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The visitor from NYC, Part II (long)

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Dear Chowhounders, the monkeygirl feels remiss since my friend left over a week ago and I promised to give an update about the culinary tour of LA for my Gotham friend.

I'm only going to cover the food, though. No need to bore poor Chowhounds with the monkeygirl and the monkeyfriend traipsing about Los Angeles, gossiping and telling tales.

The first morning, I was trying to decide where to go for breakfast. My first inclination was Doughboys, since the weekday wait isn't as horrific as it is on the weekend, and they make such excellent breakfast fare. But the monkeyboyfriend suggested Duke's on Sunset as a place to see lots of rock 'n' rollers getting over their hangovers. We trucked over to Duke's and, alas, not a thrasher, hesher, or even punk rock diva to be seen. I had decent banana pancakes (a bit underdone underneath the banana slices) and the mf had the weirdest Huevos Rancheros--a tortilla with fried eggs and a pepper-laden tomato sauce. She wasn't impressed and I felt kind of bad about welcoming her to our fair metropolis with such ininspired fare.

After trolling up and down 3rd Street, mf wanted coffee, so we stopped into Joan's on 3rd. Having never been there myself, I was quite impressed by the selection of overpriced, but still delicious-looking, imported foodstuffs, as well as salads, sandwiches, and the most amazing-looking cupcakes this side of the Mississippi. I don't know about y'all, but to me the most appetizing food--especially pastries--are the ones that look homemade, not perfect, with big swirls of frosting or such. The trend towards covering cakes with fondant or marzipan may make them look like art, but I ask you, are they tasty? That's the most important thing. Anyhoo, I was still recovering from my breakfast, so mf bought us both homemade carmel-covered marshmallows ($1 each). Man, were they good! I love, love, love caramel, butterscotch and maple. But the cost was somewhat prohibitive, so I don't know if I'll be chewing on those candies any time soon. MF remarked that though Joan's was crowded, people were polite and friendly, unlike the citizens of NYC.

(We're also healthier, better looking, and over all happier, according to her. Just try getting an agent and see what that does for your sense of self-worth. Wait a minute...I'm not an actor.)

Didn't get anything at the Fred Segal cafe, but saw actor Michael Rappaport. MF was happy with this celebrity sighting, though I was relatively unimpressed. Did you know he has a substantial bald spot? (this was not the reason for my being underwhelmed, however.)

Lunch was Cajun from The Gumbo Pot in the Farmer's Market. MF liked her chicken and shrimp jambalaya, whilst I happily scarfed down a fried catfish po'boy. (Can someone please tell me what happened to Gagnier's on Ocean Park? The mbf and I weep with sadness over the loss of their catfish po'boys. They promised that they were moving to a new location, but so far, no word. Sigh.)

We wanted something impressive--but not too pricey--for dinner, so we went to Typhoon, located in the Santa Monica Airport. (side question--anyone been to The Hump? Heard good things about it, but also that it's 'spensive.) MF liked the atmosphere and plenty of typical LA-looking folks to populate the tables. Great calamari, fried, substantial but not too chewy, served with vinegar dipping sauce. The tuna tartare was incredible--a mound of chopped sushi-grade red tuna that melted in the mouth. Another friend in attendance insisted that since we were at Typhoon, we had to order some kind of insect. MF wasn't thrilled with the idea, but we ordered the Manchurian ants on crispy potato strings. Yes, being a monkeygirl, I had to eat them. Nothing great, just overcooked fried julienne potato strips sprinkled liberally with ants. I had two bites and that was plenty. The chow mein was average, about what you'd get in a decent Chinese restaurant. MF didn't care for the spicy crab cakes, but the rest of the table liked their bite and high crab-to-binder ratio. Vegetable gyoza also tasty. Attentive service, even on a busy Friday. Instead of dessert at Typhoon, we got Ben and Jerry's, but as a monkeygirl watching her calories, I bypassed the Chunky Monkey and got Chocolate Fudge Brownie frozen yogurt.

For breakfast the following morning, we went to John O'Groats, just down the street. Wait was short since it was later in the day, but there's almost always a wait at JO'G. I had their terrific banana pancakes (I *am* a monkeygirl, after all), I can't remember what the mbf had, except I do know that he got a delicious biscuit--they do make good biscuits--and the mf tried again with the huevos rancheros. She was much, much happier--but she didn't offer me a bite, so I can't vouch for what made them noteworthy.

We bypassed lunch (mf ate spicy tuna rolls from Wild Oats market and I ate a Genisoy bar) and tried to get reservations at my favorite Indian, Bombay Cafe. No good, unless we wanted to dine at 9:30. I'm not Right-Coast enough to warrant that kind of late night chowing. I almost went to All India, but, thinking the atmosphere wasn't classy enough, took a chance on the Bombay Palace in Beverly Hills. What a disappointment! Standard Indian, and the pakora tasted terrible, not to mention unbelievably salty pickled *something* (we don't know what). I was quite displeased. Bypass this place. There are better, and cheaper, Indian restaurants out there.

I had originally planned on going to the restaurant in Shutters, the hotel on the beach off Pico, but cost made us change our minds. For scenery's sake, we took a drive up PCH and wound up at the Malibu Inn. It was surprisingly empty for a Sunday morning. Everyone had the usual breakfast foods: eggs, (not huevos rancheros, though), French toast, potatoes. I'm not giving a hearty recommendation, nor am I warning people away. The Malibu Inn is a good place to take someone from out of town, but I wouldn't make a trip there on my own.

At the Getty later, mf got a latte and didn't like it. But we can always count on the Getty for wonder views and the amazing garden.

OK--we're wrapping up. The mf was leaving that night, so we wanted to eat dinner nearby. Our biggest blessing is that La Serenata on Pico is only five blocks away, so we walked. As usual, the mbf got the out-of-this-world fish burrito. What the hell do they put in that thing? It is AMAZING. The mbf never fails to tuck the whole burrito away in record time. Keep your fingers away. I got the shrimp sopes--they are great--with thick cornmeal patties covered in beautifully firm, cooked shrimp, beans, lettuce, sauce, and cotijo cheese. The mf ordered a fish taco and a fish gordita. She was quite pleased with her meal. We talked about fascist films and Jane Austen, and then, alas, it was time to draw the visit to a close. We took the mf to the airport, then went home and collapsed.

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  1. Happy to hear your report, mg. No real culinary surprises but rather some (good) confirmations of tried-and-trues (Serenata, O'Groat's, Spicy Tuna from WO). More importantly to this chow-driven bystander, you're commitment to the chow, it seems, is almost, dare I say, consuming. I'm assuming you're not bumping up your concentration on such matters simply for your out-of-town guest, who was luckily the lucky beneficiary of your never-ending questing. I somehow feel less alone in my own manias. Please feel free to confirm or deny the charges.

    As to your question about The Hump. It has many of the charms of it's sister restaurant Typhoon (great view, even better perhaps than below; and, great atmosphere, again superior to the downstairs. It's intimate, quieter -- with a real fire place -- and has got a great ceiling which you can take in when tossing sake back, "kampai!"), and as the cuisine is more straightforward you kinda know what you're getting into. The sushi there has always been excellent to my well-fed palette, especially some of their specialty dishes which are now de riguer at so many places: sashimi with ginger, slivered onions and/or red peppercorns which is then hit with a splash of warmed olive and sesame oil cut with something acidic like yuzu. It's delicious. I think they changed chefs but I've enjoyed what's come out of the kitchen there through a few regimes. The only downside can be the wait, but I think they take reservations for even a party of two.

    1. OK, nice report, I'd give it a four banana rating Monkey Girl. I'll tell you a bald celebrity story another time.

      -Chilli'n In Chino