Far East Plaza: Local LA food under one roof

Far East Plaza, Los Angeles Chinatown

This is the Far East Plaza in the Los Angeles Chinatown I mentioned in an earlier post. It’s a mall on Broadway Street with stores specializing in ethnic goods, ranging from jade jewelry to Chinese herbs. Today, the building is best known as a destination for gastronomic adventure. Pok Pok Phat Thai, Roi Choi’s Chego, Ramen Champ and Scoops lend a more modern air to a generally traditional Asian cuisine. Heard Howlin’ Ray’s Nashville-style hot chicken is soon joining the scene next month.

Far East Plaza20160105_134011-1-1

My mom’s personal favorites at Far East Plaza are Fortune Gourmet Kitchen for budget-friendly, awesome Chinese food, and the unassuming Thien Houng Vietnamese Restaurant.

Took photos of the little family-run banh mi and pho eatery with my phone while eating at a table outside.

Thien Houng Restaurant, Los Angeles

Mom and I make it a point to have pho and fresh spring rolls, with iced Vietnamese coffee, here. Prices are very affordable like the smallest pho (which is still big for me) costs $5.50. We tried the Vietnamese version of popular Filipino street food kikiam and fishballs. The red Vietnamese balls in the photo below are barbecued pork and so delicious with chili paste made even hotter with Sriracha. They sell native delicacies as well, and we always bring home banh bo nuong, also known as honeycomb cake, made of tapioca flour and pandan extract. The texture is so much like the rice version of puto.

Banh Bo NuongVietnamese Street FoodThien Houng Banh Mi

A banh mi is something I’ll try when we go back again.

It’s also always a pleasure to go shopping at the nearby Far East Center across the building. Must-buys are white coffee, dried Chinese ingredients, preserved roots and all the Chinese tea for brewing.

A happy weekend everyone!

Vietnamese Food To GoBánh ít lá gai20160116_154937pho and spring rollsVietnamese Coffee
Photographed by Blauearth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2016

Discovering LA’s Sqirl: Toast, coffee and sunshine

Virgil Ave., Los Angeles

From someone who goes to church rather than sits in a cafe with coffee and whatnot first thing when the sun’s up, the tip-off about this overflowing cafe on neighboring Virgil Avenue is unconvincing. But then again, rerouted my morning walk to the seemingly boring street between East Hollywood and Silver Lake. A long line of beautiful people snaking down from the other street obstructs the view inside an establishment. The only clue: the filled curbside tables.

I reached home, googled it, yelped it. The inconspicuous spot is literally the toast of the town. It’s Sqirl. Celebrity sightings have been reported. I browsed the menu. Toasts, jams, rice bowls, eggs, coffee, vegan food, breakfast til 4PM. As a recent transplant, I’m still trying to figure out the local food culture.

Sqirl, Los Angeles

A visit to Twig & Twine brought me again to Virgil. On this particular weekday, Sqirl was to my surprise quiet and peaceful, with a line that was only inside.

SQIRL

The photos will kinda guide you on what to expect. Choose your order from the menu on the wall as quickly as possible; place your order and pay at the cashier; get your number and find a table; after which your order will be delivered to you. If you need to buy their homemade seasonal jams, which Sqirl became known for (according to articles about Sqirl’s creator, chef Jessica Koslow), and the enticing pastries to go, buy them when you order food at the cashier to avoid getting back to the line.

SqirlSqirl Quiche20160113_101955Sqirl Sorrel Pesto Rice BowlSqirl Lait N' EggLait n’ Egg: Vietnamese-style iced cortado shaken with egg whites.

So my first breakfast at Sqirl consisted of brioche toast with jam (you get to choose your jam, and I got seascape strawberry), sorrel pesto rice bowl, and lait n’ egg, a refreshing glass of sweetened iced coffee with egg whites, which went well with the contrasting flavors of the rice and toast. I forgot to order their famous house ricotta for my toast, so it came later.

Lait N' Egg and Brioche Toast with Jam and Milk RicottaBrioche toast with seascape strawberry jam and milk ricottaPoached Egg

Super satisfied risking my 20 dollars at Sqirl. The sorrel pesto rice is technically Kokuho Rose Brown Rice, nut-free sorrel pesto, preserved Meyer lemon, lacto-fermented hot sauce, pickled radish, French sheep feta and poached egg. Every spoonful depends on where you scoop it from. It can be salty or sourish or both. The brioche toast is impossible to forget. I crave it when I’m in bed, I dream of waking up to the thickest jam-smeared piece with the thickest layer of the milkiest ricotta cheese. The jam is not sweet by mainstream standards.

It’s funny how some people (on Yelp) expect good food and good location to match. You won’t understand Dawang’s Place (in Laoag) unless you’ve eaten there. The same applies to Sqirl. Easily one of my best meals in Los Angeles. Attainable good food, I didn’t even have to dress up. I went straight from bed, actually, and I don’t think someone ever noticed. Everyone was engrossed in the food.

Sqirl
720 N Virgil Ave #4, Los Angeles, CA 90029
Monday—Friday 6:30AM—4PM Sat—Sun 8AM—4PM
(213) 394-6526

Photographed by Blauearth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2016