Kozy Korner close-up
A dinky darling found in Glendale
By Dan O'Heron 08/23/2007
It's a trinket, perhaps, when compared to the size of other restaurants, but visitors to Kozy Korner draw comfort from its endearing keepsake qualities.
Seating only 16 patrons in a 10-by-20-foot dining area, it is intimate but not cramped. In three visits to a packed house, I've not heard anyone complain about size. Wise use is made of available space: An upholstered bench, fronted by tables, stretches across a rear wall and there's enough room between tables that no one is served a plate of food over the shoulder from behind.
That intimacy fosters good things: Pasadena Weekly colleague Joe Piasecki said that his girlfriend was giving him the cold shoulder as they entered Kozy Korner recently, but they left holding hands.
213 W. Wilson Ave., Glendale
In that snuggle-inspiring environment, I found there wafted not just a whiff of delicious Thai food aromas, but rather a full-blown scent that lingered throughout the meal. The other day, my friend's simple order of chicken chow mein (one of 16 lunch specials for $5.95) smacked of such an ambrosial freshness that I was tempted to pull the plate out from under his chin and run away with it.
But I remained seated with my own tasty $8.95 combo of chicken with chunks of sweet bell pepper and onion in a well-made oyster sauce that imparted a richness to the dish without overpowering the natural flavors of meat and veggies. Even the won tons, which elsewhere I eat only for amusement, crackled with flavor.
Another customer, retired pharmacist Jerry Murphy, told me that he loves the crowd, as well as the service: "They even pour the tea." He also appreciated Kozy Korner's wide range of seafood. With nine seafood specials on the regular menu, ranging from $8.25 for spicy catfish to $13.95 for two whole, deep-fried whitefish, the catch is very impressive. Murphy said his favorites are the "best ever” trout with ginger sauce and deep-fried salmon with Thai curry, and the tasty whole tilapia, although he didn't finish the latter because “it had too many bones to pick."
How's business at Kozy Korner? Owner Teya Punthuna, a former waitress at Glendale's long-popular Thai restaurant Indra, said that the lunch crowd turns over about three times, and the dinner crowd twice. That's the equivalent of about 80 to 90 regular meals served daily. "In between," said Punthana, "my aunt, Chef Dang, is always kept busy with catering and to-go orders." And how! While I was there, one women walked away with six large tom yum soup orders.
In fleeting minutes of spare time at home, Punthuna sings and plays the guitar. Her favorite piece: "You Are So Beautiful." I'd say that Teya, Chef Dang and their staff of three women deserve to sing it together — in front of a mirror.
Recently, a small metal plaque was run up the light pole in front of Galco's Soda Pop Stop (5702 York Blvd., Highland Park; 323/255-7115). Presented by Los Angeles city officials, it commemorates John Nese, and his family, for keeping Galco's in business for more than 100 years — 52 of them at the present location. I would have chiseled the memorial in stone to honor Nese for preserving the way soft drinks are meant to be made: with natural sugar not corn syrup, and in glass bottles rather than aluminum cans or plastic. (To taste the big difference try a Galco Original Dr. Pepper vs. one you get today at the supermarket.) And I'd shake Nese's hand for bottling nostalgia like Nehi Grape (the favorite choice of Radar from “M*A*S*H”), Delaware Punch, Bireley's Orange, Green River and Red Rock — and, as fitting as the brown tint of an old photograph, a cream soda.
Twice last week in Glendale a strong urge for tempura produced diminishing returns. First, at Sansai (108 N. Brand Blvd.; 818/246-8408), my lust was diverted by two huge salads. Part of the regular $8 lunch order, the salads, in volume and appearance, overmatched a skimpy scattering of tempura pieces (mostly veggie), and detracted from the batter-dipped, deep-fried crunchiness of shrimp that I craved. Had I yearned for grazing rights, I would have taken a change on Souplantation. ... Unfulfilled, I ordered a $12 shrimp-and-scallop tempura dinner a day later at Ichiban (120 S. Brand Blvd.; 818/242-9966). The sight of two huge shrimp and five big, puffy scallops made an impressive prelude; the tempura batter-dipped fish outweighed and outnumbered the veggies. However, while the scallops looked sweet and succulent, they were tasteless. The chef may as well have rinsed, drained and patted them dry, then set them aside and forgotten to put them on my plate. It made me wonder about a marketing ploy: the lengthy soaking of scallops in water to increase size and weight.