July 29, 2011

I saw my friends Heather and John for the last time the other night.  Not the last time ever, the last time for now.  They’ve been in town for work for the past month and a half, but in a few days, they’re packing up and moving on.  It’s been great having them around, and hanging out with them has resulted in some great meals.  Heather and I had a lovely dinner at Bottega Louie; all three of us lunched at Mas Malo; and I won’t forget any time soon our downtown urban picnic and the amazing sandwich for five that I brought along.

Bottega Louie and Mas Malo are both downtown, and the other night we met up for dinner at another downtown restaurant that Heather and John love.  I think it’s hilarious that friends that visit once a year now know downtown Los Angeles better than I do after living in Los Angeles for nine years!  Hilarious, and perhaps a touch sad on my part, but hey – I’m glad they have places they love, because there are a lot of restaurants downtown to choose from.

Blossom Restaurant is a small little Vietnamese restaurant on Main Street, where Heather and John went a bunch of times last year when they were here, but hadn’t managed to make it back this year.  They wanted their Blossom fix before hightailing it out of California, and I was more than happy to join them.

Heather’s actually in that picture, on the right, in the window, reading the menu, partially obscured by foliage.

A few minutes before I took this picture, while I was walking from the subway stop to the restaurant, I passed a not-uncommon sight in Los Angeles: a film crew!  They was lots of equipment and crew members on the sidewalks, and whole blocks of parking spots coned off.  I came across this sign, which answered my first question: “I wonder what they’re filming?”

Prime Suspect,” by the way, is an upcoming detective show on NBC.  They must have been filming in one of the buildings, because nothing exciting was happening on the street.  I love the first sentence on the sign – very Big Brother!

On to the restaurant.  I don’t eat tons of Vietnamese food – not for any particular reason, it’s just not a cuisine I’ve been exposed to very often.  I can’t think of the last time I’ve been to a Vietnamese restaurant – it’s been a few years, at least.

I started off with an order or vegetarian spring rolls.  In some other Asian cuisines, spring rolls are fried, but Vietnamese spring rolls are fresh and wrapped in rice paper.  These had tofu, greens, and herbs, and a great peanut dipping sauce:

They were good, and the peanut sauce had a nice spicy kick to it, although I think I would have preferred a little less tofu and a little more greens.

Then I had the shrimp pho soup.  Pho is a staple in Vietnamese cuisine, and it’s eaten for all meals of the day.  It’s a broth-based soup with rice noodles, cilantro, onions, and a protein (traditionally beef, but also chicken or shrimp, and you can find vegetarian versions too).

My big bowl of soup:

There were a lot more shrimp on the bottom.

The fun thing about Pho is that more ingredients come on the side, as garnishes that you can stir in: a big pile of bean sprouts, fresh Thai basil, limes , and hot Thai peppers.  Heather, who also got the shrimp Pho (I definitely copied her, not the other way around), and I shared this pile of garnishes:

I don’t eat a lot of soup on a regular basis.  I never really crave it, because most of the time it seems weird to me to be consuming a hot liquid in a hot climate like southern California.  The pho, however, was fantastic.  Flavorful, filling yet light, and how could I not get behind any dish that comes with a plate of produce as garnishes?

Maybe I should seek out some Vietnamese restaurants in my neck of the woods… for any Angelenos out there – do you have a favorite Vietnamese spot in the valley?

Oh, and like I mentioned in my Hollywood Bowl post, another perk to riding the subway downtown is the built-in stairs workout.  It’s 5 flights to get down to the train platform and 5 flights to get back out – so when I go round-trip, that’s 20 flights I’m ascending or descending.

Screw you, escalators!

Keep it up, David!