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2 nights in LA area -- help a fellow chowhound!

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Alan Divack Jul 30, 2000 10:47 AM

We will be in the LA area for 2 dinners in August. We are actually going to be staying near family in Santa Barbara but are going to do the MGM/Disney and related stuff to keep the kids happy. Where should we eat????

I wanted above all to try Renu Nankorn, but it is apparently too late for that. (The possibility of eating at Renu Nankorn was actually one of the motivations for actually doing the trip!) I am most interested in things like Isaan Thai, Iranian, excellent provincial Mexican, stuff that is not that readily available in NY. I am also mighty intrigued by San Gabriel Valley chinese. Given only 2 days, what are the most important places to eat?

I know that this is the kind of question that I would disdain from someone visiting NY -- how can you expect to do it justice in only 2 nights, if they really want the experience they should live here, etc. -- but not the shoe is on the other foot and I realize the error of my provincial ways and feel much more empathic.

  1. t
    Tom Armitage Jul 30, 2000 02:03 PM

    Not a problem, Alan. Are we talking two breakfasts, two lunches, and two dinners here? Also, what days (e.g., Monday-Tuesday, Friday-Saturday) are we talking about?

    7 Replies
    1. re: Tom Armitage
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      Alan Divack Jul 30, 2000 04:08 PM

      We will probably be driving from Santa Barbara to LA on Monday , in the morning, and leaving, hopefully after dinner on Tuesday. Our days will probably be taken up for better or worse with the usual stuff, so realisticallly, we are looking at 2 dinners. (We may actaully be trapped in amusement parks at lunchtime.) What a decision!

      1. re: Alan Divack
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        Tom Armitage Jul 31, 2000 02:53 PM

        Alan,

        Since you only have two nights available, my recommendation is for Mexican one night and Thai the other. I assume that, since you will be coming from Santa Barbara, you will have eaten at La Super-Rica there. If not, you've missed a golden opportunity and should hang your head in shame. For a different Mexican experience, I'd recommend the great Oaxacan restaurant, Guelaguetza, in Los Angeles. There are actually three Guelaguetza restaurants in Los Angeles. My favorite is on Eighth Street in a somewhat seedy neighborhood. Although I think the food there is marginally better than at the Palms branch, it has the funkiest atmosphere of the three and you have to bring your own beer since it doesn't have a license. As I recently posted, a new Guelaguetza just opened at the corner of Olympic and Normandie. I haven't eaten there yet, but the room is much more spacious than the Eighth Ave. restaurant, and it also serves wine and beer. The third Guelaguetza is located on the west side of L.A. in Palms. Again, this place is a little fancier than the Eighth Street restaurant and serves beer and wine. You can get at least four or five of the classic Oaxacan moles at any of the three Guelaguetzas. Don't miss the Mole Negro (black mole). I'd also highly recommend the goat stew, Barbacoa.

        My current favorite Thai restaurants include Kruang Tedd and Palm, both on Hollywood Blvd. west of Normandie. Both of these restaurants have a selection of Issan dishes (northeastern Thai), in addition to the more widely available central Thai (Bangkok) dishes. At Kruang Tedd I'd recommend the Issan-style barbecued pork with a spicy dipping sauce, Chinese broccoli with crispy pork (pork skin with meat attached), and a dish that is like little miniature seafood soufflés, each about half the size of a golf ball, brought to the table the cast iron pan in which they were cooked. Sorry I can't remember the name of this last item. Finish the meal with the wonderful tapioca desert. At Palm, don't miss the wild boar curry, which, although the wild boar (from Santa Barbara no less) is somewhat tough and chewy, has a remarkable, intense combination of flavors. A few doors down the mini-mall from Palm is a remarkable store for Thai sweets. Get a selection of them to go, but by all means, don't pass up the little custards in small ceramic flat cups. They will open the ceramic cups and scoop out the delicious little custards for you to take away in a plastic container.

        A third choice, also not readily available in New York, is the amazing North Korean restaurant, Yongsusan, about which I've previously posted. This is an elegant restaurant with lots of private rooms in addition to a tastefully decorated main dining room. The food is from the ancient capital of the Koryo Dynasty. At Yongsusan, I'd recommend one of the many set menus that will tease your palate with a variety of tastes and textures.

        As you noted in your post, the San Gabriel Valley has an amazing wealth of Chinese restaurants. But you also have Chinese restaurants in New York, even if they do not cover as wide or deep a spectrum, and so, since you only have two nights, you might want to concentrate on the Mexican and Thai places. If you have some extra time, however, say at lunchtime, I'd recommend driving around in the Monterey Park area. A few of the many good restaurants there are Lake Spring for Shanghainese food, Charming Garden for Hunanese food, and Luk Yue for Cantonese. Empress Pavilion in downtown L.A.'s Chinatown also serves up terrific Cantonese food. Ask for the menu that lists its seasonal specialties.

        Hope this helps. This is, for the most part, a selection of places previously discussed on Chowhound, so if you want additional information, just punch in the appropriate restaurant name or other descriptor on the Chowhound search feature.

        Have a good trip. Happy eating!.

        1. re: Tom Armitage
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          Tom Armitage Jul 31, 2000 05:07 PM

          P.S. The dish I described in my previous post as "little miniature seafood soufflés" are listed on Kruang Tedd's menu as "seafood muffins" with squid and shrmip and coconut milk, steamed and served in the cast iron pan I described above. The American pronunciation of the Thai name for this dish is "haw-mow." The desert I referred to is called Boua Loy. Another recommendation at Kruang Tedd is the spicy crispy trout.

          1. re: Tom Armitage
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            Alan Divack Jul 31, 2000 09:56 PM

            Thanks Tom -- these are great suggestions for LA. In SB, I of course intend to eat several meals at La Super-Rica, esp. since there doesn't seem to be all that much else to choose from. I will post any reactions, discoveries,etc. after the trip.

            1. re: Alan Divack
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              Tom Armitage Aug 1, 2000 04:02 PM

              "In SB, I of course intend to eat several meals at La Super-Rica, esp. since there doesn't seem to be all that much else to choose from."

              Alan, I'd suggest you use the search function on Chowhound to bring up previous posts on Santa Barbara. There are some pretty good places to eat there in addition to La Super-Rica, such as Bouchon and The Wine Cask in Santa Barbara, and Montecito Cafe and Wine Bistro in nearby Montecito. In addition to my posts on Santa Barbara, those by Jim Benzian (who lives in Santa Barbara) are particularly worthy of note.

              A new place in Santa Barbara that has received good reviews (I've not personally eaten there yet) is Olio e Limone at 17 W. Victoria St. The owner/chef there has good creditials, having worked for Celestino Drago in Los Angeles, and then as the chef at Prego in Irvine. His menu and daily specials include things like tortelloni di zucca, spaghetti with bottarga, mallureddus, and pappardelle with a ragu of quail, sausage and mushrooms, along with some Sicilian dishes. The new restaurant is small (only 10 tables) and already extremely popular with locals, so reservations are highly recommended.

              Also, if you're willing to drive a little north of Santa Barbara, you can experience the much-talked-about Santa Maria barbecue at either of the Hitching Post restaurants (in Casmalia and in Buellton) or (my favorite) Jocko's in Nipomo. BTW, the Hitching Post makes a good pinot noir that is available at wine stores in the area as well as at the restaurants. At Jocko's, I usually bring my own wine.

              A great way to spend a day in the Santa Barbara area is to drive through the wine country in the hills north of Santa Barbara, which is producing some kick-ass wines these days, and wind up the day at one of the Santa Maria barbecue places. For some good information on Central Coast wines and wineries, including detailed information on the tasting rooms at the wineries, check out "Le Journal du Vin" at webfoot.eng.uci.edu/ea/wine/visits. I can't remember exactly how the menu works at this site, but you are interested in "Central Coast" or "Central Coast - Paso Robles" wineries. The most recent issue on the Central Coast is at webfoot.eng.uci.edu/ea/wine/visits/cc/00.03/text.html.

              Note to Jim Benzian: Jim, haven't heard from you for awhile on the Chowhound boards. If you're still Chowhounding, do you have any other Santa Barbara recommendations in addition to those you've previously posted?

              1. re: Tom Armitage
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                Gary Cheong Aug 1, 2000 08:02 PM

                If you take Tom's advice to visit a few wineries, you should try to taste at Andrew Murray Vineyards. I think the tasting room is located in Los Olivos (no idea how close that is to SB). He makes terrific Rhone style wines. I had his Roussane with Malaysian food at Nyonya -- it worked beautifully.

            2. re: Tom Armitage
              t
              Tom Armitage Aug 3, 2000 11:19 AM

              The place for Thai desserts that I mentioned previously in this thread is Bhan Kanom Thai, 5271 Hollywood Blvd., just down the mini-mall from the Palms restaurant. It's a wonderful shop, and the people there couldn't be friendlier or more helpful. The desert I described in the little pottery cups is called Kanom Thoy, and is like a miniature coconut milk flan. Another favorite is Kanom Tien, which is made with mung bean. I also like Kanom Chan, which is translated as "layered jello," but has a wonderful, not overly sweet, coconut milk flavor. Other winners are Kanom Tan ("Golden Threads") and Lotus Seed Cake.

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