Monthly Archives: September 2017

Pine and Crane, Los Angeles

Pine & Crane
1521 Griffith Park Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026

I acknowledge that at first I was very skeptical of Pine & Crane. Can a Taiwanese restaurant not located in the San Gabriel Valley or Irvine be good (and located in hipster-y Silver Lake no less)? Does it really live to the hype of 1,000+ Yelp reviews with a 4.5 star average after 3 years in business? But despite my skepticism, I still needed to go to actually see if yuppie-fied Taiwanese in Silver Lake actually works and is worth it. After all, if you can find decently priced, good Taiwanese around central LA, why would I (or any of my friends) want to suffer the traffic on the 10 to go to the SGV?

So during my last visit to LA a month ago, a friend and I went to finally try it out. Given that her family came from Taiwan, I’d say she’s an even better expert.

We met up around 7PM on a Sunday evening. While finding parking in Silver Lake was difficult, like always, the wait was fairly easy for a table. I do actually like the fast casual approach of sorts they have at Pine and Crane, allowing you to order what you want at the counter and then get seated and served. So after a relatively decent 15 minute wait in line, we decided to get the following, which we thought would give us a good breadth of the quality without being too saturated with food:

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Beef Roll at Pine & Crane

  • Beef Roll – The dough for the warp was nicely fried to a light crisp and filled with flavorful beef and cucumbers, lots and lots of cucumbers. While the flavor was good, unfortunately the cucumber to beef ratio was a bit off which marred the otherwise pretty great appetizer.
  • Tofu Skin Salad (Cold Item) – We wanted to try one of the $3.50 rotating cold appetizer items they keep at a display fridge by the counter so after a lengthy deliberation we settled on the tofu skin salad. The tofu skin was nice, but the marinade/dressing lacked a bit of flavor so it was a bit bland.
  • Morning Glory (空心菜) – In contrast, the kong xin cai was excellent. It was perfectly stir fried with a little bit of garlic and oil making a simple, but flavorful dish that helped balance all the heavier meat flavors of the meal. (note the list of vegetables are seasonal and rotates)
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Beef noodle soup at Pine & Crane

  • Beef Noodle Soup – The beef was nicely seasoned and tender and the noodles were cooked decently. However, my friend and I both agree that the broth was a little bland. It did have a relatively strong beef flavor, but a little bit of spicy or maybe a dash of chili oil would have gone a long way.
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Minced Pork on Rice at Pine and Crane

  • Minced Pork on Rice – At the end was the best dish of all, in my opinion. 滷肉飯 is a classic Taiwanese dish and Pine & Crane pretty much nailed it. The pork was tender, flavorful, and richly infused with the perfectly cooked rice. The egg had great soy sauce flavor and the pickled vegetables helped to cut the richness of the rest of the dish.

While you might get hung up on some of the nitpickiness of the individual dish descriptions, overall my friend and I thought it was a solid execution of Taiwanese food. It may not be as flavorful as some Taiwanese spots in the SGV or Irvine, but it definitely is a solid Taiwanese restaurant with reasonable prices. I would definitely go there again, especially when I’m spending time around Silver Lake, Echo Park, or even parts of Hollywood.

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Baozi Inn, London

Baozi Inn
26 Newport Court
London WC2H 7JS, UK 

It’s Labor Day week, the “traditional” end to the US summer season so it’s fitting that I’m finally finishing the last post of my grand British/Canadian/New Yorker vacation.

Today brings me to Baozi Inn, a Sichuan restaurant in London’s Chinatown that serves Sichuan cuisine. While it is a restaurant that’s in the Michelin Guide to London, I mostly came here on the recommendation of my grandaunt and granduncle that live just outside Brighton. They enthusiastically recommended the restaurant as they dropped me off at the train station as I journeyed back to London. Given that I didn’t know London’s Chinese food scene all that well (and my previous dining adventures earlier in my trip were disappointing), I decided to give Baozi Inn a try for my last dinner in London.

On a Tuesday evening at 8PM it was fairly easy to get a seat. The hardest part, of course, was to choose menu items that I could reasonably digest and afford as a table of one. While I basically wanted to order the whole menu, I pared it down to the following:

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Food at Baozi Inn

  • Pork Baozi – Of course I had to get the namesake baozi, and it did not disappoint. The bun was moist and fluffy, giving perfect texture at first bite. Then the filling was juicy and flavorful as well, with a pork meatball that was seasoned well and had some diced vegetables. If I didn’t have so much more to eat, I definitely would have ordered more.
  • Potato slivers with chilli and sichuan pepper – In contrast, I found that the potato slices were underflavored. While this dish isn’t exactly supposed to be bursting with heat, I barely could notice the hint of chile oil and sichuan peppercorns. It was refreshing but just on the blander side.
  • Chengdu Dan Dan Mian – Then I had one of their signature dishes, the Dan Dan Mian. I loved the chile oil and sichuan pepper sauce which really worked well with the flavor of the nice, rich ground pork. The noodles were perhaps a little too thick for me, but mixed together it was absolutely delightful from first to last slurp.

I’d say that while Baozi Inn might not be the best Sichuan food I’ve ever had, it certainly is solid and definitely was levels beyond the other Chinese food I ate in London (granted, it was a small sample size). I would definitely encourage travelers to London to try it out, especially given how close Chinatown in London is to nightlife hotspots in Leicester Square and SoHo. Whether you’re looking for a light snack or heavier meal, Baozi Inn would be a good pit stop for food before a night out on the town.

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