A friend of mine is going to be in downtown Los
Angeles (900 Wilshire block) for a convention next
week. She'll often be with small or large groups.
Any ideas for restaurants that are fairly near?
I'm totally out-of-date on downtown L.A., so any help
would be greatly appreciated.
900 Wilshire is near Wilshire & Figueroa, which is on
the western boundary of "downtown." There are three
places within walking distance that are worthy of
mention. First is Ciudad, a new Pan-Latino restaurant
operated by Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger (the
"Too Hot Tamales"), which is located on the northwest
corner of Fifth and Figueroa, just two blocks away.
The reviews of Ciudad have been mostly very good. As
it happens, I ate there last night, and had a pleasant,
but not overwheming, experience with four appetizers
and the cumin fries. My favorite of the appetizers was
the pasteles boriqua (green banana tamales with pork,
olives, and raisins. The next favorite was the seared
calamari with Bilbao chorizo and white beans. Ciudad
has a nice selection of rums and Spanish wines. Three
or four blocks away from 900 Wilshire is Cafe Pinot,
one of Joachim Splichal's restaurants (Patina, Pinot
Bistro, et al.). The menus at Splichal's places are
interesting and the food is usually good. Another
place is Water Grill, a high-end, high-priced seafood
restaurant located at 544 S. Grand Ave., about two
blocks east of where your friends are staying. The new
chef there, Michael Cimarusdi, has gotten some good
reviews. My last meal there, however, was in general
disappointing. The preparations at Water Grill are
very fussed-out, but the food somehow lacked ooomph.
Maybe chef's night off, or perhaps just an off night.
The prices for food and wine here are high, so I was
expecting something more exiciting. In addition
to places within walking distance, there are many more
places within a short cab ride. In Little Tokyo,
for example, there are lots of good Japanese
restuarants, including Shibucho for sushi (which I have
extolled on two ChowHound message boards, and included
recently in your birthday recommendations), and R-23
for sushi and cooked items off the daily specials sheet
(ask for it to be translated from Japanese) and the
regular menu. In Chinatown, there are also many good
places, but my first choice would probably be the
Empress Pavilion at 988 Hill St. Although I haven't
personally eaten there, I have heard some good things
said about the cooking of Tari Thomas at Traxx, located
at Union Station, 800 N. Alameda St. The pan-roasted
tenderloin has been especially singled out for
praise, along with the house-cured pork chop and lamb
salad with golden beets and quinoa. At 1001 N. Alameda
is Philippe The Original that claims to have invented
the French-dip sandwich, complete with sawdust on the
floor. Try the lamb sandwich. If your friends have
some time during the day, they should take a stroll
through Grand Central Market, a large Mexican market
with lots of stalls and places for an inexpensive lunch
or snack. It's a lot of fun to wander around there and
soak up the atmosphere.
re: Tom Armitage
Just read Jonathan Gold's posting. Such are the perils
of starting a response, then getting busy with other
stuff, and finishing up without checking to see if
others had posted in the meantime. Anyway, that
explains the many recommendations that are redundant to
Johathan's. By the way, the Grand Central Market is
located at 317 S. Broadway (at 3rd St.).
re: Tom Armitage
Don't forget Coles P.E. Buffet at the Pacific Electric Building (6th and Main). This is a very historic place- used to be a depot for the streetcar system downtown. In fact, the bar in 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' is based on Cole's. The double-dipped sandwich (is there any other way to eat one?) is superb and the ambience is great. On the OTHER, scruffy end of downtown.
re: Josh Mittleman
It's not that bad, Pilgrim!
The little DART buses will take you anywhere
downtown for a quarter, and there is some
good eating nearby.
Ciudad, a new place from Food Network stars
Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, serves
swell nueva latina food in the vein of Patria
(don't miss the seared squid with white beans).
The Water Grill, which has always had impeccable
fish and a selection of Northwest oysters, has
an inventive new chef. Pinot Bistro is a pretty
branch of Joachim Splichal's restaurant empire
with often good food.
And if you're chowhounding, there is no limit
to the possibilities. The great Oaxacan
restaurant Guelaguetza is a couple of miles
west, on 8th St., and L.A.'s godhead place
for birria, Jalisco-style goat stew, is a mile
south, at El Parian. Chinatown is just north--
try Empress Pavilion for wonderful dim sum and
HK-style banquet food; Pho 79 for Vietnamese
noodles; Battambang for Cambodian seafood.
Little Tokyo is close: I like Kagaya for shabu
shabu, Mandarin Deli for potstickers and tendon
salad; Shibucho for absolutely traditional sushi;
Suehiro for a quick Japanese lunch.
And there's even a more-than-passable Korean
banquet restaurant right in the hotel.
re: jonathan gold
I've eaten twice at Ciudad - once in December and once
last week. I recommend it highly. The menu is very
interesting (Pan Latin?) with some unusual drinks, such
as a Cuban mojito and some Brazilian cocktails (unless
those are dance names). The desserts are worth a
detour, especially the Barcelona cake which is a
chololate lover's dream.
In little Tokyo, check out Grill Lyon, which serves
lovingly prepared French food with Japanese overtones
at reasonable prices.
Traxx is also wonderful; part of the experience is
seeing LA's Union Station, one of Southern California's
most astonishing public buildings.
re: Joe Miller
Lyon, alas, is no more. It moved back to
Pasadena a couple of years ago, and that
location closed too, taken over by a new
Japanese-French place called Maison Akira.
(Note: Lyon, which started south of Silver
Lake more than 20 years ago, was probably
the first Asian-Fusion restaurant in the U.S.)
And Traxx, while spectacularly located in
the old Union Station, is cuisine-impaired:
the last time I was there, the crabcakes
had lumps of ice in their centers!