The Asian Persuasion

Great Asian restaurants, and the Asians (and Chuck Devore) who love them

NATSAVAGE
EX-CON
When we last left intrepid gal-about-town Nat Savage, she was just about to head in for a five-month stint at the Victorville Federal Women's Clink—some unpleasantness about a marriage scam for the Chinese mafia—but anyway the system beat the bad out of her and she's back on the (state-supervised) streets. So! Didyougetatattoo,Nat?Ooh, yeah, Olde English and everything. Andhowwasthechow,Nat?Fucking awful! One time, they served us rotten turkey—bluish around the edges and it smelled funny—and, of course, no one ate it. Great,great,andwhataresomeniceplacestotakeaparoleofficerforlunch?Justincase,youknow...ETHNICEAT(VIETNAMESE):"Thanh serves broken rice dishes—that's regular steamed rice, but the grains have been broken. It came from Vietnamese farmers—the poor folk who never wasted anything. Broken rice was totally bottom rung, but instead of throwing it out, they eat it—it's a tasty breakfast item. Comes with egg and pork quiches, BBQ pork, BBQ chicken, whatever, and you can get a fried egg on top. That's their specialty." 9872BolsaAve.,Westminster,(714)531-3888;alsoat15315CulverDr.,Ste.140,Irvine,(949)559-7788.AMAZINGASIAN:"Angotei in Costa Mesa is totally small and claustrophobic, but I'm really picky with Japanese food and they've cleared all the red tape as far as being authentic. There's lots of off-the-menu shit: conch, tuna cheeks, abalone—you know their shit's good when they got abalone. I think they have hands down the best soft-shell crab rolls—best ones I've ever tasted." 675PaularinoAve.,CostaMesa,(714)557-2696.

ROBERTGARFIAS
PROFESSOROFETHNOMUSICOLOGYATUCI,RECENTRECIPIENTOFTHEORDEROFTHERISINGSUN
UCI professor of ethnomusicology Robert Garfias, 72, is stone-cold Mexican: "Mexican both sides, as far back as you can go," he says. "And I don't know any good Mexican restaurants." What he does know is the world's music—everything from authentic gypsy violin to fwanso flute to Burmese gong music to gagaku: the music of the Japanese imperial court. Garfias is considered America's leading authority on gagaku, and in recognition the Japanese government earlier this year bestowed him with its highest honor for foreign citizens: the Order of the Rising Sun, and a personal introduction to the emperor of Japan. ETHNICEAT(NOTMEXICAN,BUTJAPANESE):Garfias says good Japanese rice is all but impossible to make here. "You can't get the rice cooked right here," he laughs. "[The weather] is too dry in Southern California. I sound like one of those freaks, but it's true." But Garfias singles out HanaNoKiin Costa Mesa (the name means "tree flower," he says), for its easygoing style of ordering. "It's omakase," he says. "They have a couple of plates prepared, but mainly you just eat what the chef prepares." This is the realm of freshly grated wasabi that melts in your soy sauce; of pickled ginger—drab because it's not dyed a fake orange-pink—that takes over your taste buds. 891BakerSt.,CostaMesa,(714)557-8715.AMAZINGASIAN:Garfias is closest to the Japanese culture and cuisines, but he's equally rhapsodic about Cantonese—the Chinese food of the Greatest Generation and what Garfias remembers so fondly from growing up in San Francisco's Mission District. "That's why I say SamWoo'sin Irvine is so great, because it's got the old Cantonese. That is the flavor of old San Francisco," he says. "[My son] Nicholas likes the Hong Kong-style crab there. They deep-fry it, but it's got a really good crust on it. You end up almost sucking on it, the crust." 15333CulverDr.,#720,Irvine,(949)262-0688.

CAIZIMIN
COACHINGMANAGER,ORANGECOUNTYBADMINTONCLUB
Cai Zi Min came to the United States in 1998 from China, where he won numerous national titles. His expertise at the OC Badminton Club has helped develop it into the pre-eminent training spot for American badminton athletes. How pre-eminent? Consider that when the sport's world championships take place Aug. 15-21 at the Arrowhead Pond, the U.S. team of 15 will feature 12 OCBC members. "That's pretty good, huh?" says Min with a giggle. If your only knowledge of Min's game is some lame backyard exercise consisting of a lunge, whiff and off-color comment about shuttlecocks, you should really check out badminton played at the highest level. Rallies can last a long time, as can matches, and quickness and stamina are at a premium. Because a top player will play multiple matches a day in tournament play—"You can play six, eight, nine a day between singles, doubles and mixed doubles," Min says—badminton players are that lucky breed who can eat just about anything they want. "So do they have any specialized diet?" we asked. "Diet?" Min said, incredulous. "No. Oh, no. Badminton players never need to diet." ETHNICEAT(CHINESE):Min likes Westminster's SeaportSeafoodfor its variety of fresh fish and meat. And for someone who needs to ingest a lot of fuel, Seaport is great with a big menu, big tanks and big portions. 14550BrookhurstSt.,Westminster,(714)775-8194.AMAZINGASIAN:It figures that someone who has to look after their body would look into Vietnamese food, which, with its focus on fresh vegetables and grilled meat, is a perfect cuisine for those who make their living by the sweat of their brow. Min's favorite is Pho99in Orange, with its requisite assortment of soup, rice dishes, meat and veggies, "especially the cucumber. Very good." 1628E.LincolnAve.,Orange,(714)685-9571.

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