Help Me Leave LA With No Regrets!
It is with equal amounts of sadness and excitement that I must announce that I will be leaving this chowhounder's paradise of a city sometime in late Summer / early Autumn, as my girlfriend and I depart for the equally hound friendly city of New Yawk! Yes, it's almost time for graduate studies in the Big Apple, and so we've made a list of things we must do/see/experience in LA before we leave, and eating our way through the city's essential restaurants is high upon that list.
Here's where you come in. We're hoping you can help us refine our list of "musts" -- perhaps some of the restaurants you'll see below aren't worth the time or money (let us know!), or perhaps you'll think of a "must" that we've not named. In many ways this may turn out to be a list of Southland "ABSOLUTE MUSTS" - as much for inimitable L.A. ambience and style as for the food.
Since we're all given to our own interpretations of what constitute's a "must" restaurant, and because their are so many, many restaurants to try here in L.A., you may want to limit your recommendations to a small handful that you love and find absolutely essential - the 2 or 3 places you'd hit up one last time if you were leaving L.A. Say, maybe 1 high-end, 1 hole-in-the-wall, 1 off-the-beaten-path, 1 classic. Something like that.
In an effort to narrow the field, below you'll find both restaurants I've tried (on multiple occasions for most), and restaurants I'm hell-bent on trying before I leave. I'm primarily interested in restaurant recommendations that don't appear on either list - but you can of course give a hearty thumbs up (or thumbs down, for that matter) to anything on the lists.
So here goes.
For local "treasures" (I know some will quibble with a few of the restaurants listed here), I've done the following:
Krua Thai, Zankou, El Taco Nazo, Pie-N-Burger, John O'Groats, Tonny's, Polka, Marston's, In-N-Out (meh), the Polish place in Santa Monica (the name escapes me.. Warsaw?), Burger Continental (..kidding..), Sapp Coffee House, Mission 261, Ocean Star, Pho So 1, Rosalind's, Merkato, Bombay Cafe, Versailles, Phillipe the Original, the Pantry, Dots Cupcakes, Sweetlady Jane, Violet's Cupcakes, Porto's, Valentino, Mi Piace, Pinks, Diddy Reese, Asahi & Ramenya, Yujean Kang's, Crustacean (I know.. I know.. but still, it was at one time a destination restaurant, for the hype, if nothing else), Sam Woo BBQ, Canter's (bleh), C&O's, Fosselmans, Dr. Bob's, Aux Delices, Euro Pane, Angelique Cafe, Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles, Knoll's Black Forest Inn (R.I.P.), Apple Pan, Mama Voula's, Lawry's Prime Rib, La Paella, Chan Dara, Palms Thai (Vivaaa Thai Elvis!), Wat Thai, Red Corner Asia, Ruen Par, All India Cafe, Tanino, Soleil Westwood, Akbar, Azeen's, Nepal Tibet House, and Mozza (I'm sure I'm forgetting quite a few).
I've also worked my way through many of the local ethnic enclaves: I've had great haleem and frankies in Artesia, fantastic dim sum in SGV, great Oaxacan in West LA, solid Armenian fare in Glendale, wonderful doro wat and tibs on Fairfax, soulful soul food in Altadena, and a slew of memorable Mexican meals all over L.A.
For full-on ambiance spots, I've done Inn of the 7th Ray, Ritz-Carlton Huntington, and La Boheme. That's about it, really. Of those, The Inn of the 7th Ray was especially lovely.
That said, here's what I've not had:
In the high-end dept, I have resolved to save up for meals at Spago, Urasawa, Providence, Melisse, Patina, Cut, Morton's, Hotel Bel Air, and Mastro's.
A meal in K-Town. I'm embarrassed to say that I've never experienced real Korean BBQ.
A meal in Little Tokyo. I'm not even sure it's the best destination for great Japanese.. but maybe there's something worthwhile there?
A (truly good) meal in Chinatown. I've had substandard Chinese there, but nothing to rival what's available in San Gabriel, Monterey Park, Rosemead, and Alhambra.
Further South, I've yet to make a trip to Little Saigon. Any consensus on which restaurant might be the surest bet if making a trip down there?
I've also not done (but have been meaning to try - and will before I leave): Tacos Baja Ensenada, Clementine, Parkway Grill, Arroyo Chophouse, Raymond Restaurant, Shamshiri, Babita, Lares, Meals By Genet, Langers (though I did buy a loaf of rye bread there), Saddle Peak Lodge, Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery, Brit's (Pasadena), Casa Bianca, Brent's, Nate & Al's, Matsuhisa, Nobu, Cafe Bizou, A.O.C., Water Grill, Susina, Rosebud Cakes, Campanile, Angelini Osteria, Patina, Angeli Cafe, Scoops, Bulgarini Gelato, Papa Cristo's, The Ivy, Shahrzad, Asia De Cuba, El Pollo Inka, Tam O'Shanter, Gyu-Kaku, Trader Vics, and Ortolan.
Now then... what remains? I'm sure there's more than just a few hot little spots that you think are missing here.. Let me know!
As always, thanks so very much in advance - your help is always greatly appreciated!
Fill up on Hamburgers and Mexican food and Thai food (there is approximately 1 decent Thai place in NYC) and eat outside a lot. Skip mediocre delis, places they have in both cities (i.e., Asia de Cuba - I've been to the one in NY and LA and the food is identical), cupcakes (it started in New York), and if you're trimming, steakhouses (the ones in LA are perfectly good, but in the end a steakhouse is a steakhouse, and NYC has perfectly good ones too). NY also has a wider variety of Indian food than L.A. and generally better quality.
re: Amuse Bouches
I second this. Especially the Mexican and Thai food.
There MUST be a decent burger in NYC, but I never go there looking for one. I go to NYC to eat Italian, Greek and pizza.
If you are tight for money, I'd skip all our high-end restaruants in L.A. NYC has dozens of high-end restaurants with similar food. Spago, Providence, etc. all have lovely food and nice decor for special occasions, but nothing better than NY has.
Concentrate on the food you won't be able to get: Chinese (all regions), Mexican and Thai. I'm not even going to recommend my faves here. Everybody else will have the same restaurants listed. But just know this: When my brother and I went back East for college many years ago, the FIRST thing we both did upon returning to L.A. was hit a taco truck! What does that tell ya?
Then go to Chantilly in Lomita... I don't think they have one there, or a choux filled with sesame mousse (but then again, NY seems to have everything LA has, only purportedly better)... and their cream puffs are head and shoulders above BP. Or spend 7 bucks and get a 16-box of mini puffs at Angel Maid in Mar Vista... Put them in a cool spot away out of reach, or you will have finished the whole box by the time you get home...
I'd swing a vote for Susina. Pei who has discerning eye and palette for anything that is enfused with the four major food groups (sugar, cream, butter and flour) just went there and based on her ecstatic posting, I'd say she was reaching for a cigarette afterwards... ;)
ooy. you really need to hit the south bay for proper japanese food, especially non-sushi. we're talking izakaya, ramen shops, and other noodle houses. this is a must before you leave; though NYC has great japanese fare, LA is really the epicenter of the stuff, being right on the pacific ocean and having a large (though still relatively small) population of japanese ex-pats. that said, here goes:
(all restaurants in the south bay unless otherwise noted)
yakitori: shin sen gumi, torimatsu
yakiniku: tama-en, manpuku (sawtelle) or (if you can get an in) "teriyaki house on pico" (west LA)
udon: sanuki no sato, kotohira
soba: ichimi an honten (downtown torrance location), otafuku
izakaya: musha, kan yuzen, izayoi (little tokyo), haru ulala (little tokyo)
ramen: santouka, hakata shin sen gumi, gardena ramen (there is a santouka in new jersey, i believe, so you you're not entirely out of luck there...)
a tour through koreatown is really, also an imperative. LA has the single largest korean population outside of Seoul. and the korea "town" in NYC pales in comparison to what we have here. think about that for a minute! there are more koreans in LA than in any other city IN KOREA. i pretty much consider k-food second only to mexican food in terms of being definitive "LA cuisine" these days. that said:
(all in koreatown unless otherwise noted))
cold noodles: u-chun
bbq: chosun galbi, soot bull jeep
soon tofu: beverly soon tofu, bcd, so kong dong
porridge: san, bonjuk
korean soup noodles: olympic noodle house
i'm sure there's a lot i'm missing, but try to hit some of these for sure!
I second Chosun Galbee for Korean bbq! Their short ribs are particularly amazing.
You seem to like bakeries/cupcakes so I would recommend Yummy Cupcakes in Burbank. Their breakfast-esque cupcake with a streusel top and a little vanilla buttercream is especially good.
I would go to my favorite sushi spot, Sushi Katsu-ya in Studio City and have crispy rice with spicy tuna one last time.
Hmmm...you've already hit most of my other favorites, at least the ones I'm able to think of right now.
You HAVE to try Clementine--the chicken salad, chocolate chip cookies and Moravian sugar bread are especially good.
And yes, try The Ivy once. It's fun, the food we had was pretty good and our server was surprisingly nice.
If you take a romantic weekend trip to Santa Barbara (and why not?) go to La Super Rica!!
Oh yes - I see you have Sweet Lady Jane listed under, "local treasures." Based on the recent thread running with 49 responses - almost all very critical, I think you might not want to reco to NY friends coming out here. Otherwise they will start a new cateogory - maybe "Curse of the Black Pearl," would be the new heading... Those 49 responses were after editing out the ones that were really tough to read...
I am sorry to say that the current thread is extremely negative with no staunch defenders... this level of vociferousness is rare in my short experience on this site. I too love their products from every angle. However, there seems to be a consistantly growing resonance about the quality of certain cakes there, particularly their signature Triple Berry Cake. It sounds like it may not be the quality, but the "age" and/or the handling/storage of the cakes. While I have yet to have a bad dessert item there (service issue is another matter), many have said that the cakes have been dry and the frosting has been hard, smelly, and tasteless. This sounds like old cake that's been sitting in an open refrigerated environment for too long. I would think that they would have no turnover issues at their retail counter which always has been busy on my visits. Might they be rotating in their refrigerated cakes from Gelson's that are near expiration? Should they be covering their cakes with a glass or plastic dome to protect the cakes? I don't know, but I have a hard time seeing how SLJ would have such night&day differences in the quality of their cakes. As bad as the postings have been about service, I just couldn't imagine SLJ allowing their quality slip with baked items leaving the bakery - shelf life and handling are different issues but just as important.
I don't want you to leave LA with bad feelings about SLJ, but I would wonder how future recs for SLJ to friends visiting here might reflect upon you... there are so many great choices in this general area of LA that fall into the same category...
Anytime I went to Matsuhisa, I would see Nobu there walking around smiling away. I have never seen him in Malibu at Nobu nor did I see him at Nobu in NY - although I did see Martha Stewart there. And I never saw him at Ubon.
But of all of them, Matsuhisa is superior, maybe because the chef is in the house. I'd pick Matsuhisa as the best high end place too.
As for others, I really love the little neighborhood place Azami for sushi. Sonora for southwest and great margaritas. Susina for dessert.
I agree with poster above, don't bother with any delis. Focus on Mexican and Japanese. NY has way better Chinese food. Other than Apple Pan for the old LA experience, I just don't think any burgers out here can hold up to NY burgers. Steak too, just better on the East Coast.
re: Food Good
Haven't been to any of the places mentioned in your first 3 paragraphs but regarding the last paragraph - I would suggest focusing on the great and varied Mexican from carts, tables and trucks to the restaurants such as the recent CH score Sabor A Mexico (thanks Dommy!), Tacos Baja Ensenada and yes Das Ubergeek, El Taco Nazo or Senor Baja or whatever they are now called, to Babita Mexicusine, La Huasteca and don't forget La Casita! I would also focus on the great Japanese food that is posted about so often on this board from bargain to the very high end sushi and great noodle houses and all the rest! And don't forget THAI in L.A. with so many good places in Hollywood's Thai Town and NoHo's Thai area plus Wat Thai L.A. on weekends! I do like The Apple Pan a lot and would toss back a Hickory and a Steakburger X-tra Rare with a Well Done Fries and an Iced Coffee with real cream and a Banana or Cherry Cream Pie. I will say that the supreme burger of my life was at a place in Manhatten in 1987 called Jackson Hole Wyoming, washed down with an Egg Cream, bill was a little over $10 which was high for '87 but worth every penny and more! Best steak I ever had was also in N.Y. on that same trip, can't remember the name but they had sides of prime beef hanging behind glass as you walked in, I feasted on the largest N.Y. Strip with all the great sides, Grandpa paid and I was a happy camper. Well we wern't really camping, we were guests of Leona H. ah I guess that's off topic but yea steaks in N.Y.
Definitely agree on your Urasawa destination.
Not necessarily a "must," but Campanile's grilled cheese night.
Concur on Mexican food as well... check recent threads for recs.
Skip Gyu-kaku and head somewhere else more authentic. Go to Soot Bull Jeep.
Jin Patisserie might be somwhere else.
I don't think Trader Vic's is a must at all, nor is Cafe Bizou or Nobu.
Mashti Malone's for rosewater ice cream and specialties.
Sawtelle restaurants are a good bet.
Orris and Blue Velvet are both good too.
I would definitely add Soot Bull Jeep to the list, as mentioned already. Santouka. Michael's and Spago (old school California cuisine) and then Grace and Mozza (new school California with a twist).
I would say hit up The Counter, Apple Pan, Pie N Burger, Father's Office and all other contenders for Best Burger.
Little Saigon has no consensus -- hence the thread that's trying to create a glove box guide (that's how many spots there are). Definite must try's are the nem nuong cuon at Brodard's, and 7 Courses of Beef at Pagolac or some other spot.
Golden Deli or Vietnam House (bo bay mon, 7 courses of beef, at the latter) for sure. Also the whole fish at Phong Dinh on Rosemead (and their ong choy) is really good too. There are equivalent places in Little Saigon but I haven't been to any of those so YMMV.
Caroussel (Hollywood edition, better food IMHO) or Maran and/or Arax (I'd say you needed to visit Sahag's Basturma but it just isn't the same since he went back to Lebanon). I have trouble imagining anywhere else outside of Armenia that has as many Armenians as Glendale.
China Islamic maybe? Not sure if there are any Islamic chinese places in NYC.
Koreatown -- Soot Bull Jeep, Sa Rit Gol, Yongsusan, and Ma Dong Gooksoo are my picks
If I were packing my bags and leaving I'm sure I could come up with others ;-)
You should definitely load up on Mexican and Korean, IMO. Here are the places I would almost certainly miss if I left LA:
shik do rak: good place for bbq with noodle wraps.
chosun galbi: bbq with very nice ambiance
sokongdong: soon tofu, excellent side appetizers.. spicy pickled crab!
yu chun: cold noodles, great on a hot day.
busan sushi: Korean-style sashimi combo, you gotta try it.
jin patisserie: what better way to spend a lazy afternoon, than to have tea and cakes outdoors?
wakasan: prix-fix japanese izakaya. always packed, call ahead to book a table.
There is a dearth of Vietnamese food in NYC. If you head to Little Saigon, stop in to Quan Hy on Bolsa and Brookhurst and have a plate of the steamed, flat rice cakes topped with shredded shrimp. It's called banh beo. I've had this dish in many places all my life and it all pales in comparison to Quan Hy's rendition. It's the one thing I lament not being able to get anywhere else. Also, I second the rec for Nem Nuong spring rolls at Brodard's and grab a sandwich at Banh Mi Che Cali while you're at it. Bon Voyage!
Thanks for the recommendations - I've long desired to take a gastronomic trip to Little Saigon, and now I have even more reasons to go.
Sad to hear NYC doesn't offer much in the way of Vietnamese cuisine. Along with Thai and Korean (which I understand are in similarly short supply in NYC), Vietnamese cuisine is a longtime fave. What will I do without good bahn mi? Pho? Bun? Imperial rolls? Etc, Etc? =(
No problem. There are a few merely passable Viet places in NY's Chinatown, but the lack of variety and quality of my native cuisine definitely was a sore spot for me when I lived there. If you do go to Quan Hy, they do a pretty decent version of Bun Bo Hue, too, which is Central Vietnam's more vibrant answer to the standard and more popular Northern Vietnamese pho. You'll be lucky to get the standard kind in NYC much less the Central Vietnamese kind, so might as well add it to the list if you'll be there anyway. Cheers!
Because when you get to NYC you can then truly appreciate what a great dog should taste like.
This will definitely make you have no regrets about leaving LA ...
Try Rahel on Fairfax. beats rosalind's. So does Messob and meals by genet. rahel is my fave.
In the Valley, do Woodlands Pure in Chatsworth
Follow Your Heart in Canoga Park
Gorikee in Woodland Hills.
Alcazar, Haru tea house and Sushi 4 on 6 in Encino
Il Tiramisu and Midori AYCE Sushi, Leda's Bake Shop, and Nata's pastry- all in Sherman oaks
Hugo's, Gangadin, and Asanebo in Studio City
Have you hit the Wat Thai temple in NO Ho (I found your list laid out in a hard to read lump!)
Vegatable delight Vegie Chinese in Granada Hills (over 100 mock meat and veggi chinese items, like veggie shark fin soup and orange chicken and even better!)
Alexis Greek Cafe in Northridge.
Inn of the Seventh ray and Saddle Peak lodge in Malibu. Ok that's not the Valley, sort of between places!
Go up north to Sb and hit a few places there before you leave. Ask on the "California" board
I second the suggestions for Soot Bull Jeep. I'd also highly recommend Dan Sung Sa on 6th and Berendo, which is ridiculously fun and tasty, too. (http://infinitefress.blogspot.com/200...)
Also not to be missed is a taco/cupcake tour (starting with Tacos Baja Ensenada in East L.A. and ending at Sprinkles BH -- sounds crazy but take my word for it, or my friend's: http://infinitefress.blogspot.com/200... )!
Welcome to NY (soonish!). Just moved back from LA, and here are some thoughts:
Mozza: Apparently, the menu at Otto is almost exactly the same, but I did love my meal at Mozza!
Gyu-Kaku: Now exists in NYC as well
Angeli Cafe: I disagree with other posters. I have not had a good meal here, and I would say that the thing I missed MOST about NY living in LA was the small, neighborhoody Italian....I could give you a list that price and qualitywise blow Angeli out of the water. On some level, the same could be said of Angelini Osteria. My meal at Angelini was great, but I still think that NYC Italian blows them out of the water.
I would focus on Thai (not as readily available in NYC), MEXICAN, well-priced sushi, MEXICAN. And did I mention Mexican?
PetiteSyrah, I have to agree with you. All that I thought as I read the OP was Mexican, Mexican, Mexican.
Sanangel, please be sure to frequent anywhere on the list that serves good Mexican food several times before heading to NYC. Maybe eat a bowl of pico de gallo (not a cup, but a bowl), before going too. :-)
On well-priced sushi, be prepared to pay almost 2x in NY what you're used to paying in LA. There's good sushi in NYC, but it does hit the wallet harder. As far as Japanese goes, I would go for yoshoku foods, like the stuff at Sawtelle Kitchen, or Bistro Laramie in Gardena. Can't find much of that stuff in NYC yet. On Mexican, that's arguable. One of NYC's largest immigrant groups in the last decade have been from Mexico, so there's actually a swelling population as well as some good eateries. But they are mostly out in the outer boroughs, so it's just harder to find. However, most of these immigrants are from one state in Mexico (Puebla), so you'll find lots of mole poblano, chivo, and cemitas and specialties from that region, but it's really difficult to find other Mexican regional cooking, like from Oaxaca or Yucatan or Veracruz or Baja, etc., so concentrate on those while you're still in LA.
What hasn't been mentioned yet is Cambodian. NYC has no Cambodian food to speak of, while there's plenty to be had in Long Beach. Vietnamese in Little Saigon is a no-brainer. Also get as much Persian as you can. There's not any good Persian restaurants in NYC, especially compared with the plethora available in LA. Armenian as well. There might be one Armenian restaurant near Sheepshead Bay in NYC now. You might also want to fill up on things like BBQ. It's not NYC's strong point, though I suppose it's improving. Also, get your fill of doughnuts in LA. The doughnut situation in NYC is pretty miserable.
IMO nothing beats the SGV for Chinese. But there seems to be different immigration patterns from China to NYC so we're seeing an greater influx of people from inland China, which means there are increasing numbers of Islamic chinese eateries. But this is more evident in Flushing rather than in Chinatown. The Chinese immigrants in LA are generally more wealthy, with resources to put into grand restaurants, like Cantonese seafood houses, so that's something to take advantage of in LA.
I should also mention that while Korean is still more plentiful in LA, there's a lot to be had in NYC, but that's also in the Flushing area. Some NYC hounds claim it's impossible to find really good Korean food in Manhattan.
re: E Eto
Very insightful... thanks... our friends' families hale from Hainan and Malaysia. Both now find a liking for alot of the other storied cuisines in NY - a Chinese family sitting down and eating pasta with bolognese or carbonara is a queer thought to me - but have no problems having Italian one night, then heading over to Flushing for Chinese the next... Thanks
20 years ago New York had the best Chinese food in the country, but it's been far surpassed by food in the suburbs of both Los Angeles and San Francisco. As far as pecking order goes I'd say that Manhattan Chinatown is better than L. A. or S. F. Chinatown, Flushing is quite a bit better than Manhattan Chinatown, and the San Gabriel Valley is quite a bit better than Flushing. I'd say the main deficiency in New York's Chinese food is that it seems to have stopped evolving at the end of the 20th Century, while the Chinese food here in the San Gabriel Valley kept on progressing with places like Sea Harbour, Triumphal Palace, Mission 261, Elite/New Concept, The Kitchen and Happy Harbor. In this regard I would advise the original poster to load up on dim sum at these new wave dim sum palaces because I don't know of anything like these places in New York. I think the other advantage of the San Gabriel Valley is the breadth of regional cuisines. Yes, Flushing does have some regional stuff (e.g., Uighur food) we haven't seen, but the San Gabriel Valley has so much of everything else. For example, when the Din Tai Fung chefs set up shop for a week at a hotel in Flushing that was a major event back there. Meanwhile, with a Din Tai Fung branch in Arcadia, it seems like a majority of the posters on this board prefer some other venue for Din Tai Fung's menu items.
re: E Eto
Reminded me of one of the better meals I've had recently, at Sophy's Thai and Cambodian in Long Beach. I'm guessing this is a Cambodian restaurant that had to include Thai cuisine to attract more non-Khmer customers to stay in business. Thai food you can get most anywhere else just as good or better, so I concentrated on the Khmer dishes.
I don't remember the names of the dishes we had, one was a Khmer beef salad which was very good, reminescent of a Thai beef salad but instead of the tart lime taste, this dish was more salty savory from the black olives and anchovies. The other was a sauteed chicken liberally sprinkled with very thin strands of crispy-fried ginger. As good as the beef salad was, the chicken-ginger was my favorite dish that day.
Mozza and Otto are not the same menu. In fact, the pizza is a different style; Otto's are griddled. They share a few similarities, but Mozza is still worth checking out before you go. Mozza really has Silverton's imprint while Otto is pure Batali. (Of course, both are good.) Enjoy!
Chinatown is no longer the place to get great Chinese food and hasn't been for many years. I would suggest staying in the other areas for sure.
Tommy Burger's b/c they are only here. I no that it is not everyone's fav, but it is an LA thing! I love mine with the works.
Go to King Taco and have some sopes de asada. I'm not sure if you are into salsa but since you are leaving L.A. live a little and throw on thier fabulous red salsa. The experience of the flavors of the meat with the sope, the queso cotija and the sals it orgasmic!