Thursday, January 17, 2008

World Famous Oki-Dog

Last week, I went on a morning job interview in Santa Monica. Unfortunately, it didn't quite go the way I would have liked, but that's how it goes sometimes. Feeling in a contemplative mood, I decided to forgo the usual freeway rush home and decided to take a more leisure drive along Pico Boulevard, heading East. Having not had breakfast and lunch time near approaching, I decided that if I saw any interesting hole in the wall restaurant along the way, I'd stop for food.

It seemed like I was driving for a long time and with my stomach grumbling, nothing was catching my eye until I saw the sign simply stating "World Famous Oki-Dog." The neighborhood was a little dilapidated and this fast food joint looked a little run down, but there was something about the words "Oki-Dog" that was pulling me in.

In my head, I was trying to flip through thousands of Chowhound posts I've read and past TV shows that I've seen that focused on unusual hot dogs in the US to try and remember what made up a Oki-Dog, but drew a complete blank. Finally, I decided to park and give it a try. After all, I had no idea of when I'd be back in this part of town again.

Coming from an interview, I'd say I was dressed pretty nicely, so I definitely stuck out and got my share of stares as I walked up to the counter, both from customers and the counter staff. However, undeterred and with confidence, I ordered the Oki's Dog with Cheese and sat down to wait for my order.

Soon, my order was ready and as I picked up the paper plate and brought it to my table, I saw that my Oki-Dog was kind of flat and wrapped in a yellow paper. Looking at it, a memory started forming and it hit me that an Oki Dog was a burrito dog. Of course, taking it out of its wrapper confirmed it, but then I also remembered there was more to this Oki Dog that met the eye.

I took hold of the Oki-Dog and ate my way along the edge of the burrito, sat it down back on the plate and took a look. Ah-ha! Now it all came flooding back. Yes, there were hot dogs, but included were also pastrami, chili and cheese, all wrapped in a fairly good sized tortilla. I think my arteries were scared, very scared! But in this case, a hungry tummy and taste buds that were ready for action prevailed and I ended up finishing my entire Oki-Dog to the last bite.

So did I enjoy my Oki-Dog? You bet I did. The chili was actually a stand-out for me. It had lots of flavor and also had a little bit of heat. If I ever went that way again, I could see myself ordering chili cheese fries and being quite a happy camper indeed. I also liked the slight chewiness of the pastrami and the juiciness of the hot dogs.

In general, I'm glad I made a stop at the World Famous Oki-Dog. While I wouldn't drive all the way from the Eastside just for an Oki-Dog, that doesn't mean I wouldn't consider making a stop if I just happened to be in the neighborhood. If you happen to the blue and white sign, you might want to check it yourself as well. Just don't tell your arteries that I encouraged you.

To see pics, go to:

World-Famous Oki Dog
5056 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019
(323) 938-4369

Oki-Dog on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 11, 2008

Foodie Quote

"Ever wonder about those people who spend $2 a piece on those little bottles of Evian water? Try spelling Evian backward." - George Carlin

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ethnic Food Word of the Day

ajillo / ah'-hee-lo / [Latin American] garlic sauce.

Taken from Pocket Dictionary of Ethnic Foods

Arturo's Puffy Taco

Lunch at Arturo's Puffy Taco

Awhile back, I saw an episode of Bobby Flay's show, Throwdown, where the episode was a "Puffy Taco" showdown. When the show started and his challenge was first announced, I scratched my head, because I've never heard of a puffy taco before.

Of course, once I saw the show, I knew I had to have one, one way or the other.For those of you unfamiliar with this food, it's a part of Tex-Mex cuisine. There's been an ongoing debate where many believe that puffy tacos were invented at Henry's Puffy Tacos in San Antonio in 1978 while others claim that they were originally named "crispy tacos" and served in Austin in 1950s. In the end, it doesn't matter how they came to be, I'm just glad they got invented in the first place.

Lunch at Arturo's Puffy Taco

Basically, a puffy taco is made up of masa that is shaped into a round tortilla and then deep fried. While it's frying, it's repeatedly doused with the oil so that it becomes "puffy", almost like a pastry shell, and than an indentation is placed in the middle to create a taco shape. Once done, it's removed from the oil, drained and filled with the appropriate fillings.

After seeing the show, I actually forgot about the puffy taco for awhile until my niece mentioned this taco joint she used to swing by after dance class and as soon as she said the name of that place, my ears perked up. The taco shop's name was Arturo's Puffy Taco.

A few days later, she took me there and although I have nothing else to compare them to, I thought the carne asada puffy tacos I had were awesome. The taco shells were light, airy and crunchy. The meat fillings were good quality and all the veggies were fresh and crispy.

Lunch at Arturo's Puffy Taco

My niece and I also shared the the Taquitos Texanos with cheese, guacamole and hot sauce and they were pretty tasty as well.

Lunch at Arturo's Puffy Taco

Unfortunately, Arturo's Puffy Taco is a bit of a drive so I didn't return until a year later. For that return visit, I tried their Picadillo Puffy Taco as well as their Crispy Dog, which are deep fried tortilla wrapped hot dogs. Both items made for a delicious lunch.

Lunch at Arturo's Puffy Tacos Lunch at Arturo's Puffy Tacos

Having never had puffy tacos in Texas, I can't say whether these puffy tacos are true to its Tex-Mex roots. However, I can say that I enjoyed every bite and that's good enough for me.

Arturo's Puffy Taco
15693 Leffingwell Rd
Whittier, CA 90604-3314
(562) 947-2250
 Arturo's Puffy Taco on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Coley's Caribbean-American Cuisine

Whenever I had a craving for Jamaican food, off I went to Kingston Café in Pasadena. Unfortunately, it closed down several years ago and ever since then; I've been looking for a substitute. While doing some Googling one day, I came upon a listing of Jamaican restaurants in LA. Of the ones I found, Coley's Caribbean-American Cuisine had the best reviews in comparison, but even then the reviews were also mixed.

Either people really liked the food or not. There didn't seem to be a middle ground. Wanting to check it out for myself, I decided to bring my dining group for dinner to the North Hollywood location of Coley's Caribbean-American Cuisine. The original restaurant is in Inglewood.

With our group of 11 being the only diners in the restaurant, I was expecting attentive service. What we got was a waiter who was nice, chatty, but a little on the slow side when it came to getting us our drinks, taking our orders, etc. Being a Jamaican native, I think he was still on "island time" when things are done at a more leisurely pace. In fact, I think the whole restaurant was on "island time" because even the food was a little slow to arrive, but once the plates started hitting our table, it was time to see if the food was worth the wait.

A couple of us started with appetizers. I was curious about the Codfish Fritters so I ordered that to share with the group. When the fritters were put in front of me, they looked like rectangular corn bread. "Where's the fish?" I wondered. It's only with a closer inspection that you could see small pieces of fish sticking out of the Swiss cheese holes of the fritter. After a couple of bites, I did like the fritter's light and spongy texture, but I was let down because I didn't taste any fish. I knew it was there, but my taste buds weren't feeling the fishy love.

Dinner came with a choice of soup or salad, so I went with a cup of their Seafood Gumbo. The only kind of seafood gumbo I've had in the past has been either Creole-style or Cajun-style which usually included vegetables like onion, celery, bell peppers and sometimes okra and/or tomatoes along with the meat ingredients. I wasn't sure what to expect with a Jamaican version. Needless to say that I was surprised by what I got.

The cup of gumbo placed before me had a really dark brown broth. There were also no vegetables to be found unless they were just really cooked down which could have been possible. My particular soup had more sausage than seafood, but others in the group had it the opposite way. I was actually quite happy with the sausage. They were definitely meaty and had a nice smoky pepperiness that I liked. As for the broth itself, except for the fact that it was a little too salty, I enjoyed it. It was rich and there were a lot of things hitting my taste buds with each spoonful. I really can't describe what I tasted, but there was a depth of flavor there that hit the spot.

For my entrée, I went for the Oxtail and that dish made my night. On first sight, I was immediately drawn to how meaty those oxtails were. It's always a problem when you get more tail bone than ox, but I had no worries in this instance. Also, it was easy to tell that the meat was braised just right, because it was tender enough that no knife was needed. As for the sauce the meat came in, it was bursting with palate pizzazz. Just like the gumbo, I could taste a myriad of spices, but unlike the gumbo, there wasn't an overuse of salt. This is a dish I would definitely order again. The oxtail also came with plantains, rice, vegetables and festival bread, which kind of reminded me of a hush puppy.

Overall, even with the slow service, I think the food was good enough that I'd go back even if I had to wait a little longer than usual for my meal to arrive. If nothing else, I'd return just for that oxtail, but there were also other things on the menu that looked promising as well like the traditional Jamaican dish of Ackee and Codfish or their Curried Goat. Those are tasty journeys still to come, but for now, I'm happy that I've found a good alternative to a long gone favorite.

To see pics, go to:

Coley's Caribbean-American Cuisine
10842 Magnolia Boulevard
North Hollywood, CA 91601
(818) 761-4944

Coley's Caribbean American Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 04, 2008

Foodie Quote

"I don't think America will have really made it until we have our own salad dressing. Until then we're stuck behind the French, Italians, Russians and Caesarians." - Pat McNelis

Osteria Mozza

Having had a couple wonderfully tasty dining experiences at Pizzeria Mozza, I had been waiting in anticipation for months for Osteria Mozza to open its doors. Thankfully, they finally did and with my taste buds ready for action, I went in one night with friends for a meal.

My first impression was that it was very loud. It was so loud that it was difficult to talk to my dinner companions without practically shouting. By the time I left, my voice was hoarse and my head was pounding. Luckily, the restaurant's decibel level didn't detract from the good food.

Our meal started with our waiter offering 3 different types of breads. Soon, our amuse bouche arrived and it was a Mozzarella Involtini stuffed with fresh basil, roasted tomato, and olives. The combined flavors were wonderful.

For our starters, my party shared 4 different appetizers and one pasta dish. Of the 4 appetizers, there were two standouts. First, there were the Grilled Figs wrapped in Pancetta with Wilted Dandelion Greens. It's hard to go wrong when your taste buds get a tasty combination of a sweet and salty, paired with a hint of bitterness from the dandelion greens.

Second, I also really enjoyed the Burrata with Bacon, Marinated Escarole and Caramelized Shallots, for almost the same reasons I loved the figs, although the figs' sweetness were replaced by the bacon's smokiness. As for our pasta dish, the Orecchiette with Sausage and Swiss Chard was a definite hit.

When it came to the entrees, 4 of us opted to share ours. My particular order was the Roasted Pork Arista with Sweet Corn and Chanterelles. After one bite, I almost didn't want to give it up to the next person. I loved the pork's juiciness and fattiness and if you take a good look, you can see the wonderful spices that were encrusted around the meat. Peppery met sweet and woodsy from the corn and chanterelles for a wonderful melding of flavors.

I also sampled the Grilled Quail wrapped in Pancetta with Radicchio and Honey, which I found blah. While I loved the fattiness of the roasted pork, the fattiness of the quail turned me off. The Beef Brasato with Polenta and Horseradish Gremolata was meltingly tender, but the sauce left a tangy after taste that wasn't appealing. The only other entrée I enjoyed as much as the roasted pork was the Monkfish Alla Diavollo. The fish was cooked perfectly and the sauce packed some heat that I found surprising. I don't associate spicy flavors with Italian foods at all, but boy, that monkfish dish was outstanding.

We also ordered veggie side dishes. I think that we could have easily done without them. They lacked punch. One of the sides we ordered was the Spaghetti Squash, Chiles, Mint and Bottarga. You'd think with ingredients like mint and chiles, you'd get a little bit of zing to your palate, but the dish was quite bland and while I liked the beet portion of the Marinated Beets with Walnut Salsa Verde, the salsa verde didn't add much and as such, was superfluous.

With all the food that was consumed, we were able to fit in one dessert, the Rosemary Olive Oil Cakes with olive oil gelato and rosemary brittle. While placing our order, our waiter instructed us on the best way to eat it. Simply, try to get the cake, brittle and gelato in one bite, because the olive oil gelato on its own is quite strongly flavored.

Once our dessert arrived, spoon in hand, I did as our waiter taught us. Yum! I don't know how to describe how all three components tasted together. All I know is that I definitely loved how the flavors blended together in my mouth and I also really enjoyed the textures. You get creamy, cakey and hard in one mouthful. By the way, out of curiosity, I did try each item separately. That olive oil gelato definitely is not something to be eaten on its own, but that rosemary brittle was outstanding. I wouldn't mind having a tin to bring home.

In general, other than the noise level, the food was pretty good. Unfortunately, with such expectations, "pretty good" was a bit of let down when I was expecting "fantastic", maybe, even "mind-blowing". I did go back a second time and sampled other menu items to see if my feelings would change.

The conclusions I got from that second visit was that almost any appetizer you ordered, especially from the Mozzarella bar was going to be a real treat and I felt that same way about any of the desserts. The pastas and entrees were a real hit and miss. Either they succeeded beyond compare or they left you wondering why you spent the money in the first place. As for the veggie side dishes, why even bother?

Overall, when you take away all the hype, I think Osteria Mozza is definitely a destination restaurant. The food is well crafted and quite tasty, but for me, the next time I get a hankering for Italian food, I'm heading back to All'Angelo.

To see pics, go to:

Osteria Mozza
6602 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA
(323) 297-0100

Osteria Mozza on Urbanspoon