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Feb 19, 1999 10:35 AM

Downtown L.A.

  • d

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I'm totally out-of-date on downtown L.A., so any help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.

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  1. j
    Josh Mittleman

    The LA Zagat worked pretty well for me, but I didn't
    find anything in downtown that I'd recommend. I rented
    a car (a necessity in LA, even in downtown) and drove
    to restaurants.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Josh Mittleman
      jonathan gold

      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.

      1. 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.

        1. re: Joe Miller
          jonathan gold

          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!

    2. 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.

      2 Replies
      1. 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.).

        1. 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.