Restaurant Reviews (Non-Hawai’i)

To start things off, here are some comments of the places I went to on a recent trip to Seattle and LA:

How Good Can Langer’s Pastrami Really Be?

When we landed in LA, the legendary Langer’s was the first place we drove to. On the way, I expressed a bit of skepticism. I really liked Brent’s sandwiches, so how much better could their sandwiches really be? The verdict? Yeah, the sandwich we got, the #19 which is a pastrami on rye with cole slaw, was better–significantly. I understand that Langer’s makes their own rye bread, and that was evident. I would say that the bread stood out and made the meal enjoyable as much, if not more than the actual pastrami. How often can you say that? I’m not sure what made it so good except to say that it tasted like freshly made bread. The crust also had that hard, fresh crust, almost as if it were just toasted. The sandwich was $20, and didn’t come with fries or anything but a couple of pickles on the side. Was it worth it? I’m not sure, but some people claim this is the best deli sandwich in the country, and I wouldn’t really dispute that.

(I’ll try to write more reviews later.)

21 thoughts on “Restaurant Reviews (Non-Hawai’i)

  1. Never had any of the New York Deli sandwiches? If yes how do you think it compares. But there are a great deal of people who think Langer’s is better than anything in New York.

    Oh and what about the size of the $20 sandwich? You must have seen pictures of Carnegie’s sandwiches I assume.

    1. Yes, I’ve had two sandwiches in New York–one from 2nd Avenue Deli and another from Zabars. Langers was better. As for the quantity, it wasn’t not super huge, but not super small, either. I’d guess the thickness of the entire sandwich was about 3″. Just going by quantity alone, it’s not worth $20.

      1. Man I don’t even think I’ve heard of Zabars? I’m pretty sure the most famous delis in New York is Carnegie’s and Katz. I been to Katz and it was darn good pastrami, but Carnegie’s one looked twice as big. Being better than 2nd Avenue is saying something though, because that place is supposed to be good too.

        1. Zabar’s is more like a local convenience place, but my friend in New York recommended we try it. (It was just OK.) The 2nd Avenue corned beef was good, but I don’t remember thinking it was significantly better than Brent’s, and I preferred Brent’s matzo ball soup (by quite a bit).

  2. I’m starting to wonder if I really like Mexican Food

    The biggest disappointment of the trip, by far, was the Mexican food I ate. I had high expectations, but I don’t think that explains it. I tried three places–Marisco Jaliscos, Ricky’s Fish Tacos, and Mexicali Taco Company. The first two are highly acclaimed taco trucks. MJ is known for their camarones, or shrimp, tacos. You know how Jack-in-a-Box fries their tacos, where the meaty pouch is soft with the outer edges are crisp? That’s similar to what they do there, and that description appealed to me. Unfortunately, I thought the food was kinda bland. The shrimps were nice and plump, but they had little taste. Bummer.

    Ricky’s was better. They deep fry fish or shrimp, add some shredded cabbage and pico de gallo on a corn tortilla. I added some creme and chipotle hot sauce. The combination of all the ingredients is good, and the fish/shrimp were fine, but overall nothing outstanding in my view. For example, I had a fish taco at Cocina’s in Kaka’ako that I think was better or just as good. In fact, I want to say Marshall’s fish tacos were just as good. So they were find, maybe even good, but not out of this world. (Larri and the kids liked it, though. I had to order a second batch.)

    Mexicali Taco Company was another disappointment. I think they were mentioned in the LA Eater, but I also saw a youtube video of the food, and that made me want to go there. We tried a bunch of stuff–with either carne asada or el pastor (which is put on a vertical spit and sliced like gyros). Here’s the thing: both types of meat were really bland, just lacking in flavor. Man, what a bummer.

    There were many other places I wanted to go to but didn’t get to try–Guerilla Tacos, Guisados, Bar Ama, Sonoratown and some others. I wanted to try some others, but I didn’t want to risk getting stuck in traffic. Bummer.

    1. I mentioned that some of the places I chose were highly acclaimed. Mariscos Jaliscos made Eater’s top 38 restaurants in the U.S., and I ate the specific taco they raved about. Jonathan Gold, the famous L.A. food critic (who recently passed away) also raved about this taco. Maybe it was just an off day?

  3. Don’t Call It Middle-Eastern Food

    I had heard that L.A. has some good Armenian (and Persian, Turkish) food, and I was excited to try those places. We first went to a little hole in the wall (literally two tables, and not very big) called Mini-Kabob. We got a chicken thigh and chicken luleh (ground chicken) kabob plate and a beef luleh (ground beef) kabob plate. Both plates came with a big bed of basmati (?) rice and a grilled tomato and pepper. I chatted with the owner. He told me, with confidence, that I was going to like the food. I told him I was excited and thought he was right. “It’s basically Middle Eastern food, like Greek food, right?” He was quick to stop me, suggesting that this was Armenian food, and it was entirely different. “It’s like the difference between Chinese food and your type of food.” (Did he know I was Japanese? Or maybe he thought I was Korean? I had no idea.)

    “OK,” I kinda chuckled, “Well, what makes Armenian food different?”

    “It’s juicier, tastes better. You’ll see.”

    “OK, I’m excited.”

    His wife asked me about drinks, and I said I wanted two diet cokes, if they had them.

    “Cokes? No you need to try Armenian soda,” the man said.

    “Oh, OK. Well, what’s it like.”

    “It’s pear flavored, and people really like it.”

    He went on to tell me that he imports it, and a lot of his customers enjoyed it. (I also learned it was carbonated, too.) I ordered one just to try. (It was OK; my kids liked it.)

    Anyway, the food was really good. Yes, it was juicy, seasoned well, and very tasty. I expected the rice to have more flavor, but it was fine.

    Two minor drawbacks. The plates game with a mayo sauce which wasn’t as good as tzatziki sauce. Second, the pita was very thin and flavorless. In any event the food was so good we considered going back the next night.

    Instead we tried Raffi’s Place, another Armenian/Persian restaurant. The portions were large and the food was good, but not as tasty as Mini-Kabobs in my opinion. I also got a rack of lamb kabob which was really juicy and not gamey at all.

    Oh, I got a whey and eggplant dish that was recommended. It was fine.

    1. I wonder what the difference between Armenian/Persian food and Afgan food which I had with Gregg in Fremont. We had kebobs that was the best I’ve ever eaten, but it had to do more with the softness of the meat than the taste for me. Not saying the taste was average, but the tenderness of the meat was definitely the star.

      1. I’m not sure about the difference, but the meats we ate were tender, juicy, and tasty. The meats at Mini-kabobs might have been seasoned better and a little more juicy.

  4. I Tried Some Asian Restaurants

    When I travel, eating Asian food is usually not a high priority. If I get in the mood, or there’s a really good place, then I’ll seek out the food. There were two such places in Seattle.

    The first was Xian Noodle. I think Xian is a region in China, and the food is part of a specific style in the region. Based on what I had, the much of the food is based in chili oil. We tried three different noodle dishes–beef, takenoko, and I can’t even remember the third. We also tried some dumplings. The noodles here were really fresh and chewy–probably the most chewy I’ve eaten. These suckers would stretch and stretch, but were never rubbery. Besides a freshness, the flavor didn’t really stand out. The beef noodle was the best dish.

    There’s a downside to this, though. When you eat really fresh noodles, the experience can ruin your enjoyment of pasta, because most noodles, especially the store bought types, will never taste as good. Ruined may be too strong of a word, but a diminishing effect occurred when we went to a Malaysian place, Kendai Makan.

    This was a tiny place, where the lines forms quickly. We came about a half hour early and there was a line of about twenty in front of us. Luckily we got in. Here’s what we tried (off the top of my head):

    fried chicken wings
    a net roti with Indian style sauces
    mushroom noodle dish
    beef noodle dish
    a fried rice type of dish with tofu

    I liked pretty much everything we had. One thing that stood out in a lot of the dishes was a darker shoyu that was also sweetened.

    For dessert, we got a coconut shake and a black rice pudding. Both were good. The latter was very similar to the type of coconut tapioca you can get at Chinese restaurants.

    This, along with the Armenian/Persian restaurants, were my favorite places.

    1. I know a few people on IG who go to Xian once in a while. The photos are always amazing-looking. Can I ask how you dressed?

        1. I was going to ask if that’s the place in Seattle. It was on my radar, but it seems like in reviews (not sure where), Chinese were sort of looking down at this place.

          Wait, I’m a little confused. Like I was saying to Mitchell, I’m pretty sure there were several restaurants with Xian in their names. Indeed, I now recall there was another Xian restaurant on the Ave. I have no idea if the one I went to is well known. My friends decided to go there, and we trusted them.

          1. I did a search on Xian Noodle and you could be right. There were a couple articles, but there was more talk about Qin Noodle or Qin Xian Noodle (goes my either name?). So I could be mixing those two places up, but one of those places was on my radar when doing research of Chinese places in Seattle.

        1. Just to be sure we’re talking about the same place, this is Xian Noodle in Seattle, on the Ave. The place we went to was not formal at all. I noticed several restaurants with “Xian” in it’s name, so maybe we’re thinking of a different place?

          1. I was going to ask if that’s the place in Seattle. It was on my radar, but it seems like in reviews (not sure where), Chinese were sort of looking down at this place. I know for sure people were saying it’s nothing compared to places in Vancouver and San Gabriel Valley.

            Glad you did some Asian places. 🙂

  5. “Burger of the Gods”

    That’s the name of the burger that was the #1 out of 15 on Cooking Channel’s Man’s Greatest Food. The burger came from Lunchbox Laboratory in Seattle. I believe they use a wagyu patty, carmelize onions in a balsamic redcution, sprinkle some bleu cheese, and then apply a gorgonzola-mayo spread. I thought it would be too heavy, but I gave it a shot (and added bacon based on the recommendation of the waitress.) It wasn’t as rich and heavy as I expected, and it was pretty good, but didn’t meet my expectation of the best burger (in the country).

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