Alina’s LA Whirlwind

Hey everyone! Since Marika and I are on different schedules with residency interview season headed into full swing, we will be sharing some eats with you from our travels and everything in between! I was recently in Los Angeles for a mere 36 hours for Step 2 Clinical Skills. As the name suggests, this is the second part of our board exams: 8 hours consisting of 12 timed standardized patient interactions and note-writing after each encounter. It was quite the day, but fortunately I had the opportunity to taste some signature LA fare during my short visit. I stayed with an old med school roommate who is now a first year resident at UCLA, so she showed me some of her favorite spots.

DAY 1

The night before my test, we went to Tsujita, a ramen noodle restaurant whose specialty includes tsukemen, which is a type of ramen where you dip your noodles in a separate bowl of broth before eating. At Tsujita, they simmer their tonkotsu broth for 60 hours (DEDICATION) before adding seafood for a subtle sweet flavor and thickness. I ordered their standard char siu (barbecued pork) tsukemen with an ice cold matcha green tea. 🙂

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Thick, udon-like noodles with char siu
Thick, udon-like ramen noodles topped with char siu
Rich tonkotsu broth with a hard boiled egg
Rich tonkotsu broth with a hard boiled egg

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That broth… should be pictured in the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition for umami. It was thick, creamy, rich, and bursting with savory flavor. On point, Tsujita.

We also ordered the negi ramen, a more classic ramen bowl with tons of thinly sliced green onions and a soupier broth. Also delicious. If I came when I was less hungry, I would definitely go for this.

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To wash it all down, my refreshing iced matcha green tea.

Check out that green!
Check out that green!


DAY 2

Of course, you can’t go to LA without trying some Korean BBQ in Koreatown. So after my exam, we hit up Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong. According to my friend, this is the best K-BBQ in the US; some say even better than the BBQ in Korea!

They’re known to have long waits, but luckily we were able to snatch a table right away (thank goodness, because I was starving). Our table had already been set up with multiple banchan: kimchi, a bean sprout salad with gochujang (sweet-spicy red chili paste), a bowl of broth with pickled radishes, pajeon (scallion pancake), and a large slice of kabocha squash topped with syrup and nuts.

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If there is one thing I’ve learned from eating Korean food, it’s that they never skimp on sides: little morsels and bites here and there to go with your main dish. In addition to our small dishes of banchan, the grill was encircled with a trough divided into four sections. One contained more kimchi (because no such thing as too much kimchi), another contained corn topped with shredded cheese, another with raw peppers and onions, and lastly, a server came and poured an egg mixture into the final section as our grill heated up. As we continued to dine, the cheese melted over the corn, the egg mixture turned into velvety scrambled eggs, and the vegetables cooked down.

For the meat, we ordered the beef combo, which included marinated short rib, brisket, boneless short rib, and marinated pork collar. We each were given a small dish of a dark vinegary dipping sauce with fresh jalapeños, onions, and a smear of wasabi on the side to to mix in. The combo also came with a hearty seafood tofu stew, which was excellent. LA doesn’t get many cold days, but it was one of those soups I could picture myself cozying up with in the heart of a Michigan winter.

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The restaurant was bustling!

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The brisket, my favorite
Pork collar
Pork collar

Undoubtedly, this was the best Korean BBQ that I’ve ever had. All of the meats were perfectly marinated and exquisitely tender. Between three of us, we finished every last bite. We certainly left with full and happy bellies that night.

But not too full! After dinner, we drove to the 85C Bakery in Gardena, since I had never sampled their baked goods before. They’re known to make some of the best Asian baked goods out there, so of course I purchased a large assortment to bring home to my roommates for us all to try (though I may have played a major role in finishing them all, oops).

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So many to choose from!
So many to choose from!

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My favorite was the one that looks like a giant muffin — fluffy milk bread with a blueberry cream cheese filling. One “taste” turned into gobbling up the rest of the pastry in less than 60 seconds. Also pictured: chocolate chip loaf, milk bread with raisins, milk bread filled with white chocolate, coconut cream roll, honey loaf, matcha red bean roll, sugared cream cheese brioche, and chocolate bread with chocolate chips. Talk about carb nirvana…

All bundled up for the trip back to Ann Arbor
All bundled up for the trip back to Ann Arbor

It was all-around a great trip away from chilly Michigan, and I was very sad to leave LA. The few tastes I had assured me that I will NEED to be back again! But before I close this out, no trip to California is complete without In-N-Out. I had never been, so we took a late night jaunt on my last night to round out my visit. Animal fries anyone?

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