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Mere Mortals' Ultimate LA Restaurants 2006

For those of us who haven't yet achieved the fiscal liberty to hobnob with the gods at Providence, Urasawa, and Cut...

What are your top 5 of 2006?

(still setting the bar high, but say walk in and walk out with $30 less in your pocket... and please keep it to restaurants i.e. places with waitservice)

ps. this survey is not officially sanctioned by chowhound.com :)

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  1. Easy: OPUS 3 course tasting, $30.

    1 Reply
    1. re: RicRios

      2) El Parian (how could I forget ?)
      3) Dino's chicken maniaco
      4) Sushi Gen's sashimi (table, not bar)
      5) Langer's pastrami on rye (plain)

    2. 3 Course Tasting at Opus = $30, ok tax+tip is more, but still, not a bad deal.

      Langer's = I know, I'm the first of many who thought of that one.

      Renu Nakorn = when they open back up

      Lot's more. But it really depends on how much you eat.

      3 Replies
      1. re: woojink

        Are you thinking of Ruen Pair on Hollywood Blvd.? Or is Renu Nakorn on Rosecrans Ave. in Norwalk closed too?

        Mr Taster

        1. re: Mr Taster

          Renu Nakorn's closed until February or March for remodelling. Thai Nakorn is a worthy, worthy substitute.

          1. re: Das Ubergeek

            If I could just get Kar to buy into that?
            Unfortunately for me it's off to LOS in LV for the real thing?

      2. amandine enjoys:
        1) Saladang
        2) Literati II
        3) Fatty's (Eagle Rock)
        4) Nyala's (Fairfax)

        2 Replies
        1. re: amandine

          Literati II?? I thought that the place was pretty expensive but, I only went for dinner once.

          1. re: banquisha

            It's probably cutting it close, but the appetizers are generous enough (and delicious enough) to make a light dinner (HUGE bruschetta!). That's what I always get when I go there. I'm guessing that if you add wine to an entree, you'd top $30, but you could be satisfied ordering under $30.

        2. Here's just one: Central Park Cafe, Pasadena.

          1. Ok, I'm loving this one...

            Joe's for lunch/brunch
            BLD for brunch
            Pie 'n Burger
            The Pink Pepper
            Lares

            1 Reply
            1. re: cvc

              oh yes!!! Joe's for brunch is such a fantastic deal!
              instead of paying the same price as o'groats and several other brunch/breakfast places, i'd much rather go to joe's for the food and atmosphere. you can't get any classier and nicer for the price.

            2. 1. Meditirina
              2. Guelaguetza
              3. Empress Pavilion
              4. Beechwood
              5. Meals By Genet

              1. - opus : 3 course tm
                - langers : #19 pastrami sandwich
                - pete's cafe : hellman burger & bleu cheese fries
                - bruddha's hawaiian : loco moco
                - 888 seafood or full house (acradia) : dim sum
                - mama's hot tamales : tamales of course

                oops thats 6.

                1. Saladang & Saladang Song
                  Pho So 1
                  BLD
                  Father's Office
                  Doughboys

                  1. Opus ($30- 3 course tm)
                    Sushi Go 55 ($10- sushi special)
                    Langers (#19 $13-)
                    Haveli (Tustin)(lunch buffet $8-)
                    Roma D'Italia (Tustin) Roma Special Pizza $17-

                    1. Full House in Arcadia--Chinese seafood
                      New Capital Seafood on Garvey/Del Mar--Chinese seafood
                      Gorikees in Woodland Hills--fusion
                      La Vie in Rosemead--French
                      Dumpling House in Rosemead

                      1. 1. Chung King
                        2. Monte Alban
                        3. Clementine
                        4. Annapurna
                        5. Talesai

                        1. -25 Degrees
                          -Angelini Osteria (I know it's on the higher end, but if you stick to the pastas and alfetati misti, you can keep it under $30)
                          -Doughboys
                          -Versailles (Lechon Asado)
                          -Lares

                          Note to self: must try Opus tasting menu

                          1. 1. Casa Bianca
                            2. Liliana's Tamales (1st & Indiana)
                            3. Sahara
                            4. Briganti
                            5. Langers

                            1. 1. La Fonda Anteoqueno (Colombian)
                              2. Langer's
                              3. Shanghai Kitchen (San Gabriel Square)
                              4. Lucky Devil's
                              5. NBC (Monterey Park)

                              1. - La Serenata di Gariboldi in Boyle Heights for upscale Mexican
                                - Pho 999 in Van Nuys for straight-up good noodle bowls
                                - Thursday night at Campanile for grilled cheese (all under $20)
                                - Jack & Jill's in Beverly Hills for breakfast/lunch
                                - Nyala Ethiopian on Fairfax

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: thewaz

                                  I'd substitute Messob on Fairfax for Nyala. Better food, better beer selection, better service, same price. I love that Harar beer that they serve there...

                                  1. re: glutton

                                    Or Meals by Genet... totally still out of there for under $30.

                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                      or even better, Rahel!

                                      1. re: Diana

                                        Ooooh, no, can't put Rahel above Meals By Genet, nope... but I do like Rahel!

                                        1. re: Diana

                                          gotta agree.
                                          i LOVE rahel.

                                          (meals by genet is very good too)

                                  2. same as the other list:

                                    BOA(Santa Monica)
                                    La Paz
                                    Shaab
                                    Engine Co. 28
                                    Shinsengumi Yakitori

                                    14 Replies
                                    1. re: calabasas_trafalgar

                                      BOA? Really? I'm pretty sure they don't even offer a piece of meat that's less than $30 and you still have to pay extra for sides and sauces.

                                      1. re: Newkie

                                        Your right, you couldn't do dinner; but you could do lunch with a salad and an entree under $30 real easy but nothing from the "Turf" (meat) section.
                                        http://www.boasteak.com/balboa/menu/s...

                                        1. re: JBC

                                          That lunch menu *does* look pretty good....

                                        2. re: Newkie

                                          You're right, my bad. I will substitute The Sushi in Temple City instead.

                                          1. re: calabasas_trafalgar

                                            Oh my gosh, I thought I was the only here who like THE SUSHI.

                                            Have you tried the new place that just opened up? Sushi in a Box? Used to be Sue's Kitchen I think.

                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                              you're the one who told me about it. The Sushi rocks!

                                              1. re: calabasas_trafalgar

                                                Good deal - glad you like it.

                                                Lets just keep it amongst ourselves -- don't want it to get even more crowded ...

                                        3. re: calabasas_trafalgar

                                          Trafalgar - It always seems like you and I are the only fans of La Paz on the boards. Clearly no one's been there on a Sunday morning and seen the spread. Part of me wants to spread the gospel of La Paz, but I kind of like it being this secret spot.

                                          1. re: SauceSupreme

                                            You let the cat out of the bag... talk to me about La Paz. Where is it? What's good?

                                            1. re: glutton

                                              La paz is in Calabasas, on Los Virgenes south of the 143. Its Yucatan style Mexican food. For me its the freshest, tastiest mexican food i've ever had. The trick there for me is to order a la carte. I usually get 2 tacos(made with grilled onions and bell peppers yum!) and 2 enchiladas, which is enough to feed a small army(or me).

                                              I haven't been on Sunday so i can't comment on what Sauce is referring to, but I've never been disappointed, and I'll go out of my way to go there anytime.

                                              1. re: calabasas_trafalgar

                                                Is this the same as the La Paz that used to (or is it still there) on Victory 1 block east of Canoga? Do you know if they are one in the same?
                                                I have been to the one on Las Virgenes, but that was many years ago, and cannot remember much about it.

                                            2. re: SauceSupreme

                                              I went to La Paz once based on the recs here, very disappointing. Ordered the paella, all of the seafood seemed like it was cooked a week earlier and sitting under a heat lamp. Service was REALLY slow as well. Margaritas were all mix, very little tequila. Won't return.

                                              1. re: markn

                                                Well, paella isn't exactly a Yucatecan dish -- maybe try a Mexican dish instead? I haven't been so I can't pass judgment.

                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                  Dry, tasteless seafood is dry, tasteless seafood. If they're not gonna make it right then don't put it on the menu.

                                          2. 1. Sin Ba La
                                            2. Dai Ho
                                            3. Tacos El Pescas #2
                                            4. Soot Bull Jeep
                                            5. Dumpling 10053

                                            1. 1. Din Tai Fung
                                              2. Langers (#19)
                                              3. Pho 97
                                              4. Fisherman's Outlet
                                              5. YongSusan (Lunch special)

                                              1. 1. Nook Bistro (this is on my regular list too)
                                                2. Taiko Brentwood
                                                3. Sokongdong
                                                4. Sushi Bei
                                                5. Guelaguetza

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: donnival

                                                  Taiko has the best deal around, especially with their combo meals... it could feed TWO people! I used to take all my student friends there! SUPER affordable and great!

                                                  1. re: banquisha

                                                    Yes, and they have a HUGE selection of things from sushi/sashimi to nooodle combinations to nicer entrees to tempura ... and they execute all of them pretty competently.

                                                    Great place to go for a meal, and if you order the combo you're out of there at $15 per person, tops.

                                                2. La Buca. You can get a great pasta and even a pizza and be under $30. And you can bring your own wine for no fee!

                                                  1. Amandine... I love for starting this FANTASTIC post!!!!!!

                                                    I was trying to raise the bar even more by only listing places open for dinner as well. There are many great deals for lunch but, dinner deals on an everyday basis (not just Monday specials!) are harder to come by :)

                                                    Hakata Ramen
                                                    Pho So 1
                                                    Nanbankan
                                                    Din Tai Fung
                                                    Taiko

                                                    14 Replies
                                                    1. re: banquisha

                                                      you're very welcome. i'm the one to thank all of you for all these fantastic suggestions for this poor little grad student. :) (langers! seems like it's on everyone's top 5)

                                                      1. re: amandine

                                                        oh my... langer's menu is frighteningly big!

                                                        1. re: amandine

                                                          No it isn't... there's only one item to order. The pastrami sandwich (remember to hold the thousand island/coleslaw glop which drowns out the flavor of the pastrami) and just spread on a thin layer of the deli (brown) mustard. Heaven on a plate.

                                                          Mr Taster

                                                          1. re: Mr Taster

                                                            And, with the entire chorus of LA Chowhound behind me, "MAKE SURE YOU ORDER IT HAND-CUT!"

                                                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                              what does that mean? i've never [gasp!] had pastrami from a deli.

                                                              1. re: amandine

                                                                Rather than answer your hand cut/machine cut question directly, I propose that you take the...........

                                                                MR TASTER PASTRAMI TASTE-OFF CHALLENGE (tm)

                                                                -- On the day you decide to go to Langer's for the first real pastrami sandwich of your life, stop at any Ralph's along the way.

                                                                -- Go to the deli counter and ask for a taste of whatever supermarket pastrami they have. They will slice a bit for you on their big metal deli machine.

                                                                -- Notice the smooth texture of the pastrami. Sometimes it is so smooth that you can see the flourescent supermarket light reflect off of it.

                                                                -- Now, bite. Notice the chewiness of the meat. (You may not notice it at this point, but I promise by the time you finish the challenge, you will). Really bad pastrami can be like chewing on rubber bands.

                                                                -- You may want to save a piece of the Ralph's pastrami for later comparison.

                                                                -- Now, quickly!! While this memory of Ralph's is fresh in your head, go IMMEDIATELY to Langer's on 7th and Alvarado. Park in the lot that is one block east of Alvarado, on 7th. (Langer's will validate for 1 hour).

                                                                -- Order the basic sandwich on rye and ask that they hand cut the pastrami (if there's two of you, it's a better value to order the pastrami platter, which comes with fresh veggies, french fries, chopped liver (pate) and 6 pieces of rye bread, all for the cost of 2 sandwiches).

                                                                PLEASE NOTE: Ordering on rye bread is critical-- not just because it is the traditional way to eat pastrami, but because they "steam toast" the bread in a special way which makes Langer's a totally unique experience and edges it out over the famous Katz's deli in New York as best pastrami sandwich in America.

                                                                (One time I saw a guy order his sandwich on white bread and I wanted to cry.)

                                                                -- If you ordered the platter, all you'll need to do is pile a nice inch thick (or more) layer of pastrami, and a light spread of Gulden's deli mustard (brown mustard-- not the yellow kind, nor the sweet kind). Sometimes it is on your table... if not, be sure to ask for deli/brown mustard! Accept no yellow!

                                                                !!!WARNING--WARNING--WARNING--WARNING--WARNING!!!
                                                                >>>>> BEWARE OF "FAMOUS" SANDWICH No. 19 <<<<<
                                                                !!!!!PELIGRO--PELIGRO--PELIGRO--PELIGRO--PELIGRO!!!!!

                                                                If your server suggests any of the blasphemous russian dressing/coleslaw sandwiches (such as the infamous "number 19" monstrosity which they wallop you over the head with when you first walk in the door) or if they suggest that you pile ANYTHING ELSE on top of your sandwich aside from a light spread of brown mustard, please, dear god, please just say no. Langer's pastrami is so wonderfully flavored, so delicately textured, that it is really important that you enhance its key assets and not cover them up with globs of mayonnaise and ketchup.

                                                                -- Now take a piece of Langer's pastrami out of your sandwich. Bite into it. Roll your tongue around it. Feel the texture. Compare it with your recent experience at Ralph's deli. If you saved a piece from your recent visit to Ralph's, eat it side by side with Langer's pastrami. All your questions will be answered.

                                                                And report back to us here.

                                                                Mr Taster

                                                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                  Great challenge!! And I agree completely, the #19 is an abomination, a corruption of the beauty of the pastrami.

                                                                  1. re: sku

                                                                    to each their own. but i enjoy the #19 and the regular pastrami/rye/mustard. just depends on my mood.

                                                                    1. re: wilafur

                                                                      Agreed, to each his own. However my opinion is that for someone who has never eaten a proper pastrami sandwich, it would be ruinous to have their virgin taste of Langer's pastrami smothered in mayo, ketchup, pickled relish and cole slaw.

                                                                      In my opinion the beauty of Langer's pastrami sandwich is in its simplicity and needs no embellishment. The no. 19 sandwich is like a colorized version of Casablanca. Like lipstick on the Mona Lisa. Some people might think it's better. I disagree.

                                                                      Mr Taster

                                                                  2. re: Mr Taster

                                                                    Oh my. I will see if I can get around to it during my vacation. :) But I definitely recognize the supermarket reflectiveness of meat... that always made me nervous, but I'm glad to hear that it's a phenomenon of the way it's cut.

                                                                    1. re: amandine

                                                                      The way it's cut, among other things :)

                                                                      Mr Taster

                                                                    2. re: Mr Taster

                                                                      This is SO funny; I just went there today and I have to concur; it's just fantastic pastrami, and it's really a shame to drown it all out with the glop.

                                                                      The service absolutely sucked. Guess they're striving for that authentic NY experience. I actually had serial set-tos with both the owner and subsequently his daughter, independently; both similarly bizarre. Oh well. The pastrami is still fantastic. I wish I had the fortitude to say "I'll never go there again", which they probably deserve, but I know I don't...

                                                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                        omg i had no idea you could get white bread at langers. i need to order me some of that next time, and i need some mayo too, that meat is too dry.

                                                                        KIDDING! haha

                                                                  3. re: Mr Taster

                                                                    I will be there on Friday, and will get that heavenly platter...

                                                            2. Hm...

                                                              Green Village, Monterey Park (OMG THE PORK WITH BEAN CURD)
                                                              Spumoni, Van Nuys (OMG THE CALAMARI AND THE GNOCCHI)
                                                              Thai Nakorn, Garden Grove (OMG THE MANGO SALAD WITH CATFISH)
                                                              La Serenata de Garibaldi, Boyle Heights (OMG THE HUITLACOCHE)
                                                              Granville Cafe, Burbank (OMG THE AVOCADO MELT)

                                                              1. For Italian, La Bottega Marino on Westside, and Il Buco & Da Pasquale in BH (depending on what you order); for Indian Akbar, Addi's Tandoor & Radhika (depending on what you order)

                                                                1. Sri Siam, North Hollywood
                                                                  Chung King, SGV
                                                                  Best Sichuan, SGV
                                                                  Lucky Devil's, Hollywood
                                                                  Spumoni, Sherman Oaks

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: BearCity

                                                                    Just tried Langer's, which instantly rockets to the top five.

                                                                  2. Tremendous deals, VERY easily under $30:
                                                                    Alejo's in the Marina (BYO!)
                                                                    Alegria (BYO!)
                                                                    Indo Cafe (BYO!)
                                                                    Girasole (BYO!)
                                                                    Rahel Veggie (BYO!)

                                                                    Thinking about this almost suggests a new thread...BYO restaurants with very good to excellent food...

                                                                    1. 1. Opus (3-course tasting, $30)
                                                                      2. Kiriko (lunch omakase, $29.50)
                                                                      3. Langer's
                                                                      4. Sea Harbour (dim sum)
                                                                      5. Thai Nakorn

                                                                      1. Empress Pavillion
                                                                        Ro-Ro (No, wait service but its that good)
                                                                        Twin Dragon (Not great, but always satisfies a need)
                                                                        Vivoli (May be cutting it close on the price, its one of those places I wish you could take OUT of Zagat)
                                                                        Versailles

                                                                        1. 1. Roy's (ok, cheating a bit -- $35 prix fixe)
                                                                          2. Full House Seafood: dim sum
                                                                          3. Sushi Go 55 (I love the $14 sashimi plate.)
                                                                          4. Nordstrom Cafe
                                                                          5. Din Tai Fung (funny - I put this as #5 on the other list, too!)

                                                                          1. 1. Tonny's for Mexican
                                                                            2. Kuala Lumpur for Malaysian, soon to be gone
                                                                            3. Pann's for anything comforting
                                                                            4. 888 for dim sum
                                                                            5. Chung King for Sichuan

                                                                            ...and not necessarily in that order.

                                                                            1. 1. Din Tai Fung - Arcadia
                                                                              2. Mission 261 for dim sum - San Gabriel
                                                                              3. Monte Alban - W. L.A.
                                                                              4. Daikoyuka - Little Tokyo (that black pork soup!)
                                                                              5. Barney Greengrass (top floor of Barney's) - Bev. Hills (brunch!)

                                                                              You know, I wanted to list Opus but it seemed unfair. Yes, the cheapest tasting menu is $30, BUT unless you're in AA, you're going to drink wine and the tab will double. I put it on the "no budget" list already...

                                                                              AND if you're up for a "cheapER" (not cheap thrill), hit Patina after a show at the Disney Hall/Ahmanson and just order the cheese service with a glass of less-expensive wine. The cheese man there (Andrew, I think it is?) is SUPERB. He's got an incredible selection and is very knowledgeable and is SO much fun to dish with about cheese! BTW, the cheese plate is $20. We love to go late cuz the restaurant is empty and Andrew will spend a good 15 minutes giving you the grand tour of his cheese cart!

                                                                              1. A good idea for a post. My list consists of where I would go if I had $30 to spend on dinner (food only, tax & tip excluded, because that's the path many of the other lists have taken) and that has a decent website (which excludes Monte Alban where you could be out the door for way under $30) - In No particular Order:

                                                                                1) Warszawaw - Polish - Santa Monica
                                                                                http://www.warszawarestaurant.com

                                                                                2) Alcazar - Lebanese - Encino
                                                                                http://www.al-cazar.com

                                                                                3) Jagerhaus - German - Anaheim
                                                                                http://www.jagerhaus.net

                                                                                4) Frida - Mexican (Upscale) - Beverly Hills
                                                                                http://www.fridarestaurant.com

                                                                                5) Nook Bistro - American - W.L.A.
                                                                                http://www.nookbistro.com

                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                1. re: JBC

                                                                                  What's the consensus on Frida? I am skeptical of high-end Mexican food in Beverly Hills, but I am willing to admit that my skepticism is perhaps based on stereotypes or irrational thoughts. What is the food like at Frida? For those of you who have been to Chicago, does it compare to Frontera Grill or Topolobampo?

                                                                                  1. re: glutton

                                                                                    I love it. Here's a summer post of mine: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/31315...

                                                                                    1. re: glutton

                                                                                      It is quite good, yet hardly up to Rick's food, period! Few places in America are!

                                                                                    2. re: JBC

                                                                                      good to hear about Frida. it looks really cute from the outside, but the menu didn't really wow me when i read it over, but i'll definitely give it a try now

                                                                                    3. 1. Nook

                                                                                      2. Nook

                                                                                      3. Nook

                                                                                      4. Nook

                                                                                      5. Nook

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: balzachertz

                                                                                        Hear, hear! Love the place too.

                                                                                      2. in no particular order:

                                                                                        - nook
                                                                                        - luscious dumplings
                                                                                        - opus (although i've only done it with the wine pairings for $50 :P)
                                                                                        - sushi go 55
                                                                                        - clementine's or BLD (for brunch)

                                                                                        1. 1. Mozza
                                                                                          2. Zankou Chicken
                                                                                          3. Philippe French dips
                                                                                          4. Many, many taco trucks
                                                                                          5. Father's Office

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: Baby Ruth

                                                                                            yay Phillipe's! and talk about a great wine list... mmmm!

                                                                                          2. wow this is tough - there are so many great ones! but i think i have to go with:

                                                                                            mozza
                                                                                            sushi go 55
                                                                                            m cafe de chaya
                                                                                            musha
                                                                                            clementine's

                                                                                            1. I clicked on this thread hoping someone had finally tabulated it. :(

                                                                                              1. How about Seasame Grille in Monrovia? And their corkage fee is only $5. Menu appetizers are $2 when you order an entree (try the salmon roll), the specials are always pricey but he menu has lots of options in this budget.