It appears we are getting this winter's entire allotment of rain all in one go. And as glad as we are for our parched earth to get the much-needed precipitation, let's face it: After ten straight months of sun all this rain is a little … shocking?
But's let's celebrate. It appears there will only a few days this season that we truly get to hunker down in our sweaters and enjoy cold-weather foods. This weekend is a perfect time to take advantage of the fantastic warming dishes this city has to offer. Here are five of our favorites to inspire you to get out from under your blankies and get fed.
5. Bäzole at Bäco Mercat
What is bäzole? It is a bowl of soup, yes, but to reduce it to such a common monosyllable is to vastly underestimate its power and scope. Or maybe not. “Soup” has the kind of elemental, even cosmological connotation that suits what goes on in this bowl. Imagine a hybrid of pozole, ph? and ramen, triangulated via chef Josef Centeno's classical training, his stints at fancy restaurants (Daniel, Manresa, Meson G, etc.) and his native Texas. As with the rest of the menu, this is not fusion so much as utter reinvention. The bäzole starts with a broth built from beef trim, marrow bones and roasted chicken bones. Into the broth: the noodles, made in-house daily, nicely chewy alkali noodles that resemble medium-sized curly ramen noodles; the carnitas, both pork and beef, that also go into the original bäco, hence the name; a fried egg, lurking under a raft of the same varieties of fresh herbs that went into the broth (see: ph?); mushrooms; and, infusing and informing it all, the chile paste, which Centeno makes with about a dozen and a half kinds of Mexican chiles. The slow heat of the chiles and the brightness of the fresh herbs permeate the dish as you spoon it up, the yolk of the egg breaking into the broth and enriching it like a carbonara sauce. It is a glorious thing, as warming and comforting as it is wholly unique. 408 S. Main St., downtown; 213-687-8808.
4. Barbacoa at Gish Bac
Roasted, juicy meat, savory spicy broth, warm tortillas. What else could you want on a rainy day? At Gish Bac, you can have all of these things – but only on weekends. Lucky us that all this rain came on a weekend. Owners David Padilla and Maria Ramos cook their goat in the Oaxacan style: chili-roasted for hours and hours in a pit. It comes to the table swimming in meaty juices, red from chili and tomato. Wrapped in warm, fresh tortillas with a little cabbage slaw, it will drive the cold right out of your bones. The lamb is cooked in avocado leaf and chiles and comes with a bowl of juices for dipping the meat, though you'll wish you could just pick up the bowl and drink the juices like soup. 4163 W. Washington Blvd., Arlington Heights; 323-737-5050.
3. Xiaolongbao at Din Tai Fung
Sometimes we wish all food would break open and gush with hot broth – especially on days like these. Xiaolongbao is fantastic cold weather food, and there's a reason Din Tai Fung is the gold standard when it comes to soup dumplings. The Taiwanese XLB chain is stickler for quality. The skin is thin enough so that the interior of the bao becomes the star of the show. The soup is packed with a great pork flavor, but wait a while and you'll taste the hint of sweetness too. 1108 S Baldwin Ave., Arcadia; 626-574-7068.
See also: 10 Best Soup Dumplings in Los Angeles
2. Ph? at Ph? Filet
The star of Ph? Filet, as you may guess, is its filet mignon, which comes as standard in most of the restaurant's bowls of ph?. The filet mignon's immensely popular co-star is the ph? bac; it is, unlike Ph? Huynh's version, a distinctly gingered affair, with very pronounced hits of cloves in each slurp. It is absolutely delicious, though because it is rather strong, a purist may prefer the lighter version over at Ph? Huynh's. Good thing, then, that Ph? Filet's southern-style ph? is equally superb. Try the ph? tai (ph? with thin slices of filet mignon) and ask for the meat on the side so you can leisurely add it in your scalding hot, slightly sweet, deeply flavorful broth to cook as you please. It will be a soul-satisfying meal. 9463 E. Garvey Ave., South El Monte; (626) 453-8911.
1. Ramen at Yamadaya
There is ramen in L.A. we love more than the intense porky bowls at Yamadaya, but perhaps none that seem to be made specifically as an antidote to chill. Its bowls are about as pork-intensive as you can get around here, built with heavy tonkotsu broth, the kotteri versions supplemented by even more pork fat, as well as slabs of extant pork thanks to the thick slabs of chashu. If that's not enough, your ramen is also dosed with black oil like a tiny petroleum slick. Yamadaya is an example of a shop that probably expanded past its comfort zone, as some of its branches (there are now six locations) have been known to serve bowls of less-than-memorable ramen. That said, the original shop, lodged in an unlovely oasis of concrete just off the 405 in Torrance, still serves the excellent ramen that it did when it opened in the summer of 2010. 3118 W. 182nd St., Torrance; 310-380-5555.
See also: 10 Best Ramen Shops in Los Angeles