The whole idea of a Himalayan restaurant in Big Bear makes total sense and absolutely no sense at the same time. Sure, you are in the mountains, and during winter you can pretend that you are a sherpa leading expeditions to Everest. After which, you can chow down on Nepalese food.. . until you realize you are in Big Bear. And to make the experience complete, the restaurant owners also have a store next door that sells Nepalese, Tibetan, and “Himalayan” souvenirs. Despite its obvious cheesiness, there seemed to be quite a number of patrons as the dining area was full.
If you have never had Nepalese food, it is a cross between Indian and Chinese food. It is a much milder version of Indian food than you would expect in a typical Indian restaurant. The cuisine is representative of the cultural mix of the Himalayan areas. I was really hoping to get some yak meat dishes or butter tea, but sadly, neither were served here. I guess I will just have to wait until I visit Tibet or Nepal for those.
The meal started with Vegetable Momos, which are dumplings made with barley flour . They are very similar to Chinese steamed dumplings in texture, but have a mild curry/cuminy flavor to them. And just like their Chinese counterpart they will burn you mouth, blistering the roof of your palate if you are too eager. It is accompanied by a chutney sauce for dipping. Continue reading
I will never forget my first experience with Indian food. It was a lunch buffet at a restaurant near my college. There were a couple of Indian places around and my Indian friends told me they were all mediocre. Nevertheless, I was feeling adventuresome and decided it was about time to try it. The moment I walked in, it was an orgy of exotic scents – curry, cardamom, mint, licorice, pepper, chili. I wasn’t even sure if I liked it or not since it was such a sensory overload.
Carefully I ate through and sampled a little bit of every item they had. But being a lower end buffet, it was mostly curry that was present. I think I had tried about 8 different kinds. They were all a bit horrifying to my relatively virgin palate. But I would find out that it was nothing compared to the aftermath my digestive system would experience. I won’t go into any graphic details, but let’s just say that my body was very very angry with me. This was not how I had imagined Indian food to be.
My friends reassured me that this was not the finest cuisine that India had to offer. For that, my best bet would be to travel to London. So fast forward about 20 years and I finally get to take that trip. Apparently, since I had received that little tip, the Indian food scene in London has grown even more diverse. In particular, a place called Dishoom had been garnering a lot of recent attention. Its distinction belies in its self-categorization as a Bombay Cafe. Run mostly by Iranian immigrants to India (aka Irani Cafes), they were the Bohemian Cafes of the time where people from all walks of life could gather to relax, converse, eat breakfast, snack or have dinner. Although very popular in the late 1800′s to early 1900′s, they have almost all but disappeared.
When you walk into the restaurant, it is clear that they have gone to some ends to give a sense of nostalgia for a bygone era. But what really excited me was the menu. I am not sure how to categorize the items. Indian-Persian Fusion seems to be an overreach, since there is not much else they are fused with but clearly it has some influences. Whatever it may be, it was what I had always imagined good Indian food to be.
The Salted Lassi is a creamy yogurt drink. I tend to like it because it is not sweet at all. I also use it as a palate refresher in between bites of different dishes. Continue reading
I find it quite puzzling sometimes, the places that you can find good food. Forget themes of organic, farm to table, or locally sourced artisanal goods. Some of these places are downright scary and walk the fine line between clean and sanitary. A lot of the best tacos I have had in LA and SoCal have come from such places. Maybe it is really a laser beam-like focus that allows them to just do what they do best. No decor, no real seating, nothing that is not disposable, and definitely no frills. Even the quality of ingredients can be slightly inferior, but it is inarguable that magic can be made from them.
But don’t let the outer appearances of Boca Del Rio thwart you from some of the finest tacos in the city. I first discovered these more than 20 years ago, and happy to say that nothing has changed. Well, maybe the neighborhood has gotten a bit better so you no longer have to worry about drive-by shootings as you eat on their outdoor benches. It is still owned by the same Korean family and some of the guys cooking up the tacos are still there. Despite its multicultural make-up, these are not the fusion tacos that brought Roy Choi and his Kogi truck to fame. Continue reading
OC TOP 100: DISH #18 – REUBEN SANDWICH
The first thing you do when you enter Mattern is to take a ticket from the red ticket dispenser. Then you wait for your number to be called. And wait. And wait. You could probably spend the time perusing some of their aisles to take a look at some German groceries, but you will probably have to squeeze between other waiting customers who strangely don’t move when you say, “Excuse Me”. Well, maybe they will rotate their shoulders a little bit.
On the weekends, this place gets overwhelmed. Forget about uniform lines or any kind of efficiency. Those are thrown out the window. This is an Old School type of German Deli. The kind where husky elderly German women who have been coming here for decades sigh every 3 minutes or so because their beloved store has been overrun by newbies. If you are lucky after about a half an hour, your number will be called. Continue reading
Sometimes, beauty lies in the simplicity of things. A great way to start your day is with a simple breakfast. Something to start you day that you can order in two words or less – eggs, bacon, hash browns, omelette. Your coffee should only have two syllables in it, too. But somewhere along the line, we might have overcomplicated things. Menus now seem to incorporate way too much information. At this early in the morning, it is hard enough to digest the food, let alone translate and understand a menu. Take for example, Neiman Ranch œufs de poulet with Catalonia Farms marguez linguica chorizo. Why can’t they just say fucking sausage and eggs? Seriously. It is almost as bad as naming your dish the Rooty-Tooty-Fresh-n-Frooty.
But there are still some places out there that serve breakfast the old-fashioned way and don’t add any frills. Usually these places also seem frozen in time. Take for example, the Grizzly Manor Cafe. The word “grizzly” in its name is appropriate for more reasons than being located in a town called Big Bear. Its decor is…let’s just say eclectic.
But locals and tourists pack this place like it is the only place open for breakfast. It is probably the only spot in town with a line longer than Starbuck’s. They take the whole naming simplification to an extreme. Special creations are named The Blob, The Mess, The Polar Bear, The Grizzly, and so on. No substitutions are allowed so you are just going to have to get used to eating your omelette with the yolks. Portions are extremely large and if you ask where they sourced their bacon, they will probably tell you Farmer John.
When you order a pancake (Buttermilk Cake), here is what you get
There is nothing special about this pancake other than the fact it is about the size of your car’s spare tire. Sadly, this is what I look like when I fit into my skinny jeans. Continue reading