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LA (SAWTELLE): THE BEST SHRIMP & EGGPLANT IN BROTH YOU’LL WANT TO DRINK

By Nora Zelevansky / April 19th, 2010

KIKIKO2

I've been diagnosed with malaise.  By my sister, Dr. C.  She got her honorary degree online via Web MD (and by that I mean that she checks the site A LOT).  Anyway, I'm not about to come down with some serious disease (um, we hope–knock on wood! Knock on wood!), but I'm a little antsy and blue and basically I'm craving some shift in the routine.

So, with a fresh experience in mind Saturday night, Andre and I decided to check out a new restaurant for dinner.  I perused Jonathan Gold's most recent 99 Essential L.A. Restaurants list and found, Kiriko, a Japanese restaurant just of Olympic on Sawtelle.

I was sort of tempted to jump ship and head to one of Sawtelle's many awesome ramen joints, if I'm honest, but we stayed the course and it was worth the trip.  I wouldn't say that every single dish blew our collective mind (say "no" to the spicy miso albacore handroll, which tastes neither spicy nor like miso), BUT a few dishes really stood out:

KIKIKO

As Jonathan Gold suggests, the super smoky salmon wrapped around fresh mango is AWESOME and, though simple in its ingredients, complex in its mixture of flavors.  The sweet mango kind of cuts the salmon's flavor, which is seriously reminiscent of the smoked mozzarella I grew up eating from Fairway.

But our favorite find was definitely the eggplant and shrimp in broth (pictured above).  Now, I LOVE Agedashi Tofu in almost every form I've ever sampled.  If you haven't had it, it's basically lightly fried tofu in a sweet, salty and mild soy broth, usually with some grated radish and daikon.  In this case, you're having the Agedashi Tofu experience, but instead of tofu you have this amazingly flavorful, warm and amazingly textured eggplant stuffed with shrimp soaking in the broth.  I'm not going to lie.  It was amazing.

Andre and I were initially drawn to the dish because we LOVE an eggplant stuffed shrimp dim sum dish from Empress Pavilion downtown in Chinatown.  (I'm going to go out on a limb without Andre here to confirm and say that it's probably our favorite dim sum dish.)  That one is drizzled in black bean sauce and is also DELICIOUS, but definitely a different thing.

But different is good.  At least I think so.  After all, it's the only real cure for malaise.

xo – N.

Q & A: Karaoke Question, Best Place To Belt It Out?

By Nora Zelevansky / February 25th, 2009

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(M. & P.S. Bring Down The House Echo Park-Style)

Question:  (posed by Connor via "Ask Lifestyle Questions"–02/18)
Hey Nora, what's the best place to go for group Karaoke?  Where you can rent a room for a large group?  Or maybe a bar with karaoke?
I love your blog!  Hugs, Connor

Answer:  First of all, I'm afraid you're only permitted to read this answer if you agree never to karaoke Sir Mix-A-Lot's Baby Got Back.  Hearing people drunkenly karaoke that song is like watching people dance to I Will Survive at weddings.  IT MUST STOP.  TOO MUCH.

Now that I've said my piece: I feel I'd be remiss in answering this question without first addressing the above photo.  My friend M. is the Karaoke Queen.  And, as anyone who has had ample karaoke experience knows, her royal highness fits the "unassuming" profile.  It's always the quiet, demure ones, no?

Anyway, M. not only transforms from adorably awkward, proper lady to maniac crooner at the first sign of an old school Britney or Destiny's Child ballad, but she also works serious dance moves.  It's truly a sight to behold.

Lucky for us, I have pictures:

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ANYWAY, here are some of my favorite places in LA, where I've watched M. go nutty:

EAGLE ROCK (and M. rocks too):

Okay, I know that All Star Lanes is TECHNICALLY a bowling alley and a trek, but bear with me.  First of all, they have bowling AND karaoke AND a bar on Saturday nights (double check cause the schedule changes).  Second of all, you're like blocks from Casa Bianca, so–for my 29th birthday for example–I had a bowling party, followed by drunken karaoke, followed by eating our weight in crazy inexpensive yummy Italian food at Casa Bianca (they take reservations for parties over six, I believe).

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(Bowling at the 29th in Andrew's Glasses and Then At Casa Bianca With My Prizes NOT For Birthday, But For My Impeccable Bowling and Karaoke Skills–YUP)

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(Yum, Casa Bianca that night too . . . )

HOLLYWOOD (and so would M.):

AMAGI is a bar situation in Hollywood.  I'm not sure about private rooms, but their karaoke area in intimate enough not to feel intimidating, so . . .

BRASS MONKEY is an old standard for locals; they've actually been open since 1971.  This is a great option if you want drinks AND snacks, as they're actually a cafe too.  Every night of the week!

LITTLE TOKYO (and big M.):

OIWAKE in Japanese Village Plaza is always festive and you can eat sushi and drink sake while you sing.  I just really like the Little Tokyo karaoke scene cause I get it feels authentic.  Apparently, City Cat Karaoke has private rooms, but I know a bunch of the Little Tokyo spots do.

Metromix offers some other options and City Search did a "Best Of" LA Karaoke for 2008, which lists some Sawtelle and Korea Town options. 

I know K-Town has some great spots, but I haven't experienced anything except Zip for cocktails.  Same with Sawtelle.  So, if anyone can recommend some good Korea Town and west side spots, then please "comment" below and let us know!

Also, it's hardly a private room scenario, but bars like Barney's Beanery and Guys (sorta underground star-studded) totally do weekly karaoke nights.

Kinda makes you want to sing.  And dance.  Right, M.?

xo – N.