Dining in Los Angeles: Yoshinoya, Sushi and Pastrami, and Hamburgers

Tonight, I decided to try the new Five Guys Burgers that opened up in Northridge. In short: I’m not impressed. Both Erin and I had “Little Cheeseburgers” (which are singles, although they don’t make that clear). We couldn’t have the fries, as they are cooked in peanut oil. Don’t go there if you have trouble with peanuts—they also serve peanuts in the shell. Anyway, I had my burger with onions and tomatos, and the onions where chopped and few and far between, whereas at In-N-Out, I get nice slices of onion. The burger itself was about the same, but just didn’t have the same flavor. Erin had the grilled onions (which she said were good), but they don’t do a lettuce wrap, as their lettuce is chopped, not whole leaf. They are also twice the price of In-N-Out. On the whole, we decided the we prefer In-N-Out, but that there are places we prefer above even In-N-Out: Steak and Shake in the midwest, Burgerville in Portland, and our local favorite, the Habit.

Speaking of burgers, Eater LA is reporting that the Hamburger Hamlet on Sunset will shutter on December 19. I grew up eating at the Hamlet: first the one in West LA on Sepulveda, then the one in Brentwood at Darlington and San Vicente, and then the one in Westwood. Now all that is left, at least in Southern California (there are two in VA) are in Pasadena and Sherman Oaks… and their menu isn’t the menu of yore.

Now, another interesting burger place is Kings Burger on Reseda in Northridge. Kings, which used to be a Carls Jr many many years ago, has all sorts of interesting burgers on their menu, such as Pastrami Burgers. But what they are known for is… their sushi. Yup. They just got written up in the LA Times because of the excellence of their sushi and the unique items on their menu. Perhaps you want truffles shaved onto wild-caught yellowtail sashimi or kanpachi nigiri splashed with black caviar. You can get it there. How about Seared pepper-encrusted tuna slices surround a salad of Granny Smith apple and arugula heightened with the merest splash of balsamic vinaigrette. Tender octopus under a scattering of crunchy tobiko caviar and cilantro comes in a sweet-spicy emulsion. Barely seared slices of Cajun-spiced tuna splayed out around a little mound of still-warm sautéed spinach and enoki mushrooms are drizzled with a creamy peppery sauce. All this, and you can still get that Pastrami Burger if you want. The chef is Jun Y. Cha, an alum of Katana and other sushi havens.

Lastly, speaking of oriental food and fast food, the OC Register has an article about changes in the chicken bowl at Yoshinoya. Evidently, these changes are for the worse. The meat, is not cut into the neat strips, but kind of hacked up into random chunks. The skin exists in scraps and is otherwise detached from the meat. The veggies, which are no longer in gloppy gravy, are mixed up with the poultry. This lead the OC reviewer to give it a thumbs down. As for me, it sounds like an intriguing change, and certainly healthier than the beef bowl.