Welcome to June. Or as we like to say, the month we realize we’re halfway through the year and don’t have much to show for it. Instead of feeling down, can we recommend perusing our new Summer Guide? Or since you’re here, let us tell you about some of the best things we ate last month. Including dishes like a luxurious breakfast burrito, vegan pastas, and one of LA’s best salads. Find all the best dishes we ate in May on this guide.
“The most nondescript name ever, right? Spicy BBQ.” says Justin Pichetrungsi, owner/chef of Anajak Thai. “But they actually did laab tot way before us. I had always wanted to make a laab tot, and then I had theirs and was like, ‘This is so f*cking good.’ Theirs is so herby. I don’t know how they do it, it’s almost hard to eat. But I really love their pork neck, grilled pork neck.”
Tea Leaf Salad
The tea leaf salad from Burmese, Please! combines all of our favorite things - pungent fermented tea leaves, fried garlic and shallot bits, fish sauce, and the sweet, sweet sense of accomplishment when we assemble it all together at home (even though we “technically” didn’t “cook” or “prepare” any of it). No, all of the actual prep work is done by chef Jessie Nicely, the owner and creator of the Arts District pop-up, who drops a new menu of Burmese staples on Instagram once a month. Luckily, the tea leaf salad is always available. This comprehensive kit contains at least 45 different accoutrements, and is a fun way to practice mise en place.
The menu at Pura Vita in West Hollywood has eight different pastas on the menu, but we went with the carbonara and black magic lasagna and ate them both with reckless abandon. The carbonara comes topped with avocado, egg, macadamia romano cream, and shiitake bacon, giving it an earthy saltiness. Plus, there was enough natural creaminess to make us forget we weren’t actually eating cheese. As for the lasagna, we tend to be wary of truffle-infused dishes as it’s a pretty powerful ingredient that’s often misused, but that was not the case for the black truffle cream. The actual truffle flavor itself was quite mild which allowed it to bring out the other flavors (mushroom, cashew ricotta, and pesto) without completely overpowering them.
White miso kouign amann or a kimchi SPAM musubi croissant
If you frequent coffee shops around the city, then you’ve likely had a Sugarbloom pastry (this place is essentially LA’s original ghost bakery). While most small food businesses start off with retail and then expand into wholesale, Sugarbloom did the opposite. In fact, owner/pastry chef Sharon Wang said the past year has given her the opportunity to return to Sugarbloom’s roots. With the wholesale business, Wang focused on classic pastries, but selling directly to customers has allowed her to bring back some more unconventional treats, like the kimchi and SPAM musubi croissant, which was inspired over a dinner of Korean army stew.
There are two breakfast burritos on the menu at this sunny, pastel explosion of a brunch-lunch spot on Main St. in Santa Monica. Both the “Ancho Hash” and the “Homemade Chorizo” are behemoths to cherish, but having tried both, the vegetarian option with eggs, manchego and oaxaca cheeses, plus a crispy-crusty caramelized mix of shredded potatoes and peppers is what has taken up permanent residency in our groggy morning rotation. Where the Chorizo tends to be the loudest and saltiest in the room, the pepper and shredded potato medley in the Ancho seeps subtly into the fluffy eggs and cheese. All wrapped up in a griddled La Fortaleza flour tortilla, it’s nearly impossible not to give this thing a hug before dousing it in salsa, and devouring it.
Heamul dolsoat bebeembap
Gamja Bawi is a tiny stall inside the Koreatown Plaza mall, a destination in its own right and a place that feels like you stepped into a time machine and got off somewhere in the early ’80s. Neon signage, light-up elevators, and synchronized fountains - it’s a sensory dreamland that’s only heightened when a steaming pot of Gamja Bawi’s heamul dolsoat bebeembap hits your table. Filled with a variety of fresh seafood ranging from squid to shrimp to giant clams, we absolutely love how the brininess of protein pairs with the sweet and spicy gochujang sauce mixed in. That said, the best part of the meal comes at the end, when you get to scrape off the thin layer of crispy rice that’s been slowly cooking at the bottom of the pot, and mix it with whatever’s left in the bowl. It’s a secret second meal that’s absolutely worth finding room in your stomach for.