Sunday, May 28, 2006

When I last lived in Koreatown, I only sort of lived in Koreatown. It certainly felt like K-Town, based on the businesses on the corner and the other families in our building, but I think that's only because any strong ethnic enclave will creep over its borders. If you asked most Angelenos to circle K-Town on a map, the old place would probably fall just outside the circle.

My current place is right in the heart of K-Town, geographically, with the strange caveat that my block and those immediately surrounding it seem less Korean as a purely demographic matter. Admittedly, any ethnic "town" (Thai Town, Historic Filipinotown, etc.) in Los Angeles is likely to be just as Chicano/Centroamericano as it is its named ethnicity. Still, my building and block have substantial African-American, Chicano/a, and East Asian populations. It really is melting pot, or a tossed salad, or as one memorable admissions essay from my time at Pitt proposed, a melting salad.

Restaurant-wise, there are approximately 5,000 Asian restaurants of one variety or another right around Wilshire Boulevard, as well as at least 3 other restaurants. If you want Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, or Japanese food, you have no end of options. If you want falafel, there's one super-sketchy looking place. There's also an Italian place that seems to be run by Koreans, and a Carl's Jr.

The real gems, though, might be on 8th Street, which is right out my back door. Just on my corner is a steakhouse that came highly recommended even before I knew what neighborhood I'd be calling home. I haven't tried that one yet, but stay tuned. What I did try yesterday for lunch was Guelaguetza.

Guelaguetza is "un autentico comida Oaxaqueña," which is to say it features the cuisine of a particular Mexican state. The menu felt somewhat familiar but not really--even the things that sounded basically familiar as "Mexican food" were given a totally different spin. (I like to think of it as the menu of the Aztecs, minus the still-beating hearts of enemies.) Even the complimentary tortilla chip basket was different--covered with a brown sauce I can't identify and what I assume was goat cheese. Still, yummy. I ordered banana-leaf-wrapped tamales with black mole, and they were unbelievable. I also had horchata, which I love, which was served with chopped nuts and cactus fruit puree, which I could have done without but which was interesting anyway.

Bottom line: I'll be back early and often, and anyone who comes to visit this summer can count on a culinary trip to Oaxaca.

In less happy local retail news, Hollywood Video does not trust people with out-of-state driver's licenses, even if you give them a perfectly valid one and (more importantly) Visa-flavored security. Sigh. I suppose this will finally turn me into a Netflix person.

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