Overated dumplings and hot dogs

We ‘snuck’ down to LA over the long weekend to see all the sights we never get to see, or eat at the places we never get to go to, because usually when we’re in LA, we’re there for some family function that revolves around Chinese food and relatives ad nauseum, and there’s not enough time.

High on the list were: Fogo de Chao, Din Tai Feng and Pink’s.

Din Tai Feng in Arcadia commands legions of fans with its hour-long waits for what is supposed to be superlative siao long bao and other steamed dumplings. It wasn’t bad, but it was so pedestrian. After all the hype, we felt so let down. (This was our only Chinese meal on this trip to LA!)

Pink’s: apparently it’s a late night institution that is very old (meaning it’s a little younger than my grandmother) and sells hot dogs to lines with 45 minute waits, in which you never know what celebrity you might spot. I had a chili dog. It was flabby. Maybe I’m just too spoiled by Top Dog in Berkeley.

Fogo de Chao: All you can eat Brazilian grilled meat place. We didn’t high hopes for it (it’s listed in airline magazines, which I always think of as being for suckas!) But it was really good, and the service was excellent, even to two woefully underdressed souls as ourselves. Even if you were a vegetarian, the salad bar was quite impressive, although even a $50 salad bar meal might seem a bit of stretch. The best cut is really their house specialty, the picanha. I think I’ll stick to that next time. This being in the US, they don’t seem to serve the organ meats that I expect they do in Brazil; I look forward to checking that out at some point. For desert, they feature papaya in a couple of deserts, including a fruit salad, which the Thai in me liked.

A couple of things that struck me as very “we’re in LA; we’re not in the Bay Area anymore”

– Seeing the little strip notices taped on doors for filiming, (like a permit) They’re 4.25 X 11.

– Temp agencies with signs advertising acting/filming gigs.

– People get so much more dressed up, and are so much more image conscious, i.e. when they go out to dine. Joe and I go eat even at the higher end places in jeans and fleece jackets in the Bay Area, and we blend in. In LA, well all I can say is it makes people watching interesting for checking out their fashion style. Even the men.

-Valet parking: Here we almost never go for valet parking. In LA, in spite of the impression that it’s so car-centric, parking is very hard to find. It’s just easier for people to go for valet parking.

I think now I understand what is the LA vibe.

We took a 6-hour urban hike through the wholesale district, downtown, Chinatown, Olvera Street, Union Station (you can get married it the courtyard garden! how cool would that be for transportation planners who want to tie the knot!), Little Tokyo, and checked the inside of the Disney Hall (the shiny curvy concert hall: I wonder what the accoustics are like, must go to a concert there some day). The LA Central Library is quite fantastic. It’s got old parts, and they expanded it by indooring the exterior, much like the way the old SF Main Library was converted to the Asian Art Museum. It’s a hidden gem.

Ate a late breakfast at the Original Pantry. The best thing there was not what we ate, but what the guy next to us at the counter had: cole slaw and soup (beef vegetable barley that day).

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