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Dining in Los Angeles

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Less than 24 hours ago, I disembarked from a JetBlue flight after five days in LA. A little like Vegas, my limit is right at the three day mark but the weather was beautiful, so the extra two days were still an enjoyment! My first day was a wash food-wise since I split my dining between a turkey sandwich my mom packed for the plane trip out west, snacks provided in lieu of real food on the plane, and mass quantities of catered fajitas at a tailgate party on the 9th green just north of the Rose Bowl post-57-1136850696_thumb.jpg. Countless Bud Lites and a few peanuts later, it was time to celebrate a victory for the Texas Longhorns post-57-1136850637_thumb.jpg(even the aggies were cheering for us)! On Thursday I had the opportunity to visit the Farmers Market on 3rd & Fairfax near Beverly Hills post-57-1136850763_thumb.jpg. I passed on the pork sausages post-57-1136850573_thumb.jpgbut found Lite My Fire - the perfect shop for adventurous hot sauce lovers post-57-1136850462_thumb.jpgpost-57-1136850515_thumb.jpg. My cousins and I hit Carnival in Sherman Oaks for dinner that night. Very affordable, delectable middle eastern fare that comes out quickly in huge portions. I was glad that my companions suggested ordering the 1/2 portions or else we'd've been eating baba ganoush and falafel for days! Friday I bought a scone for breakfast at Getty_Center & sat enjoying the view post-57-1136850870_thumb.jpg. Not sure the pastry was good, but it sure was memorable!

Dinner was spent at Casa Vega also in Sherman Oaks. The food was typical and was delivered to the table at warp speed. The place was packed - we were quoted an hour & a half wait which turned out to only be 20 minutes or so. The margaritas were amazing, so we lingered a bit after checking that there were at least three empty tables nearby. Saturday was the bright spot on this gastric tour of LA. We hit Melrose for lunch, choosing the apparent place to be that day - Toast. I feasted on a bowl of potato corn chowder that was complete with peas, sauteed mushrooms and hearty chunks of potato. I paired the soup with a 1/2 salad that was so full of fresh squash, cucumber, tomato, avocado, grilled chicken and goat cheese that I almost forgot I was eating a salad. It was topped with the house vinaigrette that had a hint of sesame flavor. AWESOME! We had dinner at The Belmont on La Cienaga that night, which wasn't great but definitely wasn't awful. Consensus among the group was that we should have tried to get into Koi across the street for sushi instead. Oh well...

All in all, it was a beautiful week in LA. Amazingly enough, didn't stop at In-and-Out Burger once...maybe next trip!

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Sounds fabu! We're spending 3 days in LA before Hawaii next month. I haven't been to LA since 1999 so I'm not sure what we're going to do yet.


I'm deeper into my L.A. trip plans now and I'm ready for some help!

We'll be there Feb 8th-11th. We're staying by the airport because we have an ungodly early flight out on the 11th for Kona.

Plans: The Getty Villa; the Getty Center, the beach at Venice and sometime in West Hollywood. I think we'll have time for more stuff (The Norton Simon Museum is calling my name but Mr. BLB is dubious...) but for now that's it.

Mr. BLB gets car sick so I don't want to push my luck driving all over.... So...

I'd like to stick to dinners in the Venice-Santa Monica area. (No reason not to go south to Manhattan Beach or Hermosa except that I never do...)

I'm lazy and prefer places that I can reserve on Opentable....

I'm thinking lunch in Malibu after the Villa--I vaguely recall some sort of road side shack farther up the road.

Thinking about lunch at the Getty Center the next day. But we could do a fabu lunch in West Hollywood and then head up/down Sunset to the Getty Center in the late afternoon.

Thanks for any ideas!


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Thanks for any ideas!

 For some you'll have to pick up the phone and call. I was married in Malibu and know SoCal as well as DC.

I'd highly recommend Joe's Restaurant, not just as a good place to eat in Venice but in all of Southern California. Their prix-fixe lunch is an insane bargain, and even the dinner prices are fairly reasonable. IMO, it's like the West Coast equivalent of Corduroy.

Second Joe's.

My wedding dinner was at Puck's Chinois on Main which is his best restaurant, superior to anything similar in America. Sit at the food bar in back or a special treat. For a weekend reserve three weeks in advance. It is still THAT popular.

In Santa Monica, Georgio Baldi's is very good Italian

The Border Grill is the restaurant from the two who were featured on the Food Network for several years. Worth a visit.

La Serenata di Garibaldi is arguably the best Mexican restaurant in Southern CA. The original is in Boyle Heights but there is a fairly new outpost in Santa Monica. You will not find this in the DC area just as you will not find anything like Chinois (with all due respect to Ten Penh).

On the line between Venice and Santa Monica is Chan Dara which is arguably the best Thai restaurant in Southern California. It is also different from the Thai restaurants here. I've been to it at least a dozen times over the years and sometimes find myself really missing it along with In 'n Out Burger which you MUST go to. There's one in Venice in front of the airport.

"Killer Shrimp" is a block or two up the street and worth a visit if the weather is good and you can sit outdoors sopping up the vaguely New Orleans style shrimp with French bread.

On the boardwalk in Venice is what I believe is called the Sidewalk Cafe. Anyway, this is ground zero in Venice Beach with a large outdoor area fronting the boardwalk. Nobody sits indoors. Everyone sits outdoors. They have GREAT breakfast.

For Malibu, Geoffrey's is not that good but it is where almost everyone goes to have a drink. Fantastic view.

There is a roadhouse on the left side of the PCH going south, about two miles south of the Colony. The name escapes me [Malibu Roadhouse, Closed] but it is a dump-a very real roadhouse. But it is very, very popular and more than decent. Further south, on the right fronting the Pacific is Gladstone's which is a local landmark. Generally, this is California's version of Phillips. Having said that you do not go there for food. You go for ambience and the remote broadcast of Howard Stern when he is in L. A.

Save your calories for Santa Monica and Venice.

And, if it's not too late, stay in Marina Del Rey. On Admiralty. Preferably at the Marriott. A fantastic neighborhood for walking, only a half mile from the start of the Venice Boardwalk and well worth the cost of the room for a day or two.

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I'd like to stick to dinners in the Venice-Santa Monica area.

Wilshire Restaurant sounds really nice and fits your locale requirements - was in Los Angeles magazine as a top restaurant this year.

We also enjoyed a couple of nice dinners at JiRaffe in Santa Monica.

I'm thinking lunch in Malibu after the Villa--I vaguely recall some sort of road side shack farther up the road.

You might be thinking of the Malibu Seafood Shack [she was - I added the link in 2015. DR] - fun place where you can buy fish at the market to go or eat at the picnic tables overlooking the ocean there. It's up past Pepperdine, maybe a 15 min drive up the PCH and on the right-hand side.

I wasn't crazy about Chan Dara when I went a couple years ago, but may not have ordered adventurously enough at that time (just my 2 cents).

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Just some suggestions from LA....

For sushi, Katsu-ya in Studio City provides fresh sushi in a modest but crowded space. The Sushi Omakase costs only $35.00 - a steal in any city considering you start with a miso soup laden with whole clams and enoki mushrooms followed by a parade of at least 15 pieces of sushi and hand rolls, all topped off with your choice of dessert. Being in Studio City, you may even catch a glimpse of a lesser celebrity like we did (Grant Show of Melrose Place and Point Pleasant fame - or is it infamy?) One important note - despite the fact the place is in a small strip mall, patrons of the restaurant are not allowed to park in the tiny lot. Valet parking is available for $3.50 but part of me feels it's just a big scam. Then again, it's only $3.50.

For Sunday "supper", I'm not sure you'll find a better deal than Lucques. Chef Suzanne Goin offers a fixed price 3-course meal (appetizer, entree and dessert) for $35.00 (only on Sunday nights). Goin who has had stints at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Olives in Boston [Closed in Jun, 2013], and Campanile [Closed Nov 30, 2012] in LA cooks with fresh local ingredients without too much fuss - allowing the individual components to shine. Last night's dinner consisted of a frisee salad with crispy duck confit, pancetta, walnuts and saba, an entree of an incredibly tender niman ranch flat iron steak with wild mushroom-potato gratin and roasted shallots, and a dessert of almond and brown butter cake with armagnac prunes and crème fráiche - truly one of the best desserts I've had in the past year. One complaint however is that the wine prices seemed a bit steep - even by the glass, but I'm no expert on wine pricing.


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I'm deeper into my L.A. trip plans now and I'm ready for some help!

We'll be there Feb 8th-11th. We're staying by the airport because we have an ungodly early flight out on the 11th for Kona.

Plans: The Getty Villa; the Getty Center, the beach at Venice and sometime in West Hollywood. I think we'll have time for more stuff (The Norton Simon Museum is calling my name but Mr. BLB is dubious...) but for now that's it.

Mr. BLB gets car sick so I don't want to push my luck driving all over.... So...

I'd like to stick to dinners in the Venice-Santa Monica area. (No reason not to go south to Manhattan Beach or Hermosa except that I never do...)

I'm lazy and prefer places that I can reserve on Opentable....

I'm thinking lunch in Malibu after the Villa--I vaguely recall some sort of road side shack farther up the road.

Thinking about lunch at the Getty Center the next day. But we could do a fabu lunch in West Hollywood and then head up/down Sunset to the Getty Center in the late afternoon.

Thanks for any ideas!


The good: Joe's in Venice was terrific. Just perfect food in a great space. I had the ravioli and the slow roasted salmon with red wine rissoto and Mr. BLB had the roasted chicken. (I can't remember his starter now...)

Beyond that the food on this trip was so-so. We had lunch in the Sidewalk Cafe in Venice and it was okay. Nothing special. We also had lunch at Gladstones right on the water at the end of Sunset at the PCH. Over-priced but tasty seafood. A bit heavy and we regretted it at the Getty Center later.

We also had dinner at PF Changs. Not our choice but a perfectly fine place to catch up with some family with picky eaters. They have a ginger chicken that I like but I like almost everyone's ginger chicken.

The Wolfgang Puck's Express in Terminal 7 at LAX provided breakfast pizza on the way to Kona and a late night dinner pizza on the way back. The best airport food I've ever had.


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We made our first return trip to LA last week after having lived there between 02-04, so we basically spent our couple of days returning to old favorites. A quick report:

Loteria Grill - an authentic mexican food stand in the LA Farmer's Market with great tacos, etc. We ordered a variety - cochinita pibil (pork), chicken tinga, and chicken in poblano mole and all were delicious. Imgaine...the tortillas actually taste like corn! Lime agua fresca and a side of nicely stewed, rich black beans rounded out the meal.

A.O.C.- I think I've decided this is my favorite restaurant anywhere because it's a "trendy" restaurant that is consistently great (and continues to pop up on the critics' lists after 5 years - it's in Bon Appetit this month). Huge wine selection - many affordable bottles, a couple of flights, carafes, etc. Everything is "small plates" style, and every dish we had was perfect. A salad with baby roasted carrots, yogurt, chickpeas and (I believe) a carrot/chick pea mash; chicken liver crostini with pancetta; toasted farro with pinenuts and currants; peas and pea shoots in a saffron butter with green garlic; sea bass with celery root puree, hazelnuts and sunchokes; le brebiou sheeps milk cheese from France for dessert. The food is straight-forward in focusing on the high quality ingredients and service is friendly. (West 3rd Street in West Hollywood)

Doughboys Cafe & Bakery - Also in Bon Appetit this month, Doughboys is a popular place for breakfast. Sourdough semolina waffle with marscapone and sour cherry topping is a favorite. I also like the "waffle stack" that's a wafle with ham, fried egg, asiago, and white gravy smothered all over it...served with syrup - think gourmet McGriddle! (West 3rd Street in West Hollywood)

Cobras and Matadors [Closed Feb 14, 2012] - traditional Spanish tapas with a very friendly wine policy: no wine on site, but only $5 for corkage, and they own a Spanish wine store next door. Unfortunately the food was not quite as great a value as we had remembered from a couple years ago, but some dishes were still worth the trip - wood oven roasted mushrooms with a hazelnut topping (sort of gremolata-ish), and lentils with jamon serrano that I think they must fry because the lentils are crispy/crunchy in a good way. It was pretty slow when we were there this time - don't know if it's fading in popularity, or if all the Angelenos were watching the Oscars while we were there. (Beverly Blvd in West Hollywood)

Diddy Riese - I wish they would franchise this cookie store in Westwood Village! Freshly baked cookies of all varieties (though why stray from chocolate chip with nuts?) that they'll turn into an ice cream sandwich for you....for $1. Or you can have 2 cookies and a carton of milk for $1. How can you beat that?


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Just in LA for a few days and ate at Langers (famous for its pastrami); it was not near the quality of Katz's in NYC, though still very good.

also got my In n' Out fix, 8 years in the waiting. better burger than elevation in my opinion.

unfortunately did not get great California sushi; could not get the people i was staying with to take me.

i guess it is something i have to look forward to the next time.

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Gonna be in LA for a couple of days and nights. Not sure yet where we're staying or what we're doing during the days, but the focus is on food as usual.

We're looking for some really good restaurants for the two nights we'll be there. I am not interested in hip or trendy, but rather damn fine food that is hopefully inventive and unique as well. These can't both be $500+ nights for two, but I'm not one to cheap out if the food and experience are really really good.

Also, looking for suggestions for interesting lunches and breakfasts. Here we're hoping to explore some authentic mexican and related central american and other cuisines that are probably best represented in the LA part of the country. These can be dives, joints, whatever. I expect to be fairly adventurous here and am willing to try anything.


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Gonna be in LA for a couple of days and nights. Not sure yet where we're staying or what we're doing during the days, but the focus is on food as usual.

We're looking for some really good restaurants for the two nights we'll be there. I am not interested in hip or trendy, but rather damn fine food that is hopefully inventive and unique as well. These can't both be $500+ nights for two, but I'm not one to cheap out if the food and experience are really really good.

Also, looking for suggestions for interesting lunches and breakfasts. Here we're hoping to explore some authentic mexican and related central american and other cuisines that are probably best represented in the LA part of the country. These can be dives, joints, whatever. I expect to be fairly adventurous here and am willing to try anything.


Joe's in Venice was the best meal we had there in February.

I didn't go this time but I've always liked King's Road Cafe on Beverly for breakfast, coffee and just general low-key celebrity spotting.

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My cousin (who lives in L.A.) is getting married and as a wedding gift, I wanted get her a G.C. to a nice restaurant in the area. What are some of the great (white table cloth, possibly tasting menues, great wine list, trendy, etc) restaurants of L.A.? Possibly on the level (or greater) as Maestro, Eve, Inn at Little Washington, etc. I was going to look into one of Suzanne Goins' restaurants (A.O.C., Lucques), but I thought someone could recommend something else.

Thanks in advance!!

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Does anyone know what happened to the little Blueberry cafe (I forgot it's proper name) [blueberry closed in 2005, and became Jack 'n' Jill's. DR] in Santa Monica? I saw online that it was closing for renovations, but set to reopen. Details?

Paradise Cove in Malibu is fun, but the food isn't anything great. On my last visit, my friend and I caught up over nachos while sitting in their beach chairs. It was an overcast day so we had most of the outdoor space to ourselves.

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Heading to LA in less than 2 weeks and read through the thread here. Any updates or recommendations not already made? Looking for anything from low end to high end that I should not miss. I am staying in El Segundo, will have a car, and have one afternoon free.

The only thing that I know for certain is that I will make a trip to Surfas.

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Heading to LA in less than 2 weeks and read through the thread here. Any updates or recommendations not already made? Looking for anything from low end to high end that I should not miss. I am staying in El Segundo, will have a car, and have one afternoon free.

The only thing that I know for certain is that I will make a trip to Surfas.

The information below is courtesy of a good friend of mine who moved to LA a number of years ago. I trust his judgment without reservation and am posting his thoughts here to add to the mix.

"I think the best thing about LA food is the sushi. My favorites are Echigo and SushiGo55. Go b/c of the food, not the atmosphere (both are in malls).

Other places worth trying are:

Grace [Closed Jun 19, 2010]: Californian/Mediterranean. It's widely considered the best food in town. I had my best meal in LA there once. The sommelier is great.

Providence: I haven't been to it, but it's supposed to be the best high-end seafood in LA. The chef is great....his old restaurant (Water Grill) was my favorite before he left to open Providence.

Ortolan: [Closed Jan, 2011] Great modern French place. Similar to Citronelle in the type of food (almost as good but not quite).

Izakayas (Japanese pubs). Musha on Wilshire in Santa Monica is the best of the bunch....a really fun place with some good food.

Father's Office in Santa Monica for the burgers. It's a sit-down place. Expect a line."

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Heading to LA in less than 2 weeks and read through the thread here. Any updates or recommendations not already made? Looking for anything from low end to high end that I should not miss. I am staying in El Segundo, will have a car, and have one afternoon free.

The only thing that I know for certain is that I will make a trip to Surfas.

These are recs from my cousin, so I can't attest, but I imagine they're probably pretty good.

Paco's Tacos in Culver City

Gloria's in Culver City/Palms - El Salvadorian

Shin shen gumi in torrance - ramen

Uncle Bill's pancake house is good for breakfast - Manhattan Beach

BCD tofu house in korean town its on wilshire between western and vermont

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Spent last weekend in LA and had dinner at Blue Velvet [Closed on Sep 16, 2010] and Opus [Closed in Jan, 2010]. The food at both places was outstanding, although I would rate Opus higher for creativity, execution, atmosphere and service. Click.

First, we ate at Blue Velvet at 10:15, after a performance at the Disney Concert Hall, which was only a short drive away. I had read about this place on-line and had read Jonathan Gold's review of it in his recent top restaurants list, but I don't recall anyone mentioning that it's a hot spot for clubbing. The hostess checked ID's at the door, even though we were a group of 3 parents with our college age and post-graduate kids. The bar soon became packed with young folks and the techno music was pounding. It was impossible to carry on a conversation, because there was no barrier between the lounge and the restaurant. Thank goodness indoor smoking is prohibited. The food, as I mentioned, was excellent -- crispy sweetbreads, foie gras terrine, seafood risotto, pigs trotters, venison -- I can't recall the preparation, but everything was delicious. We weren't the oldest fogeys there -- one other couple arrived around the same time we did, but left before we were through with our main courses.

Opus was fabulous. We had chosen Opus because we read that the entire menu was comprised of $10 dishes and you could put together your own tasting menu of as many courses as you wanted. Unfortunately, when we arrived, we were told they only do that during the middle of the week, and it was Saturday. We must have looked disappointed, because the chef sent out a couple of complementary appetizers -- an escabeche of ahi and a salad of octopus. The escabeche was outstanding -- there were probably 8 small fillets of fish, slightly firm, marinated and bathed in a mixture of onions, peppers, tomatoes. The octopus was also very good -- tender and very flavorful.

Then we had among us, rigatoni with cheese sauce and breadcrumbs (a very upscale macaroni and cheese), acorn noodles with shoyu and nori, spaghetti bolognese, roast chicken with mashed potatoes, and the fish of the day, which was prawns. The acorn noodles were particularly interesting -- savory and earthy. The chicken was perfect -- crispy skin, juicy, tender flesh. The food sounds very simple, but there was a lot of creativity and skill in the preparation.

We were seated right in front of the kitchen -- there were long leather covered tables for 6 people with large leather high back sofas on either side -- it seemed awkward at first, because the waiter had to move the table from one side to the other to let 3 people sit down on one couch first and then shift the table to the other side to let the other three people sit on the opposite couch -- but once we were seated, the couches were super comfortable.

The chef at Opus is Josef Centeno, and he worked previously at Charles of Nob Hill [Closed on Aug 29, 2004] and Manresa in Los Gatos, and I think Daniel in NYC. He's opening another restaurant soon in another part of LA.


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Some more dispatches from LA (pics and addresses are linked):

One afternoon, my friend and I were on Sawtelle, in the Japanese area, and we happened to have lunch at Chabuya Tokyo Noodle Bar [Closed in Sep, 2014 and became Beni-Tora].
I must confess, the ramen was really authentic and delicious. It was with a nice clear light pork stock, and I elected to get everything in it like pork char-siu, fried garlic, sprouts, nori, and hard boiled egg.
My friend got their charbroiled garlic noodles with shrimp - the garlic flavor was pretty great as well.

Another lunch I has was at the Farmer's Market near the Grove, at a stand called Singapore's Banana Leaf.
I was introduced to this place a few years ago by a friend who was good friend with the family that runs the place. The cuisine is Singapore/Malaysian/Indonesian food. All the ingredients are really fresh and it's not at all expensive. Everything is also served on a banana leaf.
I got the Rojak salad, a fresh salad with cucumber, sprouts, apple, pineapple, fried tofu, and peanut-tamarind dressing- awesome.
We got the paratha - like a fried dough that is ripped apart and dipped in curry sauce.
For entrees we had the Me goreng, a fried noodle dish, and the Beef Rendang, a slow cooked beef with coconut/ginger. A great lunch.

The last place I ate in LA was Azami Sushi cafe [Closed in Jul, 2009] on Melrose.
This place is one of my favorite sushi places around- their fish selection is outstanding. It's also unique in that the sushi chefs are women [Ownership change in Jul, 2008 ended this].
I really enjoyed their creamy blue crab hand roll as well as an anchovy tempura with curry salt. Of course, the sushi was spectacular.



Azami Sushi Cafe (ulysses)

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Heading to LA in a week for a few days, and we really only have time (and $$) for one memorable meal. Last time, we went to Sona [Closed in May, 2010] and LOVED IT, but this time we're looking to spend a little less. Any ideas?
So far I've come up with Fraiche [Closed in Jun, 2012], Comme Ça [Closed in Jun, 2014]Osteria Mozza & Campanile ... Any thoughts on those? Also, what about Sunday Supper at Lucques?

But I'm really open to any suggestions. PLUS if anyone has thoughts on the best Thai curry in the LA area as well as a good (cheapish) place to eat somewhere around Hermosa Beach.
Much thanks!

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LittleWing said:

Heading to LA in a week for a few days, and we really only have time (and $$) for one memorable meal. Last time, we went to Sona [Closed in May, 2010] and LOVED IT, but this time we're looking to spend a little less. Any ideas?

So far I've come up with Fraiche [Closed in Jun, 2012], Comme Ça [Closed in Jun, 2014], Osteria Mozza & Campanile [Closed Nov 30, 2012] ... Any thoughts on those? Also, what about Sunday Supper at Lucques?

But I'm really open to any suggestions. PLUS if anyone has thoughts on the best Thai curry in the LA area as well as a good (cheapish) place to eat somewhere around Hermosa Beach.

Much thanks!

The best meal I had in LA last month was easily at Comme Ça. Make sure you have a reservation because it's crowded and loud. I also had a really sweet time at AOC, sitting at the bar. Stop in to the bar at Citrus @ Social Hollywood [Closed on Dec 20, 2009] and have a drink and some gougères.

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If you want authentic, inexpensive regional Mexican food, you've got to go to Guelaguetza, a Oaxacan cantina-type place in West L.A. which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It's at the corner of Sepulveda and Palms Blvds., facing Palms. It shares a parking lot with Trader Joe's. Get a chicken tamal with mole negrobarbacoa de chivo (goat stew--really good) or an "empanada" (really an enchilada) with mole amarillo, chicken, mushrooms and squash blossoms. Also try some of the Oaxacan chorizo on some of the thick, handmade tortillas called memelas. If you eat there, you will know why I am so underwhelmed by the Mexican places in Hyattsville.


I just returned from Ventura/Santa Barbara via LAX. I did not make it to Guelaguetza in LA, but I did make it to Super-Rica in Santa Barbara (where I stood in a long line and watched them make corn tortillas) and Cuernavaca Taqueria in Ventura (where the salsas were amazing).

This may be the most controversial, most infamous, certainly the most embarrassing of all the posts I had on CH in the five years I was a part of it. The post disappeared (as a number of my others) after my argument with Leff. Now, curiously, it is back under the new ownership. It was part of what I called my "In 'n Out Trilogy."

"Without Shame: A Bite of Excess" by Joe Heflin on chowhound.com

I'm convinced the best balance of meat, fromage, onions, spread, and fitting-into-mouth-ed-ness is to order a 3x3. Mmmmmmm.

Joe H,

I could not bring myself to try an In N Out burger. I haven't had a fast food burger in ages (and was a vegetarian for years), so even though I've read your stories about In N Out burgers with tears of laughter in my eyes, I could not order a burger. Maybe I will do so next time, when I have more time. For some reason, I felt like I was going to White Castle.

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Hey All,

I am headed to LA for an extended weekend. Staying with a friend who lives near Burbank. She is on a student budget. I know we will probably go to Santa Monica, the Getty and West Hollywood. Looking for some nice cheap to moderate, more casual eats, and one moderate to nice place to take her as a thank you dinner (Think Central, Proof budget range). Would love to perhaps get some things we don't have a lot of around here. She loves local beer, so a nice gastropub might be fun? Any ideas?

Thanks in advance, I have never been to LA so looking forward to a nice trip.


Angeli Caffe (deangold)

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Just wanted to report back. We really did so much sightseeing and my friend's Grandparents treated us to a couple nights out so I didn't get to eat out at suggested places a lot. We were staying up in La Caí±ada and I can report that Los Gringos Locos in La Caí±ada is pretty tasty. I also really enjoyed Ichiban up in La Caí±ada for sushi. It was extremely fresh. It is so interesting how a little sushi joint out in the burbs can be so good and not prohibitively expensive. It isn't extraordinarily creative, but for good, really fresh staples it was excellent.

And a balboa bar from Sugar and Spice with heath bar crunch is really good. I also had a burger at Ruby's on the pier in Seal Beach [Closed in early 2013] for the experience, for being what it is they had good fries not soggy, very crisp and the burger with jalapenos and avacados was a good fast food burger, I was disappointed that there were such bad options at the airport, I was really hoping for an in and out burger.

Cafe Santorini in Pasadena was okay, I liked everything I ate, but wouldn't be somewhere I would necessarily recommend. Really nice balcony though.

I did get treated to some wonderful homemade shortribs and fresh artichokes.

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I was in LA over Thanksgiving- here are some updates.

I found the Kogi BBQ Korean Taco truck via their twitter account.
Tried two of their tacos- the short rib (kalbi) and the spicy pork. They are served on small 3" corn tortillas, $2 each. The short rib was the superior of the two. The tacos were loaded with veggies, kimchee, onions, lettuce, cabbage.
What I liked better than their tacos were two of their specialties- the kimchee quesadilla- loaded with cheese and kimchee, and the Kogi slider- which was like a slider loaded with bulgogi.
Their lines, especially in the evenings can run an hour, but we were lucky to catch a small lunch rush in Santa Monica.

I also tried Mozza2Go, Pizzeria Mozza's takeout service. No need to wait for reservations now. The pizza was delicious. This trip I tried the Pizza Alla Benno which had Speck ham, pineapple, jalapeno, mozzarella and tomato. Also tried a slice of the salami, mozzarella, Fresno chiles & tomato pie as well. Both excellent. Crust as delicious as ever. I liked how they packed the Mozza Caprese salad to go- you were given the components and then you put them together when you get home.

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More LA updates

Went to the LA Farmer's Market and had a delicious breakfast at ¡Loterí­a!, a stand serving delicious Mexican food.

I got their Chilaquiles - tortilla chips soaked in rojo/red sauce topped with queso fresco and crema mexicana.

Had a great dinner with friends at Susan Feniger's Street which opened this last summer. Feniger is known for being on Food Network's Too Hot Tamales, and opening The Border Grill in LA. Street is her attempt at taking the idea of global street food and making it upscale.
I was hesitant at the idea at first, but I really enjoyed my meal there.
We started with millet puffs- best described as Indian rice krispie treats.
For appetizers, I tried the Spicy Lamb Kafta meatballs, Argentine Ricotta í‘oquis, Whitefish Salad, Ono Sashimi, Burmese Lettuce Wraps, and my favorite, Sauteed Kale with Refried White beans and anchovy butter. All were good except the lettuce wraps were kind of bland.

For entree, I had Tastutage Fried chicken- fried in rice batter and topped with spicy kewpie mayo. My friend got an amazing beef tenderloin schnitzel with parsnip puree, sour cabbage and deep fried corninchons. I also tried my friends' Blueridge Chicken and Spoonbread dumplings soup and Thai rice noodles.
Before dessert, we got hot glasses of Vietnamese coffee and we finished with Turkish doughnuts soaked in a rose cardamom syrup with sour cream.

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Last LA dispatch from my most recent trip:

For my birthday dinner, I went with friends to the Michelin 2-star restaurant Providence on Melrose in Hollywood. Chef Michael Cimarusti specializes in seafood.
We decided to go with the full tasting menu. It was a memorable meal.
The drink menu was pretty cook - It featured old time cocktails and the dates that they were invented. I had a nice Dark & Stormy to start.
For our amuse-bouches we had 3 items, a gin & tonic gelée that fizzed when you sprinkled lemon juice, a spherical mojito, and a carrot cardamom shot.
This was followed by 5 amazing seafood courses: first- kanpachi (amberjack) with soy creme friche and rice crackers, second - sea urchin in a farm fresh egg with american caviar and beurre blanc, third-Hokkaido diver scallop with chanterelles and bacon, fourth- wild VA bass with burdock, lemon, & shiso, and fifth- wild coho salmon belly on buckwheat and spinach.
All the seafood was amazing and fresh.
The weakest course was the Veal tenderloin cooked sous vide with hazelnuts and potatoes- it was good, just not as good as the fish.
We then had a great cheese course. I was so full at this point in the meal.
My friends had told me that pastry chef Adrian Vasquez's dishes were also great, and they were. We had a nice palate cleansing cucumber, lime and juniper berry sorbet.
The final dessert was a Mexican chocolate bread pudding with avocado-banana puree and corn tortilla ice cream.

The last day, we got up nice and early to go to Arcadia, CA to Din Tai Fung dumpling house for their famous crab & pork soup dumplings. I also liked their fish dumplings and vegetarian dumplings. They are a chain from Taiwan that are world famous for their xiaolongbao. I think ol_ironstomach went to a place in Toronto that had the same name, but was a knockoff version of this original chain.

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I've had a chance to eat a few meals out during the week I've been here.


1) AOC last night. Looking for a place to park, I went around the block and found a space in front of the house that I grew up in. Someone has made some really ugly changes to the front, enclosing the outside staircase of the Spanish-style duplex. (My parents sold it and moved to the Bay Area in the early 70's, long after I'd left home.) I had been at a screening at the Director's Guild (A Prophet--up for the Oscar for best foreign film. Brilliant film, but brutal and quite long.) And managed to get into AOC five minutes before they stopped taking orders. The place was pretty empty at 9:45. Suzanne Goin was there, talking to two women seated at a table behind me--I was seated at the bar. I ordered a blood orange, date, marcona almond, La Tur and arugula salad, and arroz negro (which was probably the best thing I ate during my recent trip to Spain). I was told there would be a twenty minute wait for the arroz negro. I ordered a glass of dry muscat from Malaga, to have with the salad. They have a fantastic selection of wines by the glass there--I was thinking about a glass of bierzo or bourgeuil after, but the white was a generous pour and I decided it was a better pairing with the squid dish than a red would have been, so I nursed it through both dishes--gorgeous floral nose and clean, acidic flavors. They give you a dish of Romesco to spread on bread. The salad was brilliant--lots of crunchy almonds, several slices of juicy blood orange, dates and chunks of La Tur hidden in a tangle of spicy arugula, and a citrus-y vinaigrette. While waiting for my main, I noticed that Suzanne Goin was sitting at a back bar across the room, so I went over to chat for a moment, to tell her how much I love her cookbook, Sunday Suppers at Luques--of the hundreds I own, it's perhaps my favorite. She told me that the publisher had wanted her to simplify her recipes, a la Rachel Ray, but that she had refused: "I told them that it won't be a best seller, but that there are a lot of serious cooks out there who will buy it." AMEN, SISTER. We chatted a bit about West 3rd Street, and how it has changed since I lived around the corner, and the nearby Farmer's Market at 3rd and Fairfax, where I hung out a lot as a kid. I asked her if there was some orange flower water on the dates in the salad. She was very impressed that I had picked that up--there was a little bit in the vinaigrette, she said. My arroz negro was delivered, cooked and served in a small cast iron skillet. It was not quite as complex and delicious as the dish I'd eated in Spain, which had baby shrimp and tiny whole squid, but was very good. The rice was perfectly cooked, moist, briny, with small circles of tender squid, topped with a spoonful of creme fraiche and a tangle of julienned green onion. I finished with a piece of olive oil cake, which had a rustic, slightly coarse crumb, soaked with a sugar syrup with some orange flower water in it, candied mandarin orange segments, whipped cream and pistachio nuts.

2) Pizzeria Mozza--managed to cadge a seat at the counter in front of the pizza oven on sunday early afternoon. I hadn't had breakfast, so the pizza with guanciale and egg (and escarole, mozzarella, arugula and garlic/anchovy oil) sounded good. O.M.G. I was stifling my ecastatic moans, so as not to disturb the people sitting on either side of me, it was that good. They assembled the pizza, and cracked the egg on top, just before putting it in the oven, and managed to crisp the guanciale while the egg stayed runny. Simply magical. I started with artichokes and white beans, which was tasty but not nearly as good as the pizza, but the butterscotch budino with fleur de sel and pine nut cookies I had for dessert was right up there on the deliciousness scale. The place more than lived up to all the good things I'd heard about it.

1)Lunch at Akasha in Culver City. A house-made corned beef sandwich, with Niman Ranch brisket, which the waiter told me was their most popular sandwich. Could have used some more slices of meat--it was pretty slim for $14. Tasty, but a bit weird, in that the meat was not steamed-hot, it was griddled, and so had crispy edges. Served on marbled rye with coarse-grain mustard and (?)arugula. This place has a great rep around here, all green and organic-y, but my one brief foray was "meh."

2) Lunch at Tlapazola on Venice Blvd. in the Marina. The patio was pleasant on a warm, sunny day when it was 30 degrees F. back home in DC. Carnitas was a generous portion of nicely braised chunks of pork shoulder, but wasn't exactly carnitas, which are supposed to be twice-cooked--roasted in the oven until the edges are crispy, after it is braised. Factory-made tortillas. Great list of tequilas--they even had Herrencia reposado.

1) Border Grill for dinner with friends. I've been here many times over the years, and it has always been good before, but not this time. The salsa verde on one friend's chicken tamal was one-dimensional, it screamed "RAW TOMATILLOS!" and little else. My other friend's white bean soup tasted like it had come out of a Campbell's can. Only my Oaxacan chicken tamal with molé negro was good. Cochinita pibil was tired and way overcooked. I sent back a chile relleno, which was cold and tasted nasty. To their credit, they did get carnitas right, however.

2) Guelaguetza near my brother's house has closed! Some nimnuts drove into the back wall of the building from the parking lot, last summer, and they never managed to repair and re-open. There is another, larger Guelaguetza close to downtown, on Pico Blvd. but that is a long drive in bad traffic. I might have to make the trip during the next week, however. The little Oaxacan cafe in Mar Vista that I tried was bad--their barbacoa was three chunks of chewy, gamy lamb neck on the bone, swimming in a big bowl of greasy, one-dimensional red chile broth. Feh.

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On my last day in L.A. I had coffee and a warm glazed donut at Bob's in the old Farmer's Market--it's one of Jonathan Gold's "Ninety-nine things to eat in L.A. before you die" and an old favorite of mine. After a couple of errands, I drove toward downtown L.A. to 8th Street near Normandie, in Koreatown, where the original Guelaguetza is located. Just had to have some good Oaxacan food before I left. Appetizer of three small tamales--one was corn leaf-wrapped without a filling, but had an interesting herb mixed into the masa. Don't remember what the menu said it was. Banana leaf-wrapped chicken tamal with molé negro and sesame seeds--the best. The third was a chicken tamal that had a lighter chocolate-y sauce and some sweetened black bean filling. Not totally successful. I didn't eat all of that one, so I could save room for barbacoa de cabrito wrapped in a huge corn tortilla, with a bowl of hot chile broth on the side. Absolutely delicious. A huge serving of tender chunks of stewed goat and a spicy, complex red chile broth. So good, it was worth the hassle of driving halfway across town.

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Spent the weekend in LA with the gf's family for her sister's graduation and went to Campanile [Closed Nov 30, 2012] for graduation dinner.

Lovely space, the front of the restaurant is a glass enclosed courtyard...the second half of the courtyard area overlooks the kitchen pass through so you can peek into the kitchen. Vibe is casual elegent.

Food was solid to good. Started with a softshell crab which was good could have used a little acid to cut through the richness of the crab. Next had halibut over frisee with pancetta and fingerling potatoes, perfect cooked fish and overall a good dish. we shared three desserts, the dark chocolate semifreddo, banana cheesecake, and strawberry cobbler, again all were solid.

the style of cooking reminded me of Corduroy, but frankly the food at Corduroy is much better.

Overall a good meal, but wasn't blown away. A good restaurant to take a group that includes non-foodie types, will please a wide range of palettes and tastes...ie: when you have a large group of people going out for a graduation dinner!

Coincidentally, we spent the weekend in LA for a graduation, and had brunch at Campanile [Closed Nov 30, 2012], which has become our traditional LA brunch spot. Their eggs benedict are really good -- the eggs taste really fresh and flavorful all by themselves. They use really good applewood smoked bacon instead of ham, and very thick english muffins. All of the baked items are delicious, since I believe they come from the original La Brea Bakery [Chain sold to Aryzta in 2001] next door. The space is lovely during the day, because the restaurant is set in the glass-covered courtyard of what was once Charlie Chaplin's home.

We had dinner at Matsuhisa for the first time in over 10 years, and it did not disappoint. Service at the counter was terrific, and they had many fresh fish choices flown in from Japan, including iwashi (sardines), live shrimp, and 2 kinds of scallops. We tried the uni shooter, tuna tartare with caviar, uni wrapped in whitefish with jalapeno sauce, the live shrimp, iwashi, kohada, scallops, soft shell crab with cactus salsa, bonito with cilantro dressing, and several other items. The only dish I would not order again is the uni shooter -- it consists of quite a lot of uni, with a quail egg, and some kind of sauce -- I think ponzu and a little sake. The sauce overwhelmed the flavor of the uni. The other uni dish we had was outstandingly beautiful and delicious. For dessert, the green tea tiramisu was very good. We probably over-ordered because so many things sounded good and are not available here, but overall, the price was very fair and in fact quite reasonable for the quality of the food and service.

One dinner was at Wurstkuche -- an exotic sausage place downtown on East 3rd Street, near Little Tokyo. They have all kinds of grilled sausages, great french fries with about a dozen different dipping sauces, and about a dozen imported beers on tap, and more in bottles. You line up and place your order at a counter in the front -- you can order a beer while you are waiting in line. There are seats in the back, and a server brings your order. There is another bar in the back where you can sample the beers on tap before making a selection. We tried a rabbit, veal and pork sausage, and a duck, bacon, and jalapeno pepper sausage, fries with chipotle ketchup, sun dried tomato mayo, and blue cheese and bacon sauces. The duck, bacon and jalapeno sausage was much better than the rabbit -- not spicy, despite the jalapenos, but more moist and flavorful. You can choose 2 toppings, including grilled onions, sauerkraut, roasted peppers and something else. The sauerkraut was neither sauer nor krauty enough for my taste. The lines can get very long, so it's better to come early. Very fun and casual, in a very youthful way, but in a somewhat sketchy neighborhood, so go early or go in a group.

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A disclaimer, I did not get to eat at most of the places I had wanted to try while in L.A. There was not enough time so I missed lots of places from Joe's to Guelaguetza and Gardens of Taxco. But I managed to explore L.A. and the environs much like a local.

If you are in L.A. and have a car, I highly, highly recommend a trip to Marina del Rey to dine on mighty fine sushi at Irori. Yes, I've had sushi at some of the fancy places around the country and this restaurant rivals each of them. The sushi was served with great care and emphasis on knife work, as well as incredibly high quality fish. Among the specials on the menu were Copper River Wild Salmon and Japanese Albacore, both were divine. My favorite roll was the baked blue crab roll to which I added avocado to mimic my favorite dish at Uchi in Austin.

I had one of the best meals I've ever had at Gjelina in Venice. The restaurant focuses on seasonal, local and organic produce and meat and does it very, very well. I was with a group so we could explore the menu and there was not a miss. It's so hard to get in that reservations are a must and apparently have to be made well in advance. When the bill arrived it was a bit of a shock. No, it was not because the bill was so high but because it was so, well, reasonable. Highlights of the evening: the corn, the roasted chicken, the pizza, the squash, oh everything.

After an odd evening, I took myself to Angeli Caffe [Closed on Jan 13, 2012in West Hollywood. It was on my list because I am a diehard fan of Good Food on KCRW, and the show's host, Evan Kleiman, owns the restaurant. The staff was incredibly nice to me, a solo diner late at night. They brought a nice loaf of crispy bread that seemed to have been baked in a pizza oven, seriously the best bread I've had to start a meal in a long time. I was craving protein and the Chicken Piccata special with farmer's market corn and Brussels sprouts sounded perfect. I asked the server what I should try as a starter. She suggested the gnocchi of the day, which were ricotta only, no potato. OH MY G-D. I felt like I was eating clouds. Wow. I was fairly full when my entree arrived but it was really good and I ended up having leftovers another evening. I had no room for dessert which was fine because they had sold out of the fruit tart and nothing else really appealed to me.

Um, PinkBerry. Seriously it's better in L.A. than New York and none of the tart yogurt in D.C. compares. The toppings from which you can choose is pretty impressive and for the summer includes watermelon and cucumber. The watermelon yogurt with watermelon puree and cucumber is divine. Though my go to flavor was original with chocolate bee bees like they use at Central on desserts with either strawberries or cherries. Fresh bing cherries. Yum.

I spent a lot of time at the Farmer's Market and had a donut at Bob's and ice cream at Bennet's. Both were incredible. I also ate lunch at Pampas Grill where I made a salad from the well stocked salad bar and selected a piece of bacon wrapped chicken to make my own really yummy salad. I also had breakfast one morning at Loteria Grill. I ordered wrong. I was sad. It was still really good but I didn't love what I ordered. Can't wait to go back though..

One evening I had a dinner at Real Food Daily, a vegan restaurant. My soba noodles were good, and I tasted a few of the other dishes. However, when I got back to my place that night, I scarfed my leftovers from Angeli.

I had lunch one day at Coast at Shutters in Santa Monica. It's worth a trip for the view of the Pacific and the beach. My salad was fine but we were really paying for the view and experience.

If you are in West Hollywood, I recommend 8 Oz. Burger (great turkey burger and delicious salad), Joan's on 3rd (good salad and great takeout) and the cafe at Jones (amazing salad).

And for those with a (very) sweet tooth it's worth a trip to Brentwood to get a slice at Susie Cakes. I was introduced to Susie Cakes at a party early in my trip. When I was invited to a friend's house for dinner later in my trip, I stopped by the shop and was overwhelmed with choices. I settled on 3 slices for 7 adults and 2 kids. Each of us had very nice portions and there was an entire slice left!

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On 1/11/2012 at 11:28 AM, JoshW0615 said:

I'll be heading to LA tomorrow for a whirlwind five day trip. I'm mostly looking for recommendations for lunch spots in LA (we'll be staying in the WeHo area) and Santa Monica. I'll also be in Santa Barbara and the nearby wineries if there are any winery and dinner recommendations for that area as well. I'm going with someone that lived there for 6 years, but was on a grad student budget the whole time.

After my exhausting trip to LA that involved lots of food (and booze), I'm ready to detox for a few days. We managed to hit up quite a few places, but there were a few that really stood out for me:

1. ink.sack: I read a lot of mixed reviews on ink, Michael Voltaggio's new restaurant in LA, so I wasn't ready to drop $100 on a dinner there. Instead, we decided to hit up ink.sack, his takeout lunch spot next door. Although I was very tempted to get the Jose Andres (Serrano, Chorizo, Lomo, Manchego), I went for something more adventurous. The "Rueben" (Corned Beef Tongue, Appenzeller Cheese, Kraut, Russian Dressing) was good, but the cheese seemed to get lost in the mix. I also had a bite of the Bahn Mi (Pork Butt, Pork Belly, Chicharrí³nes, Pickled Vegetables), and instantly wished I ordered this. The sandwiches are pretty small, but priced to order 2 ($4-$6) or a side. I went with the BBQ Pork Rinds, which were crunchy, airy and just a bit spicy. A very satisfying lunch.

2. Night + Market: You enter this very un-fancy restaurant through a side entrance of a very fancy Thai restaurant. The focus here is Thai street food and I almost wish we came here on another night to try more of the menu. I had read about their everyday happy hour from 6-8pm, and assumed we could go and get some drinks and plates before our 8pm dinner reservation at Picca. Once we arrived, though, we realized it was all tables, and all the tables happened to be reserved. However, we were able to snag a spot after promising to be out by 8. I ordered a couple of their takes on an Mekhong Old Fashioned, priced at $5 during happy hour, which had Mekhong whiskey and lychee and was a little too sweet for my taste. They also had towers of Chang Thai beer for $22 and were projecting "The Godfather" on the wall (to give you an idea of the atmosphere). We ordered off the happy hour food menu, and started with the Pig Ear Fries, which came with a Sriracha-type dipping sauce. These were so good we got two orders (and made me realize something was probably wrong in the preparation of the fried pig ears I had at Bar Pilar, which were chewy and probably turned my sister off offal forever). The other standout was the Pork Toro (grilled fatty hog collar, with "jaew" northeastern chile dip). It was smoky and meaty with an amazing dip. I'd stay away from the chicken wings (basically breaded and fried wings with some more of the siracha sauce on the side) and the coconut rice was exactly what you'd expect.

3. Picca: Wow. This place is small plates/contemporary Peruvian cuisine and I made sure it was on my list since there really isn't an equivilent in DC. Our waitress was super energetic and very excited about pretty much everything ("Pisco Sour?! Great choice!!!"). This is the typical small plates-type place in which you order and food is brought to your table in the order it leaves the kitchen. The menu is a bit overwhelming (seriously, look), but as I mentioned, the staff all seems genuinely excited and have no problem explaining dishes and making recommendations. We started with cocktails: the Pisco Sour, which was exactly what it should be, and also a more floral take on the Pisco Sour. I can't find the details since their drink menu doesn't seem to be online, but this one was a little too sweet for my taste. We then switched to a great red I also can't remember the details on (the wine list here seems to focus on California, South American, and Spanish wines and is reasonably priced).

We started off with the Ceviche Mixto (mixed seafood, sweet potato, choclo - $16), Oysters a la Chalaca (pan fried oysters, cherry tomatoes salsa - $9 for 3 oysters), and Chicharron de Costillas (crispy pork ribs crostini, sweet potato puree, feta cheese sauce, salsa criolla - $10). The Ceviche was great, and probably the best I've had. The oysters were good and the flavor was on point, but the breading seemed to be more soggy than crunchy. The pork ribs crostini was one of my favorite dishes. It was served as a flat bread and generously topped with the pork and sweet potato puree, which were balanced out by the sharp feta cheese sauce and spicy salsa. We almost ordered two of these.

The next round was the Empanadas (kabocha, roasted pepper-goat cheese dipping sauce - $9 for 3), Chicharron de Pollo (marinated crispy chicken, salsa criolla, rocoto sauce - $9) and of course the Anticucho Corazon (beef heart, rocoto walnut sauce - $8 for 2 skewers with 2 pieces each). The empanadas had a perfect crust, and the filling was so rich we had a debate at the table as to whether there was meat in there (there's not). The fried chicken (yes, I'm calling it that because that's what it is) came with about 6 nuggets of fried breast meat. The breading was crispy, with a lot of pepper and spice, and the chicken was moist. It came with a bowl of the rocoto sauce, which I was almost licking by the end. I can't say I've ever had corazon before, so I don't really have anything to compare this too. Based on my first experience, though, I'll definitely be ordering this the next time I see it on a menu. Picca's version seemed to be marinated/glazed in the rocoto walnut sauce and then grilled to a perfect medium rare. It was slightly chewy, but still pretty tender, and had a great beefy taste.

I finished with one of their infused shots (I can't remember the full list, but there was a Coconut Pisco, Pineapple Pisco, and Rocoto Mezcal - $6). Of course, I went with the Rocoto Mezcal. Smoky, spicy, and strong--wow. The total for three cocktails, a bottle of wine, six plates, and the shot came out to $180 after tax and tip, or about $60 each. If I ever end up back in LA, I'll be working my way through the rest of their menu.

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Had a whirlwind food trip weekend in LA- mostly around West Hollywood- in the past week. Arrive Thurs. night- went for sandwiches at Ink.sack, Michael Voltaggio's sandwich place. Not expensive- each sandwich was $5-6. I ordered the C.L.T.- chicken liver mousse, chicken skin, lettuce and tomato- and a pork belly banh mi to try. Both were very good. The menu has a lot of charcuterie based sandwiches. For sides, you can get Old Bay"Maryland" crab chips and pork rinds.

The next day, went on a mini food truck safari. Started at eggslut for breakfast and had "thee slut", a coddled egg served in a small jar over potato puree, with a side of toast. We then went to a park nearby Universal studios where trucks hang out. I had the loco moco and spam musubi at Aloha Fridays truck. It was cheap- $10 for the lot. I noticed that food trucks are cheaper in LA than in DC or Baltimore- what gives?

For dinner, had the tasting menu at Michael Voltaggio's ink. I liked his food better than his brother's. We had an amazing foie gras dish (2 months before the CA ban) that was a take on chicken & waffles. It was a terrine of foie gras, waffles, smoked maple syrup that was like a marshmallow, and sriracha sauce. Another standout was a sturgeon dish with mushroom hay.

The next day, I went to Umami burger, a local chain of burger/booze joints. The namesake burger, made to order, had shiitake mushroom, caramelized onions, roasted tomato, a parmesan crisp, and umami ketchup. Decent.

For dinner, went to Robata Jinya for their delicious Hakata Tonkatsu Ramen. It was a thick fatty broth made of pork bones. We also had several skewers including chicken thigh oysters, beef tongue, okra, and shishito peppers.

On my last day, started it with lunch at Currywurst, a German style sausage eatery. Had a Hungarian sausage topped with ketchup & curry powder with side of fries.

My last dinner was at Animal. It reminded me of Au Pied De Cochon - a no nonsense bistro-style place with lots of offal on the menu, and lots of fellow Asians with cameras dining there. We had an abundance of pig - buffalo style pig tails, sliced pig head cheese with fried corn bread & mustard, and lime chili pig ears topped with egg. We also had a hamachi tostada, bone marrow with chimchurri, and kale salad. The main course was the foie gras loco moco with spam, foie, burger, & quail egg. Dessert was a dark knight carrot cake with root beer foam.

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As I said, we're working through the 2011 edition of LA Weekly's 99 essential restaurants, and, in general, its been a great primer (LOVE the geographic interface) for the area.  Some thoughts about the places we've visited so far:

Chego: little Koreanish fusion joint in a tiny, grungy strip mall. It's fun and loud and the food is heavy, busy, and delicious.  They mostly feature rice bowls topped with marinated, grilled meats and various Asian fixins'.  It's a few miles off the 405 and is now our favorite place to stop for a bite to/from the airport.

Jitlada: Thai in/near Hollywood, it's a cramped-cozy, pretty little spot in Thai town with pages and pages of menu choices.  The choice of southern dishes in the back of the menu is already overwhelming.  We had a pork curry, duck spring rolls, and some fiery vegetable dish, mostly chosen off the list of recommended dishes.  The mains looked and were quite viciously hot, to the point where we could not continue eating.  Others didn't seem to have thttp://marouchrestaurant.com/he same problem, so we could have ordered badly, but we aren't keen to return.

Drago Centro: lovely happy hour spot for bankers and the like, big, spacious dining room, and a menu with lots of luxe modern Italian choices.  We sampled some pasta, meat, and salad dishes, and were happy with all.

Mozza: loved the convivial atmosphere and the pizza, which had a more crackery crust than I was expecting.

Saap's Coffee Shop: a tiny, cafeteria-looking spot in another grungy strip mall in Thai Town with strongly tangy boat noodles, delicate and beautiful jade noodles, and good BBQ dishes. We also like the pork belly and greens, which come with a fried egg (if you remember to ask). The "regular"(pad thai, pad se ew) noodle dishes were dry and tasteless when we tried them. The portions are smaller but the prices are very low, so order more variety and enjoy!  Cash only, and the service gets better and the portions more generous upon repeat visits (it probably helps when you go in several times in a row and gush about how much you love the food).

Marouche: Lebanese-Armenian in what's left of Little Armenia outside of Hollywood. Cute, old-world dining room and very friendly service. The baba ganoush is unbelievable - super smoky, smooth, and rich but not oily. We tried a variety of other mezze and grilled meats, which were all good (especially the felafel), but nothing could touch the perfection of the eggplant.

In addition, Sam Woo, the Chinese BBQ place next to the Ranch 99 in Van Nuys is decent for grabbing a bite.  It's pretty much the best Chinese the furthest north that we've been able to find/find out about.  They have BBQ meats, including whole ducks, for takeout, and the cash-only dining room is good for plain, simple dishes.  We've had the BBQ plate, chow fun, duck soup noodles, and they've all been fine-good.  We also had surprisingly good fried fish and sauteed scallops.

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LOVE Mother Dough.  It's fallen off the 2013 LA Weekly 99 Essential Restaurants list, which is a shame but ultimately fine with me because - less waiting! The crust is pillowy soft and crunchy charred in all the right places, much more suited to my taste than Mozza. It's also mellower, with its exposed brick walls and hipster clientele. Wonderful pizza - we tried sausage and arugula/prosciutto - and a fresh, bright burrata salad.

There's a little Thai place in Northridge (yes, my definition of LA is expansive), Lum-Ka-Naad, that has become our go-to when we're driving through the area.  It's got an extensive north and south regional menus, as well as regular American Thai joint favorites. Their curries and spiced meats are genuinely fiery, but can be tamed to mild (which is at hot as I care to eat it) upon request.  Even with the mild setting, the servers will check on you to make sure everything is edible - the mild for the regional dishes translates to I'd say about a 6-7 on a 1-10 American scale of hot and will easily get you to the runny-nose stage.  They warn you straight out that the dishes in certain sections of the menu might be unpalatable for regular American tastes.  The service is quite good and best of all, it's open until midnight on weeknights and 2 AM on Thurs-Sat. Yeah!

The lunch line at Tsujita is hard core - be prepared to wait and wait, but then the tsukemen will be completely worth it. Might want to save up some calories and cholesterol points, though.  Last time I felt like I was eating a bowl of liquid pork butter. That's a good thing.  Mostly.

The Reel Inn in Malibu is a fine place to stop along the PCH.  There might even be parking if you're very, very lucky and/or eat at off hours. We didn't care for the clam chowder (too thick, a little gloppy) but the fish is wonderfully fresh and the cajun seasoning is really good. It's a very casual beachy joint (line ordering, seat yourself, patio available) and most likely the best you can do, value wise, in that neck of the woods.  It's not on the ocean side of the highway so there isn't that much of a view, but you can still see well off into the distance from the window-side tables.

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I quite like the Banana Leaf at the Farmer's Market at the Grove - pretty good renditions of Malaysian classics like beef rendang, roti paratha, and mee goreng and the folks there are very friendly.

Finally got to try the famous Kogi truck, and while my suddenly kim-chee-crazed husband loved it, I thought it was just fine.  Great tacos for cheap are widely available around here and the price and the grease factors were a little high for me.  The Ludo truck, however, really manages to do wonderful things with fried chicken.  Even though it's boneless and cooked up fast to order, the crust, heavily studded with rosemary, is remarkably crunchy and the chicken stays incredibly moist. 

I was disappointed with a long-awaited trip to Din Tai Fung.  While the XLB were masterfully made and tasty, the rest of our dishes weren't that well executed and some were quite bland. We tried the cucumbers, sea weed and bean curd salad, fried pork chop, clear beef soup, fried rice cakes, fried rice, and steamed dumplings. For every dish besides the XLB, I'd much rather have eaten at an A&J. Which is out here, by the way!! I must seek them out.

Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village, however, is Ah-mazing! It's decorated like an Imperial banquet hall meets a bawdy house, with explosions of pink, red velvet, and gilt everywhere. The food is beautifully prepared and presented and we loved everything we got, but highlights included the pork belly, fried dumplings (not potstickers, the puffy ones that are then fried), sauteed fish, and crab noodles.

The Attari Sandwich Shop has great atmosphere and food, for a very good price/neighborhood. The eggplant appetizer is smooth (texture) and sharp (flavor) at once, and the kabobs are excellent. The sandwiches looked very good and I can't wait to get back and try a few.

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The 626 Night Market was so much fun!  Highly recommended if you're in the area while it's going on, and it looks like they may continue to have several events each summer.  All the meat skewers, fish balls, and boba tea you would ever care to eat. Gets reallllly crowded later on in the night.

Umami Burger is"¦fine. Everything we had (umami burger, another special burger w/ speck, and the short rib fries) was rich, rich, rich, such that I felt the only judicious use of truffle oil was in the (lovely and generous) beet salad, and even that was a bit much.  Didn't like the sauce on the fries "“ was expecting a more classic brown gravy but it was vaguely cheesy instead. These shops seem to be spreading like wildfire, but the whole setup seems expensive ($ + calories) to me for a burger night out.

A-Frame is great, and practically a food-nightclub on weekend nights, with the communal seating, loud music, and seriously hot servers.  Love the crispy beer can chicken and the kitchen fries (which far beat out the potato pancake).  The lamb skewer is good and comes on a plate balanced with some salad but doesn't have much of an Asian twist.

Tsujita now has a tiny Annex across the street that serves the noodles all day long. It's better trying to catch it leaving the airport because there's still always a wait.

Belly Bombz (food truck) is all the name promises "“ great Korean fried wings smothered in tasty sauces, plus sliders and fries. It's a bellyful and the sauces will get all over your hands and clothes (and mouth, and facial hair, as applicable "“ luckily they are free with the handi-wipes) but it will all be worth it.  I wanted to try all the sauces but the Firecracker is a sweet-chile, low-heat, great start!

On the other hand, I don't really get the appeal of the Grilled Cheese Truck.  Every time I see it, there's an hour+ line.  I waited once to try the cheesy mac-n-rib, which I admit I'd been lusting after for a while, but in the end it was cheesy toast filled with some OK mac-n-cheese and a dab of BBQ rib meat.  Now I'm just glad that its line sucks up customers from the trucks I do want to try.

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There's a Ludo stand inside the Staples Center if you don't have time to grab a bite beforehand. A little more expensive than normal but looks and smells exactly the same as the truck offerings (didn't eat this time because we already stuffed ourselves at Mother Dough beforehand.  My husband was still very tempted).

Nobu in Malibu is fabulous.  The beach location is perfect for sunset drinks and dinner.  The beautiful people and cars (valet only in the lot; but street parking is easily available if you're willing to walk a block or two) can be intimidating and we were worried about being treated as 2nd class citizens, but the staff couldn't have been nicer.  We did a tasting menu featuring the signature dishes, including the miso black cod (like fish buttah) and ceviche. The fluke sashimi was a particular star.  Oddly, the sushi course, while camera-ready gorgeous, was the least interesting of all the things we tasted (except for the egg, which had a texture almost like a very fine-crumbed cake.  Is that what it is supposed to be like?  Amazing.  Like what I imagine Jiro's apprentice spends 10 yrs learning to make in Jiro Dreams of Sushi).  Our desserts were a little strange - a selection of cobbler- and crumble-type fruity homestyle things.  Very good, but didn't really go with the rest of the meal.  If dessert isn't a must, stick with the hot and cold signatures and drink the rest of the night away  (can't remember our cocktails, but they were pretty and balanced and went down easy).  $$$$ but a great night out.  A perfect follow-on to the Getty Villa if you're looking for an activity (and/or daily dose of culture) in the area.

Neptune's Net at the other end of Malibu is pretty well-known but I liked it more for the atmosphere than the food.  To be fair, we only tried the fried stuff (pretty much all of it - shrimp, fish, clams, fries, crab cake, scallops) and it was good but it didn't stand out for me.  Fresh, fine, plain, etc.  But the beach across the street is always crowded w/ surfers and the bikers on the weekend are legion, so it is definitely worth checking out the scene.  Note: the bathrooms are NOT nice - only porta-potties!!

The Chinese place I mentioned many posts above in Van Nuys is apparently a chain called Sam Woo BBQ and is often co-located in Ranch 99 plazas.  Very solid for Cantonese dishes, including the soup (duck!) noodles and various BBQ meats, but do NOT be tempted by the so-called szechuan offerings.  Blech - gloppy, sour, not hot.  There's usually a wait - it's a funny system where you sign up your party on an unattended clipboard and assign yourself a #. Pro tip - ducks freeze really well if you're afraid you can't finish a whole one quickly and you must save the bones for stock!

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I did it right this time!!! I enjoyed my recent visit to Din Tai Fung whilst passing through town, sticking w/ the XLB, fried rice cakes w/ pork (not chicken! Too bland!), and clear chicken (this is the special soup they are known for, not the beef) soup.  The XLB were excellent, the rice cakes were flavorful and fried to chewy perfection, and the soup was pure essence of chicken.

I've gone through most of the flavors of Belly Bombz at this point, and my favorites are the firecracker and soy caramel.  The mom's recipe is a little bland and I didn't really care for the sriacha lime or spicy garlic parmesan.  I like my wings saucier so I've only tried the bomb dust on fries.  It tastes exactly like the flavor of an excellent BBQ potato chip so I thought it was great, but YMMV.  The slaw that comes with all items is crisp and refreshing, gobbled down by two people who generally don't like cole slaw.  My husband really likes the sliders (both the pork belly and the beef, when they have them) but I stick with the boneless wings.

If the Tsujita lines are too ridiculous, Tastu Ramen, also in the Sawtelle plaza (sooo convenient to/from the airport if you're coming/going from the north) is a good choice.  They have an interesting iPad ordering system where you can customize your ramen. I've tried the the soul ramen, which has a LOT of flavors - a thick tonkotsu broth, lots of black garlic oil, and some red sauce - that work quite well together.  The red ramen is quite flavorful-spicy, with some heat (though not as much as you might expect from the color).  They also have open-faced stuffed buns, which are a little pricy, but delicious, and pork over rice that is absolutely perfect to take to go and eat on the plane (we wished we had bought two).  The ramen itself is thinner, but springy.  My husband loved it, though I still prefer thicker tsukemen.  Bonus: it's open late night - 'till 2 or 3AM (weekends), so you can get it even if In-N-Out is closed.

We haven't been to the Ragin' Cajun restaurant, but their food truck is one of our favorites, with some lick-worthy chicken-sausage bisque and perfectly-fried po' boy fillings.

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Well, again, a bit late to the party, but here is a summary of where I ate. I was careful to focus my eats at mostly East Asian places, plus coffee, plus ink. Really, I was set-bent-undetered on visiting Chef Michael Voltaggio's restaurant after seeing him and his brother on the show, but never made it to LA until now. Definitely did not disappoint. But I digress, as below are what I recall from my three days out there:

Arcadia/Hacienda Heights/Monterey Park/Rowland Heights (These different neighborhoods are pooled together because they all have very Taiwanese-centric places, if you want to try traditional Taiwanese foods.)

Din Tai Fung. (Chain--dined at Arcadia location) Um, of course, I had to come here. While it did not completely satisfy my XLB expectations, it blew everything else I had around the DC area. My friend and I did a steamer of regular, shrimp with wintermelon, and another dish I could not recall. Since the wintermelon was not cooked down enough to where its juices really married with the shrimp, it was not as juicy and left the combination lacking something. Still, it was an interesting flavor to try. I was happy to go and would still recommend this place.

JJ Bakery. (Chain--tried the Arcadia location) This is a California chain that makes Taiwanese-style breads and cakes, much like Bread Corner here, but done much better. This is a good place to hangout while you wait for your text from DTF. You can also buy some breads and cakes to go. I rather enjoyed their egg tart, as the crust was a just-right flakeyness to it for me. I also enjoyed their wife cake and their taro custard bread (much later on of course) .

Simbala. We walked past here, but did not try. However, if you are in the mood for Taiwanese cuisine or traditional shaved ice, I would also recommend coming here. I have sinced mail-ordered their Taiwanese-style sausage, and I think it is a pretty good rendition to the real deal. I just wished I had an extra stomach for the rice plates offered there.

Tea Bar Cafe. (Arcadia) This is right next door to DTF, and also a perfect place to hangout while you wait for your text for a table. You can also get your Taiwanese small eats here, but in this case, I would probably favor Simbala, which is a short walking distance away (see above). However, we were lazy, so we sat next door and enjoyed some traditional Taiwanese treats, which my friend really enjoyed for her first time. We each ordered a boba milk tea variety and then I had her try the ginger peanut tofu pudding, which was done really nicely here. Much like the pudding sold at Thanh Son Tofu in Eden Center, Tea Bar Cafe did it just right, with the pudding slightly silkier than Thanh Son Tofu. It really bought back memories of Taiwan for me.

85C Bakery. (Chain--tried the Hacienda Heights location) A LOT of people love it here--it is sort of like the Starbucks equivalent in popularity, but for Taiwanese breads and boba drinks. I know I am supposed to like it, and I came here because my searches pointed out that this is a newer location, so it was bigger and cleaner. But, I was disappointed. I felt that the bread varieties offered were too fusion for me, so I lean more toward the traditional ones offered at JJ Bakery. I think I will give this place another try, if I get to go back again. I will say that the coffee bread (coffee flavored, that is) was not bad. The dough was nicely risen, slightly fluffy, with a good chew and flavor.

Fluff Ice. (Local chain--tried the Monterey Park location) Fluff ice, or snow ice, or cloud ice, as it is known, has replaced shaved ice in Taiwan. This chain was recommended by a friend's cousin, and it was a perfect introduction to my friend who has never tried it. She is used to bingsoo, since she is Korean, but enjoyed this better, she said. In case you don't know, fluff ice is taking the flavor used usually as a topping and infusing it into the block of ice. Then the ice flavor is shaved into very thin sheet/flakes, to which you add toppings much like shaved ice. It was a fun place to try. We had a customized green tea fluff ice with lychee jelly and boba poppers. Unfortunately, green tea ice does not photograph well, and I shall spare you the details; but it was really great finisher to the XLB meal. I also liked the fact that it was in a mall where you can walk around after. Like visiting Daiso, the Japanese answer to the dollar store, but waaaaay cooler.

Class 302 (Local chain--Rowland Heights location) This location is teeny-tiny, with only about seven tables and very, very, patient diners waiting for a seat or carry out. I grabbed a traditional shaved ice with mochi, red bean, grass jelly, and condensed milk to go as my fare-thee-well-LA dessert before heading off to LAX. While I don't recommend eating this and driving, I do recommend saving room for the shaved ice here. It was really good, so I can only imagine their other Taiwanese goodies are worth trying here. Another must try to re-visit place for me.

Little Tokyo

Demitasse. This place is a must visit. I had the best coffee and macaron here. A local roastery that has one other location, everything is done well, down to its trained staff. I sat here and watched the staff make cup, after cup, and each cup was taken care of like a very precious package to deliver. It was nice to see. A must try is the Kyoto iced coffee, a more technically balanced way to make cold brew (shown here) that is a 24 hour, precise process. And then I had the Yuzu Macaron ($2.00) that blew me away. It just had this terrific blend of yuzu and chewiness that was perfect to me. I wish I could have purchased a box to bring back, but alas, I bought the last one for the day. :-(

'lette. Hey, it's a macaron shop in Little Tokyo! {O_o} It looked pretty, so I was pretty drawn like a moth to fire or light. I bought three pieces for $1.85 each. However, between the salted caramel, earl grey, and rose flavors tasted, only the earl grey came close to making me smile. I guess I was spoiled by the pastry chef that makes the goodies at Demitasse (see above).

Mitsuru Cafe. This was the place everyone on most sites I searched said "you must go!" Well, I say, just watch the bystanders and that should fulfill your touristy need to go. Because, even though this is a Little Tokyo institution, well, it tasted like one too. Meaning, the nice old ladies who man the shop and make the food (and who only takes cash at this place, by the way), have made it for so long and robotically, that their automated style somehow took away any taste to the food, I am sad to write. A Mochi on a stick with sticky soy glaze (mitarashi dango) and a Red Bean pastry (imagawayaki) only set me back a few dollars, but I wish I could take those few dollars back. Very sad, as I LOVE imagawayaki, and well, this left a lot to be desired in the cake-y part, as well as the lack of chewiness in the mochi. Alas.+

Ozero. Although the bakery looked quite excellent, it was pretty hot that day, so I was more thirsty than hungry. The honey bubble tea really hit the spot, though I wish I made room somehow for the classic must-order Japanese snack of condensed milk toast. Save for next time.

West Hollywood

Milk. I came upon this place on my drive over to my reservation at ink. Being nervous I would be late, I left early, which left time to kill. So I had a scoop of ice cream at this popular creamery. I can't really put my finger on why I didn't like it, but I guess it lacked a bit of depth for me. Or maybe I felt it was a little too rich? I don't know, but I do know I left disappointed. Maybe you might have better luck with their other ice cream-based desserts.

Sweet Lady Jane. (Two locations) A Hollywood institution. Apparently for 20 years. Family-run and they showed it, cheerily bickering over things much like an episode of Cake Boss. I ordered a slice of their popular triple berry shortcake, and while I loved the fact they use sweetened whipped cream over buttercream, the cake was slightly on the dry side. However, I still recommend visiting for the history offered here. Or maybe for their other dessert options. But a slice of cake and tea was nice to calm my nerves before I headed over to ink.

ink. I had a feeling Chef Voltaggio was not in that night, despite it being Saturday night, so I didn't ask to meet him or even just ask about him. Instead, I tried very hard to just relax and enjoy my experience here. The place was humming with mostly young couples and me feeling a tad on the older side, so I was really glad to just sit alone at their bar and watch the prep station in all its clean and precise glory. I love when a kitchen is streamlined, neatly kept, organized and beautifully designed. Two small courses and a glass of wine only set me back $46 pre-tip, which made me really, really happy, as I left feeling satiated compared to some of the places in DC, where I left paying $50 and nowhere near as full. I ordered a hamachi (soy cracker, granny smith ribbons, with a yuzu/apple sauce-$18) and a kale ($14 -- lollipop kale, which is a brussel sprout + kale spawn that was paired with crème fraí®che, pig ears, and togarashi). Both were nicely-sized portions, with really well-thought out flavors that left me feeling like I ate, but wasn't stuffed. The lightness of the citrus sauce balanced well against the hamachi, while the slight sourness of the apple ribbons gave it a clean taste, as well as additional texture to the hamachi dish. It was just nice. I would love to go back.

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In Glendale, the 99 Essentials list this year likes Carousel, which has Lebanese food.

Took my own advice and went to Carousel in Glendale for the feast. The place is extravagantly Middle Eastern in decor and apparently has belly dancing and music entertainment on the weekend (no surprise, once you walk in) - it reminded me of the Parthenon in Chicago in that respect. The feast was a lot of fun and we got to try pretty much a little bit of everything. It was almost an overwhelming variety, but an amazing way to introduce someone to the cuisine. Overall, the food quality was solid. While the entrees were good (kebabs were moist and flavorful but not special; pilaf rice was tasty and light), they weren't really necessary after all the hot and cold mezze and were mostly packed to go (they were still quite good the next day). Highlights were the muhammara (dip of crushed walnuts, red pepper paste, and pomegranate), kebbeh nayyeh, salad, mutabbal (baba ganoush), fatayer (cheese turnovers), and kofta. Some of the seasonings were a little lemony for my taste (the sausages and the chicken wings) but other people liked them so YMMV. I enjoyed it specifically for the feast. For ordering individual items (e.g., kebabs) I'm sure it would be fine but there are a lot of other Armenian and other Middle Eastern joints in town that I would probably try first. However, I would come back and do the feast again.

While in Glendale, there's always Porto's! The tamal was surprisingly light and studded with corn niblets and everyone got a box of dulce de leche cookies to take home. I also got some guava pastries and assorted fried things.

Stopped by the Alhambra location of Kang Kang Food Court. It's kind of grody and is mainly a steam-table food court, but the Shanghai pork pan-fried baos (sheng jian bao) were perfect. Made to order with crispy bottoms, burst of HOT juice as you bite in, nice porky interior, medium-thick skins...I ate all 8 for lunch and would have eaten more if I could. I also tried some steam table greens and they were OK but the baos!! A must! Cash-only, parking available in the non-street-facing lot.

I was the 2nd person in at Tsujita Annex on a Monday at 11:30 AM on the dot. I can never finish the soup for my tsukemen so this time I asked for it to be wrapped up and got an extra order of noodles to go (note that they don't actually do take-out so this is the closest you can get to taking away a meal from here) and had it for dinner at home! No waste and twice the deliciousness = happy.

Lum Ka Naad (Thai food, both northern and southern specialties done well) now has another location in Encino. Got my usual order of kang ho and khao soy to go and the food tastes pretty much the same as the Northridge location. It's much more convenient proximity to the 101 so we'll probably be eating here from now on unless we need to eat late night (this one closes earlier than the University location).

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Tried a couple more new places:

Manuel's Original El Tepeyac Café - My coworkers wanted Cinco de Mayo Mexican so we got strong recs to visit the Evergreen Ave. (LA) location, only to find that we've eaten at the sister restaurant (random strip mall in the City of Industry) before. Their main claims to fame are the giant burritos, which, while not really my thing, are quite good. They are legitimately huge, even if you're not trying the 5-lb special burrito (as popularized by Man vs. Food), so are best eaten with fork and knife in slices, but do take away and reheat nicely. The tortillas are tender and some of their fillings are different - this time I had the Hollenbeck de Machaca, which has shredded beef with sautéed onions, tomatoes, jalapeí±os, eggs, cheddar cheese, rice, beans, guacamole, and topped with ranchera sauce. Don't really care for the ranchera sauce, which is thin and has a lot of green peppers. I wish I had gotten the Okie style, which has a strongly-flavored red sauce (like a Colorado-style chile sauce), but was turned off by the extra cheese (just leave off the cheese, silly). Good if you are in the mood for a lot of food and a bit of a wait in the Evergreen location (they also have a take-out window there). I recall thinking the burritos were pretty good at the Industry location when I ate there previously, but it wasn't a place I would have considered special or sought out on my own.

Beijing Pie House in Monterey Park is pretty much the bomb if you like A&J's pan-fried beef bun. They have a whole section of fried buns!!! We tried the lamb and zucchini and pork and scallion, with the pork just edging out the lamb (surprisingly to me, because I don't like scallions that much, but while the zucchini was a nice change, the flavor was much milder). Their spicy cabbage is excellent - just a touch of tongue-numbing peppercorns but refreshingly crunchy, and the cucumbers were just OK (not spicy - I much prefer A&J's garlic spicy version). The potato salad is strips of marinated, raw potato, which was interestingly spicy though our least favorite dish, and the pickled vegetables are clean and light. Hmmm, what else. Beef noodle soup and XLB are fine but not special here, though the pork potstickers are quite good. Really, you're going for the pies, and you should eat as many as you can stomach, offset with the vegetable dishes. There is a parking lot and they now take credit cards! Service was brusque at first (maybe because I brought in 3 non-Asian people, the only ones in the restaurant the whole time) but really quite decent and friendly by the end (maybe because we were all gobbling with genuine gusto?). Loved it and would go back in a heartbeat.

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We were staying up in La Caí±ada and I can report that Los Gringos Locos in La Caí±ada is pretty tasty.

And I can report that it is pretty corny! Juan million tacos and singing cactii:


Get it? Corny?

And if you think *that's* bad ...

And a balboa bar from Sugar and Spice with heath bar crunch is really good. 

If they had used Rocky Road instead of Heath Bar Crunch would it have been a Rocky Balboa?

I am sorry.

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A few resources if you're planning an LA food itinerary:

LA Weekly's 2016 99 essential restaurants

Jonathan Gold's 101 best restaurants

If you poke around both of these, there are map interfaces that I find really help with pairing activities/landmarks with restaurants.

Also, if you're in the mood for a Night Market, there's a bunch happening in LA and Orange County this year:

626 Night Market


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Spent some time in University Park last week and found a trio of casual spots worthy of a visit if you happen to be in the neighborhood, although not necessarily destination spots.  

Nature's Brew is a coffee shop that also offers an interesting array of pastries, salads, and sandwiches.  

Ebaes self-describes as Asian-fusion, but that makes it sound more pretentious than it is.  Ramen, sushi rolls (mostly Americanized), Korean BBQ, and more all share space on this menu.  The place is very small - less than a dozen tables and two long counters.  The walls are very dark, with hand painted artwork, with a long mirror across one wall.  It can be rather jarring entering and exiting on a sunny day as the contrast is quite sharp.  

Barcaro LA is a tapas joint and probably the best of the bunch.  Larger wine and beer selection than Ebaes.  The small plates are good, but not all winners.  The lamb burger and seared scallops were hits.  The chicken breast could have been a contender, but fell a bit short.  Everything on the menu costs $9.  The space is not much larger than Ebaes, but although it also adopts the dark wall motif, does not quite achieve the uber-darkness of Ebaes because it has windows in the front, which Ebaes does not.  These three places do a fair amount of carryout trade, which gives you some sense of how casual they really are.  And guess what?  They are all next door to each other at 2308 through 2316 South Union Avenue.  Go figure.

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On 10/24/2017 at 7:27 PM, Sundae in the Park said:

Hmmm, I might get the dead tree paper this week!

Top 10 from the list is discussed here and they are:

  1. Vespertine
  2. Providence
  3. Spago
  4. Lukshon
  5. Taco Maria
  6. Spring
  7. Trois Mec
  8. Cassia
  9. Mozzaplex
  10. Rossoblu

Oooh, and the map function works (for me) if you haven't hit your monthly LA Times limit.

Rossoblu website has the following popup notice when I visited today:


Rossoblu is temporarily closed after a small kitchen fire.

We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience. We will remain closed while we make repairs. Please check back here or on our social media for updates.

Our sister restaurant, Sotto, is open for reservations. You can go to their website at sottorestaurant.com or call them at 310.277.0210.

Thank you for your support and patience during this time. We look forward to seeing you soon.

Hopefully they will recover quickly.

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