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Aug 21, 2006 05:16 AM

Los Angeles Dining

I have resided in the Bay Area for 7 years now. I am returning to Los Angeles and admittedly have been spoiled by the food (some of the best restaurants in the world are here: Gary Danko, The French Laundry, Chez Panisse, Fleur de Lys, Cesar) and specialty stores(Berkeley Bowl, Monterey Market, A.G. Ferrari etc.). Does anyone currently in LA that also lived in the Bay Area and can give me any comparable places to eat and/or shop? Please help!!!!!

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  1. Well, there's only one French Laundry in the world, so no, there's not really a French Laundry equivalent here.

    Our answer to the Ferry Building market is the Wednesday market in Santa Monica (the Sunday market in Hollywood is also very good).

    We don't have a Berkeley Bowl... closest we get is Surfas in Culver City.

    The kind of Cal-cuisine food you get at Chez Panisse is probably closest at one of the Santa Monica Four -- Michael's, Melisse, JiRaffe or Josie. None are exactly like Chez Panisse.

    For an Italian market, you may want Bay Cities, but I actually prefer Claro's (the big one across from 888 Seafood and Banh Mi Che Cali in Rosemead/San Gabriel is the best) for my actual Italian food purchases.

    You may want to concentrate on finding the things that are unique to LA -- really, really great Mexican food springs to mind -- rather than trying to find SF in LA. There are many good things that can only be found in SF, and as many good things that can only be found in LA.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Das Ubergeek

      Thank you for the helpful information, I greatly appreciate it. I will just need to not compare the Bay Area to Los Angeles, but discover what/where great dining and food shopping is in Los Angeles.

      1. re: chezpanisse

        LA's strengths are in the ethnic asian eats. You'll find excellent Taiwanese restaurants and cuisines from every region of China. San Gabriel, Roland Heights, Alhambra are chock full of them. Search Jerome's posts on these.

        For korean tofu stew, you have to try Beverly Soon Tofu on Olympic.

        In terms of farmer's markets, I like the Hollywood one on Ivar on Sundays. It's no Ferry Building but the mushroom guy there is pretty decent. I've purchased porcini, maitake, and ramps from him.

        AOC is an excellent wine bar/cal-cuisine place. The wines by the glass are excellent. Extensive wine list. There'll be some dissenters but they're few and far between. It's like A16 but a little more upscale.

        It'll be easy for you to fall in love with Campanile. Everyone is wowed by A16's burrata in SF. Mark Peel's been using burrata for at least 7-8 years now (the first time I had burrata). He makes some mean grilled sandwiches with them. Also try grilled cheese night.

        Sushi also tops SF. Urasawa is the heavyweight but that's around $250/person. In the $100/person range, I like Mori Sushi. Kiriko is a favorite for the $40-$50 omakase range. Avoid Nishimura because the attitude there is abrasive. Don't buy into the Sasabune hype.

        Japanese. Check out the Mitsuwa in Torrance. Try Santouka for their shio ramen with special pork. It's different from Santa (noodles are different) but I can't decide which I like better.

        In the high end place. Lucques is kinda like the Chez Panisse of LA. I like Spago for the atmosphere but the food isn't really cutting edge. Sona would be my choice for fine dining in LA right now. Patina was good 8 years back. I'd recommend a big pass on Josie's but lots of people like it.

        Of course, try some mexican in LA. I'll defer to board experts. There are so many I'm content with the neighborhood joint.

        Also, try Phillipe's for roast beef and roast pork sandwiches. Langer's is also great. Some people say it's better than NYC...

        Hopefully this will get you started.

      2. re: Das Ubergeek

        Surfas is great but its not like Berkeley Bowl because Berkeley Bowl is an exceptional supermarket and Surfas is an exceptional kitchen supply store with a small selection of grocery products.

        1. re: sfgrub

          Like I was saying... we don't have a Berkeley Bowl, because there's only one Berkeley Bowl in the world and it's in, er, Berkeley.

          I'm offering the closest things I can think of -- a fancy Whole Foods like the one in Glendale was going to be my next suggestion.

          1. re: Das Ubergeek

            Exactly... people come here all the time asking to replicate the 'iconic' where they came from. Like you said, there is only One Berkeley Bowl, there is only one French Laundry... It's not like if they decided to move to Chicago they would find it there either...

            I love the idea below of working in circles while getting settled in L.A. I've lived here my ENTIRE life and get around more than most natives I know and I'm STILL discovering new and wonderful pockets of this city... Just like any new experience, it takes time adjusting to the change, but as soon as you go with the flow instead of fighting the tide, it gets easier... :)


            1. re: Dommy

              Absolutely! As soon as my wife says, "let's go out to dinner", we start playing the concentric-circles game. Since we live in the East Valley, this means a huge cornucopia of ethnic cuisines, all reasonably-priced.

      3. Your return to Los Angeles may be more enjoyable if you focus on locating best the city has to offer rather than attempting to replicate your San Francisco lifestyle. I enjoy San Francisco and I spend a fair amount of time in the city but you can't recreate it here. A repost focused on Los Angeles rather than (not) Los Angeles might yield more interesting results.

        2 Replies
        1. re: JudiAU

          What are some of the "bests" of Los Angeles?

          1. I moved down from SF a few months ago and I'm still adjusting. I find that I've just had to alter my eating habits (just as I did when I first moved to SF). For example, I'm no longer really eating:

            -causal Italian
            -Californian cuisine
            -wine bar drinks and food

            I'm eating a LOT more of:
            -Chinese (including Taiwanese, Szechuan, and other regional foods hard to find in SF)
            -Ramen and other non-sushi Japanese

            Somewhat unchanged in terms of how often I'm eating them:
            -dim sum

            None of this is to say I might not eventually find great versions of the foods I'm missing out on now. But just as I never found Korean food in SF worth eating, I realize I might never find a Cal-Ital place in LA worthy of Delfina.

            You'll love the Santa Monica Farmers' market (Wednesdays seem to be better than Saturday). It was the first place here to make me think "You know what, this might all work out after all." Tons of vendors, Ferry Building beauty at Civic Center prices (for non SF-ers, those are the two big farmers' markets in SF), and sweeping views of the ocean just two blocks away. Gorgeous.

            Shopping will largely depend on where you'll be living, so you might want to post a general neighborhood.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Pei

              Agreed... we have hounds who are experts in every region of the LA area, from the Yuppie Forest (Calabasas/Westlake) to East LA to south Orange County.

              And Pei... while I love the SM market and would go all the time if I worked anywhere near SM on a Wednesday, I have to say the prices are shockingly high compared to the Valley markets -- Studio City and Burbank spring to mind. The selection isn't as wide, clearly, but when you need ong choy, the ong choy from the same vendor can be $1 in Studio City and $2.50 at SM Wednesday.

              I did love the Civic Center market when I lived in SF, though -- walked through Civic Center plaza from BART every day, and I could stop and get fruit and a roll for breakfast, with a cup of coffee from the Viet shop on the south side of the plaza.

              There's definitely a dearth of Moroccan restaurants in LA... Indian, though, there's the North Valley and Artesia, and I haven't managed to eat my way through it yet.

              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                Thanks for the heads up on Valley markets! I'll have to head there on the days when I need to really load up on groceries.

                I usually just buy fruit for the two of us at the farmers' market and save vegetables at Asian grocery stores, so it's really just a few dollars (and an incentive to get geared up for a run along the bluffs). Sadly, I would travel to see more markets if gas prices were what they used to be.

                1. re: Pei

                  As far as farmer's markets go, I also recommend you try the Sunday Hollywood market. It has almost all the same farmers as Wednesday SM with lower prices than those markets west of La Cienega. There are several cheese vendors, a raw milk guy, two meat vendors, wild mushrooms, etc.

                  As for Asian veggies, there are at least two venders [and I think four 'though I mostly hit the same two] who have all imaginable asian veggies.

              2. re: Pei

                If you ever get to the south bay or near Long Beach, go for a drive along Pioneer blvd in Artesia and see the variety of places. I know of no place in the US that comes close to the variety and quality of Indian food. Check out surati farsan mart for chaat and other foods hard to find anyplace
                You will find little gems as you go around town. Pick a boulevard or major street, drive it and look around. You may be amazed at what you can find.

                Trying to recreate San Francisco and the bay Area in southern californai is as thankless a job as trying to recreate Southern Claifornia life up there. If you try to do either (or mention another city) you will end up disappointed. Find a colombian place liek La fonda antioquena on melrose or La Maria on Victory in the Valley and have a Lulo shake. Go to the corner of Irolo and 8th in the Jon's market area and find the ladies seling tamales and atole ($1 a pop) on the street. Occasionally in the parking lot of El Cubano market in the Valley there's a guy pressing fresh sugar cane and selling the juice.

                The whole cult of ALice waters is a staple of the bay area for good and ill. I went to Cesar last time I was in the bay area. to be honest and frank, the most fun thing about the place was the scene, the tables, the crowd enjoying themselves. The wines were good but pedestrian and when boquerones are the most interesting tapa, well not a great sign.
                Some folks hate La Paella on San Vicente, but their comparing it to places in Spain, not Berkeley. Go and splurge, try the angulas - the elvers, pricey, ask if they have the mojama in (noton menu, but they have it on occasion) get the fideuea if you don't like rice, have a glass or two of tio pepe and relax and enjoy, try out your catalan on the owners or take a trip down to La espanola in Harbor City, get some amazing spanish sausages including the ones she makes here (the owner Dona Juana is from ALicante or Valencia, can't remember which) - maybe she'll give you a tour of the manufacturing area if you ask.
                It's a bitmore indsutrial here, it's a bit rougher than the Bay area and the best finds aren't all concentrated in an area as small as SF and Berkeley. But the variety is enormous.

                Explore and enjoy.

              3. It depends on where you will live in the Los Angeles area. Judging by your original post, your travels ranged anywhere from Berkeley to Napa. If you are willing to travel that far in Southern California, you have many choices.

                As another poster mentioned, consider the culinary strengths of an area and enjoy what you can. I lived in the Bay Area for more than five years, and the food differences are significant. Both areas have their strong points.

                For example, the San Gabriel Valley is considered by many to be the Chinese culinary capital of North America. You will find many specialties here that you would not find anywhere in the Bay Area. The Chinese markets here are far more plentiful in variety than any in the Bay Area. The Farmer's Market in Alhambra specializes in Asian fruits and vegetables. I never realized there were so many varieties of Asian pears.

                Vietnamese food is great around Garden Grove--better than San Jose. My Vietnamese in-laws rave about what they find there.

                Mexican food is also very good here. Korean food is also very good.

                And best of all, prices are generally cheaper!

                I encourage you to keep on asking and trying new things. Let us know what you discover.

                2 Replies
                1. re: raytamsgv

                  "And best of all, prices are generally cheaper!"

                  I have NOT actually found that to be true, even though it was something I was really looking forward to. I am definitely generalizing, but I've found that LA has a lot more choices for food under $10 than the city of SF does. But in the $20-30 per person range, I haven't found anything in Los Angeles that compares to mid-range dining in SF. What I would think would cost under $30 in LA often costs over $50. I blame the movie stars.

                  In SF, I could easily rattle off the names of a few dozen restaurants where I could eat for under $30 and still feel like it was somewhat a special occassion. In LA, a lot of the places in that price range(even suggested by this board) have been really disappointing. But like I said, I've just moved down and have a LOT of exploring to do.

                  Whatever you do, OP, be ready to do a lot more driving than you're probably used to.

                  1. re: Pei

                    "Whatever you do, OP, be ready to do a lot more driving than you're probably used to."
                    Basically, absent a jones for a particular speciality, you need to think in concentric circles from where you live and where you work and utilize those areas. Then, later you can use that knowledge and this board to conquer other parts of town. So, you live where? Work where?

                2. I would be remiss if I did not point out a certain local paradox. I'm generalizing but the area referred to as the Westside has the greatest concentration of high end restaurants and speciality stores and prices to match. What might loosely be called the Eastside has the greatest concentration of ethnic specialties in terms of shops and restaurants at lesser prices. YMMV. The Westside is more "French" if you will.