Montreal, LA Koreatown: Same Difference?
Last weekend we had breakfast at a terrific French bakery cafe in LA. It was so good, in fact, and so authentic (including servers yelling orders to each other in French) that Will almost grudgingly conceded that the food at Pitchoun Bakery was as good as anything he's had in Montreal or Paris (!).
As you can see above, the Quiche Lorraine was tall, fluffy, cheesy, bacon-y (or "lardon-y"), and with a very buttery crust. The Kouign-amann was light and nicely layered. The almond croissant was clearly made from first-rate croissant, as it was meant to be. The latte was creamy--and beautiful. Unfortunately, Pitchoun Bakery is NOT in our temporary new home in the LA Koreatown neighborhood, but we did wonder if the world has become such a global place that there isn't really a huge difference after all between areas as disparate as LA Koreatown and Montreal, or perhaps even Paris?
In our earlier posts on our two Montreal neighborhoods, we talked about the Little Italy Petite Patrie and the Plateau Mont-Royal quartiers. In those posts, we pointed out Metro stations, random beautiful churches, cafes, and, most of all, bakeries!
Just like in Montreal, when we first arrived in LA Koreatown, we felt a bit like we were strangers in a strange land--even though, yes, I at least look like I should fit in better because I am Korean. Again, same as with Montreal, we don't speak the language (though I understand some of it).
We look neither like the fashionable and extremely thin young people nor the much less stylish and rather haphazardly-clothed over-eighty crowd that form the two pillars of Korean community here. There is also a strong Latinx contingent here as well, and the area seems more diverse than just Korean. In that, LA Koreatown (and LA overall) is similar to many parts of Montreal neighborhoods (and most larger cities) with their Italian, Jewish, Turkish, or Vietnamese enclaves.
But there was more that was familiar as well. This area is surprisingly walkable--unlike the much more congested downtown LA proper--and there is a lot of activity and a vivacity generated by the likes of street vendors (huge fresh-squeezed orange juice for $3.25), teenage skateboarders, and young professionals walking to work. (There is also a large homeless population dotting the area, and that is another similarity--and unfortunate one in this case--of all major urban areas.)
We no longer have the Plateau's Parc La Fontaine, but we do have MacArthur Park, which, while technically not a part of Koreatown, is just about the same distance away from where we are living now as La Fontaine was from our Plateau rental.
We do not have the Montreal's churches, but there is an odd assortment of Romanesque and Gothic-styled structures literally within two and three blocks of our Koreatown apartment building.
We cannot visit boulangeries and patisseries of Montreal, but we have California Donuts (open 24 hours, and with cronuts too!)
and 85 Degrees Celsius Bakery (a Taiwanese import).
We miss seeing the Mont Royal in the distance from our second Montreal neighborhood, but we can now see the mountains of the Angeles National Forest.
Instead of Marche Tradition and Fruiterie de Plateau, we now walk to Koreatown Galleria with its copious rows of banchan (Korean side dishes for rice) and even a food court (with items written in a language foreign to us).
Could it be that the more things change, the more they stay the same...?