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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.