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Top 10 Tastes of California [L.A. Area]

I have an interesting request, and hopefullty a fun one that will spark some great ideas...

First, the facts:
-- I have never been to California. I am from San Antonio, Texas, and go to school in New York City.
-- My father and I will be visiting some schools in California from Saturday August 26 to Friday September 1. We fly into LA and out of SF.
-- We will be renting a car, so mobility won't be much of an issue. The plan is to make the drive between the LA area to the SF area along the coastline highway, which I understand is beautiful.
-- The only two places we must go are Pasadena and Stanford, but those will likely be just during the day on Monday (Pasadena) and Wednesday (Stanford). All areas surrounding these cities (say, less than a 2-hour drive one way) and the environs in between are fair game. We are willing to travel for great food.
-- Nothing is set as of yet, although I plan to make reservations at Manresa in Los Gatos and Chez Panisse in Berkeley. And I've already been placed on the waiting list at The French Laundry. Also considering Lucques when in LA, but that one's not as certain, it just happens to be one of the few LA restaurants I've heard of).

Now, the question:

What are the 10 things you think it would be absolutely criminal to leave California without tasting?

-- We love all kinds of food, from fine dining to hole-in-the-wall taquerias and everything in between. That being the case, any and all suggestions are welcome. I wouldn't mind, for example, seeing Oysters and Pearls from TFL on the same list as an In-n-Out Burger. That's exactly what I'm after, in fact. Regardless of price, regardless of location we just the best food, period.

And and all help is greatly appreciated.

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  1. 1) Soot Bul Jeep (Korean BBQ)
    2) Tacos Baja Ensendada (Fish/shrimp tacos)
    3) Chung King (Sichuan)
    4) Lucques (there's a reason you've heard of it)
    5) In-N-Out
    6) Quan Hy (Northern Vietnamese)
    7) Langer's (better pastrami than NYC's)
    8) Guelaguetza (Oaxacan)
    9) The restaurant at the Getty Museum
    10) Renu Nakorn (Issan Thai)

    Would be happy to help with addresses, if needed.

    11 Replies
    1. re: Mrs Fang

      With regards to Langers, few people claim that it's better than Katz's...which is where the top pastrami in NY is (since the closing of Second Avenue). Most people who think Langer's is better than "NY pastrami" are those that went to Carnegie Deli...which is leagues below Katz's...it's like comparing chuck steak to ribeye. Skip Langers. If you want a sandwich with old school charm, try Philippe's, the alleged birthplace of the french dipped sandwich.

      Soot Bul Jeep isn't better than Kang Suh in NY. But Beverley Tofu House is special.

      Again, I like AOC over Lucuqes. I didn't think the flavors at Lucques was much more outstanding or refined than AOC and at AOC, I was able to try 8 little dishes versus a standard offering of 3. The brioche is excellent, as are most fish preps. If they have house-made sausage, get it. The wine list is excellent. The place is very conducive to lingering over glasses of wine and catching up.

      If you've been to Sushi Yasuda, Kurumazushi, or even Jewel Bako, skip sushi in LA unless it's Urasawa.

      1. re: Porthos

        I've been to Katz's and that's exactly why I made the Langer's recommendation!

        http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content...

        1. re: Mrs Fang

          Modernist- absolutely right Langer's beats Katz to a pulp. NYs can keep it along with Stage, Wolf's, any other pastrami joint. To add, la has the best Korean food in America, and is a must.

          1. re: Schweinhaxen

            TIme for a Langer's visual aid:
            http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v22...

            The lists are looking good so far. A few thoughts:

            -Mashti Malone's Persian ice cream
            -Beverly Soon Tofu over BCD or Sokongdong
            -Tommy's chiliburgers over IN-N-OUT? (might be controversial, this wacky California "chili" :-P )

        2. re: Porthos

          jonathan gold has made this claim, and i would agree.

          about two years ago i had a langers pastrami sandwich and then flew to new york the next day and had katz's.
          langers is the superior of the two imho.

          sliced bread out of a plastic bag at katz' just doesnt compare to the bread at langers. i found the pastrami flavor to be superior as well. the vibe is great though...

          1. re: modernist

            That's funny because my sister and I always comment on how much more flavorful the pastrami was/is at Second Ave and even at Katz's. The texture is more pronounced at Katz's but just as tender. I can't argue with you on the bread though. That Langer's has hands down. But pastrami to pastrami, I still prefer Katz's.

          2. re: Porthos

            I guess I'm one of the few. I've been to Katz, Carnegie and Langers. No doubt Langers is the better pastrami. Better rub on the outside, not as fatty as Katz and sliced just right. I found Katz to be too thick of a cut with too much unedible gristle.

          3. re: Mrs Fang

            Nice List, Mrs. Fang!

            Oaxacan is a great idea. This "Ultimate List" posted by modernist is an invaluable resource for LA hounding.

            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

            1. re: Ciao Bob

              there is an updated version somewhere, (slightly more curated with top picks out of each category) but i've lost track of it since the reformatting of chowhound. im gonna update that updated version and post it again sometime soon.

            2. re: Mrs Fang

              Great list, Mrs. Fang. I'm not sure if there is much Yucatecan food in San Antonio or NYC, but check out Chichen Itza at Mercado La Paloma near USC for cochinita pibil.

              It is a delicious and tangy marinated pork roasted in banana leaves. Very reasonable but excellent and the Mercado La Paloma is a fun place to browse the various other food and crafts booths.

              1. re: Mrs Fang

                I definitely 2nd that Soot Bull Jeep has among the best korean bbq in town. But it's hella SMOKEY, if you want something less smokey and just as good, try Cho Sun on Olympic in K-Town. It might be easier for non-korean speaking diners.

              2. I am sure the moderators will tell you to post on the California and SF Boards for non-LA recommendations. Here in LA, for things a Texan-NYer (Rock On Kinky!) isn't likely to find at home(s), I would recommend
                1) Japanese:
                Sushi: The Hump, Sushi Wa Bistro, Nozawa, Tsukiji, Sushi Gen
                Non-Sushi: Nanbankan, Yabu, Manpuku, Kokekoko, Mako, Torafuko, Sanuki No Sato, see the Tuempura Bar thread below, KaGaYa, Otafuko, Kotohira, Diakokuya
                2) Chinese
                Dim Sum/Cantonese : Ocean Star, New Concept, Mission 261, NBC, Capital Seafood
                Noodles/Dumplings: Dumpling 10053, Dai Ho, Heavy Noodling
                Szechuan (the real stuff, not NYC Szechuan/Hunan): Lucky Dragon, Chung King
                Shanghai: Mei Long Village, Green City

                3) Korean
                BBQ: Chosun Galbi
                Tofu: BCD Tofu House

                4) Thai: Nadpob Thai Cafe, Thai Paradise Restaurant

                5) Mexican: Babita, La Sernada di Garibaldi (Boyle Hieghts location), Grand Central Market,

                6) California: Luques, Micheal's, Spago

                7) Peruvian: Los Balcones Del Peru

                Search this Board or google for locale/hours.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Ciao Bob

                  Ciao Bob, only twelve of us on this board are old enough to get the Kinky remark!

                  Mei Long Village is a good call. Pork pump and xiao long bao are standards, and jade shrimp (order with spinach) is wonderful, a thing of dreams. I recently ate there with a large party and even the more Cantonese-style dishes were excellent.

                  Giang Nan is another Chinese outpost that has never disappointed.

                  1. re: Mrs Fang

                    Needn't be an old fart to get references to the Texas Jewboy - he even has a 'houndish pedigree (what else would you call, 'Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed'?). Besides, he's going to be governor one day.

                    As for on-topic food, as a former NYer and SF Bay resident, I'd say that LA's plethora of great Thai options is worth checking out. Getting to NoHo or Thai Town is easier than getting out to Sriphapai in Queens, probably. In NoHo, there is the much discussed Wat Thai on the weekends - although recent weather has made that skippable. I realize the 108 degree tempratures make for a more authentic Thai experience, but still...

                    For air conditioned selections, Sri Siam and Krua Thai in NoHo are constant favorites.

                    I'd also try some 'California idea of food' food. In the Bay Area, try Hobee's for breakfast. In LA, Lazy Daisy or Doughboys are solid choices.

                    Enjoy.

                    1. re: igj

                      please skip Doughboy's... it's terrible and I don't think I'm the only one that thinks so on this board.

                  2. re: Ciao Bob

                    i agree that BCD is a stronger choice than Beverly.

                  3. The original comment has been removed
                    1. Top 10 things to "taste"?

                      In no particular order:

                      *Beef roll at 101 NOODLE EXPRESS

                      *Fish tacos at TACOS BAJA ENSENDA

                      *Ice cream (any flavor) at FOSSELMAN'S

                      *Knife-cut beef nooodles at HEAVY NOODLING

                      *Pork rump at CHIANG'S GARDEN

                      *Any dessert (but especially the coconut ananas cake and the peanut-butter sesame cookies) at JIN PATISSERIE

                      *Korean BBQ beef tongue and short ribs at SOOT BULL JEEP

                      *Shrimp Topolobampo at BABITA

                      *House special crab at SEAFOOD VILLAGE

                      *French-dipped sandwiches (beef, lamb, turkey or ham) at PHILIPPE'S

                      1. Best sushi in LA and possibly in the Americas, sorry Masa!
                        Go to to Urasawa!