Friday, July 19, 2024

Favorite things I’m eating right now in Long Beach: February 2024


Missed out on Brian Addison’s Favorite Things of past? We got you covered—just click here.

Too many years back, I wrote a very self-indulgent listicle that was about so-called “essential” Long Beach dishes; dishes that I loved and could depend on as long as that place existed—and I wrote it because there’s something so elemental and useful about a specific great dish at a specific place. It was less about some grander proclamation than it was about, “This is just great food.”

And after a year of not doing such lists, I want to return to it. Not some grand list of “essential dishes”—that is too hard of a burden to put on a restaurant: You better have this and you better have it all the time. But for now, in this moment, I am happy to share some of my favorite things.

In other words: Why not just own the moment? Without further ado, here are the favorite things I’m eating right now…

Tabletop Korean BBQ from Sura

621 Atlantic Ave.

Sura has long been the steward of Korean cuisine here in Long Beach, especially when mother-and-daughter team Eunice and Claire Kim opted to take it over in 2014, when they upped the space’s Korean traditions and downsized the focus on other Asian cuisines.

Since then, they’ve grown, experimented with dishes that few in Long Beach have likely had, and have happily joined a small coalition of restaurants that are experimenting with later hours to make a push for Long Beach to finally have a late night food scene.

That certainly includes its latest addition of a Long Beach first: Tabletop grill-ed Korean barbecue.

Galbi, pork belly, angus brisket, pig jowl… The options are not just awesome but delicious, marking the first time Long Beachers can directly experience what so many in K-Town do on the daily: Order a shit ton of meat and cook it at their table.

Fried quail from Hak Heang

2041 E. Anaheim St.

To love Long Beach is to love Cambodians and Cambodian-Americans—but to be Long Beach is to be invited to a Cambodian party at Hak Heang, an honor and privilege I’ve now experienced multiple times thanks to my adopted Cambodian family.

Celebrating Chef Chad Phuong’s birthday, we were greeted with the usual suspects of the things I love that appear at nearly every Cambodian party, be it in a back yard or event space like Hak Heang: the cold platter, where chilled meats like head cheese and bologna sit next to bits of jelly fish, cucumbers, chilled shrimp, and deliciousness. Fried rice with chunks of Chinese sausage.

But the fried quail was a new treat for me, where hints of lemongrass and Five Spice permeated the crisped up fowl. It was damn near perfection.

Shrimp toast from Union at The Compound

1395 Coronado Ave.

There is something definitively cool about Union, the restaurant that recently opened inside Zaferia’s art gallery-meets-community space The Compound: Surrounded by sculptures and paintings, the food coming from Chef Eugene Santiago of Southeast Asian fusion popup Baryo needs some fine-tuning but has some truly great dishes.

His shrimp toast is one of them, where Little Coyote focaccia is topped with thinly sliced shrimp, shave celery strips, tom yum paste, spicy mayo, and cilantro and mint. A wonderful starter to a meal there, do not forget to pair it with one of lead bartender Stephanie Butchko’s incredible cocktails (one of the best in the city, including up to par with Viaje mentioned below).

The concept—restaurant meets art gallery—is reminiscent of Bestia’s opening in L.A., where their choice of space (the warehouse district of Downtown L.A.) was so unconventional that it made it cool. And Long Beach is deserving of such challenging concepts, particularly when it comes to its food.

House special lobster from EA Seafood

1607 E. Wardlow Rd.

Chef Jerry Wu—who slowly saved up while working at Nomad in order to open his own space—has hit the ground running with EA Seafood, his old-school Cantonese joint that overtook the former Kinokawa space after it permanently shuttered in July of 2023.

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The food is reminiscent of that found in SGV and Monterrey Park, where plates of shrimp in lobster sauce, Mongolian beef, and heaps of seafood fried rice sit fly by tanks filled with live lobster, Dungeness crab, and more. And EA Seafood harkens to this with what is becoming the best Cantonese in the city.

Yes, you will have to throw on the market price for the house special lobster but this masterpiece from Wu is worth every penny: Sitting atop what have to be some of the best garlic noodles in the city, this basil’n’chile-d out hunk of crustacean is a savory-meets-umami bomb.

To read Brian Addison’s full feature on EA Seafood, click here.

“La Condesa” from Viaje

3401 Cherry Ave.

As I get ready to kick off the first Long Beach Food Scene: Last Call, a ten-day celebration of Long Beach’s amazing bar culture, I figured I might as well include one of my favorite drinks—but first a little humility: I was, admittedly, not very impressed with Viaje upon opening—and that was perhaps a too-quick-to-judge moment on my behalf, something I always try to veer away from because a restaurant, particularly when it is new, needs to find its footing before we begin to assign healthy, reasonable assessments to it.

And to my own humbling moment of take-a-seat-Addison, I can say that—in the least—Viaje has one of the most stellar cocktail programs in the city thanks to head bartender and Jalisco native Tiquio Serratos. Showcasing Mexico’s distilling muscle beyond the agave, Serratos is introducing Long Beach to Mexican whiskies, rums, and gins—and it’s the last one that “La Condesa” beautifully highlights.

Named after the brand of gin it uses—La Condesa’s prickly pear-infused gin—Serrato mixes sweet, tart, and salty with a beautiful combination of apple, celery, lemon, sage syrup, aquafaba, and floral bitters. The result? A gorgeously silky, definitively sexy cocktail.

Look for my full feature on the bar program in the coming days.

Missed out on Brian Addison’s Favorite Things of past? We got you covered—just click here

Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.


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