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Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Lowdown on Downtown Lunch

It's been fun exploring all the new and more exciting lunch options around downtown. I found a good falafel place, Bar-B-Kosher; the very promising Sandwich Shop serving Bahn mi that also has some creative sandwiches like a Philly cheese steak sandwich using bulgogi as the meat; the disappointing Cole's French dip and unremarkable Colori Kitchen for Italian.

The broiled chicken breast pita sandwich at Bar-B-Kosher was good. I could tell they used quality ingredients, like the chicken that tasted fresh and the diced cucumber and tomatoes. It was a salad in a plain pita. Owner said the place would soon offer wholewheat pita as there seems to be enough demand. For those who like strong flavors like me, the sandwich tasted a lot better after I added some of the spicy green sauce you need to ask for that seemed to be garlic and parsley-based.
The sandwich came with the familiar bright fuschia pickled radishes a-la-Zankou and a cole slaw-type side that were both so so. Still, I am looking forward to trying other things on the menu, like the falafel or shakshuka, described as 2 eggs over a tomato and bell pepper stew. It also offers an array of salads that you can order as a combo, such as roasted eggplant, chopped tomato and cucumber, hummus, tabouli, Moroccan style carrots and beets, to name a few. I tried the eggplant, carrots, hummus and cucumber tomato and they were good if not fantastic and I could definitely tell the ingredients were fresh. The owner seemed to take great pride in that.
The place also has outdoor seating, albeit not the nicest ambiance amid the downtown traffic.

Another spot for a quick lunch is Sandwich Shop, owned by a Korean guy who concocts creative sandwiches and offers many different types of sandwiches like Vietnamese Bahm mi sandwiches on baguette, Cubano or a Gaucho with steak topped with a garlic and parsley mix that is chimichurri sauce. I tried the Bulgogi Cheesesteak and to my disappointment, the meat was not good quality meat so it smelled a bit and the marinade was far too sweet. I think the idea is great but he should use better ingredients to really make it work. The pulled pork special was ok but again, the pork could have been braised for longer. It wasn't as fall-off-the-bone as it should be.

Still, I'd like to return to try the Bahm mi and other sandwiches. Some promising ones include the French Onion, featuring caramelized onions and gruyere cheese on pressed walnut raisin bread or the Turkey Avocado Cheddar Melt, with smoked turkey, avocado, cheddar, chipotle spread and romaine lettuce on pressed ciabatta.

Cole's Original French Dip sandwich had all the makings of a down-home original joint -- quaint decor and a passionate owner who restored the original to its current state. But alas, the namesake sandwich was nothing special (meat was tough and dip was not that flavorful) and the sides including coleslaw and mac-n-cheese were below average. The coleslaw had too much mayo and the mac-n-cheese was bland. The only thing worth salvaging was the potato salad but maybe it had something to do with the addition of bacon bits in it. I wouldn't return. As for how it ranks against Philippe's, I think it's better than Philippe's but that not saying much because I thought Philippe was downright bad. I know it's a beloved institution but it just ain't good.

I had heard much raves about Colori Kitchen and got the standard spaghetti and meatballs in tomato sauce. I usually order spaghetti bolognese as a way to gauge Italian restaurants (utterly unscientific, I know), and also because I tend to love this dish.

I wasn't happy that it didn't offer Bolognese. Strike one. Then the meatballs were dense and seemed to have spicy Italian sausage with fennel in them, which I didn't like. Nothing like the delicious meatballs in Pizzaiola in Oakland. The tomato sauce was fine and the pasta was al dente but it was nothing special. The caesar salad was good and not dripping with dressing. The tiramisu was moist but had too much cream on top and I could tell it had been made ahead of time so cream was a bit hard. Maybe I'll return if I get desperate for Italian but I won't be rushing.

113 East 9th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 623-4995

Sandwich Shop
531 West 6th Street
Los Angeles CA 90014
(213) 627-1508

118 East Sixth Street
Los Angeles, CA 90014
(213) 622-4090

Colori Kitchen
429 W 8th St
Los Angeles, CA 90014
(213) 622-5950

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