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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Not All Fish Sandwiches Are Created Equal




I don't like to admit that I could like a restaurant located in a mall, but Gulfstream is an exception. For one, it's affiliated with Houston's, which serves my favorite burger in LA so far. The menu is similar to Houston's, and food just as good. I'm not a big fan of the dark interior and old school decor, but who cares when the food is this solid? It is pricey, so it isn't somewhere I would go regularly. If you're in the Westfield mall, at the movies or near Century City, it's worth stopping by.

The crab cake salad was exceptional. It came with a mix of greens including frisee and watercress, silky avocado and refreshing grapefruit. The light, creamy dressing was right on, complementing the crab cake well without feeling like it was tartar sauce disguised as dressing. The crab cakes were perfectly crispy on the outside and was creamy and moist on the inside. I could actually taste crab that wasn't at all fishy and appreciated the generous chunks of crab since it's hard to real, chunky crab (especially in a cake patty). On a hot summer day, it was the perfect starter.



I resisted the temptation to get a burger. If Houston's burger is so good, I could only assume Gulfstream's would be just as good. But I got the fish sandwich instead and it was excellent. It was as good as the fish sandwich I've had at Houston's. It's what a filet-o-fish sandwich (I can't believe I'm quoting an item from the much disdained fast food chain that will remain unnamed) would taste like if an ironchef made it. The fish, while fried, was airy, fluffy, not too salty and definitely not fishy. The works included shredded cabbage, dill pickles and red onions. But what brought it all together was the fantastic pink sauce (tasted of mayo, some kick, maybe capers and parsley?) that bound everything into a soft, warm bun that was perfectly toasted.

Who knew I could be so wowed by a humble fish filet sandwich? The restaurant's site boasts that all the fish it serves were caught in the last 24 hours. Not sure if that's humanely possible given the fish probably comes from all over the world, but nevertheless I'm sold. The side of wild rice, corn and almond was interesting, but nothing spectacular.

There's one in Newport Beach that I haven't tried.

Gulfstream
10250 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90067
(310) 553-3636

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Spicy Pork in a (Green) Blanket




The Korean food kick continues. The great thing about living in LA is having the luxury to indulge in the various kinds of Korean barbecue and hopping on to different restaurants that do one specific thing very well.

For Sigol Ssambab on Western in Koreatown, it's the delightfully spicy barbecued pork sliced super thin, cooked tableside and wrapped in a mound of greens with a dab of spicy and salty fermented soy bean paste.

The marinade is just right -- not too sweet or spicy -- and the meat has the right amount of fat that renders upon contact with the grill. The sizzling sound can't be beat and the aromas of garlicky reddish pork that glistens will have you downing these babies pretty quickly.



The kicker is that you feel like you're eating healthy because besides being the other white meat, the pork is wrapped in at least five different kinds of greens. Take your pick from red leaf lettuce, napa cabbage, bok choy, sesame leaf, chicory, steamed white cabbage, herbs, among others. You can even have a sheet of seaweed to wrap your meat in if that's your thing. My favorites are the sesame leaf known as kennip and the steamed cabbage.

I also love this restaurant's version of the fermented soy bean paste, ssamjang (below), that accompanies every barbecued meat and green wrap. It's usually mixed with spicy chili paste called kochujang, but this place offers a milder-flavored paste in its more raw form -- not mushed into a paste so the fermented soy bean grains are barely ground.



It's also a great deal if you go in groups of at least two because portions are big and the greens come in unlimited supply. After the meat fest is over, you get another full meal of rice and fermented soy bean stew (yes, Koreans love all things fermented) with vegetables and tofu. I like the rice that's mixed with black rice, which has a much smokier flavor and is healthier.

The word, "ssam," meaning wrap, has recently become more recognized (at least in NY) with the popularity of Korean American superstar chef David Chang's Momofuku enterprise. From the readings and television appearances I've seen of him, he is best known for a steamed pork in greens version known as bossam. Sure, he does a lot more with the pork and the accouterments are different, but essentially the same concept. I have yet to find a good bossam place in the US, but maybe I should venture to his explosively overbooked joint next time I'm in NY.



(323) 467-0100
480 N. Western Avenue (between Melrose & Beverly)
Los Angeles, CA 90004