Sorry for the long delay since my last post! Besides all the holiday shopping, we’ve been working on planning a Japan trip for the family in March. A great (and expensive) experience to look forward to for next year!
The eating must go on, and I’m bringing you a reflection on a place that evoked something rare in me: it reminded me of my mom. Only a small handful of people and places have struck that chord with me, because my mom is a unique person. How many people can you say have run a successful crystal website and been featured in multiple ceramic exhibitions? That’s in addition to the solo trips to various countryside trips to China and India – a fitting personification of the meaning of zen, of her comfort and acceptance of who she is.
Joy, sister restaurant of Pine & Crane in Silver Lake, is located in the ever-gentrifying Highland Park suburb, where the streets are tight and Asian food selection is…even tighter. Searching for Asian food here will have Yelp wandering more than 45’s Twitter at 3 AM. Make no mistake, you probably won’t be wandering into Joy yourself, as the lines are typically long – unless it’s 100 degrees outside, which we took as an opportunity to venture out. We were glad we did!
The interior of Joy is simple on first glance, but every detail is curated to fit their ultra-clean, contemporary Asian style. Yes, you have the high, wood-paneled ceilings with recessed lighting and the sprawling natural brick wall, not to mention the gorgeous rattan light shades. But on top of that, you have the repurposed Vietnamese fruit cans, stamped characters on every metal tray liner, old-fashioned letterboards under the menus. And don’t tell me that immaculate vintage cooler case has just been sitting in your friend’s garage for the past thirty years. I couldn’t find a single aspect of this restaurant that didn’t add positively to the aesthetic of Joy – it’s uncanny.
Our weapons of choice for today were wonton noodle soup (above picture, top) and dan dan noodles. In my current town of Monterey Park, these dishes are standard fare at any nearby Taiwanese restaurant, and they’re cheap – invariably within the $6-8 range. Joy will set you back a bit more, and for a smaller portion but the taste is markedly different. The wonton soup is a relatively typical taste, foregoing a saltier taste for a richer broth. The noodles were almost an entirely reimagined with a few key twists: shredded chicken for the usual minced pork, and fresh cucumbers instead of pickled or sautéed vegetables. The result is a refreshing spice that teases and tantalizes, without bogging you down in heavy sauce or oil.
With that annoying lunch food-stuff out of the way, let’s talk about the main course: dessert. Joy is fast-casual, so we ordered one of the two shaved ice options with our food, and were given a card to hand over when we were ready for the dessert. Now, in my last post, I mentioned my notorious sweet tooth, but in terms of dessert, I have the fondest memories of shaved ice. After a long day at the beach growing up in Hawai’i, my dad would swing by for us to pick up shaved ice. This wasn’t an option; it was mandated. We would even race each other sometimes, and as a result, my mouth and head were completely removed of the ability to feel brain freeze. Moving to California opened up the spectrum to other variants that I’d never had.
Joy’s shaved ice is, as you can tell, quite hearty. The abundance of fruit is such that an entire topping of boba is relegated to a side dish, perhaps so that it doesn’t impact the texture. The ice itself is fluffy and creamy, the flavor well-disbursed throughout. It was a fitting conclusion to a meal that, as you can tell, evoked a wide range of emotions from me throughout.
Appreciation: I wasn’t joking, by the way – we walked straight in and got a table at a popular restaurant because Highland Park in the summer might as well be Death Valley. The shaved ice helped equalize the temperature, anyway!
5100 York Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90042