The Gluten-Free Gourmand
The Hubby and I decided, somewhat last minute, to go to Los Angeles for the labor day weekend as part of our foodie tour mission. What was our motivator? Korean BBQ. With L.A.’s massive Koreatown we knew it was the only place to really get KBBQ outside of Korea. Since we only had two days in L.A., I decided to research Yelp for the best KBBQ in L.A. It turns out, not everyone agrees. But, Genwa was pretty high up on the list and was pretty convenient as it was along the 20 bus route.
THE FOOD (The most important part)
Oh my holy hell…this was good. We mainly chose this restaurant based on reports that they offer the most banchan, which are accompaniments (or little side dishes) offered with your meal. You should be able to expect quite a few choices and Genwa did not disappoint – we got 24 little dishes! The best part of these is that, in most restaurants, these are all-you-can-eat. Loved that Kimchee but now it’s all gone? Ask them to bring some more; it will magically re-appear and you don’t have to pay any extra $$ to get it. Here we didn’t ask for any refills (even though they asked us if we’d like some) mainly because we ate every single banchan in addition to our meal, therefore rendering us quite stuffed and unable to stuff anything else in our bodies.
But what about the BBQ? Well, that too did not disappoint, in fact, it completely blew our minds. We’ve only had KBBQ once before while in Denver, so I’m no expert – please keep that in mind. We ordered the A+ off of their Courses menu, which included a House Salad, Soon Tofu, Japchae, Galbi, and Bulgogi. I believe this was about $45. We had never had Soon Tofu, a spicy tofu soup, before so I have no comparison to make, however my husband and I are extreme tofu haters so the statement I’m about to make is very serious – this was delicious. Everything else was also delicious, especially the Galbi, which was perfectly marinated and grilled on the in-table grill. The servers at Genwa meticulously adjusted the temperature, cut up the pieces (using scissors, which is the Korean style), and checked on us each time one would walk by.
As far as the atmosphere goes, it’s a small but well decorated restaurant. It was quite loud because of the small size, so I wouldn’t recommend for an intimate dinner. The spacing between tables was extremely tight and the servers were moving so fast that it felt like a hazard to try to get out of the table – don’t bring slow-moving old folks here.
We took a risk on this one – it had only been opened for a couple weeks. This is an expansion location for the popular ramen joint in Torrence, CA of the same name. It was a risk that paid off big time – this was delicious. The wait was quite long, which made me a bit anxious because we were due to meet a friend of mine in Santa Monica in an hour, but the smells wafting out of the front door kept us planted in line.
This place was tiny, but the tables were well-placed and the servers had a perfect beat. Even though it was so busy and the wait so long, the food was quick to come out. I’m also not too experienced with authentic ramen, but I know what tastes good – this was fantastic. I ordered the Yamadaya special ramen which was their “everything” ramen; it included char-siu, a poached egg cooked to a perfect soft boil, and seaweed sheets with your choice of their broths (I chose a garlic broth) and perfectly cooked ramen noodles. This was pure heaven-made food and, sadly, put any ramen joints I’ve tried here in Salt Lake City to pure shame.
The hubby had the Kare-age chicken, fried chicken very similar to katsu chicken. This was also heavenly – juicy and perfectly seasoned. Definitely something I’d order again.
We both enjoyed Japanese canned iced-coffees with our meal.
Bonaventure Brewing Co.
This was the only place we went to in L.A. that had not been recommended to us. We simply stumbled upon it while wandering around our hotel and said, “well, what the hell?” And, well, what the hell seems to sum up the place.
The beer sampler was the best choice on the menu, our favorites being the stout, the strawberry blond, and their seasonal special red.
It was late night so we got the late night menu. The hubby ordered the Turkey Burger and I had the Tex-Mex rolls. The Turkey Burger was quite delicious while the rolls were just OK but did the job to absorb some of the liquor I had earlier.
This was one of our last stops in L.A. We brought old friend of mine, Allison, here to pick up some caffeine to fuel some catch-up talk. This was located in Cypress Park, and features local artist’s paintings. We didn’t spend much time here, but our latte was great and the service was friendly. The neighborhood is obviously in a revitalization swing.
In conclusion of our food adventure in L.A., I’m disappointed we didn’t get to try much else, but since we were only in L.A. for two days it would have been difficult to do much else. We will return soon to better round-out our adventure. After all, we have yet to try Las Brisas, home to the best fish tacos in all of L.A. (as purported by my born-and-bred East L.A.’er coworker).
THE SIGHTS AND CULTURE
There is so much to see in the L.A. Metro, it was impossible to see everything we wanted to. Highest on my list was Koreatown which we got to see a lot of by walking along Wilshire for 30 minutes after my miscalculation of distance failed us for the first time during this trip. It would have been an enjoyable walk if the sun wasn’t shining directly in our eyes. Oh well. This is an area I hope we can explore some more in another trip.
Our first hotel (stupid story why we got booked into two different hotels, but I’ll spare myself) was located in Little Tokyo where we walked through their town center, enjoyed lovely boba drinks, and checked out the Japanese History Museum. The Museum was my favorite sight in Little Tokyo. They regularly feature contemporary Japanese artists. During our visit they were showing a collection of many artist’s creative works on Frank Kozik’s Happy Labbit toy. Our favorite was the hippy rabbit, pictured below.
They also featured comic book artist Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo – a samurai rabbit from feudal Japan.
The main museum was dedicated to many exhibits explaining the history of the Japanese in America, including the internment camps of World War II. This was a topic I did not learn in high school, shockingly, so the subject took me by surprise. Anyone who is unfamiliar with this topic needs to take some time to educate themselves on the horrors that went on during this period. I hope to do a dedicated post to this subject sometime in the future.
A friend of mine, Jenn, met us in Santa Monica where we enjoyed seeing the pier and the ocean, and third street promenade. It was super packed for labor day which made it a bit unbearable for walking and extremely tortuous for driving. However, it was a beautiful area and the ocean was breathtaking. Also, if it wasn’t so busy, I would imagine a great place for people watching. There was plenty of shopping at the promenade, but the crowds made it too difficult to try to check out the stores. The main attraction was catching up with an old friend, so we got to do a lot of that over drinks at Yankee Doodles at the promenade. I would love to go again any other time of the year when it’s not so crazy.
We also got to check out the public transportation system a bit by riding the Metro Gold and Purple lines. We took the Gold line from the Little Tokyo stop to Pasadena and back down to East L.A. The trains were super easy to navigate, clean, and we got to see a lot of sights of the areas they went through. We really loved Pasadena with it’s perfectly maintained Spanish-style stucco houses with creeping vines, the plentiful California trees, and cultural neighborhoods. East L.A. was a sight in it’s own right – a little run down and the signs were all in Spanish.
The City of Angels has more than a few demons. This can be especially witnessed walking in Downtown L.A. at night. We’ve walked NYC around 1 am before, how could L.A. be any worse? Already we begun to see the error in that logic when we reached Broadway, a littered and run down street home to many homeless camping out in cardboard boxes and tents or loitering around in wheelchairs having drawn out conversations with themselves. The buildings, all historic and once very stately, were mostly boarded up and in horrible repair. However, none of this was impressive after we took a wrong turn onto Los Angeles Street. Here we found Skid Row, a place where the homeless, hustlers, and prostitutes rule the streets littered with human waste, garbage, rats, tents, and more cardboard shelters. A horrifying quote from an L.A. Times article:
With half the population of New York, it has more people on the streets than New York has in its shelters. An additional 45,000 people are homeless in greater Los Angeles County. While New York will spend $640 million on homeless services this year, Los Angeles will spend just $50 million and provide fewer than 13,000 beds.
The homeless problem here is much worse than even San Francisco or NYC. And…there are children living here. Truly one of the most frightening walks in my entire life, it seemed to go on for blocks and blocks, but, besides that, it was extremely depressing to see how many thousands of people were living in that condition.
In the end, we really enjoyed our trip to L.A. We hope we can return soon for a longer period of time next time to take in all it has to offer. The museums are of particular interest, especially the Museum of Tolerance.