Italy with Friends

One of the best ways to visit a foreign country is to visit friends who live in that country. That’s exactly what we did the first day we touched down in Milan.  We drove a couple hours to the coast, up a winding, treacherous, coastal path, parked precariously, and met up with some friends of Will’s.

They treated us to a delicious home-cooked meal that consisted of:

DSC_7863Onion foccacia

DSC_7864Chick-pea flour flatbread, like socca

DSC_7865Olive foccacia

DSC_7871Penne pasta with tomatoes and eggplant

DSC_7857A fantastic view.

Before dinner, Will and I had time to walk down the hill to the beach.  Italian beaches there are different than the beaches in LA.  It’s more rocky than sandy, with sharp under-water things that cut at my feet.  The water is clearer and warmer. And there are tons of beach chairs for rent.  I suppose it’s nice to relax in a chair with a cold beer, but we already brought a towel so we just spread that out and sat on it after we were tired from a swim.

Pakistani Food in London

I’ve heard many times that British food is nothing to write home about, but the Indian and Pakistani food in the UK is spectacular. Based on my one Indian meal in London (take-out, no less!), I have to agree with that sentiment.

The night after we were mugged the police were still out and people were still feeling shaky about the mood of the city. Since it was so eerily quiet around our hotel, we decided it would probably be best to get take-out and eat it at the hotel room. I know, I know, what are the chances of getting mugged in a restaurant twice? But hey, better no chance than a slim chance of that!

We went to a Pakistani restaurant 1/3 of a mile from our hotel. I got a kofta (lamb meatball) in curry while Will got some sort of vegetable curry. With my kofta, I also ordered coconut fried rice. The kofta was magnificent. A juicy, gamey taste, tender, spiced to perfection, and coated with a delightfully heated curry. The coconut fried rice, which was probably the Indian version of the Chinese-American shrimp fried rice, was also delicious. I was very satisfied with my meal.

Indian food in London

Kobe Beef Pho from Noodle Guy

If it were west of the 5 freeway, a Vietnamese restaurant that serves kobe beef pho would be a sign of gentrification. But since it’s on the other side, in the San Gabriel Valley to be exact, it’s a sign of something different. Some would say it’s the sign of the rising upper middle class with the disposable income to order a $10+ bowl of pho. I would say it’s the sign of people who live in the SGV willing to pay a little extra for higher quality food.

Noodle Guy sits in the space that used to be Mei Lin Tou Jiang. The now defunct soymilk and northern Chinese breakfast place has been remodeled with vinyl booths lining the windowed walls and a state of the art POS system that the trendy young waiters use to punch in your order.

noodle guy

Typically, I’m wary of things more high tech than a pen and a pad of scrap paper at a restaurant in the SGV, but those fears were put aside when the big bowl of pho was brought to me. I ordered the ubiquitous #1 pho bowl, which my dad refers to as the “train engine car” because that’s what you feel like hit you after finishing that bowl. Although it’s not mentioned on the menu, you can ask for a substitution of kobe beef instead of regular beef for the price of practically another bowl of pho.

#1 comes with slices of beef, plenty of tendon, crispy, and chewy tripe (my favorite!). The rice noodles at Noodle Guy are wider than the usual ones served in pho, but not as wide as say, the rice noodles in pad see ew. The thicker noodles make sense because the broth is so rich and has such a creamy mouth feel, thanks to the tendon and other morsels melting into it, that a thinner noodle would do a poor job of complimenting the soup.

DSC_7308

So is the extra charge for kobe beef worth it? Well, when I first heard about it, I thought it was a waste of kobe beef. Then I thought it was gimmicky. But after my first bite of the thinly sliced, barely cooked, premium beef in my bowl of soup, I was singing a different tune. The beef was tender without being mushy and had a particular taste that I hadn’t had before in the usual bowl of pho. It was beefy, but not in an artificial or perverse way. It tasted like a farm — fresh air, green fields, dirt path, everything. This was a good thing.

Would I order the pho with kobe beef again? Unless I were really hankering for it, probably not. That’s not to say the beef wasn’t good. It was very, very good. But so was everything else. The broth was spicy with anise and carmelized onion. The noodles were perfectly cooked and still had a nice chew for rice noodles. The tendon was buttery and melted in my mouth. The tripe was easily chewable and not overcooked. The bowl was perfect without the need for kobe beef.

1257 E Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA 91801
Neighborhood: Alhambra
(626) 284-1868