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Hope and Despair in LA - one meal on west side

Hope: It's my first trip to LA. So many choices for good food.

Despair: I'm staying with non-chowish relatives in Pacific Palisades, so I won't have much say in what or where we eat. It sounds like PP is a culinary wasteland, and we'll be spending most of our time doing non-foodish things. (In a perfect world, I'd be staying near a good taco truck or the best xiao long bao in town, but I'll bet I'm nowhere near the right area(s). Talk about the wrong side of the tracks... :-)

But the day I arrive (Friday), I might be able to delay hooking up with my family for a few hours. I want to go Long Beach/Signal Hills to test-drive an electric car, and I'm looking for someplace between LAX and Signal Hill for lunch.

I'd like Vietnamese/SE Asian or Mexican (perhaps a birreria, marisceria, or taqueria). I'm looking for amazing, casual, delicious food, possibly at a hole-in-the wall or little mom-and-pop place. We have decent Vietnamese and Mexican places in Minneapolis, but I want something that will blow my socks off and tempt me to miss my plane home.

If I can sneak away a second time (or lure my family to an exotic outing), I'd like some Persian food. According to this thread, there are Persian restaurants in Santa Monica and Hollywood - or were, in 2006. Which is best if one is looking for stews/cooked dishes rather than grilled meats?

And if I can talk my relatives into a farmer's market on Sunday, should we go to the Pacific Palisades market? Santa Monica? Hollywood? Or somewhere else?

Thanks for any help you can give this desperate traveler!


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  1. there is one very nice restaurant in palisades - it's called Il Carpaccio and its in the strip mall just off Sunset at Palisades Highlands. I would say it's the only fine restaurant in Pacific Palisades. it rises to the level of blow-your-socks-off material. Try the half-moon-shaped pasta stuffed with beets and sauced in brown butter! Try the branzino carpaccio! Try the hanger steak!

    However, there are choices that aren't bad, just not exceptional. We enjoy Tivoli, right in the main part of the village for pasta and salads, and Kay & Dave's Mexican, while "american" is pleasant.

    There isn't any real Asian food there - but the only place in Pali that has a hard liquor license is the Asian-fusion place on Sunset across from Kay & Dave's.

    For Persian, hit Westwood Blvd - Shamshiri or The Flame. If you want stews, look for gormeh sabzi, which is lamb or beef with red kidney beans and greens, one of my favorites. If you really want hole-in-the-wall Persian, try the Attari sandwich shop, which is hidden away in a plaza just East of Westwood. The address is 1388 Westwood, but you enter from the side street. The soup made with different beans and barley and served with a garnish of crispy onions - Ash - is incredible. I crave that soup! I also like the kuku sandwich. It's a unique experience - if that's what you're looking for, don't miss it.

    For Mexican holes-in-the-wall near where you are, try Tacos Por Favor in Santa Monica on Olympic at 14th. Or La Playita's taco stand further down on Lincoln, for mariscos.

    The Wednesday Santa Monica farmers market on Arizona and 2nd is the granddaddy of all, and if you can you shouldn't miss it, but the Saturday one in the same location is great, too. The Palisades market is nothing to turn your nose up at, but it's not as big as Santa Monica.

    As for Long Beach/Signal Hill - down here you can find Cambodian food, which is pretty unusual in the rest of the country. Also one of my favorite Long Beach Mexican places is Enriques down on PCH in Long Beach. I believe there are some good Pho and Japanese places in the South Bay between LAX and Signal Hill, but I'm not terribly familiar with them - so I leave it for other Chowers to fill you in on those.

    1 Reply
    1. re: gsw

      The Oak Room which just opened in the old Mort's deli space in the heart of the Palisades Village is excellent fine dining in a clubby cozy atmosphere. I highly suggest it. Also you're right down the road from one of the finest Italian spots (and major celebrity hangs) in L.A. :Giorgio Baldi. Try them both and I'm confident you'll come away pleased.

    2. Hopefully your relatives in PP will ask what YOU had in mind to do while visiting - then the possibilities become endless.

      Santa Monica is just down the long hill that PP sits on, while Malibu is adjacent to the northwest. This alone can keep visitors who are interested in food quite busy. And when you look at "LA" on a map, it's almost like Salvador Dali's version of a checkerboard, where the board's squares are replaced with shapes of oblongs, salamanders, half-faces, and other two-dimensional shapes. This weird checkerboard of a town that we live in can easily play to your advantage if your relatives inquire to your ideas.

      Santa Monica is next to Venice, West LA, Brentwood, and those hoods are adjcacent to Westwood, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Culver City, Marina del Rey, and so on. So, say for example, that you want to head down to the Hollywood farmers market on Sunday morning (IMHO the best farmers market in LA on Sundays - bring a cooler for the finds that you will take home) this will take you through at least four major neighborhoods or cities. While there, you can not only shop for great produce but you'll find the food stalls are like a mini-United Nations, representing countries from Asia (Korea, Thailand, India), Central America Pupusas from El Salvador), and Europe (crepes and mediocre ableskivers - prob better in MN). Maybe you can slot in a lunch at one of the Mozzas which are also in Hollywood or lots of fantastic Thai which can definitely be found around this area. Or if you want to head back toward PP after the market, you can hit up great Persian food in the Westwood/West LA area - you'll be going through this area on the way back anyway... I hope this spawns some devious planning in your mind...

      I don't know how adventurous or knowledgeable your relatives are about LA in general, but if they tend to be Pali-centric, your visit could turn out to be an adventure for all.

      1. in the mornings (pre 9 a.m.) - there is a taco truck that is parked at pch and topanga which is near PP. i haven't eaten there - but it is usually crowded and you may be able to get away and try it some morning.

        1. La Casita Mexicana might work on the way to Long Beach. I have not yet been there, but it has many supporters on this board.

          1. Hi Anne, first off, thanks so much for your excellent and extensive recommendations for my girlfriend's month in Minneapolis. She was very pleased to see them.

            I am, unfortunately, not very familiar with the west side. Most of the really great ethnic food in town is toward the east. Along Sawtelle Blvd. - it parallels the 405 freeway - between Santa Monica and Pico there is a neighborhood full of good Japanese places.

            For tacos, El Super Taco on Santa Monica Blvd. just a couple blocks east of Bundy, is pretty good. 11923 Santa Monica Blvd.

            I have yet to find any Southeast Asian or Chinese food worth eating on the west side. (I lived in Asia and worked in pretty much every country for 11 years, so I'm pretty picky.)

            That said, my favorite Cambodian place in town is New Paradise, 1350 E. Anaheim St. in Long Beach. On weekends it can be tough to get in because it is often booked way in advance for wedding parties, but certainly worth a try if you can get in. If the band is playing, so much the better.

            On the way to Long Beach, El Rocoto, 1356 West Artesia Blvd. in Gardena, is good Peruvian.

            I haven't been there, but also sort of, kind of, on the way to Long Beach or between the airport and Pacific Palisades, Jonathan Gold - our resident best, most interesting food critic - swears by the Burmese food to be found at a grocery on Sepulveda. Here's a link to his article about it: http://www.laweekly.com/eat+drink/cou...

            I love La Casita Mexicana, but it's really stretching it to say it's on the way to Long Beach for you.

            If you want expensive and really great Italian, I'd venture a bit east of Pacific Palisades, not all that far to Brentwood to Vincenti Ristorante, 11930 San Vicente Blvd.

            Unfortunately I'm drawing a blank after those few places. If you could venture anywhere east of, say Western Ave. I could be all kinds of help. Good luck.

            3 Replies
            1. re: estone888

              You must have enjoyed some great food in those 11 years while in SE Asia... Simpang Asia and Indo Cafe are right across the street from each other on National, just west of Motor Ave. Okay, it's not "hawker stall off the streets of Jakarta" great, but they're more than acceptable. My wife (from Malaysia) and I personally prefer Simpang Asia, but if you prefer a slightly more comfortable setting, then Indo Cafe will work...

              I enjoy El Rocoto as well. The OP can also take a peak into the 99 Ranch Market next door (not my favorite branch) for some quick emersion into Chinese/Asian groceries. And if one is headed to Gardena for Peruvian, then it's worth considering going to Lomita as well. I really like El Rocoto, but have also come to enjoy Kotosh at Kamiyama as well. And since Kotosh is catty-corner to Gaja (okonomiyaki, takoyaki, yakisoba you make yourself if you like, and parfaits) and Patisserie Chantilly (Japanese interpretation of French pastries), a mini-crawl can be accomplished by simply walking across the intersection. Any one of these three are worth the trip from the Westside for me - all three in one afternoon would be great.

              If the OP likes or wants to try yakitori, then Yakitori Bincho on the Redondo Beach Pier is worth a try. Both Rameniac and Exilekiss (both set the bar pretty high in their expectations) give it huge thumbs-ups, and one could finish off at Naja's (also on the pier) for some great beer choices - definitely one of the best beer bars in So Cal.

              Patisserie Chantilly
              2383 Lomita Blvd., #104, Lomita, CA 90717

              Kotosh at Kamiyama
              2408 Lomita Blvd, Lomita, CA 90717

              Gaja Moc
              2383 Lomita Blvd, Lomita, CA 90717

              El Rocoto
              1356 Artesia Blvd, Gardena, CA 90248

              Simpang Asia
              10433 National Blvd 2, Los Angeles, CA 90034

              Indo Cafe
              10430 National Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90034

              Naja's Place
              154 International, Boardwalk Redondo Beach, CA

              99 Ranch Market
              1340 W Artesia Blvd, Gardena, CA 90248

              Izakaya Bincho
              112 N International Boardwalk, Redondo Beach, CA 90277

              1. re: bulavinaka

                Oh yeah, I forgot about Simpang Asia and Indo Cafe. I like them both pretty well. (Although, the Indonesian food court at the Duarte Inn on Saturdays is my fave. But it's way out of the way.)

                I'd also forgot about Kotosh at Kamiyama and heartily second that recommendation, a very nice Peruvian-Japanese place that I think the OP might find unusual.

                Hopefully we're going to come up with some good stuff for her. An example of Chowhound working just like it's supposed to.

                1. re: estone888

                  It sounds like the OP might not have much time on her own, so hitting an area where she can get more bang for her buck might be the way to go. And if her relatives will be taking her places (hoopefully some of her choosing), picking a string of pearls along one route might help abbreviate commuting and keep things happening at a more rapid-fire pace...

            2. if you get the fam down to santa monica farmers' market, maybe you can also convince them to eat at 3 Square in Venice. simple yet good and unintimidating.

              it's not really SE asian, but japanese at Musha in Santa Monica is fun.

              maybe if you're hungry, on your way back from long beach, steal over to monte alban for oaxacan.

              1. Thanks for the great advice! Though my despair continues that I can only try one or two.

                A Cambodian lunch in Long Beach/Signal Hill sounds wonderful. I'll head to Anaheim Street and look for New Paradise. I'll try to save room for tacos on the way back. (If the traffic is as bad as I've heard it is, I'll need a sustaining snack as I slog up to PP during rush hour.)

                That morning taco truck in PP sounds great, too. If I'm driving, I plan to screech to a halt if I see it. And I've got my fingers crossed for a Persian soup excursion, perhaps on my way back to the airport on Tuesday.

                Just to clarify why I don't get to suggest where to eat: This is a family gathering to celebrate my uncle's 80th birthday. Most of our time is already scheduled, with planned events where the food is provided, so there won't be much time for restaurants. It's all about him this time, not me, and I'm OK with that. (As long as I can sneak away for one meal...) I can always come back to LA - and I will - just to eat.

                But I do plan to request a farmer's market trip on Sunday.


                P.S. One of our planned events is the Scottish Society's Highland Games in Costa Mesa. Has anyone ever been? Is it all standard fair food, or is there anything unusual and worth eating?

                1. Anne, regarding the Farmers Markets on Sunday. I recommend going early to the Pacific Palisades market. Early meaning 9AM or even a little earlier at 8AM. The flower selection here is marvelous. I would plan on being at the Santa Monica market just a little later in the day, arriving around 11 AM or so. The Santa Monica Main St market has plenty of just the kind of casual street food you mentioned wanting to find in Long Beach! The Santa Monica Market closes tighter than a drum at 1PM.
                  Best luck and lunch

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: VenusCafe

                    I much prefer the Palisades Farmer's Market on Sundays over the Santa Monica one at Ocean Park and Main!!

                    Palisades has so many great food vendors (the guy whose sister makes that wonderful Indian food - the chicken tikka is amazing), the two greek stands, the tamale stand, the new stand with the Italian sisters with their sauces (yum). Plus the produce is much, much, better than Main Street's produce. And there are so many great vendors with nuts!

                    1. re: yogachik

                      I'm glad yogachik likes so many of the great male vendors. There are some very good female ones too.

                      1. re: nosh

                        LOL. Yes, I hear the Palisade's Market has lots of vendors with great melons as well.....

                        1. re: ElJeffe

                          Yeah, but skip the Schwetty Balls...too salty.

                  2. El Gallo Giro is a great real Mexican restaurant located on PCH and Long Beach Blvd. just north of Signal Hill.

                    Great "real" Mexican. It has a bakery. It has fresh prepared juicds and great carnitas soft tacos.

                    Not to be missed!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: caldad02

                      Pretty good Tacos, Tortas and other prepared Mexican food. Excellent Fresh Rolls, Salsas, Horchata and other Aguas Frescas!

                    2. Has lunch today at Shamshiri on Westwood Blvd., just north of Santa monica Blvd.

                      the best Basmati Rice and Kebabs!

                      1. Reporting back to say that my despair was defeated - I had great food in LA, thanks to your help!

                        My plans to sneak away fell through, so I never got to Long Beach's Cambodian neighborhood (the LA traffic overwhelmed me), but things worked out. I ate quite well, even considering our busy schedule. And I take back what I said about my relatives not being foodies. Turns out my uncle isn't into chain places or fancy sit-down restaurants, bless his heart! And he doesn't have my mother's leather tastebuds, hooray.

                        My family picked me up on at LAX, then took the scenic route back to Pacific Palisades - up Lincoln towards Santa Monica. So my little voice piped up from the back seat, "Could we stop for a taco? Is a sky-blue taco shack OK with you guys?" They were quite game, so I took them to:

                        La Playita
                        Nice fish taco (though I expected something chunkier), great carnitas taco, good horchata (like rice pudding on a drink, yet not too sweet). And I LOVED LOVED LOVED the mixed-fish ceviche. The octopus was so soft and silky - it almost melted in my mouth (relatively speaking, that is, given how chewy octopus can be at times).

                        We also got to quite a few other places, listed with my favorite first:

                        Attari Sandwich Shop
                        WOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOW! The Ash soup was amazing (one bowl feeds four, by the way), and the kuku sabzi sandwich was possibly the best thing I've eaten all month. A million thanks, gsw, for this tip!

                        Malibu Fish & Seafood
                        Great mussels (that's all I had, as I was still full of Persian soup). My taste of the fish & chips made me wish I was hungrier. Delish!

                        Yeah, it's a chain, but the gelato is pretty good. The lemon gelato was nice and tart.

                        Mayberry (in downtown Pacific Palisades)
                        Our only sit-down-and-be-waited-on meal of the trip. Good salmon with a lemon-caper sauce (more cooked than I like, but not too overdone) with wonderful brown rice and spinach. Nice meatloaf - good but not earthshattering. Tasty sweet potato fries.

                        Abbott's Habit in Venice
                        Wonderful cream of brocolli soup, decent caesar salad, and pretty good veg chili. I loved the atmosphere - this is my kind of place. (As is La Playita.)

                        Viktor Benes for birthday cake
                        Very good carrot cake, and tasty green frogs (almond cake with cherry whipped cream heads, covered in green fondant). [Edited to add link to my bakery report] http://www.chowhound.com/topics/52133...

                        Jacopo's in PP
                        Salads were fine, nothing special.

                        Big Tomy's, at Pico and Sawtelle (I think
                        )I don't like fast-food chains, so I wasn't expecting much, but my carne asada plate and pineapple shake were quite edible. (I figured that the Spanish-speaking guys behind the counter would know how to cook carne asada, and I was right.)

                        Scottish Highland Games at the Orange County fairgrounds
                        I loved this festival, but the food wasn't a highlight. The meat pies were so-so, but the grilled "bangers" were actually quite good.

                        We also got to a farmer's market, O lucky me! We headed for the Santa Monica farmer's market, with Hollywood as a backup, but ended up at the tiny market in Westwood Village instead (it's a looooong story). Only about 10-15 tables, with no ready-to-eat food stands, but lots of vendor samples. The fruit we bought was, especially the apriums. (This Minnesotan can't believe that cherries and soft fruits are actually in season, especially since it was colder in LA than in Minneapolis that day.)

                        Thanks again for all the help!


                        P.S. We also ate at the Wolfgang Puck Express at LAX, on our way home. I highly recommend the butternut squash soup. Unfortunately, I think it was a daily special, and isn't on the regular menu. But I would go out of my way for more of that soup.

                        Malibu Fish & Seafood
                        25653 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265

                        La Playita
                        3306 Lincoln Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405

                        Attari Sandwich Shop
                        1388 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024

                        Big Tomy's
                        11289 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: AnneInMpls

                          More Places links (if they'll show up)...


                          1028 Swarthmore Ave, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272

                          abbott's habit
                          1401 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90291

                          Piccomolo Pacific Palisades
                          970 Monument Street, Pacific Palisades, CA

                          Jacopo's Pizzeria
                          15415 W Sunset Blvd, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272

                          1. re: AnneInMpls

                            I'm so glad you got to Attari and that you enjoyed it. I actually ate lunch there again this afternoon Mmm!!

                          2. The ghaimeh bademjan & ghormeh sabzi at Shaherzhad in Westwood are excellent Persian stewed dishes. Canary (also on Westwood Blvd.) is also known for their excellent stews.