Wednesday, December 23, 2009

From Din Tai Fung to Ozomatli

Most days I find myself appreciating the diverse cultural opportunities of Los Angeles in their individual or regional contexts - whether it's discovering tamales in East LA or having a crazy unexpected adventure exploring Downtown on foot.  But last Saturday I had an even greater appreciation for Los Angeles and how much it has to offer. 

My day began in a holiday traffic drive to one of my favorite Los Angeles restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley - Din Tai Fung in Arcadia.  Luckily, I wasn't driving.  But I will speak on behalf of my friends Melissa and Ian to say the journey was worth it.  It's so good my friends and I have created a club.  The sole purpose of this club is to gather and make plans to eat delicious soup dumplings (um...and spend time together....).  Unlike traditional dumplings, these dumplings contain soup.  So you have to be careful to wait the proper amount of time before devouring (patience really is a virtue).  Be forewarned that this popular restaurant always has wait times. 

We followed up our late lunch of pork and shrimp dumplings, sauteed spinach, chicken fried rice, and tea (with red bean dumplings for dessert) to roam around the store next door and then to JJ Bakery across the plaza.  JJ Bakery is worth a trip just to see their beautiful cake displays.  My friends and I did that - and piled our trays high with cakes and mochi and other sweets.

My evening was a Downtown experience of a birthday dinner and an Ozomatli concert at Club Nokia.  I hopped on the Metro Red Line (no traffic!) and roamed over to Pete's Cafe and Bar in Historic Core Downtown where I met up with friends for my friend Zach's birthday.  After a delicious dinner where I ordered a Hellman burger and blue cheese fries, we roamed out to Club Nokia for day two of Ozomatli's two-day gig at Club Nokia.  (In between they even had a children's program at The GRAMMY Museum).

Ozomatli with its mix of Latin influences and integration of hip-hop and rap was a perfect evening concert.  There was dancing in the audience and on stage.  The band had little choregraphed dance movements and even brought out some Ballet Folklorico in beautiful costumes.  There was also a string quartet - which I adore, especially when integrated into mainstream music.  I love music that is inclusive, opening itself up to the power that comes from bringing different influences together, and I find that is done so well by Ozomatli.  I was definitely dancing and Ozomatli had the floor of Club Nokia dancing out the door - literally.  After the band had made its way to a jam session on the Club Nokia floor, the crowd joined them in a conga-line style exit. 

Maybe the joy of my LA experience on Saturday was just as much related to the distinct groups of great friends - made over time from different aspects of my life - as it was the events I attended.  But with Din Tai Fung, J.J. Bakery, Pete's Cafe, and Ozomatli on the agenda with awesome people - where can you go wrong?  I obviously didn't. 

-Charity Tran

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