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Boston Hound Seeks L.A. Food Itinerary Advice

My wife and I and our two kids (twins, age 11) will be in L.A. for six nights in April. My kids are pretty adventurous eaters. So far, we've made reservations at the following:

Patina (going to concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall; dinner before concert)
Lucques
Pizzeria Mozza
Joe's (going to be hanging out in Venice that day, then having early dinner at Joe's)

So we have two more nights to fill and am looking for places that are uniquely L.A. and unlike what we can get in Boston or NYC. I am thinking of Mexican on one of these nights, possibly Monte Alban or Babita, and Japanese the other. But I'm not wedded to these and would love any other suggestions. For Japanese, I am interested in a place with good food but which also has a hip atmosphere with celebrity-sighting potential -- I think that would be fun for the kids and would be an environment they are not likely to encounter in Boston. It doesn't have to be Urasawa quality (not sure any of us have a sufficient appreciation for sushi to warrant the expense) but would at least like food to be solid. I know Koi is an obvious choice but I've heard the food isn't that good. Others have recommended Katsuya (Brentwood or Hollywood??). Would appreciate any thoughts on this.

Thanks very much!

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  1. I would do Babita for Mexican -- although with 11 year olds, you might want consider the fact that the wait time for the food at Babita can be, well, leisurely, which in 11 year-old terms means "long".

    As for Japanese with celebrity potential, Katsuya (Hollywood) is a good choice, as would Matsuhisa.

    If you don't do Japanese or Korean, might want to consider Korean BBQ -- try either Park's or Soot Bull Jeep.

    1. Hey, looks like you've got quite a slate of restaurants there! I wish my parents were as willing to eat out this well. I would definitely take advantage of the wonderful Mexican and Asian food here. For Mexican, I personally like El Cholo on western. It's a bit americanized, but their fajitas and chimichangas are amazing. It's very old and it feels really authentic inside, and the prices are decent too (well, I used to get a 50% discount when I was a student at USC so maybe that's why).

      For Japanese, Katsuya in Brentwood is a good choice. Also, try Nobu (the new one) or Nobu Malibu for decent celeb sighting. They're all expensive though. Personally I don't think the "hip" Japanese places are that great. It's the izakayas and fusion places that are good. Search for good izakayas and you should run into some.

      14 Replies
      1. re: risottoman

        No offense to risottoman, but the *only* reason IMO to go to El Cholo is for green corn tamales, and they're not in season right now. Please go somewhere else for Mexican in LA -- Monte Alban and Babita, though gravely different atmospheres and cuisines, are both prime choices.

        If you feel like casual Japanese and are near Santa Monica, Musha is a good option. Otherwise, I'm sure others will offer you recs for Little Tokyo izakaya recs.

        For hip but good Japanese/sushi, you might also consider Katana in Hollywood. Skip Koi.

        For a virtually guaranteed celeb something or other, stop in at Urth Caffe on Melrose for an afternoon tea and/or pastry. Or, grab an afternoon muffin or snack or whatever at Newsroom Cafe and watch the paparazzi storm across the street at The Ivy. :)

        You might also consider taking advantage of LA's Thai at Jitlada or Sanam Luang.

        1. re: Emme

          Thanks everyone for your advice. Emme, appreciate the Katana suggestion. Do you prefer that over Katsuya?

          Also really appreciate the insider tip regarding Urth Caffe. That sounds like fun.

          1. re: Tennyson

            Urth Caffe IS fun, but be aware, it can get REALLY crowded.

            One thing to remember about LA is that we are just lousy with celebrities. the fine dining places that suck your $$$ out of your wallet (but still taste great) are not the only places to see them. the only "celebrity sighting" I had in a fancy place was the night I saw Cesar Milan in Spago. Meh (for Cesar, not Spago). I did one see what appeared to be porn stars my one time at Geisha

            I've seen jack Black many times at Art's Deli, David Hasselhoff at Yamato in Encino, a whole gaggle of Lawrences (including teeny little Joey) at Bucca Di Beppo in Encino, Goran Visnevic (from ER) in Gelson's, Wayne Knight in Iroha, Shaq at a Tower Records (now gone, no food there, anyhow), Harrison Ford at a Whole Foods in Santa Monica, Collin What's his name in Target, and so on.

            Celebrities are just all over, and live sorta in places like Malibu, Studio City, Venice, Santa Monica, Toluca Lake, Brentwood, Encino (yes, Encino-south of the boulevard), Burbank..heck anywhere. They seem to travel well, too.

            I think they go to the so called "celeb hang out" spots when they need extra publicity or something, or perhaps the ego boost that comes with being stared at by tourists who travel there to see celebrities. Otherwise, they live life like anyone else, and occasionally want a greasy taco off the truck or a basket full of Groceries from Gelson's.

            1. re: Diana

              This is an excellent point. In fact, you're as likely to see a celebrity or two hanging around the food stalls in the Farmers Market as you are in a tony joint.

            2. re: Tennyson

              Definitely skip Koi. Musha is a good option. I'd go with Katsuya over Katana, but only by a slim margin - Katsuya in Hollywood is one of the spots of the moment for celeb sightings. The food isn't bad either...

              1. re: Tennyson

                I think Katana is more reliable than Katsuya, but I've never been a *huge* Katsuya fan anyway. If you're in for celebs, they're both decent options, but youll definitely hit more trendier celebs at Katsuya, or at least that'd be my guest. I just find Katsuya more hectic and crazy overall, but if you don't mind that scene, Katsuya away!

              2. re: Emme

                Well, I still think El Cholo's a great restaurant, it's an LA institution and worth visiting, even if the green corn tamales aren't in season.

                1. re: Emme

                  emphatically second Emme's sentiment [but the *only* reason IMO to go to El Cholo is for green corn tamales]

                  FYI I believe El Cholo's green corn tamales are only avail May-Oct.

                2. re: risottoman

                  i'm sorry to disagree about el cholo.
                  it's horrible.

                  1. re: westsidegal

                    sheesh, so bitter you guys are. I'm sorry that you think Pink's and El Cholo are horrible, because I sure as hell enjoy them. And there's no way you could ever compare these places to an asylum or prison. It's a completely different meaning of the word.

                    These places are "institutions" because they're good - the average palate and even a seasoned palate finds them good. Not to say that they always deserve critical praise, but even Bruni will recognize Le Cirque or Gray's Papaya or Bauer will recognize Chez Panisse or Top Dog for their status as culinary institutions in their respective cities. Sure they might be "overrated" in the sense that they're probably not worth waiting hours for, but take them for what they're worth.

                    1. re: risottoman

                      Sorry, but El Cholo and Pink's are both terrible.

                      1. re: risottoman

                        Nope, I gotta agree with ipse. Pink's and El Cholo are just lousy.

                        1. re: Diana

                          alright then, you're entitled to your opinions.

                          1. re: risottoman

                            i like el cholo. :)
                            i was only there once for a birthday event.
                            i got a chimichanga and really liked it.

                  2. Where are you staying? The SoCal area is huge, and especially with kids you'd be happiest with places nearby or convenient to the sites you'll be seeing.

                    I had a couple of responses to your post: Yes, Mexican. But L.A. sparkles in the hole-in-the-wall taco shack or truck. (Carnitas Michaocan, on North Broadway at 19th north of Chinatown downtown just east of Dodger Stadium, is my favorite.) Many on this board love Monte Alban, in west L.A. just east of Santa Monica, but it is very regional and informal -- the kids may prefer tacos or a torta from El Super Taco a couple of doors to the right in the same minimall.

                    1. I also recommend Korean BBQ over Japanese (as a Korean, I must). For really authentic, check out Corner Place on James M. Wood (my personal favorite). The cold noodles + the BBQ is awesome.

                      1. You might spot celebs at Lucques and Mozza. As far as hip Japanese, I would actually recommend going to an izakaya like Musha or FuRaiBo as opposed to a sushi-ya. They'll have a few sushi and sashimi items on their menu, but the menu will be large enough to allow for more experimentation and exploration.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: SauceSupreme

                          I've actually had celeb sightings at Musha! There's at least one who lives nearby who is there regularly.

                        2. THIS IS EASY:::::MEXICAN____LA PARRILLA_____213 353-4930......then eat at the famous ____Langer's Delicatessen | 213-483-8050 | The World's Best Pastrami ..it closes at 4pm...not open on Sunday...good for the best breakfast in L.A. !!!...this is a double win win as they are both on the red line subway...

                          1. Babita's a wonderful place, but just be forewarned that its a slower wait. Also the room is small and quiet, so if your 11 year olds are fidgetty you might not enjoy yourself. Monte Alban is wonderful too, although VASTLY different from Babita. A much more casual atmosphere - I think your kids would feel more relaxed there. Another good Mexican/Oaxacan choice for families is Guelaguetza (I can never remember the spelling so if I'm wrong someone correct me)

                            I like the suggestion of Musha in Santa MOnica for Japanese, too. A fun place for kids is also either The Hump or Typhoon in Santa Monica at the airport - very different restaurants, with the Hump being expensive and great sushi, and Typhoon being more pan-asian and casual (coconut-fried shrimp and exotic edible insects!) but they both have patios where you can sit outside and watch the planes land - they don't serve the food outside, but you can enjoy a drink, or at Typhoon sit by the window and enjoy the view while you eat.

                            Other good Japanese can be found on Sawtelle Blvd - Asahi Ramen, Orris, and Hide Sushi - Orris isn't really Japanese, but more like Japanese-inspired and excellent! Sawtelle also has Japanese stores and shops that are fun - the kids will like the Giant Robot stores, and there are hip Japanese fashion shops there, too. Orris is only open for dinner. A meal and a stroll down Sawtelle to window shop or browse the Japanese shops would be fun, and I'm pretty sure there's no neighborhood like it in Boston.

                            Good taquerias

                            Celebrity siting is tough - for me I never see them in places I think I should see them, but rather in odd places where I don't recognize them at first. Like in the grocery store.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: gsw

                              Thanks everyone. After thinking this through some more, I have decided to scrap my attempt at combining sushi places and celeb-sighting and just focus on good sushi. We are going to be going on a Warner Bros. studio tour one of the days we are in town and I thought we might try either Asanebo or Katsu-ya in Studio City for lunch after the tour. The food at both of these seems to be more highly regarded than at any of the scenester Japanese places I was previously considering.

                              Any preferences as between these two for lunch (again, we'll have two 11 year olds in tow)?

                              Thanks.

                              1. re: Tennyson

                                Asanebo, if it is open for lunch. Centuries, no, lightyears ahead of Katsu Ya. After lunch, drive east on Ventura to Sherman Oaks and get cupcakes, blondies, cookies or other nummies at Leda's Bake Shop.

                                You never know, you may see a celeb at Asanebo.

                                1. re: Diana

                                  Concur on Asanebo.

                                  If you're gonna head west, I'll also toss in a nod for Nata's instead of Leda's.

                                  1. re: Emme

                                    I think LEda's is better for kids, what with the cupcakes, cookies and such. nata's has good stuff, but totally different kind of baked good. heck, hit both! Nata's is only a block or two from Leda's!

                                    1. re: Emme

                                      yes, so you can scrape the lard off the roof of your mouth after a Nata's pastry. I'm not kidding.

                                      Leda's uses high quality ingredients. It's no secret how much I love their exquisite little cupcakes.

                                  2. re: Tennyson

                                    Good man! Besides, Celeb hunting at restaurants is a little annoying. I've had my best luck just stomping around where they are. Beverly Hills, Malibu, the last two fun ones when I had guests were at Farmer's Markets, Hillary Swank in Santa Monica and the Stefani Clan at Hollywood....

                                    --Dommy!

                                2. I moved here from Boston. I think the Boston food scene is pretty darn good in general, but LA beats the pants off Boston in some areas. One is Persian: Try Shamshiri Grill in Westwood. Another is Thai: for super-authentic and interesting, try Jitlada in Thai Town.

                                  I haven't been to the super-fancy sushi places in West LA, but I have been to all the major joints in Little Tokyo. I would recommend a place like Sushi Gen, R23, or Sushi Komasa. The latter might be a good choice, because there are lots of cool things to do in Little Tokyo. Nearby within the shopping plaza is a place that sells delicious mochi ice cream. There is also a superb Japanese confectionary called Fugetsu Do. I think all the listed sushi places are as good as or, in the case of Sushi Gen, better than Oishii in Boston.

                                  For Mexican, I would go to La Golondrina on Olvera Street. The food is tasty, though I'm sure some Chowhounders would derisively call it touristy or inauthentic. More important, it has a wonderful festive atmosphere and is in a fun outdoor Mexican shopping mall.

                                  I actually don't like Joe's in Venice that much--I know I'm an outlier. I would choose Chaya.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: aventinus

                                    I'd say sushi/Japanese downtown or on Sawtelle, maybe Yucatecan for luch at Chichen Itza (6th Street; a subway ride and four block walk from downtown), and if possible (car?) dim sum one AM in the San Gabriel Valley.
                                    Celebs? Eater-LA has a updated list of sitings of the would-be-hip-cognescenti . . .

                                    1. re: silverlakebodhisattva

                                      I know you are looking for dinner suggestions but I wanted to respond to the post above. You have a pretty great China Town in Boston so unless you have never done dim sum there, I think I would save dim sum in the San Gabriel Valley for another trip as that is now where one would go for better food rather than China Town in downtown LA. Also, China Town in Boston is part of a "walking town" with a great subway system. San Gabriel Valley is totally spread out and you would have to drive from place to place plus architecturally and historically speaking, there is nothing of significance and I'm not talking about all of the great Craftsman & Victorian homes (many in disrepair) that you pass on your way. You should have some pretty good stargazing at both Lucques (I've seen Julia Louis Dreyfus there) and Pizzeria Mozza. I am another El Cholo naysayer.

                                      1. re: Fru

                                        "Historically speaking" there is a lot of history in the eastern part of LA county, in fact it is the cradle of LA history and probably has some of the oldest settlements both native/spaniard, white (most easterners and midwesterners came through here first, and of those that did not settle in the area, later moved farther west founding the cities on the westside), and Chinese(of which there are artifacts immediately east of Union Station area) (not areas near Hollywood or SM which did not acquire it's reputation until the beginning of the 20th century), immediately east and a little farther out (Route 66 ends here, as well as several other historical trails from late 1700s through late 19th century; and perhaps the first railroads came through here to ship citrus crops to the east) and you have the SGV mission and plenty of little known small historical museums(what it lacks overall in are the art museums----unless you consider the Norton Simon in Pasadena (which was the second incorporated city in LA area after LA proper itself) and the Huntington Gardens in San Marino----the small theaters, the breadth of upscale eateries, and the regular concerts you will mostly find on the westside). That having been said, yes you probably can find the same dim sum in Monterey Park, San Gabriel(western SGV and closest to westside) as you can find in Boston, what you can't find are some of the newer spots, eateries of the type like you might find in Rowland Heights(eastern SGV) which are a little newer and trendier, and I very much doubt yu can find the quality of Taiwanese items in Boston as you would in the SGV. If however you are not looking for any type chinese then yes I would stick to westside and parts downtown since those are closest and easiest to access.

                                  2. If you want the freshest authentic sushi AND celebrities, you should go to Sushi Park:

                                    http://www.sushiparkonsunset.com

                                    There are only 5 table plus maybe 10-12 seats at the bar. The ambiance is subdued, not insane and rushed like Isakaya. I have been there 3 times and have seen ultra-famous celbs twice. The bill will be around $80 per person, but well worth it.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: HeavyCream

                                      sounds like a typical sushi bar to me

                                      1. re: ROBBARNES

                                        We haven't gone yet (going later in the month). But I will report back after we return.

                                        Thanks to everyone for the terrific advice. I had decided to go to Asanebo for lunch after visiting Warner Bros. studios but unfortunately, we are going to be at Warner Bros. on Monday and Asanebo is closed on Mondays. Oh well. Love the Nata's and Leda's suggestions, though. I think my kids will love either place and these are exactly the types of places I wouldn't have found without Chowhound.

                                        1. re: Tennyson

                                          For lunch on Monday, the family might really enjoy a basic non traditional sushi feed at Katsu ya in Studio City (loosely connected to the LA ones) There is Also Iroha. No where near the quality of Asanebo, but good. Iroha is in a cute little location that looks like a Japanese house behind a little shop/gallery. Katsu ya has better Sushi, though. Or go to ASanebo for dinner. It's worth going out of your way for.

                                          I think the kids would prefer Leda's, just because it is a bit more cheerful in the decor, and they can get a few little cupcakes, or perhaps an assortment of cookies and things. Plus, Ledette puts out WAY more free samples! :)

                                          Close to Leda's (next door) is Senor Fred, a good spanish/mexican upscale place. It would be an easy drive along Ventura from the Studio to both. In that same area is Stanley's (american salads and entrees) Clay Oven (indian) Great Greek (obvious, that), Max (expensive but good reviews, is it open for lunch, I dunno) Jinkey's, Cafe Cordiale, Cafe Bizou.

                                          1. re: Tennyson

                                            I know you want sushi on Monday for lunch, but most of the better sushi places are closed on Monday, because the fish is not as fresh.

                                            Since you will be at Warner Bros. in Burbank, how about tacos from the El Taco Llama stand at Magnolia, just west of Cahuenga. It's close to Warner Bros. You can then go down to Ventura and drive to Leda's. The ambience at El Taco Llama isn't great -- it's a stand next to a car wash -- but the asada and birria (made with lamb) are great and the salsa roja is fantastic.

                                            Another option is to take a quick trip up the 170 to Sherman Way, which is where North Hollywood's superior Thai restaurants are located. Krua Thai is my personal choice, but you will see a lot of debate as to which Thai restaurant on Sherman Way is the best.

                                        2. JUST KEEP YOUR EYES WIDE OPEN FOR ANY FISH TACO JOINTS..HEALTH CHEAP EATS FOR YOU AND THE KIDS!!!

                                          1. just a quick shout out as i used your list here for a visitor to my place thanks