They seek him here, they seek him there,
His clothes are loud, but never square.
It will make or break him so he’s got to buy the best,
Cause he’s a dedicated follower of fashion.
For the second day in a row I’ve had some time to get out and explore this little corner of the City of Angels. Up until today, I’ve spent most of my exploration opportunities in Little Tokyo just to the southwest of me. My last trip out I made an evening’s photowalk on Bunker Hill for a couple hours. But beyond that I’ve pretty much contained myself to Little Tokyo and a couple blocks into the Old Historic Downtown area.
Today I decided to venture further on foot and made my way down Los Angeles Street through the Fashion District. I should have brought my camera with me; I didn’t think to grab it. I’d intended just to go out and find a cafe to get some breakfast and read my book. But I can, at times, become easily distracted and the blocks and blocks of storefronts beckoned me to come explore. So the camera lingered behind at the hotel and I ventured in.
I started the morning at the Lost Souls Cafe. This small cafe tucked back inside an alleyway off 4th Street reminded me a great deal of a couple of my favorite cafes in Chicago: the old Gourmand of Printer’s Row, now closed; and the No Exit Cafe in Roger’s Park. I understand that this place often has live music and sometimes serves as a gallery for local artists working out of the converted lofts in the historic district. This sleepy Sunday morning there were just a handful of people there enjoying a cup of coffee, reading the newspaper or video-chatting on their MacBooks. It’s a rough open-loft space with the mechanical infrastructure of the building exposed: duct work, fire sprinkler systems. Breakfast was nothing particularly spectacular, but certainly sufficient. The coffee was excellent. — I spoke with a couple of patrons who had ordered this big purple milkshake looking drink and learned that was also a house specialty. The Ube shake composed of yams, ice cream and milk and topped with a big dollop of whipped cream. Apparently they’re quite delicious. I may just have to go back and try one before I leave.
I stayed for a while and read my book while sipping my coffee. When finished, I headed out into the warm afternoon with no particular destination in mind. I turned right onto Los Angeles Street and started heading southeast. Soon I was swallowed up in the Fashion District proper. I’m trying to come up with ways of describing this area. The sidewalks are lined with narrow storefronts selling all kinds of suits, handbags, perfume, lingerie and accessories. For blocks and blocks. I just kept walking, guessing what might be in the next shop. I saw suits of every color and design: leather, suede, pinstripe, seersucker, denim. Italian suits with shiny threads. Heavily embroidered shirts and jeans. The sidewalks started out fairly quiet, but the further I moved into the district the more people crowded around. By the time I got to the true heart of the district, Santee Alley, it was shoulder-to-shoulder as far as I could see.
I thought the prices were extremely competitive. Some shops were selling suits with the offer: buy one get two free. Shoes of every kind imaginable. It was a fashion mall that stretched probably eight blocks long and three blocks wide. Right downtown. I’ve never seen anything like it. But I have to say, if you’re looking for west coast style you’ll find it here, and it will not be like any mall you’ve ever visited.
Last night I had dinner at Shabu Shabu House in Little Tokyo. During my last visit to Los Angeles, I mentioned seeing a number of Japanese restaurants advertising shabu shabu to my child bride. We did a little digging to determine what that was all about and learned something about this particular style of Japanese cooking. I didn’t get a chance to try it while I was out here last time but Whirl, Spencer, Templar and I found a place in Chicago offering it, Cocoro Restaurant, and gave it a go back home.
It wasn’t two weeks after I returned from Los Angeles that Kevin Pang did a feature in the Chicago Tribune, “The Chinese guy’s guide to eating in Chinatown”. Toward the end of the article he talks about hot pot cooking and recommends a couple places to try it, one Chinese and one Japanese.
This trip I promised myself that I would give shabu shabu a try out here. Nick Solares wrote a detailed review about Shabu Shabu House for Serious Eats and describes the meal like this:
In Japanese, “shabu shabu” literally translates to “swish swish” and refers to the technique employed in preparing the dish. You take razor thin slices of beef and submerge them into a pot of boiling water—it cooks almost instantly. The beef is accompanied by an assortment of vegetables, noodles, and tofu that are also cooked in the water and served over rice.
I arrived just as the restaurant was opening and there was already a crowd of 50 to 60 people waiting. The restaurant only has 24 seats. I met the owner, Yoshinobu Maruyama. He was quite congenial. I put my name on the list and waited patiently. About 40 minutes later I sat down to eat. The wait was well worth it. Delicious food, fun atmosphere. Maruyama helped me mix the various sauces and get me settled into how to go about eating this dish. It was a great dinner. An excellent finish to a much-needed day of relaxation.
And now I’m off in search of place to watch Game Five of the Stanley Cup Finals. It’s scheduled against Game Two of the NBA Finals between the Lakers and the Celtics. I may have to put somebody into the boards to get control of the puck– err, TV.