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Looking to improve my LA food expereinces

chefboyardee Oct 9, 2007 09:56 AM

I haven't really had a knock your sox off food expereince in LA (expect for a burrito near LAX, served in a converted parking lot, but I digress). Been to a bunch of Wolfgang Puck places like the one in Bevery Hills, Chinois on Main, then to Jiraffe, some other old famous place in Santa Monica that had good cocktails, etc. but never really thought the food was that impressive. Good quality, competently prepared, but not cutting edge. Maybe the people I know in LA were bringing me to the places that are famous, rather than the places that are really good. So now, I'll ask the hounds.

Back in LA in a week, and one night to do a really good meal. Any suggestions? Favorites to date are Alinea in Chicago, 11 Mad, and Jean Georges in NYC.

  1. j
    jlrobe Oct 19, 2007 01:55 PM

    Try Ludo bites at breadbar or bastide, in addition to hatfields and Jar.

    I have never been impressed by chicago. Charlie trotters is WAAAAAAY overrated, and I went before Alinea was open, so I have no frame of reference. Most of my food experiences in LA have been quite postive.

    You didnt like Grace, Lucques, campanile, La terza, providence, etc.?

    Also Josie and Michael's in santa monica are better than jiraffe in my opinion.

    Actually, I havent been to any of the places you mentioned!

    1. raytamsgv Oct 15, 2007 01:09 PM

      Try Elite Restaurant in Monterey Park for dim sum and/or dinner. It has some of the best Cantonese food in the San Gabriel Valley (which has the best Chinese food in all of southern California and possibly the U.S.)

      1. KenWritez Oct 14, 2007 11:39 PM

        LA is a huge melting pot; every culture you can think of is here. It's a city with enormous culinary diversity. ISTM Angelenos haven't embraced haute cusine to the extent people in Chicago or NYC have. Not sure why.

        The best of LA food isn't in high-end restos, IMNSVHO. Instead, you'll find it in dives, holes in the wall, funky individual eateries or dinky ethnic places between doughnut joints and dodgy check cashing storefronts in strip malls.

        That said, I'm recommending some low end places. These won't garner universal approval, but they'll offer you a fun and unque dining experience.

        Tommy's - This is gutbomb ground zero. But ohhhh, what a bomb it is! Yes, it's a burger hut, but it's an LA landmark. When I return to LA (I moved away to marry). stopping off at Tommy's a dream whenever I can wrangle it. It's uniquely LA. Again, you see *everyone* at Tommy's: suits, students, homeless, cops, gangbangers, artists, musicians (lots of these). I recommend the double chili cheeseburger with extra mustard, and the chili cheese fries + onions. Their chili is unique: Combination of beefy taste, industrial lubricant viscosity, road tar consistency. S'okay, just eat it, DO NOT look into the chili pot. Sit outside if you can, concrete picnic table ambiance is part of the experience.


        El Tepeyac - 812 N. Evergreen Ave, Boyle Heights, (323) 268-1960

        Some of the best Cal-Mex home cooking in one of the worst neighborhoods. Not unusual to see gangbangers standing line with suits or even cops. Their burritos are their signature. I like the Hollenbeck, but the Manuel Special is tasty and great to order and then because it's so big, take home and eat for a week.

        El Tepeyac Google: http://tinyurl.com/yvtcx8

        I'm quoting myself from this CH thread: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/449133

        >> Now, if you and your friends want BBQ ribs, there's only one place, but you'll need to call a day ahead to reserve your ribs (beef or babyback) because they always sell out. We're talking that landmark of BBQ in Glendale, Pecos Bill's @ 1551 Victory Blvd, Glendale, CA 91201-2940 (818) 241-2750.

        It's literally a hole in the wall, barely large enough for the wood smoked grills and the owner and his only employee. The seating is two or three outdoor picnic tables with plastic chairs on the sidewalk in front of the ordering window. However, Griffith Park is across the street, so a rib picnic is easy to do.

        (One note: Other people love their chopped pork and beef, I do not. I've lived in Texas and IMHO PB's chopped meat sandwiches are too sweet, bland and soupy. However, the ribs are freakin' magic!) <<

        I have never tasted better ribs anywhere else!

        Yeah, none of these are cutting edge, but if you want solid, excellent casual food, these deliver every time.

        1. SauceSupreme Oct 9, 2007 10:57 AM

          To help you along, here are some recent reports:




          Urasawa (this one has to be done with pictures also

          3 Replies
          1. re: SauceSupreme
            chefboyardee Oct 9, 2007 11:45 AM

            This is a great list. Thanks to all. It's not about fancy for me, but an interesting construction of flavors, which in my expereince has been at the higher end restaurants. On the east coast there is nothing better than braised short ribs on top of pureed parsnips in my mind (in front of a fire with the snow falling), but I can do that pretty well myself (actually better than 90% of the places I order it from). Therefore when I go out, I like to try the newer things that I can't so myself, i.e. the pork confit at EMP in NYC., or any of the Alinea dishes.

            1. re: chefboyardee
              littlefrenchgirl Oct 12, 2007 10:33 PM

              Great thread and discussion of what is good LA food!

              1. re: chefboyardee
                ElissaInPlaya Oct 16, 2007 04:57 PM


            2. d
              Diana Oct 9, 2007 10:56 AM

              Rahel for Ethiopian
              San Gabriel Valley palces for Dim Sum
              Urasawa for sushi
              Boneyard Bistro for upscale BBQ
              Upstairs II for small plates and wine
              Lucky Devil's for beer and milkshakes, salads and burgers

              gosh, I dunno, so much to choose from!

              1. j
                JE33 Oct 9, 2007 10:48 AM

                This is not easy, as the best restaurants in LA don't necessarily have the style you seem to like. I had a great dinner this weekend at Melisse--on Wilshire & 11th Street in Santa Monica. Better than the LA places you mention, to be sure, but I wouldn't exactly call it "cutting edge." I would say the same thing about Giorgio Baldi's, Cut, Capo, Josie and many others.

                Provided you don't want to go to the sushi restaurant at two rodeo, Ortolan and Sona are probably the places you should try. I had dinner at Abode recently which I thought was very good, but others have been less impressed. That might be worth a try as well.

                1. Das Ubergeek Oct 9, 2007 10:41 AM

                  Well, here's the deal -- for all the reputation LA has as a fake, plastic town, we don't do so well in the area of truly high-end dining. (Note to my fellow Angelenos: I am not saying we don't have high-end dining! It's just not the focus of food around here, and we don't obsess over it the way our friends in Norcalistan do.) What high-end dining we do have is, in my terribly-humble opinion, overhyped, which has the double evil of making high-end food inaccessible to a number of people and enhancing our reputation as a hype-driven city.

                  We definitely do not go in for molecular gastronomy.

                  On the more expensive end of things, we like our steaks. Go to Cut, go to Mastro's. Go to the Lobster and have good seafood in a setting that simply can't be beat.

                  Eat ethnic food. You ate a revelatory burrito near LAX, you say -- expand upon that and you'll find the LA that most of us live in, the LA of insanely good fish tacos and Korean barbecue, food from every corner of China, Vietnam, Armenia, Iran, Thailand, etc. Most of it is a little sparse on the decor, but makes up for it in the food... and there are some fancier places. Babita -- for god's sake go to Babita and have chiles en nogada.

                  Eat sushi. Yes, we know, sushi was "the hot new thing" 20 years ago, and many cities have moved on. We haven't -- and sushi is a lot better than it used to be. Tama, Asanebo, Nozawa (yes, still). I haven't been to Sushi Zo but people I respect recommend it.

                  Eat hamburgers. It's not just drive-through food anymore -- hamburgers have graduated and you can have them in nicer surroundings with craft beers. We're a hamburger place.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Das Ubergeek
                    SauceSupreme Oct 9, 2007 10:48 AM

                    I think places like Cut (with its marrow flan) can be comforting in its approach but still revelatory in its execution. In order to succeed as a high-end restauranteur in this town, you have to maintain that philosophy. The best dish, in my opinion, at Osteria Mozza is the guinea fowl -- sometimes a braised bird is all you want in life.

                    I do agree, though, with regard to sushi, which is why I threw Urasawa into the mix. That certainly seems to be part of the character of LA: deceivingly simple in its parts, but a harmonious whole. I still recall one day I was at the Farmer's Market when I overheard an eight year old tell his mom, "I want sushi!" We start 'em young!

                  2. b
                    bite bite Oct 9, 2007 10:31 AM

                    If you're also looking more off-the-beaten track not quite so fancy-pants food experiences (as your burrito comment hints at) you might want to check out some of LA's Korean restaurants. O Dae San is a tasty one -- great fresh sea-food and yummy AlBap -- rainbow of fish roe served over rice.

                    Another nice but not uber-swanky highly revered restaurant on these boards (by locals and visitors) is the Mexican restaurant Babita -- but haven't tried it yet myself.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: bite bite
                      flavasista Oct 9, 2007 01:18 PM

                      chefboyardee, in my opinion the best LA has to offer is all the diverse ethnic food, not high end/deconstructed dining. hands down the Mexican & Korean cuisine in this city BLOWS nyc away. poof ~

                      no wonder you're not impressed. your choices are way too safe & limiting (location wise). these are places where you'd take an out-of-state visitor, your mom, or for business.

                      be adventurous! babita & odaesan are great recs for some real LA flavor.

                      1. re: flavasista
                        gsw Oct 13, 2007 10:19 AM

                        I second Babita. You're not going to find that anywhere else, NY or otherwise. I agree with the suggestion to try ethnic food. Visit the taco trucks, Thai town, Westminster Vietnamese, or Persian casual restarants like Attari sandwich shop. These are all unique to LA.

                    2. ipsedixit Oct 9, 2007 10:12 AM

                      As SauceSupreme says above, you're not going to find many places along the lines of Alinea in LA; folks here just aren't into synthetic, deconstructed food. In LA the artificial and contrived are usually reserved for body parts and plastic surgeons, not chefs and dinner plates.

                      That said, for more of the cutting edge stuff, might give Basitde a try, Providence a look, Sona some consideration, and Noe a peek or two.

                      Enjoy your visit.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: ipsedixit
                        wutzizname Oct 9, 2007 10:18 AM

                        I'd think ORTOLAN and HATFIELD'S might be two other places up your alley.

                      2. SauceSupreme Oct 9, 2007 10:01 AM

                        No, the people you know have brought you to solid neighborhood joints. Those are not at the top of our lists. Refer to this:


                        Since that publication, there have been a few notable openings like the two Mozzas and Craft, but those probably aren't what you're looking for anyway. Bastide has also (re)opened to great reviews, but I'm going on Friday to find out for myself.

                        With regards to Alinea (or Dufresne's WD50), LA has never embraced molecular cuisine. The closest that we have are Sona and Opus. This has been discussed in other threads, but the end result is that this is a town that celebrates home cooking. Note that the link I provided references many hole-in-the-wall ethnic joints. You're more likely to find a high end mac and cheese than you are to find a deconstructed cube of short rib like at Alinea. One of the most treasured food destinations here that closed recently wasn't even a restaurant (the Wat Thai Temple's food court).

                        If you're in search for cutting edge, I'll suggest Opus, Providence, Sona and Urasawa. Those four *blow away* Chinois and Jiraffe.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: SauceSupreme
                          chefboyardee Oct 9, 2007 10:19 AM

                          Thanks sauce, we get tons of NY vs Boston flame wars on my home site (boston), so I changed the title. And TY for the recommendations. I don't think I even knew about CH during my last visit, so I trust your folks infinately more.

                          1. re: chefboyardee
                            SauceSupreme Oct 9, 2007 10:23 AM

                            Not a problem; just trying to keep it real. Real civil.

                            What cocktail place did you go to in Santa Monica?

                            1. re: SauceSupreme
                              chefboyardee Oct 9, 2007 10:32 AM

                              Ivy, Saw Denise Richards there. that was the highlight of the night. it wasn't the food for me. BTW, interesting thing about Alinea, I loved it and hated WD-50 which was too disconstructed. If you get a chance, absolutely some of the most interesting flavors I have ever had.

                              1. re: chefboyardee
                                SauceSupreme Oct 9, 2007 10:36 AM

                                My trip to Chicago got shuttered in favor of a trip to Portland, but yes Alinea is on my list.

                                I don't make it Santa Monica that often, but I have to tell you that my favorite places there are Musha and Father's Office. One's a Japanese pub, the other's a beer bar.

                                1. re: SauceSupreme
                                  Servorg Oct 9, 2007 01:34 PM

                                  One BIG missing element from that list of Ultimate LA restaurants that definitely needs to be considered when chefboy comes to town is the resurgent Bastide on Melrose Place in WeHo.

                                  1. re: Servorg
                                    SauceSupreme Oct 9, 2007 01:38 PM

                                    Agreed. Prominent openings since that list:
                                    Osteria Mozza
                                    (re-opened) Bastide
                                    Bin 8945
                                    (new ownership) Jitlada

                                    To lesser extent:
                                    Rustic Canyon
                                    Shin-Sen Gumi (MPK)

                          2. re: SauceSupreme
                            jlrobe Oct 11, 2007 09:56 PM

                            josef Centeno is no longer offering his world cuisine at Opus. I think Opus used to be great, but without the taasting menu.....

                            The bacos are great though!

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