At first, I was a little miffed with Anthony Bourdain’s “Los Angeles” episode of his CNN travelogue, “Parts Unknown.” Surely he would cover Descanso Gardens or tea at the Thursday Club?
Instead, Bourdain went to Koreatown.
Don’t get me wrong, as a life-long Angeleno, I’d been to what I thought was Koreatown. Sure, I had driven down Wilshire Boulevard from the La Brea tar pits to downtown. I worked downtown for years. I argued cases at the old mid-Wilshire temporary site of the state court of appeal. I even appeared in the Compton court during the week of May 5, 1992. I drove a black Eldorado with tinted windows.
But my Angeleno bias has always been East L.A., Fairfax, Little Tokyo. Not Koreatown. It took Bourdain's interview of Roy Choi to wake me up to kimchi fried rice.
Last week, as if stalking the wild asparagus, I decided to follow the Bourdain breadcrumbs, out of La Cañada, down Western to Olympic, to Jollibee (for the 490-calorie Halo Halo) and then to MyungIn Dumplings at 3109 W. Olympic, in a vertical strip mall near Harvard Boulevard.
It was worth it. There were two veggie options on the MyungIn menu. One was the vegetarian dumpling for $7. The owner told me not to order anything else, because it would be enough.
I thought $7 bought one dumpling, but what came out were four fresh-made, softball-size dumplings, served with a chili soy dip and some marinated cucumbers and peppers. There was also a water bottle with a photo of Psy from Gangnam Style.
I ended up taking three of the dumplings home in a to-go box.
In the same mall, there’s a clothing store packed with some bargain fashion forward items. I asked the owner if she was the designer. She laughed and said no, that -everything was imported from Korea, but made in China. The look was a cross between Rachel Zoe and my new favorite K-drama, “Vampire Prosecutor.” (Prosecutors in Korean dramas also investigate crimes, dress well, are honest and honorable and know Kung Fu, whereas mere lawyers are not as competent.)
As for Jollibee, don’t tell your trainer. The Halo-Halo is a shaved-ice, beans-at-the-bottom, mango-ice-cream-on-the-top confection that should only be sampled once in a lifetime. Bourdain is correct, it’s really good.
I just wish that Bourdain's sidekick in the series, Roy Choi, could bring his Kogi trucks back to La Cañada. I reckon he won't because LCF requires an annual license and has crazy ordinances like this:
“The owner/operator of a mobile food facility, mobile support unit, or mobile food preparation unit shall complete a Mobile Food Facility Route Sheet, obtained from the county health officer, listing the complete address, telephone number and arrival/departure times of each location where the retail food business is being conducted. The Mobile Food Facility Route Sheet shall be maintained on file at the Vehicle Inspection Program. The owner/operator of a mobile food facility or mobile support unit shall notify the county health officer of any significant changes to the Mobile Food Facility Route Sheet. Failure to provide an accurate and current Mobile Food Facility Route Sheet may result in suspension or revocation of the public health license or permit.”
Alas, we are over-regulated. Who could have foreseen this when the town incorporated in 1976? Does this apply to lemonade stands? Girl Scout cookies?
ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @anitabrenner.