalina Oysters

The going rate for a half dozen oysters on the half shell is $15. Not good considering I can do at least 18 on my own in a single sitting. But thanks to candyman Rob, you can bring home a dozen oysters for only $9.99. That's $0.83 a piece vs. $2.50 a piece outside. For $2, you can sample any of CA's oysters.

Carlsbad Aquafarm Rob Shucking Oysters

Carlsbad Aquafarm Rob Shucking Oysters

Carlsbad Aquafarm Rob Shucking Oysters

Shucked Oysters

That day, I ended up buying 3.5 dozens of oysters and threw them in a cooler. I immediately called my oyster friend/ramen whore friend, Rameniac, and explained to him the deeds that needed to be done today. 2 hours later, Rameniac and his friend showed up. We headed over to Silver Lake Wine for something to pair with the oysters. George, formerly the sommelier at Campanile, immediately knew what to recommend. I told him the oysters were briny with a cucumber finish. He suggested these.


Muscadet Sevre Et Maine
What's interesting about this wine is that, like oysters, these grapes are grown in the area where the rivers meet the oceans. This is an area that is not too cold nor too warm, and for oysters, this is the optimal condition for proliferation. According to George, this is a favorite with shellfish.


Paco & Lola Albarino
I don't know why he picked this one. Maybe because the label is kind of cool and the fact that it's from the Basque Country. This one has a strong floral aroma which would be good with an oyster that is delicate in taste.

Before moving on, I wanted to talk about the 'process' of eating an oyster. I learned about this from the wonderful book A Geography of Oysters: The Connoisseur's Guide to Oyster Eating in North America by Rowan Jacobsen, and it changed the way I eat oysters.

There are three things that happen as you eat an oyster.

(1) As you hold the oyster, you taste the liquor first. And it'll either be sweet or briny.

(2) You then use a fork to push the oyster into your mouth and then you chew 2-3 times. The second your teeth come down on the oyster, you'll experience a nice pop like the yolk on a sunny side up egg. You want the internal fluids to spill out and you want to feel its texture. And it'll be a sweet or creamy taste.

(3) Once the fluids mix with the liquor, there will be a final finish.

If you completely down the oyster and liquor without chewing, you've missed the whole point of eating an oyster. And the usage of lemon juice and mignonette is most ideal for eating oysters because saltiness/brininess is cancelled out by citric acid. Horseradish and hot sauce will mask the integrity of the oyster.

Endless Summer & Luna Oysters

Endless Summers
Rob remembered me and immediately offered this to me because he didn't have it last time I was there. If you go up to the photo with Rob holding the oyster shell, that's the Endless Summer. And it's huge. They are typically deep cupped meaning the oyster has more room to grow and has a lot more liquor, which people love or hate. Upon opening this, you can't help but back up a little. Although it's not as big as a Belon (shell the size of a hand!) or European Flat, this would definitely be in the 3-bite tier. I got the oyster ready for the 3-step process.

(1) Very briny liquor.
(2) Fresh, crunchy texture. Like a very weak bamboo shoot.
(3) Strong cucumber finish. Wow. The reason a lot of oysters will have a melon finish, according to Rowan Jacobsen, is that the starches produced in the oysters have the same molecular build as that of a melon.

Like the popular Kumamoto oyster grown in California and Pacific Northwest, these are mildly fruity and sweet. These are very easy to eat and usually considered the 'introductory' oyster. Lunas have a similar taste and to me, they are almost thinner and smaller than Kumamotos.

(1) Mildly sweet liquor.
(2) Soft texture. Not much bite.
(3) Light, sweet finish. These are small and have a very delicate taste.

Carlsbad Blonde & Catalina Oysters

Carlsbad Blondes
These oysters are called 'blonde' because their shell is more yellow vs. the green/brown shells you usually see.

(1) Mild, briny liquor.
(2) Soft texture.
(3) Very light metallic taste. But right away, a soft cucumber finish that isn't as pronounced as that of the Endless Summer.

These are similar in size to the Carlsbad Blondes.

(1) Mild, briny liquor.
(2) Medium texture.
(3) Soft cucumber finish.

Extinct Oysters

After an hour and a half, we had 39 oysters and 2 bottles of wine. And we could've had more. Much more.

Say hi to Rob and his candy of the sea on Saturdays at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market and on Sundays at the Hollywood Farmer's Market.

What are your favorite oysters? And if you're from outside of Los Angeles, please share the names of your local oyster goldmines.

Thanks for reading.

Carlsbad Aquafarm
4600 Carlsbad Blvd
Carlsbad, CA 92008
(760) 438-2444
Tours offered from M-F 8am - 5 pm