For this installment of “Artist Eats,” we asked Saelee Oh to share her favorite place to eat. Saelee is a Los Angeles-based artist whose works primarily consists of drawings, paintings and cut paper, although on occasion she has also created sculptural installations and stop-motion animations. Through her delicate imagery, Saelee explores themes including utopia, female empowerment, identity, connection, alienation, nature and animal symbolism.
Continue reading for her answer.
“I’m drooling over my laptop and craving Little Dom’s in Los Feliz right now,” Saelee says. “Usually a restaurant will have a couple dishes that are its hits sprinkled in with some misses, but pretty much everything offered here is delicious and you can’t go wrong with whatever your pick is for breakfast, lunch or dinner. (I’ve never woken up early enough for breakfast, but I’m making a safe assumption.) The first time I came here, the waiter described the hamburger as ‘retarded good,’ so although a burger sounded kind of plain for my mood that night, I couldn’t resist a sales pitch like that and I have to admit that he was right: it was amazingly delicious. It comes with burrata, roasted tomato mostarda and speck and a side of the best fried potatoes ever. I don’t know why these fried potatoes are different, but they just are. They’re better. They look like they were smashed as an afterthought or maybe were somebody’s half-eaten leftovers, but don’t judge by sloppy looks, because these are a perfect balance of crispy and soft, hot and comforting, garlicky and lemony carbs. Their cocktail with cardamom is what started my minor obsession with that spice, so much so that I was soon on the hunt for some perfume with a cardamom note in it before I was talked out of it. I was told by a perfume expert that although cardamom is delicious as an edible flavor, it’s a hard scent to pull off as a body odor. Every pasta dish here is delicious and the portion size is perfectly filling without making you feel grossly overstuffed if you clean your plate, which you will want to, and still try some dessert. The raw baby kale salad sounds deceptively simple, but is delicious although I swear that it tasted and looked like two totally different salads with the same ingredients from the last time I had it compared to my untrustworthy memory of the first time I had it. Lastly, my favorite must-try recommendation is the rice balls appetizer. Sorry vegans, but this is a must try dish. It’s a hot tennis ball-sized ball of deliciousness that’s crispy brown on the outside with gooey cheese and risotto inside and some more finely shaved cheese generously dusted on top. Outdoor seating for the place is a plus, and I think Little Dom’s bar is one of the prettiest vintage-style bars in Los Angeles. It feels fancy and yet still homey and cozy.
“My other favorite restaurant has a quite different ambience with some gruff, quick, sometimes borderline rude service and the waiters will throw down plates of food on the table because it is a Korean restaurant in K-town. (I’m Korean. We are blunt, passionate people with stomachs of steel.) I took some vegetarians to BCD Tofu House a while ago who clearly requested no meat ahead of time and this is the only restaurant I know of, besides a Chinese restaurant in the middle of a small, rural town, where the waitresses argued with us forever to just eat the meat after they had forgotten the request, brought out the wrong dishes and it was totally their fault. The ingenious invention of having a doorbell at every table so that you don’t have to flag down a waiter makes up for a lot in the service department though. I don’t know why every restaurant doesn’t have this—it’s so practical. More importantly, their consistently delicious comfort food available 24 hours a day makes BCD Tofu House my spot that I crave in the middle of the night and is usually the first spot I’ll eat at whenever I fly back into LAX airport, even if I don’t have an appetite. Years ago when I was still a student and was living a totally reversed night-owl schedule, I would come here by myself with my sketchbook night after night, until I got embarrassed because the waitress asked if my mom worried about me coming in so late all of the time because she did. Luckily, they have several locations in the L.A. area so I just switched to another one for a while before coming back. The menu has since expanded so that you can order tofu salad, which is actually really delicious and fresh with tasty miso dressing, dumplings which are so-so, and some other traditional Korean dishes, but the thing to get here is the hot bubbling bowls of soon tofu, which is a soft tofu soup that you can get in slightly different varieties that either have seafood, beef, dumplings, kimchee, intestines (gross), vegetables and even cheese (a friend ordered this once and didn’t seem to be able to notice the cheese much). You can pick your degree of spiciness and when the hot bubbling soup arrives, the fun part is cracking a raw egg into it so that it will poach and then eat it with rice. Be sure to crack your egg immediately and bury the raw yolk towards the bottom of the bowl so that it’ll cook. Unlimited side dishes like kimchee, cold pickles, potato salad, other varieties of kimchee or seafood and a fried fish are included and you’ll definitely be stuffed and sleepy with food coma when it’s time to go home and you’ll think that you never have to eat again. Just when you thought that you were done, a waiter will come by to fill your empty stone pot crusted with rice on the sides with water and in a few minutes, you’ll have a porridge of toasted-flavored rice called noo-lun-jee. Now you’ll really be bursting in the belly. Koreans know how to really eat. If this isn’t enough to satisfy your appetite, you can get the soups as a combo with a side of grilled Korean BBQ meats, which are also delicious. If you get the combo, then your bowl of soon tofu will be slightly smaller, but trust me that it’s enough. This place around 2 a.m. is interesting for people-watching because all the drunk skinny club girls with their awkward dates will trickle in. There’s actually usually a more mixed, diverse crowd than just Korean people, which is good for eavesdropping. The best is when one time someone misheard my friend as saying ‘Koreans are the worst’ when he really said ‘Comedians are the worst’ and a fight broke out. That’s what hot, spicy food and a steady diet of kimchee can do to you.”
2128 Hillhurst Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
BCD Tofu House
3575 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010