Perhaps the best starting point is with Myung In's steamed dumplings with pork and shrimp. Essentially a Korean take on sui mai, this version's shaped a bit more like a "beggar's purse" and garnished with chives.
The "French Dip" is Southern California's entry in the Best Sandwich on the Planet derby. The version at Rubicon Deli (3715 India Street, Mission Hills), the Dapper Dipper, may be the best I've tasted.
In Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184 (1964), Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart declined to define "hardcore pornography," writing, instead: "I know it when I see it." The same might be said of Middle Eastern food.
Authentic: It's a word we think we understand. Take "Chinese food," for example. We think we know "authentic Chinese" right up until we realize that deep into the '60s, chop suey was the hallmark, though chop suey is hardly a Chinese dish at all.
There's something about sushi. Maybe it's the simplicity: an itamae, a cutting board, a knife and some fish. Perhaps it's the minimalist aesthetic. It could be the spiritual sense, the connection to tradition, the itamae's role as chef, tour guide and confidant.
It used to be my Sunday ritual: wake up early to play 30-and-over Huff-n-Puff soccer—a gringo on a mostly Mexican team—then slowly sidle into the afternoon eating carne asada, drinking Tecates and telling exaggerated accounts of in-game exploits.
The old gang would have loved Do Re Mi House (8199 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., Kearny Mesa). For starters, take the banchan, the array of intensely flavorful small plates (think kimchi and similar dishes with daikon, bean sprouts, cucumbers, potatoes, fishcakes) that arrive at your table to accompany a Korean meal.