Living Downtown (Long)
- Deborah Feb 2, 2001 10:34 PM
I've just moved downtown and I love it, as I knew I would. Despite the fact my phone is out (611 tells me today that 'due to storm conditions our operators will be unable to take your call'); the heat and elevators are whimsical; and the man in the flophouse directly across spends his days (mercifully, I can't speak to his nights) sitting, naked, in the window. I like to think he's knitting.
But enough about my domestic travails. My chief concern is that I'm not accumulating menus and building a dining repertoire as quickly as I'd like.
I'm at Mitsuwa just about every day. I love their tofu, both fried and salad. I'm also glad they have such things as steamed sweet potatoes and prepared lotus root, even though the lotus is too soft and sweet for my taste. The anago chirashisushi always looks terrific but it's a bit disappointing in the usual way (too much fatty skin, not enough meaty flesh). When I get there just after they open at 9:30, though, I can get a combination anago-california or anago-inari box for breakfast, and it's still slightly warmer than room temperature.
I've done Sushi Gen, TOT, Sushi Kawabaka (I may have that latter wrong; it's the place on that flanks TOT on the other side from/ than? Sushi Hama); Cafe Paraiso (it was open, it was Mexican, I could walk); and I'm looking forward to Fisherman's whatever after the recent responses to my post. Mornings I've been walking the dogs to Cafe Jolt for an extra hot (at Starbucks I make-- correction, made-- it 180 degrees-- I know some will say that kills the milk don't mention the crema but--) 2% double latte. I started with cafe au lait which I'd prefer but theirs tastes flat and papery. OK, ok, 180).
For Chinese I've relied (too often) on Full House, Happy Valley, and a place on Broadway that offers a pink menu and a kitchen that closes at 9:00. Recommendation? They deliver. Unfortunately the food is wretched and the delivery person is scared (make that terrified) of dogs. Mine are both under 20 lbs. And no, they're not junior pit bulls.
I'm going back to Ciudad for visit #3 tonight. First time was months ago before I'd actually made the 24-hour commitment. It's a busy place (good) but it shows in the attitude and timing of the servers (bad). Moceca (sp) was a huge disappointment-- very seventies nouvelle. I've only had it in the kitchen of a Brazilian classmate at French Culinary, though, so I may be spoilt.
Second time was a couple weeks ago, solo, and I sat at the bar (as I've noted before, one of my favorite things to do). On a bartender's recommendation I ordered the calamari with chorizo to start and it was terrific. The manager advised me against was it the skirt steak? which was their most popular but since the bovine spongiform encephalopathy--thing-- they've switched from Argentinian beef and now it wasn't in his opinion quite the same. Everybody said go for the salmon which I'm usually placid enough to do but I had a taste for red meat and the ribs looked good and when the manager said no and the bartender said yes I thought I'd go out on a limb and was well rewarded.
I'll probably yield to salmon tonight.
Pacific Dining Car last Wednesday because I've been haunted by the filet since New Year's Eve. Spinach salad (too crisp) and creamed spinach (a paradigm: fresh chopped spinach rather than blended, often frozen, in white sauce). Fries were dreadful-- burnt AND soggy; mashed potatoes were perfect. We had to send everything back for another spell in the microwave though. Did I mention I need heat?
Phillipe's, Cole's, 410, Langer's are on my list-- in no small part because of the posts I've read on this site. I know the Biltmore, the California Club. Can anyone report on the DR's at the LA Athletic Club? I've heard their food is not to be considered but also know they have a relatively new catering director. I've only had breakfast and remain unpersuaded.
I urgently need recommendations for late night, Mexican, Italian, bistro (French and Californian, and DELIVERY, however mediocre.
Any other downtown chowhounds out there?
The LA Athletic club's dining room is mediocre at best. But they do a good plate of Sand Dabs when they have them.
Congratulations on making the move to Downtown. It sounds like you're living in one of the lofts in the historic district, which is one of the more exciting places to live in Los Angeles.
I lived in Downtown for around a year, and I've found that the L.A. Downtown News has a pretty good resource of food reviews of downtown restaurants (as well as restaurant news). I've posted the link below.
As for late night delivery, I wish I had some suggestions for you. But the reality is that Downtown is not yet a 24-hour locale, and most places shut down after 5 or 6.
Deborah, you left out a few places that I would recommend. First is Mandarin Deli on 2nd Street in Little Tokyo. They make very nice noodles. I only go there for lunch but they are open for dinner as well although I believe they close early. I have heard that there is one in Chinatown but I have never been there. The best thing to order there is the stewed beef with homemade noodles. You must specify homemade noodles or you will get the regular lo mein style noodle.
Another good place is the Curry House in the big shopping center also on 2nd Street (which I believe is called Weller Court). If you like traditional Japanese curry, this is definitely the place.
ABC Seafood on Ord Street is nice for dim sum or in the evening for Cantonese seafood.
I don't believe you mentioned Philippe's, which is one of my favorite places. I like the lamb sandwich with blue cheese. They also have a terrific list of wines by the glass.
The Angelique Cafe at 840 S. Spring Street (in the fashion district its at the apex of the wedge)is an outstanding little french cafe with some unusual items such as andouillette sausages that I like a lot.
Grand Central Market is great for tacos and other antojitos.
Langer's has hands down the best pastrami in the city although it's not technically in downtown.
R23 is fun for sushi and they even do that icky live fish thing the name of which I can't recall at this exact moment.
I am a major fan of Mandarin Deli, but I fell obliged to point out that the Little Tokyo branch has gone seriously downhill in the last several years. Their pan-fried dumplings were the standard, the ne plus ultra of the genre; the superpungent seaweed salad, the warm tendon salad, the crisp scallion pancakes, the soups with handmade noodles -- an endearingly priced 25 cent supplement over the price of the soup with commercially made noodles -- were swell.
But now you've got to drive a mile farther to the Chinatown location to get food of anything like the old quality. But there's a bonus -- the Chinatown branch, at 727 N. Broadway, has great fish dumplings too.
To the downtown list, I'd add the Redwood Room, for cheeseburgers and adult-size cocktails; Nick's Cafe, for ham n' eggs; Kagaya for elegant shabu shabu and Shabu Shabu House for quick shabu shabu; and of course Senor Fish.
Of the stands in Grand Central Market, you'll want to seek out Roast to Go for great carnitas and overstuffed tacos of carnitas, and whatever that stand is near Roast to Go that sells the gorditas, which are sensational.
I worked downtown for many years, and am currently living in another city but yearning for many LA treats that are unavailable here. When I next visit LA I will be hastening at warp speed to El Rancho on 5th Street between Broadway and Spring for Mexican food. They are not open late so you must go for lunch. My favorites are the green chile burrito covered with its own gravy, and chicken enchiladas that are smothered with the gravy from the red chile stew. I'm longing for the taste . . .
I also love Mandarin Deli and the Curry House, both discussed above. My favorite Mandarin Deli soup was the pancake noodle soup, made with strips of the scallion pancakes.
Check out Pacific Grill in the Sanwa Bank. This too may be open for lunch only. It is a fairly upscale restaurant catering to the business crowd. I worked in that location when it was Nicola, and I can't get anyone to give me a report on the successor. The chef is the same as during the Nicola days. If you're lucky he is still making the sauteed rice noodles with duck, bok choy and dried cranberries.
The food at Traxx is wonderful. Good sommelier, as well. And check out the Grand Star Bar and Hop Louie's in Chinatown, terrible food, but fun bars.