Friday, May 12, 2006

Going Local: The Blue Hen

Where are the herbs? For the uninitiated (which was me until recently), you wrap your imperial rolls in a big ol' leaf of lettuce, usually incorporating carrots, cucumbers and some fresh basil, mint or cilantro.

Sometimes I think of Eagle Rock as a midwestern college town plunked down in the middle of Los Angeles. Of course there are millions of differences, but the sensibilty, particularly of the eating establishments, is the same. Small, unpretentious and reasonably priced, yet more creativity and quality than you'd expect. Anyway, it's a place we go when we're looking for quiet in this insane city.

The Blue Hen is a relatively newish addition to the eclectic mix of Eagle Rock restaurants. It's a small Vietnamese-inspired joint with a commitment to organic and local foods. Their chickens (the only meat on the menu) come from Kendor Farms, an organic, free-range place smack in the middle of the San Fernando Valley, and the produce comes from the local markets.

Despite the worthy values of the place, it could use a few tweaks. For example, considering the abundance of cheap basil and mint and cilantro at LA farmers' markets, it was strange that the Blue Hen's imperial rolls and pho came with the tiniest piles of veggies and herbs I've ever seen in a Vietnamese place. In fact, the imperial rolls came with nary an herb in sight. Also, $2.50 for a lime tonic? It was a yummy, refreshing drink--but considering it's basically lime juice and soda, a little steep.

Relatively speaking, these are minor complaints. I had a yellow curry that incorporated a nice balance of smokiness and cinammon, with a side of perfectly cooked, garlicky greens. J went for the chicken pho, and even without tons of herbs, the broth was rich and flavorful. The prices of entrees are reasonable ($7-9ish), the waitstaff friendly, and the atmosphere's pleasantly college town-esque. Plus, it's nice to see a small, low-priced place committed to local food.

The Blue Hen
1743 Colorado Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90041
(323) 982-9900

Erin's Kitchen Restaurant Index: Los Angeles: East-ish


marielle said...

I want to like Blue Hen more than I do, especially because of their organic leanings. I love their chicken curry, but I had the same complaint about their imperial rolls - I really like the purple herb (tia to) served with them in other Vietnamese restaurants. Still, I'm glad that there's a Vietnamese place with something other than pho nearby!

If you're ever around Alhambra, check out Lee Kam Kee on Valley Blvd. - huge menu, great imperial rolls, and great prices. But, of course, not organic ;)

Anonymous said...

Cool stuff--any chance you can try to make some gourmet sadza at home? Variation, of course, 'bota'--with peanut butter. my favorite. farai

DK said...

next time try the Blue Hen sandwich. it's pretty damned good as is their blue hen salad with the chopped peanuts & shallot dressing.