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Japanese visitor - where to take them?

My sister is coming from Japan with her 8 year old son. Need a weekend chow suggestion...

I want to give them a quintessential L.A./American experience. But it has to be good food, and no hassle environment (= no Pinks, no Apple Pan, no Zankou). Also, she is a foodie, but doesn't need big portions.

Last time I took them to The Border Grill. I thought South-of-the-Border and decor might be interesting, but food was somewhat disappointing.

So far I thought of:

Primotivo (small plates - good)
The Counter (interesting burger concept)
Korean BBQ
Gardens Brunch (outside/LA scene)
Saddlepeak Lodge Brunch (outside - but will it be too hot in Calabasas?)

Any other suggestions? Westside preferred, but will travel if necessary..

thank you!!!

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  1. take em to el taurino for some real authentic LA mexican tacos al pastor!

    1. How about dim sum in the SGV? 888 (near Valley and Rosemead) is my personal fave. Maybe dumplings at Din Tai Fung in Arcadia? Or, Grand Central Market in Downtown. The food at Tacos Tumbras a Thomas is both cheap and amazingly good. I know both are quite a drive from Westside, but I lived in Japan for 1 year and couldn't find any Chinese or Mexican food, so I thought these would be interesting choices.

      1. i would definitely consider mexican. i was born and raised in japan and mexican food is really difficult to find.

        depending on where they live, asian food such as korean bbq and chinese are really good and abundant especially in tokyo. so i always think to steer clear from it but many japanese people like to eat asian food even when they're here. one thing i've learned is not to take them to seafood. seafood in japan is really good and it just doesn't compare to most places in the states. with one exception-oysters. raw oysters are not always available in japan like they seem to be here.

        i can't think of any off the top of my head but how about asian fusion type of restaurants? there's two (empress and yatai) but never been to either so i cannot say whether they're good or not.

        i would also suggest AOC. I know, i know. everyone here seems to have a bone to pick with AOC but japanese people love the small portions. dishes they serve at AOC are also difficult to find but also extremely expensive in japan.

        ok, enough rambling on...sorry my mind isn't together yet this morning...

        4 Replies
        1. re: trolley

          For oysters, Ocean Avenue Seafood's happy hour might work out well for you. Call for exact hours, but I think 3-7 on weekdays and 3-6 on weekends. It would be a great thing to do after a day at the beach or shopping on the Promenade. The atmosphere is casual, family friendly but slightly upscale, so I wouldn't worry about taking a kid there. It's not like taking him to happy hour in a dive bar. Or make it a foodie day and go to the Wednesday Farmers' Market, put your food away (I bring a big cooler filled with a little ice), and walk over to happy hour.

          They change the oysters they serve each day, so some days are much better than others. I'm personally a huge fan of the Fanny Bay oysters. If it matters much to you, call in the morning and see if they know what that day's happy hour oysters will be.

          $1.25 per oyster, and it's hard not to order two dozen per

          Edit: for an even cheaper oyster experience, if you're willing to shuck them at home. Santa Monica Seafood always has two kinds of oysters (usually Blue Point and Hama Hama, at least lately). 79 cents an oyster, and maybe $5 for a shucker if you don't already own one.

          1. re: Pei

            those are very good ideas pei. the farmer's market is another great place. california fruits and vegetables always please the japanese visitor. i took my dad and his wife to santa monica market and it made them very happy.

          2. re: trolley

            I moved down to LA from SF not too long ago. The food that I most associate with LA, and that I tend to treat visitors to, are Korean and Mexican. Since they probably have really good Korean food in Tokyo, that leaves Mexican. Perhaps a taco truck tour of LA?

            For oysters I like to take my friends out to Quality Seafood in Redondo Beach. Good, cheap oysters and other shellfish, and a good bit of sightseeing around the pier.

            1. re: trolley

              funny tho, in the past when j-associates came we've taken to the crab pot in long beach. the whole hammers/crabfest deal all over your table thing is such a novelty that they really enjoy it. plus they don't do (or even have) that sort of crab in japan for the most part...

            2. Some suggestions, in no particular order:

              The Dining Room at the Getty Museum


              Dim Sum at Triumphal Palace (menu) or 888 (cart)

              Jer-Ne at the Ritz in Marina Del Rey


              Norman's (for the pig roast)

              1. Providence...for impecable fish that isnt sushi.

                1. Let's cut Mr.-8-Yr.-old some slack here, so (a) he has some positive experience and (b) so he doesn't find reason to make Mom's experience less than charming. Unless this kid is the reincarnation of John Stuart Mill or Willie Sidis, this lets out Providence and AOC, and probably Spago, though it's a notch more kid-friendly.

                  Grand Central is good. Phillipe's, when not crowded. Chinese in the SGV is good. I found relatively little good Thai food in my brief travel in Japanand Thai-town is, in some ways, quintessentially LA now (check the number of tables at Ocha where Latino diners are drinking Corona with lime and salt with their shrimp soup...) Songkran's done for this year, so the Thai Wat isn't quite the event it is then, but still pretty unusual.

                  I'd think about La cabanita and Bistro Verdu in Montrose, even.

                  r gould-saltman

                  1. just a thought, how about pho? if they've never tried it, i'm sure it'll be an unphogettable experience.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: ladius

                      pho is a rarity in japan and friends have been known to appreciate golden deli when they come to town.

                    2. Is the child well=behaved?
                      I think the following - I'd avoid any japanese or east asian because there are versions readily available in japan.

                      I like to take people to places where they can enjoy touristic elements as well, places which locals don't need to go to. They are tourists, no shame in that.

                      1. Moun of Tunis is fine. Not as elegant as dar maghreb. Eating with the hands will be fun and somewhat shocking perhaps. You order the set meal, and the simpler decor will make it easier for the child (also KCRW discount if you have the fringe benefit card). If the child is better behaved and you have the cash, consider dar maghreg.

                      2. For a nice meal, I'd go to saddle peak lodge (possible brunch as well). The game and the wine list should satisfy the grown up and the decor willbe fun for the child.

                      3. Babita's is a good choice for mexican in that the setting is trouble-free and you won't be pressed to make quick antojito choices.
                      3a. For a contrast, i'd buy some tamales (if you're worried about street meat, buy the ones without the pork or chicken) and some atole or champurrado to drink from the ladies at the sw corner of 8th st and irolo, in the jon's market lot. The tamales are $1 each as are the atole and champurrado orders. It will be different and fun for them.

                      4. Quality seafood in Redondo Beach might be fun if they like seafood. Live fresh sea urchin won't be exotic for them, but it's good quality. OR walk along under the santa monica pier and have a hot dog on a stick - corn dog. Local, and fun for someone from east asia.

                      5. Get in the car on the weekend and drive up Hwy 2 (you can buy parking passes at the gas stations just south of the intersection of I-210 and CA-2 in La canada, or at Big-5) and go up to Newcombs ranch for the bbq. Is it the best? no, but it's very good, esp the ribs and they'll see another part of LA. You can also stop at the Mt Wilson Observatory at 1pm for the tour of the telescopes which is a bit different.

                      6. Brunch at Geoffrey's in Malibu, outdoor table. see the pelicans dive and enjoy the sea. And outdoors is ok for an 8-year old.
                      1. MOUN OF TUNIS
                      7445 1/2 W SUNSET BLVD
                      LOS ANGELES

                      DAR MAGHREB
                      1510 N STANLEY AVE
                      LOS ANGELES

                      2. SADDLE PEAK LODGE
                      419 COLD CANYON RD

                      3. BABITA RESTAURANT
                      1823 S SAN GABRIEL BLVD
                      SAN GABRIEL

                      For the ladies, go to Irolo and 8th st in Koreatown.

                      4. QUALITY SEA FOOD RESTAURANT
                      130 S INTERNATIONAL BDWK
                      REDONDO BEACH

                      HOT DOG ON A STICK #1
                      1633 OCEAN FRONT WALK
                      SANTA MONICA

                      5.NEWCOMB'S RANCH
                      ANGELES CREST HWY P
                      LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE

                      6. GEOFFREY'S
                      27400 PACIFIC COAST HWY

                      As for taco trucks - for a good selection, go to mulholland just east of beverly glen around lunch time - four or so trucks there. Also, in the evening, echo park ave just south of sunset has a nice truck with cemitas on occasion.

                      You know, a pie at DuPars can be just as nice as high evening of frenchlike food, which they can get in tokyo (or elsewhere in Japan). a meal at stanley's on ventura with a large composite salad (amy's grapefruit, peggy's shrimp, chef's salad, the local chopped or cobb salads) will be more interesting for a foreigner.
                      13817 VENTURA BLVD
                      SHERMAN OAKS

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Jerome

                        I second the rec for Hot Dog on a Stick (I love their cheese on a stick.. heh... And lemonade... YUM!!) and Quality Seafood (the quality and variety of their seafood is really impressive!), especially for the kid factor! :)


                      2. When my relatively old Japanese in-laws came to town, they enjoyed Korean BBQ. I like Chosun Galbi for Japanese visitors; it's not the real charcoal like Soot Bull Jeep, but it's bright & clean which Japanese like. They also had a ball eating at Fatburger and the Texas-style BBQ at Dr. Hogly-Wogly's in the Valley (which I still like, despite some claims that it's gone downhill). Japanese women often love stylish patio spaces where the food is light, so think about brunch at a place like the Rose Cafe in Venice, Le Pain Quotidien in Beverly Hills, etc. Another female Japanese exec who visited us went crazy for Off Vine in Hollywood; it was the souffle that did it. All of those places should be ok for a 9-year-old. (By the way, not to generalize, but many Japanese I've met -- including my wife -- don't really love latin food. Many cannot handle cilantro or the spiciness.)

                        1. i love this oyster happy hour...24 oysters and a pitcher of anchor steam, some cocktail sauce with extra horseradish and tabasco...your guests can also try some 8-12 other kinds of oysters from east/west and beyond...a real deal

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: jessejames

                            are you talking about the ocean ave seafood happy hour?

                            1. re: wilafur

                              think so/the one by ocean ave and santa monica blvd-ish...only one type of oyster for happy hour price but others not pricy or shmooze the oyster tender....

                              1. re: jessejames

                                ocean ave.'s oyster happy hour is awesome. i can go and slurp down a few dozen at a time. although they tend to be pacific varieties (nothing fancy) they're usually really fresh and a great deal for the price. also you can get like clam chowder and assorted appetizers at the bar for 1/2 price i believe.

                          2. Pink's would be great. They'd love it.

                            1. You might try Musha on Wilshire and 5th in Santa Monica. It won't be a cultural experience for your visitors -- it's an izakaya, a Japanase bar that is more like a western restaurant serving small dishes, sort of like Japanese tapas -- but they will probably feel very comfortable there and enjoy introducing you to their food.