5 favorite Asian restaurants of 2014

I often crave comfort foods I grew up eating. After a string of non-Asian meals, I will find myself gravitating towards something familiar, usually consisting of rice, but also, noodles of some sort swimming in broth. I also love spicy foods, so southeast Asian cuisines are especially popular in my culinary repertoire.

One of my favorite restaurants is Rakiraki Ramen and Tsukemen, located in what may be considered as San Diego’s Chinatown. On every visit — which is practically every time I go to San Diego — I will order the ikagetso (fried squid) as well as chicken karaage (Japanese style fried chicken) and a ramen of some sort depending on my mood. On my last visit, I returned once again to the original, one of the first ramen offerings I fell in love with from the start. You can read my visit from this summer, here.

oxtail ramen

Vientiane is a hole-in-the-wall which I frequent at least once a month and now, have gotten some of my friends completely hooked on it as well. The northern Thai and Lao dishes are a huge hit especially the crispy rice, ong choy, Lao sausage, and if you’re into it, mok pa (steamed catfish in banana leaf). The kids who work here know my order and laugh when I veer off the usual because they know at some point during my meal, I will order the dishes I didn’t at the start. Here is my last post from 2013.


I found Rice Paper Bistro last year and it was one of my top 10 picks of 2013. This little spot sticks out like a sore thumb in the run-down strip mall it is situated in, but has remained a favorite in 2014. Step inside and you will be surprised at its modern feel and creative menu. My favorites are the ong choy salad, fried frogs legs and my latest indulgence, beef with ginger and scallion. The specials board is often dotted with new and innovative dishes you’ll absolutely adore. Here’s my post from 2013.

ong choy salad

On cold days like these, my favorite thing to do is visit Tang 190 for one of its hearty Korean soups. Here, you can indulge in bone soup (sullungtang) which has that milky look from simmering for hours on end. Enjoy a spicy beef soup (yukgejang) or my son’s favorite, bibimbap (beef stone pot rice). The Napa cabbage miso beef bone soup is currently my favorite. Read about Tang 190 here.


Whenever I’m up in the Silverlake area of Los Angeles, Pine and Crane is a must-stop even if I am actually up there for a meal — I will order take-out to enjoy the next day. This little fast casual spot has been my favorite Chinese eatery this year with its tasty ma po tofu, 3-cups chicken, beef roll, dumplings and more. What I love most about the restaurant is its ability to create these traditional Chinese dishes but without the greasiness. We need Pine and Crane in OC! Read about them here.


Stay tuned next week for more “best of” lists of 2014!




eat drink and SOCIALize

Costa Mesa is fast becoming the foodie mecca of Orange County with restaurants popping up left, right and center every week or so. Some are good, some need work, while others, well, those we won’t even mention. Social falls into the first category — the good — but it is even better than good.

First off, the strip mall it sits in is a little shady, but if you can get over that, you’ll find yourself in an astonishingly cool space. I really like the use of wood throughout, giving it an edgy environmentally-sound atmosphere all around.


Secondly, the cocktails are pretty damn good, and it is hard to say no to them when you have to contemplate a passage home. I drink responsibly because at some point I have to drive myself home. However, it is still early, so we start with a Moscow Mule ($7) — ask for the copper mug — and Paloma ($7) with tequila, a house-made grapefruit cordial, lime and “bubbles” off the “Social Hour” menu which is offered between 4pm and 6pm from Tuesdays to Fridays.


Once happy hour is over, there is a list of “Bespoke Libations” to choose from, including Peace Co ($14), a play-on-word for pisco — which is an ingredient in the drink — with blueberry, lemon, egg white and garnished with an orchid. Border Patrol ($14) is a tequila and mezcal cocktail with deliciously fragrant pineapple juice, lime cordial and chocolate bitters. It is hard to stop drinking this.


The menu is simple and straightforward making it pretty easy to order. We select Louisiana Seafood Roll ($13), a pillowy brioche bun stuffed with crab and shrimp tossed in remoulade. A fried oyster accompanies. The sandwich offers meaty chunks of seafood in every bite without an overabundance of dressing — very nice!


Spanish Octopus ($18) is the first thing which catches my eye when I am perusing the menu. I never bypass the opportunity to order octopus and the one here is fantastic. Splendid in texture, it is perfectly seasoned and pairs fabulously with cannellini beans and braised greens.


If you love mac n cheese but don’t want the carbs, Cauliflower Gratin ($10) is the best thing for you yet. We agree that this tastes just like mac n cheese, but without the carb guilt. Sinful in taste, the aged cheddar mornay is gooey rich, and the use of red fresno gives it just a hint of heat to whet the appetite even further. Definitely thumbs up all around.


If I have to pick one dish as my absolute favorite, I will have to say the Mussels ($18) wins hands down. Meaty green lipped mussels are plump and succulent, leaving me feeling so utterly satisfied bite after bite. The lemongrass, ginger and coconut broth it is served in is intoxicating and slices of red Fresno chiles add a welcoming heat to the finish. The only issue is that the menu states crispy rice, but we didn’t find any of it in our dish. I would come back for this alone.


Wild Mushrooms ($14) is umami-filled with mushroom in its own delicious jus over Anson Mill grits, and a slow runny egg to add even more depth to the end result. However, as good as this dish is, I think the others are just phenomenal in comparison, leaving the mushrooms somewhat in second place to the others.


The same goes for the Chicken and Waffles ($16). While the Jidori chicken oysters blows us away, the waffles do not. The Louisiana hot sauce with its spicy sweet flavors is absolutely addicting. I wish they offer the chicken on its own because that’s all I want. It is a winner through and through, but just as simple to eat the chicken and leave the waffles on the plate.


If you’re debating on which entree to choose, I highly recommend Akaushi Skirt Steak ($29). I love the use of red Fresno chiles throughout the menu, and here, it is infused within the chimichurri, leaving my mouth with a lovely kick at the end. Bone marrow butter adds another level of unctuousness to the perfectly executed medium rare steak.


The flavors at SOCIAL appeal to all my senses, and when you’re adding heat to many of the dishes in subtle and effective ways, you’ve definitely piqued my interest. This is one of the most satisfying meals I’ve eaten this year and I hope to return again soon to indulge in those mussels, octopus and the chicken oysters. Next time, I hope to meet the chef who has cleverly tantalized my tastebuds in more ways than one.

512 W 19th Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
Tel: 949-642-2425

Social Costa Mesa on Urbanspoon

Counterpoint San Diego is right on point

It isn’t often I walk away from a meal that makes me feel so utterly happy inside. A meal that is consistently good — no, great! — and the food, service, everything about the entire experience is simply top notch. This is one of those times.

Counterpoint in San Diego’s Golden Hill neighborhood has been in business for five years and I’m not surprised that the place is pretty packed on a Saturday night. The atmosphere is casual but absolutely inviting, with a great soundtrack of 70s and 80s’ hits playing one after another on the night of our visit.


We start with some cocktails: Florida Canyon ($9) to satiate my thirst for tequila, and Counterpoint Gin & Tonic ($9) simply because I am intrigued by the house made tonic paired with the restaurant’s take on the traditional Plymouth gin and tonic. The Rancho Allegre Blanco tequila libation, with pineapple, ginger, sage and lime juice is great, but the gin and tonic wins hand down — I finish it quickly.


Owner Cam Fomby walk by and stopped to chat for a few minutes. I have many questions which I ply him and he graciously answers them all. An ex-marine with no prior restaurant experience, I am curious, and at the same time, intrigued. He is passionate, that’s for sure, and he is definitely excited about chef Rose Peyron, previously at Alchemy, where I enjoyed a great meal earlier this year. But is is when Fomby tells me all he wants is in “making ordinary things, extraordinary” that my ears perk up and I keep this at the back of my mind throughout my meal.

Our first course of Burratta Salad ($12) arrives with arugula, tomato, dollops of gooey burrata, and smoked almonds. The unique element on the plate is the accompanying leek-bread pudding croutons made in-house — words which will resonate throughout the post.


Next is Southern Fried Cauliflower ($7) with perfectly fried florets first soaked in a buttermilk marinade, then seasoned with creole spice. The coating is light but flavorful. The honey-hot sauce is slightly sweet with a lovely kick at the end. Pair everything together and it is a delicious mouthful. Definitely a must-order!

fried cauliflower

I always order rillettes because I love it, so Beef Cheek Rillettes ($8) — made in-house — is in order. The smoked beef cheek arrives topped with tomato confit in a mason jar. Toasted baguette — from Bread & Cie, one of my favorite bakeries in San Diego — is a lovely vehicle for the rillettes. Add a little of the grain mustard served alongside.


Pickles are near and dear to my heart — anything salty and sour actually — therefore Pickle Jar ($5) is not to be missed. A creative assortment of house-pickled vegetables and fruit, which include blueberries, grapes, carrots, wax and cannellini beans, which surprised even me. I’ve never eaten a pickled blueberry or grape before and the taste is strange upon first bite, but it quickly grows on you. An ideal palate cleanser after the unctuousness of the rillettes.

picked vegetables

At this point I am losing the light very quickly and am never thoroughly happy with my photos when there is a lack of natural lighting. So from here on out, the photos won’t be as pleasing, but the food continues to tantalize.

Mac n Cheese ($8) using orecchiette pasta and house-smoked aged cheddar, is rich and decadent. The cheese adds a hint of smokiness without overpowering. The best part is enjoying the left-overs a few days later.

mac n cheese

One of the most over-used vegetables right now is Brussels Sprouts ($7), but I have never been happier eating the ones here. My son takes one bite and says “these are way better than yours” and I’ll have to agree with him. Fried to a perfect char, they are then tossed in a kimchi sauce with a hint of sambal. Those are staple ingredients in my fridge but I don’t have the creativity to step outside of the bacon or pancetta box when it comes to preparing Brussels sprouts. This is one of the best things I’ve eaten in quite some time — simple and addicting.

kimchi brussels sprouts

Moving on to entrees, the Smoked Duck Sausage Pasta ($15) is a definite hit. The sausage is made in-house with the right amount of seasonings and the ideal texture I want when it comes to sausage. A light lemon cream sauce coats the pappardelle (made fresh by Assenti’s Pasta in Little Italy) tossed with roasted mushrooms, a handful of arugula and shaved parmagiana reggiano. Absolutely to die for!

duck sausage

Sausage lovers can revel in Bangers & Mash ($15) — yes, the bangers are made in-house — with creamy brown butter mashed potatoes and a succulent onion-bacon stout jam. A heavenly, but immensely filling dish quintessential for the cooler weather. Is it bad I just want a few of the sausages and a side of those Brussels sprouts and call it a night?

bangers and mash

Beef Tongue Pastrami Sandwich ($13) is one of those things which can either be really good, or really bad because everyone loves pastrami, but tongue? The thinly sliced tongue is sandwiched between a rye roll along with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, spicy aioli and house pickles. The flavor profiles come together so harmoniously and I wish I have more room to take another bite. I end up eating it for lunch the next day after warming it up a tad in the toaster oven. Still good! And don’t forget the generous portion of house-made black pepper chips which sits alongside. You won’t be able to stop eating even half way through.

tongue pastramiIt has definitely been a while since my last encounter with a little restaurant where the chef takes pride in creating as much of the menu in-house as possible. Counterpoint is definitely impressive with tasty cocktails and solid fare, most of which are familiar, but take on a different approach. I think the menu is a clear indication that Cam Fomby’s vision of ordinary things being extraordinary has come to fruition. We will be back, my son will make sure of it.

830 25th Street
San Diego, CA 92102
Tel: 619-564-6722

Counterpoint on Urbanspoon

The Republique of belly busting goodness

I’ve been wanting to visit Walter Manzke’s Republique ever since it opened. In fact, I wanted to visit the minute I found out about it, and that was a while ago when we were dining at Petty Cash and Chef Manzke stopped by our table for a minute to chat and told us about it — his family was eating at the next table. Many of my friends have dined there and I have heard nothing but praises for its libations and its menu.


We arrived about 30 minutes after the restaurant opened on a Saturday night. We had no reservations and decided to wing it. Luckily, we were seated right away in the front of the restaurant against the window parallel to the bar. It was a good seat, a perfect vantage point for me to people watch. The restaurant is stunning with cathedral-high ceilings and seems to sprawl well on into the far back.

Republique 1

I love the homage to Marco Pierre White, the original celebrity chef and enfant terrible (bad boy) of the culinary world — way before Gordon Ramsey or Anthony Bourdain made it fashionable.

Republique 2

Our server Rosie was absolutely delightful. I had a lot of questions and she answered everything she could. Whatever stumped her, she immediately went to seek out answers.

We started with the essential cocktail, a Whiskey Fix ($12) comprising lemon, berries and rye whiskey. It was refreshing and not harsh at all which is really surprising. Even I liked it. If you prefer wine, there is an extensive wine list and there is a sommelier available to help you out if you’re unsure of what to select.


The breads here are simply incredible. Complimentary baguette is brought to the table on a wooden block with butter. However, I highly suggest ordering the Normandy Butter ($5) as well as a side of Wood Oven Pan Drippings ($5) which arrives in a baby Staub cast iron cocotte. Be careful when you lift the lid as it is still steaming.


The butter is creamy, thick, salty, everything I want butter to be. We slather it onto the warm baguette slices and watch it sink into the bread, melting into the crevices, before devouring it. The pan drippings are a whole ‘nother story. Dotted with bits of onion, this is what dreams are made of — well, MY dreams anyway. We went through the initial baguette, PLUS two more refills and we still could not finish all the drippings and butter on the board. This is definitely worth the 10 dollars, and I highly recommend it especially if you love good bread.

If you’re a Charcuterie aficionado, definitely order a board ($28/or $7pp) as everything is made in-house (I can see the meats hanging from where I’m sitting). It is simply breathtaking and absolute debauchery!


If you’ve been to Chef Manzke’s Petty Cash, you will understand the concept of this next dish. Chips & Dip ($14) is Tasmanian sea trout tartare cubes topped over essentially what we know as raita (cucumber, mint, yogurt, cumin seed). But the best part is the cone of crispy pork rinds sprinkled with espelette pepper, za’atar and salt to use as your “chips”. At Petty Cash, Chef Manzke offers them with a guacamole topped with uni. It is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.

chips n dip

On the topic of uni, Manzke is a man after my own heart. His love of uni is possibly equal to mine. Therefore, when I scanned through the menu and did not see any uni in sight, I was perplexed, but also, disappointed. Turns out, the restaurant did not receive any uni shipment the day of our visit and therefore, no uni was offered. Guess I’ll have to make another trip.

Eggs on Toast ($11) typically with uni on top of scrambled eggs is instead substituted with smoked yellowtail and a disc of breakfast radish. This might be my least favorite dish of the night. Perhaps it was my pre-conceived notion of it having uni on top, but nevertheless, it was the only item I wasn’t excited about.

egg toast

If you happen to see Charcoal-Grilled Santa Barbara Spot Prawns ($16 each), order it. The tender flesh almost melts in you mouth and I can’t stop myself from sucking on the head for every drop of the shrimp tomalley (it is actually hepatopancreas in shrimp but tomalley sounds so much better) I am able to find. The corn, peaches and peanut accoutrements are surprisingly well-paired albeit, the Thai curry was a tad on the mild side making it difficult to detect.

spot prawn

Crispy Fried Maryland Soft Shell Crab ($26) is possibly the priciest soft shell crab I have ever eaten. The crab is perfectly crispy accompanied by a Santa Rosa plum sauce, blistered green beans, slivers of garlic and julienned ginger. There is chile, but not enough to cause much damage. It is delicious, possessing familiar flavors of Asian cuisine.

soft shell crab

We finish with Spaghetti Rustichella: Carbonara ($19) style. The noodles are sublime, perfectly seasoned and unctuous on the palate. Unfortunately, the bits of pancetta are fatty and gristly. We move them to the side and polish off all the pasta.


The restaurant becomes extremely loud as the evening goes by. The hoards of thoroughfare going through the bar area is frustrating. There is little space for people to hover — yet they do — while trying to snag a bar seat as soon as someone vacates their spot. It reminds me of dim sum in Asia where people are waiting for you to finish eating so they can take your table.

If you are unlucky enough to sit with your back against the bar, it will be inevitable that you’ll be knocked about by passersby who are trying to squeeze between you and the lingerers. There just isn’t enough room for so many people to be in one area without strangers touching you for no reason. My suggestion? Make a reservation and ask not to be seated by the bar.

624 S La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Tel: 310-362-6115

République on Urbanspoon


the rebirth of Cafe 21 San Diego

Those of you who have been following my blog know my immense love for Cafe 21. It is a love affair which begins several years ago, almost immediately in fact, after my first bite. As the years fly by, that location soon becomes a vital part of my life, providing so many fulfilling memories for my friends and I. We always leave with a stomach full of delicious food, perhaps, a tad intoxicated by the creative cocktails and sangria, but always extremely happy and satisfied.


That is many years ago, and through time, as time often does, takes on a new meaning, a new journey if you will, towards bigger and better things. This is certainly the case with Cafe 21, who now resides in its new spot just a block or so away from its previous Gaslamp location.

Cafe 21 is one of those restaurants which I feel has been with me through my life’s journey the last four to five years. I doubt this love affair will ever end. I’ve been waiting to visit the new place and am excited to see what it looks like. As I eagerly wait across the street, I see it is busy with people, and a warm fuzzy feeling comes over me.


The decor is stunning, and my photos definitely do not aptly capture the essence of its entirety, or the soul of owners Alex and Leyla Javadov. You will have to take my word for it until you have the opportunity to step inside and experience it for yourself.

There are traces of the Javadovs’ Azerbaijani roots, mostly visible in the upstairs “loft” area, but overall, the chic and modern decor is exactly what 2014 calls for. Besides the loft, there is a patio, bar and dining room area — a different experience can be had depending on where you sit, but it will always be one that is etched in your memory long after your belly is full, days and months down the road.


It is morning, but that does not stop some people from enjoying a cocktail or two. Cafe 21 is famous for its house-made sangrias — six are available on any given day — take a peek when you walk in the door. If you are not able to make up your mind, you partake in a flight for a taste of them all.


Another popular cocktail is the signature Bloody Mary — there are four to choose from — here’s a glimpse of the Prawn Star ($15) and the California Greenin ($15) which uses a tomatillo mix created in-house.


However, it is too early to drink alcohol, so we start with some Loose Leaf Tea ($4) — you choose either hot or cold. Of course we choose the latter. A variety of Scottish Caramel Pu-Erh, Raspberry Lavender and Green Sencha arrives. I love the vessels they come in.


Once the tea has enough time to steep, position it over a large glass and release the tea over the ice and voila, your ice tea is ready! The server is happy to provide this service, but I am like a child in a candy store.

The caramel pu-erh is intoxicating. The deep amber liquid is sweet to the nose, and rich on the palate. I buy some to take home for another day.


I am mesmerized by the teapot, so when our next round arrives, I want to photograph the procedure once again!


The first of our meal comes to the table, Blueberry Pancakes ($11 choice of 3 short stack or 5 full stack) is on the ubiquitous stainless steel platter Cafe 21 is known for. These are fluffy and delicious. The house-made blueberry compote is not overly sweet, retaining the natural flavors I so love. They are generous with the butter, but you don’t have to use it all.


The Shrimp Cast Iron Omelet ($13) is an ideal brunch item comprising eggs and a protein of your choice. We choose pesto marinated shrimp which nestles atop, and in between the light fluffy eggs, along with tomato, spinach, pesto sauce, feta and mozzarella.


There are specials every single day and on this particular one, the Stuffed Flatbreads ($15 choose two out of three options) is a recommendation I, at first, am hesitant to order. However, a little bit of convincing later and I am enamored by both the vegetarian selections. Cheesy organic spinach with pesto, goat cheese, feta and mozzarella cheeses is vibrant, however, it is the creamy potato and onion with locally grown cauliflower that wins hands down all around. The lilac hues of the cauliflower peek through when you cut into the flatbread, but it is robust aromas of this cruciferous vegetable that blows our minds.


We are quite full by now, but there are two more items to hit the table. Lagman Pulled Pasta ($14) with hand-pulled pasta, bell peppers, tomato, onion, butter sauce with lamb meatballs (not listed, but you are able to choose this protein) — more like a dinner item than a brunch due to its sheer volume. I am only able to take a bite. I wish my stomach is bigger, but the lamb meatballs are seasoned perfectly and the vegetable accoutrements colorful and inviting.


Seared Grouper Sandwich ($14), another special of the day sees a generous piece of fish sandwiched between a brioche bun along with lettuce, tomato, onion, chipotle aioli and a side of your choice. Again, I only manage a bite.


I am always so happy when I leave here, and especially so when I am able to introduce new people to this extraordinary eatery. Whenever any of my friends ask for a San Diego recommendation, I always say Cafe 21. In fact, last week, while dining at Tavern on 2 in Long Beach, a couple sitting next to us overhears me talking about Cafe 21 and interjects. They tell me about their visit back in March and how amazing it is. This is exactly the thing I like to hear. If you haven’t yet experienced Cafe 21, do it soon. It is so worth it.

Cafe 21
802 5th Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101
Tel: 619-795-0721

Cafe 21 on Urbanspoon

Lukshon & Godiva join forces for the year of the horse

Last week, I was invited to a dinner at Lukshon in Culver City in collaboration with Godiva who created special chocolates in celebration of Lunar New Year, which happens on January 31st this year — the year of the horse! People born in this year are known for being independent, free-spirited and feisty and the menu this evening featured the Szechuan peppercorn in many of the dishes known for its spicy numbing qualities. Chef Sang Yoon of Lukshon also infused many of the savory dishes with Godiva chocolates, making some unique and delicious pairings I’d never tasted before.

LUKSHON (640x384)

We were really here to be introduced to the commemorative Lunar New Year chocolates which comes in several variations all enveloped in a stunning red box (the color of prosperity in Chinese culture).

chocolates (640x425)

The dinner was served family style and you’ll be happy to know that most of the savory dishes are available on Lukshon’s regular menu. I was tickled to be in the company of Karin E Baker, deputy editor of Flavorpill LA, Tommy Lei, known fashion blogger of My Belonging and Jocelyn Wang, the person behind V3Con Digital Media Conference and currently, President of the Asian American Journalists Association LA Chapter.

Our first course is a platter of Duck Popiah which we all zoomed in to take photos of. Popiah is a Singaporean fresh roll and here, Chef Sang has filled it with duck confit and a wonderful dark chocolate hoisin sauce which was so subtle none of us could detect it. However, we all agreed, it took the edge off the hoisin by giving it a smoother, more balanced flavor than pungent hoisin alone. Pickled stem lettuce added a touch of crunch and acidity to the dish.

duck popiah (640x425)

I was so excited when Crispy Whole Fish arrives. An entire fish is presented beautifully, curved and fried to perfection. I was given the task of breaking apart the fish which revealed moist, tender flaky white fish morsels which we drizzled with the accompanying pecel (a spicy, sweet and tart sauce originating from Indonesia). Wok charred cucumbers are heavenly and possessed the intoxicating flavors of Szechuan peppercorns. I couldn’t stop eating it was so addicting!

whole fish (640x425)

Chinese Eggplant was soft with a crispy exterior and tossed in panch puran, an Indian five-spice mixture topped with a dollop of fennel raita and shards of crispy eggplant. The menu also stated cocoa nibs as an ingredient and again, it was so deftly added to the dish without overpowering.

eggplant (640x425)

The bowl of Crab Fried Rice was devoured so quickly we didn’t have much time to think about it. The blue crab infused jasmine rice had bits of pea tendrils, serrano chile and egg combined together and was so decadent it would have made a meal in itself.

crab fried rice (640x425)

Our next dish was Beef and Broccoli but like no other I’ve ever tasted before. Tender slices of hanger steak prepared in a black bean cocoa butter sauce was so rich and savory we all took more than a piece. Gai lan not only added color, but also, a wonderful vegetable component to the dish. I prefer Chinese broccoli over regular because of its leafiness. Puffed tendon added another textural dimension to this mouth-watering dish.

beef broccoli (640x425)

The Brussels Sprouts were also highly addicting and we were thrilled they placed two bowls on our table. The chile garlic vinaigrette possessed hints of sesame, coating the slightly charred Brussels sprouts which were eaten with glee.

brussels sprouts (640x425)

And if we thought the crab fried rice was good, the Heirloom Black Rice made us even happier. Savory lap cheong (Chinese sausage), onion, roasted garlic are prepared with the rice and topped with a runny Lily’s farm fried egg which added another dimension of richness to the already perfect rice.

black rice (640x425)

However, if there was to be a piece de resistence of the meal, I’ll have to say, Spicy Chinese Ramen was it. The broth was absolutely impeccable with so much depth and layers of flavors in every spoonful. Ma la (the flavor given to Szechuan peppercorns) bamboo, pork belly and crispy ear were ideal accompaniments but all I wanted was to slurp up all the broth.

ramen (640x425)

By now I was really quite full but every one at the table was excited about the desserts about to hit the table. There were four desserts including Godiva White Chocolate Vietnamese Iced Coffee spiked with White Lion arrack. Arrack or arak is a distilled alcoholic drink made from the fermented sap of coconut flowers, fruits or sugarcane, but not the same as the anise alcoholic beverage consumed in eastern Mediterranean countries or north Africa. It was incredibly strong, both the coffee and the spirit and we wanted to take it with us to drink the next day but due to the alcohol content, was unable to take it with us.

vietnamese coffee (640x425)

Godiva Milk Chocolate Cherry Shooter also had some sort of alcohol in it. I wasn’t able to “shoot” it, but instead, took a small spoonful to taste from the crushed candied almond-rimmed glass.

shooter (640x425)

Chocolate and Pear “Donut” had specks of gold all over it which created the most visually stunning edible ever, unfortunately, the photo doesn’t do it justice at all. With chicory, kecap manis caramel, fresno chile and puffed rice.

donut (640x425)

The item I was most looking forward to was Macadamia and Black Sesame Dumpling. New years generally includes “tong yuen” which is a mochi based dumpling with a filling of some sort, traditionally, peanut, black sesame or red bean. I wanted only a bite but it was a difficult task so I popped the entire thing in my mouth.

sesame dumpling (640x425)

Even though our meal was part of a celebration that can’t be duplicated, you can visit Lukshon and put together your own lunar new year dinner, or, any time of the year. That ramen is to-die-for and should not be missed.

3239 Helms Avenue
Culver City, CA 90034
Tel: 310-202-6808

Lukshon on Urbanspoon