Monday, January 18, 2016

Los Angeles Asian Food Recommendations

My coworker asked me for Asian food in Los Angeles recommendations and I spent a long time making a list.  I go to a lot of new restaurants every weekend, but the ones below are good enough for me to return to.  I love LA.

 - 101 Noodle Express (San Gabriel Valley)- for Beef Rolls, Dan dan mien
 - Green Zone (San Gabriel Valley)- for Hainese Chicken
 - Szechuan Impression (San Gabriel Valley)- for NICE Szchuan food (good service)
 - Pine and Crane (Los Feliz) - Hipster, organic refined Taiwanese.
 - Huge Tree Pastry (San Gabriel Valley) - Taiwanese breakfast - Fan tuan
 - Jazz Cat (San Gabriel Valley) - Individual hot pot
 - Atlantic Seafood (San Gabriel Valley) - for cheap dim sum (in a very modern Asian plaza with a daiso)
 - Elite (San Gabriel Valley) - Better quality dim sum (no carts)
 - Newport Seafood (San Gabriel Valley) - for that lobster

 - Bud Namu (Koreatown) - for CHEAP AYCE KBBQ - new facility, $12
 - Hae Jang Chon (Koreatown) - for stone grill style kbbq
 - Yu Chun Chic (Koreatown) - for Korean cold noodles. 
 - Eight Korean BBQ (Koreatown) - 8 different types of pork including ginseng, garlic etc. - pretty unique

 - Silverlake Ramen (Silvelake) - for dipping noodles
 - Monzo (Little Tokyo) - for creamy udon
 - Kush (Echo Park)- for $$$ Japanese tapas
 - Coco Ichibanya (Koreatown)- Japanese curry.  Some people like Curry House better
 - Jist Caf(Little Tokyo)- Cute cafe.  Get Chashu hash + rice.  Large portion
 - Sushi Enya (Little Tokyo) - American sushi rolls.  Get "no rice" rolls. They come out in bite sizes. Mmm
 - Tokyo Fried Chicken (San Gabriel Valley)- A different take on fried chicken with amazing ponzu dipping sauce and sides.
 - Simpang Asia (West LA)- general Indo food
 - Borneo (San Gabriel Valley) - Amazing nasi campur

 - Golden Deli (San Gabriel Valley) - Very east, but probably the best 
 - Thai Lai (Hawthorne)  - For their Hu Tieu and Mi Quang

 - Luv2Eat (Hollywood) - For their jade noodles (dry)
 - Ruen Pair (Thai town)- Everything is amazing here.
 - Hoy-ka (Hollywood) - MMM Thai Noodle Soup

Thursday, January 7, 2016

It's 2016!

I felt that 2015 was an odd year.  On a microscopic scale my friend group was changing and mixing as couples broke up and people came closer to accomplishing their personal goals.  On a larger scale, it was clear that the world is full of hate and violence.  Jimmy and I have been able to distract ourselves with amazing, but short international trips.

2016 will be another interesting year.  I'm starting clean with a new job and with that comes a new headshot (perks of bf photographer.)  It's only my fourth day in and it feels like the first day of school.  Jumping from an office of 15 to 800 is stressful.   Finding the perfect route to work is stressful.  Tonight on the way home, I was in the wrong lane to make a right turn and tried to squeeze in.  I was honked out of doing that.  Very aggressively.  I drove over a backpack that fell into the road.  And... i had to maneuver lefts and rights in order to avoid a gridlocked highway 10.  I'll get the hang of this.  I must.  I was also put on the spot during an internal call and didn't quite shine the way I had hoped.  But there is time to recover.

I'm thankful for the experience I got from my old job of 3.5 years.  Through that company I experienced a cycle of ups and downs that usually takes companies 10 years.  I take pride in saying that I was headhunted for this new job one year ago and declined, but after a year I was finally ready to take the opportunity as a new recruiter from the same company reached out to me again.

"Everyone loved you of course."  How to stay humble?  How to stay modest?  I get really awkward with these types of compliments.  And with every compliment regarding my performance that I get, the more insecure I get about my capabilities.

Today I ate dinner in my office alone.  I hadn't made late evening friends yet.  It really was, the first day of school.

New Years Eve.
I enjoyed a nice house party with lots of alcohol and no activities other than eating and drinking.  Though I enjoyed watching the host struggle to get the right mylar balloons.   Only after buying from Party City for $30, inflating them with helium, putting them in his car and THEN arranging on his wall that he noticed that the balloons read 2012.

A photo posted by Christopho (@letopho) on

Reminded me of his pumpkin carving event... without pumpkins because he couldn't find any on October 29th.

Christmas was off too.  My parents found my grandpa with fluid in his lungs and his blood infected.  He stopped eating.  My mom took a month off work to help him transfer from senior housing to a nursing home.  Something that she was trying to avoid for so long by installing cameras in his home and hiring someone to watch over him under the table 24/7.  She discovered that the nursing home was better.  Obviously - these people are trained to take care of him.  When we visited him, we took him on a few laps in the home and made light of the situation which my mom enjoyed.

She cancelled the big family Christmas party, to which my cousin picked up immediately.  My cousin texted me a few weeks before to confirm that I would take care of the games which I agreed to, but then I realized that 50 people were coming.  During the party we sat in a circle talking and eating and suddenly the room fell silent and all eyes were on me.  I realized, that they were waiting for me to initiate games...

Thank gawd for reverse charades.  Everyone acts out while one person guesses.  Yes - together, this group formed "TIMBER."  Obviously.    A handful of folks said that they were happy I brought the game and that family events are not the same without me.   At that point, I felt very appreciated.  I didn't bring any food for the potluck, but I managed to bring something to the event.  I also gave all my cousins The Tile App so that they can find their keys.  Great success!

Being Present
Jimmy encourages me to visit my family.  Especially during this time when my mom was having a hard time dealing with Grandpa.  So I came home early for Christmas just to spend time with her.  We did... nothing.  I spent the day falling asleep on her bed while she watched the Hallmark channel because she's been sick for so long.  But I guess there was some value in that?  I think my parents appreciate our relationship.  We talk, I call them in traffic... and that's how I show them that I love them.

What does 2016 look?
- New Job
- New commute (this is a big deal in LA)
- First Jury Duty
- Major surgery
- Less vacation time

Goal: Purge...
Though that's really hard to do when I just brought home animal stickers from my parents house.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Missing Item

Oops.  I did it again.  I brought my moleskine planner to the store and left it somewhere.  Only to be picked up by a stranger who will now have access to a lot of sensitive material.  I did the same things a few years back while going to Target, but that was really bad because there was $100 in the pocket.  It's so easy to simply put something down and then walk away because you have so much on your mind.... like a last minute house party, vacation planning and an interview.

What I need to do to manage this chaos.

  • Change all passwords - I had a bad system anyway 
  • Rewrite to do list, to blog list, to do in Los Angeles lists - the 3 lists that I've referred many times
  • Think about what loose docs I had in the pocket.
  • Move on...
It's a big deal to me because I put a lot of sentimental things were in that moleskine.  Disneyland ticket stubs, pictures, stickers., ideas... it was my on the go annual scrapbook and after tracing my steps physically and mentally there's only one conclusion: I carelessly left it on top a stack of Von's merchandise outside the store while looking at pumpkins, waiting for my roommate.

Anyway, maybe it's a good thing that I lost my 2015 moleskine.  Important, but weird.  Ten couples broke up this year changing the dynamic of my social circle... actually lets count them.  EE, TM, AJ, HJ, CH, CA, BM, BR, RW... 9 couples.  That's a lot - couples that seem like they were in it for the long run, but 2015 really showed that anything could happen.  

2015 was also weird because back in April my company decided to trim the fat.  Don't want to talk too much about that, but there are a couple of business decisions that were made that left a bad taste in everyone's mouths.  And which lead of a loss of about $10,000 with me trying to play this stock game.  Never again.  

I regret being so careless and also being so lazy.  Another $10,000 of free money was lost when I didn't think that I would stay 3 years to get my company 401K match.  But that was a bad 2009 decision. 

2015 was also wonderful because of these amazing trips I've been on with Jimmy, but luckily those are saved forever in digital format.  More than just digital photos in fact - video:

It's 8AM - The only thing left to do is get in my car and drive, think about creating a new to-do list and go full steam ahead.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Californian Sunset

When Quan visited back in April he asked to check out Venice Beach during sunset.  After we ran to catch the sun, he turned to me and said, "you guys don't understand how lucky you have it to experience this everyday."  He started tearing up, "it's so beautiful."  Then we went silent and gazed west.  And it was that moment that I realized that Californian sunsets were something I definitely took for granted.  It took someone from the East coast to point this out.

How are sunsets different in California?  Or rather on the west coast?  The sun sets into the ocean resulting in magnificent colors and strong contrast between the ocean and the sky.  This week after a random evening of rain, the sky was a beautiful orange.  I managed to snap this while going 2MPH in afterwork traffic.

Quan was right.  We are quite lucky.

We also took Quan to the Getty Center.  Where I demonstrated by model techniques.  I call them "dead fish" and "Thai fingers."  Some photos that Quan took of us:

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

My Coming Out Story - Fourth of July Weekend

I planned a pretty elaborate weekend for my parents.  I had to, I guilt tripped them to visit me in Los Angeles so I'd better have something good prepared.  And it all just worked out that I suddenly felt the need to come person.  This is how the weekend went.


Echo Park Lake
My parents took the Vietnamese bus which turned out to be a bumpy ride for them.  Good thing there was a free Banh Mi.  I found them at the Chinatown metro stop where they told me that every Viet person calls So Cal, Los Angeles.  When they said they wanted to get off in LA the driver asked back, which part?  LA Chinatown or LA Westminster?  Westminster is in Orange County.

My parents arrived at 3PM so I took them to a park for a snack and a stroll.

I wanted to show them my neighborhood and despite how run down my house is, I live in a pretty nice community.

We had time to kill so I took my parents to the Charmed House.  Oddly, Charmed was one of my dad's favorite shows.  He was pretty excited to see it and the rest of Carroll Avenue.

I checked my parent into their AirBnB where they were greeted by an artist.  A yoga instructor - fire dancer host who paints and gardens and has a very tastefully decorated apartment.  My dad played a fews songs for him and the host said that he has been inspired to pick up playing the piano again.  The funny part is that the host lives with his partner.  It just happened to be that the nicest most affordable place near my house along the 101 was owned by gays.

Griffith Observatory
It's not a trip to LA without traffic.  It was a bit of a challenge getting up the mountain with a concert happening at the Greek Theater, but we made it.   I was getting pretty frustrated because the last time my parents visited we couldn't find parking, this time we struggled with parking AND someone pulled the fire alarm.

We waited patiently observing the sunsetting sky for patrons to be let back in.

We got i after waiting 20 minutes!  We took some nice shots of the city which everyone has seen before.  We also watched a video on how the observatory was built which was pretty compelling to my dad who originally wanted to be an architect when he was a teenager.

Ruen Pair

For dinner I took them to my favorite Thai restaurant in Thai Town.  They were impressed - nothing like the Thai food they were used to.  Duck, Noodles, Fried Fish, Meat dish that tasted like papya salad.  There were NO leftovers!

And I dropped them off for the evening.


I was really stressed out about how I was going to get to the Westside, but it worked out that there was no freeway traffic that day.  Took them to Porto's in Burbank where we over-ordered, but we took the left overs for lunch.

The Getty left
I was worried that I didn't have enough things for my parents to do, but as it turns out my mom and dad loved the Getty so much that we stayed until 4PM.  The Getty was also pretty empty while we were there.

My parents were examining every art piece.  Some of my dad's favorite artists had their work up.  Golly it took a while to go through the collection.

My parents got security nervous taking this picture.  Almost fell on the statue.

There was a family area where they allowed people to draw.  My dad was so excited, my mom and I left him for 20 minutes so that he could have personal time.

The staff as so impressed that they pinned my dad's art piece on the wall.  My dad hugged me and kissed me on the cheek and told me that it was one of his dreams to paint in a museum.  He was so happy.  I didn't even know that was on his bucket list.

The gardens of course.  A treat for my mom who loved the lavender.

Coming Out
The original plan was to tell my parents at the Hollywood Bowl.  I joked with my friends that I would time it with Fourth of July Fireworks, but Andrew advised against all of that even if I was joking.  He said they would have questions, it should be done in private and I'm thankful that I talked to him because I basically fell a part when I told them.

I was laying down in the fetal position while Netflix was playing a zombie movie after we came home from the Getty left.  My dad was rearranging the luggage while my mom sat next to me on the bed.  When there was a break in the conversation; I spoke up.

"Are you guys having fun?"
"YES! Of course!  We're glad we're here to see you."
"I'm really glad you're here too.. because... I'm 30 now and I love you very much.. and I just wanted to say..."

And I started crying.  My mom responded, "i know what you're going to say."

And as if I was speaking a foreign language I struggled with the words and said it quickly "I'm gay."   My dad held me and started to cry... "I love you so much Christopher."  They told me they knew, aunts and uncles knew and that they just didn't know how to bring it up and just waited for me.  They said that a lot of pressure has also been released from their bodies and that they are happy with me and love me no matter what.

And my mom said she would like to learn and understand, but she was still confused about gender roles and sexuality.  She said that her friend had a trans-son and I explained that's a different situation.

My mom told me that if I do marry Jimmy that she only asks him to take care of her... because that's what a daughter in-law would traditionally do.  Oh dear.  That's a lot of pressure.

Here we are right after - I'm crying more than either of them... and I recorded the who thing on the Voice Recorder App, but I don't want to listen to it.. I'm too embarrassed.  Maybe one day.  With that we're on our way to the next adventure.  Everyone feeling relieved and thankful.

I'm pretty lucky to have such understanding parents.  I can't say that enough.

Hollywood Bowl
I put together a picnic basket full of random finger foods from Trader Joes for our dinner before the show.  We found a table at my hidden area and enjoyed the random meal of pate and grapes, crackers and bread.

My mom wanted a Corona.

Just kidding, she wanted the wine too.

Perfect seats!  Hollywood sign was in view and Smokey Robinson killed it.  My parents were in shock at how many people were there.

The fireworks show was spectacular and meant a lot more this time around because it represented freedom from being silent.  Freedom to be who I am without fear.  And of course freedom to marry.

I talk to my parents once a week on the phone while in traffic. It's amazing how we've able to "not talk about it" for so long, but now with the elephant in the room deflated, they can ask me about my boyfriend and about my romantic future.

While looking for a Lyft home, my dad took a picture with this street musician sitting the a tunnel near the Bowl.  My dad loves taking pictures with street musicians.


Grand Central Market / Bradbury Building
We had just enough time to stop by the Grand Central Market where my mom got really excited about cheap produce.  She bought 4 boxes of cherries and 4 boxes of other berries to bring to San Jose.  Jimmy joined us for breakfast and they got to know him a little more as my boyfriend.

My mom asking Jimmy which one is the girl in the relationship. 

In between attractions, my parents went looking for a bathroom.  At this moment I really understood what it meant to be my parent's son.  Because I use the bathroom everyone and anywhere I go!

We made it in time to catch their bus.  They saw a short woman collecting money.  "WHERE YOU GOING? SAN JOSE!?  $40!! GET ON!"

This must be it!  My mom got in and my dad yelled at her in Vietnamese.  "Say bye to your son!" They hugged me good bye and they were off to NorCal.

For me it's important that people I love visit me as much as I visit them.  I want to welcome my home and my space especially to family.  And I couldn't have imagined a more perfect weekend with my parents.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


I've decided that it's time to tell my dad that I'm gay.  I announced this decision on Facebook and received so much support especially from my older cousins; maybe because I expressed how difficult it felt to do.  I could hear Joe in my head saying, what have you been waiting for?  The answer is that it just never felt right... until now.

Right at this moment, the spirit of love has finally overshadowed all the wrong in the world currently. That right now people are celebrating, people are happy, people are TALKING about gay rights.    People are thinking... "oh maybe this is a good thing."  Right now feels just right.

I just turned 30.  I can get married.  And I don't want to continue to be silent anymore about such a large piece of my life.  I'm not scared of my dad disowning me.  The other day we got into a small argument and resolved it by saying that that we love each other unconditionally.

I was jealous of my lesbian coworker whose mom called her when she heard the news about gay marriage.  I wanted that call...  I was hoping for a call, but my dad liking the new profile picture of me holding a rainbow flag is the best I could ask for.  And it's a perfect starting point.

It's time to put it into words, but how do you say it?  How do you stop from crying?  How do you say, "dad, I'm gay... I know you love me regardless, but this is who I am and one day I'll be okay not being the son that I think you want me to be."

So this is how it's going to happen - My parents are coming to Los Angeles this 4th of July weekend to visit me after I gave them a guilt trip.  I'm putting them in an AirBnB and picked the restaurants.  I bought tickets to a fireworks show at Hollywood Bowl and in between acts I will say, "Dad... I noticed that you liked my profile picture... I'm going to get married one day and I hope you're okay with that."

And... then who knows what he'll say, but I hope that the warm LA night and light from the fireworks will help make this moment feel positive... because it is.

I told my coworker my plan and she started tearing up.  I was surprised that she was so empathetic.  How is it possibly for a straight person to understand the emotions of coming out to their parents.  But then I realize that people are willing to listen, understand and support their LGBT friends and family.  And because of this we're not alone anymore because we have visibility.

Dad, I'm here.  I'm Queer.  And you already know that...  but now we can talk about it.

Desert Adventure

It only took an hour and a half to get to Palm Springs which makes me wonder why we don't go more often.  Something about that desert heat that's so relaxing.

I was excited to use my car because I changed the wind shield wipers and got an oil change.  It was time to use the car that's been so reliable to me.

Before heading out we grabbed a banh mi from Banh Mi Che Cali for breakfast.  On the way to the freeway I thought I tossed my sunglasses in the garbage and made Charles and Phil fish it out of the trash.  They passed the test of friendship and I passed the test of idiocy when I pulled them out of my pant pocket.  Oops.

First stop, Bombay Beach.  A post apocalyptic town of 300 sitting next to the Salton Sea which was essentially sitting water with rotting fish and sulfur.

There was also a piano that could be found on the beach sludge, but it disappeared before we could find it.  Check out this erie video:

A video posted by @yanntiersen on

Next 30 minutes from Bombay Beach was Salvation Mountain.  A structure built from adobe and paint sits randomly in the desert.

I thought the view from the top back was the most interesting because you could see how it was made and how fragile it is.  I wanted to pose with the rainbow flag, but it took away from the colors of the mountain.

We forgot to pack water.  Which is quite dangerous.  Made taking pictures really difficult because we were so uncomfortable.  Thankfully there was a convenient store at the corning of the town near by.

We decided to be frugal on the trip and split a Travelodge among the four of us.  They had a pool, not bad.

That evening we went out to Hunters to celebrate love and it was surprisingly happening.  Four rounds of drinks later and I was happy.

The next day we explored Joshua Tree which was a familiar place since I've been there twice before.

Took some pictures for Jimmy's "Shirtless in National Parks" photo series

Looks at these two creatives.

We conquered it all!  Key's View is wonderful.