Saturday, March 31, 2007

Restaurant Review: Dong Ting Chun

Admittedly, our original plan was to have dim sum that Sunday morning. But sadly, Sam Woo was closed for renovation so we found ourselves searching for another restaurant in the large Ranch 99 plaza in San Gabriel. In the end, Dong Ting Chun was our lunch spot of choice.

Dong Ting Chun specialized in the style of cooking from the Hunan province in China. Characteristics of such cuisine are bold spicy flavors and the usage of smoking/curing ingredients. Hunan cuisine also commonly utilizes humble, "peasant" ingredients like common meats and vegetables. And humans. Haha gross, just kidding! Though, they did make the unfortunate mistake of mistyping "Human" in place of "Hunan" on the menu. Addtional misfortune since the modified noun was "Ham" of all things.

Here is our colorful array of dishes:

Top row first, left to right: stir-fried beef, roasted fatty pork, steamed tofu, seaweed salad (?), farmer chicken, and vegetable medley.

Perhaps it's been too long since the meal to recall the details but I do remember liking everything. The tofu may have been a little bland, which was in stark contrast to the flavorful yet slightly greasy vegetable stir fry. The chicken was supposed to be the highlight as the waitress pointed out that it was a popular item on the menu. I did enjoy the chicken, which was stewed carefully in its own juices. The meat was mostly from parts of chicken that are not commonly featured in Western dishes, such as the neck and other sinewy parts I cannot quickly locate on a chicken anatomy. I also liked the roasted pork, though I couldn't help but avoid the blantant chunks of fat.

I guess I will end this post now since I have nothing left to say about the food, partially because of my faded memory and partially because there is nothing spectacular left to point out. But yes, I would revisit Dong Ting Chun...someday.

Price: $9 average a dish

Rating: 8.5/10 (Pretty good...I think?)

Dong Ting Chun

140 W. San Gabriel Ave., No. 206
San Gabriel, CA

Friday, March 23, 2007

Restaurant Review: Osteria La Buca

I have eaten at way too many places to not have posted for this long. Nevertheless, school has its way of getting in my food-related indulgences.

So about a month ago, I went to Osteria La Buca, a tiny but well-liked Italian restaurant on Melrose. The first time we went, we came without a reservation and was surprised to find that the 20 people (or so) seating could not accommodate our impromptu dining. The initial rejection only made me more determined to eventually return successfully. Hence on my next attempt, I called a week or so in advance to secure places. The voice on the other end of the phone was super Italian sounding, which I took as a good sign.

The area of the restaurant can pretty much be compared to the size of one's living room. This even includes the counter space, mind you. What limited wall space that was available, was adorned with black and white photos, altogether giving the eatery a quaint, hole-in-the-wall atmosphere. However, I was a little disappointed when the waiter asked if we wanted "LA river water", as to insinuate that free water was nearly a sewer equivalent fluid.

The entrees on the menu were divided between pastas and pizzas. For the fresh pastas, you
first choose the type of pasta (the width of the noodles which ranges from linguine to pappardelle) and then a sauce, which determines the price. Here are the pastas we ordered:

From left to right: tagilatelle with fume, tagliatelle with vodka sauce, pappardelle with fume sauce and trenette with arrabiatta sauce. We also ordered a pizza with broccoli and chicken, but it wasn't particularly remarkable so hence the lack of photo. I had the vodka sauce pasta, which I thought was fantastic. The sauce was very good--creamy, savory but not too rich. The highlight was certainly the pasta noodles. Unlike dried store bought pasta, this counterpart was thinner and consequently covered more fully in sauce. Mmm. Though I didn't try all the pastas, everyone did seem content with their selections. For dessert, we succumbed to ordering th classic tiramisu:

The cake was very good. The taste of espresso was very bold, a plus in my book. Also, the ratio of the cream to cake was just right. We thoroughly enjoyed this treat--only to later find that it carried the unfortunate price of $9.

Finally, I can check Osteria la Buca off my "to eat" list! The pasta was truly first rate. Good, home made Italian need not be presently fancifully to be delicious, as this restaurant has shown. However, for as small as la Buca was, it was not as humble as it could have been. I will also mention that they only gave us half a loaf of bread for 7 people to share (which is hardly generous if you ask me). Will I go back? Perhaps, but not often.

Price: $14 a person for entree alone

Rating: 8.8/10 (Barilla ain't got nothing on fresh pasta)

Osteria la Buca
5210 1/2 Melrose ave.
Hollywood, CA 90038