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Aug 12, 2008 02:00 PM

Seeking unique LA food experience on the Westside

I'll be staying on the Westside in September, and I'd love to hear about any can't miss/shouldn't miss restaurants.

I'm not really interested in the food invented in LA like Cobb Salads and Shirley Temples.I'm more interested in what's good and unique/special to LA right now. On my last trip, I ended up at Clementine (where I ordered badly), and the restaurant at the Getty Center (which I loved).

Not particularly interested in Chinese/Korean/Japanese/Thai/Italian/French/Greek/Ethiopian/prime rib/hot dogs/hamburgers/thin crust pizza since I have plenty of those options where I live.

Would be most interested in hearing about seafood, Armenian, Persian, Mexican, Mexicali or SoCal options. Or something you find innovative/contemporary that you think reflects LA's best.

So far, I have Mashti Malone's on my list since I didn't make it there on my last trip.

In some previous posts, I read about Senor Fish's scallop burrito and would love to try something like that. I realize Senor Fish has a location downtown in Little Tokyo, as well as some locations on the Eastside. Are there any other places serving good scallop burritos that are located on the Westside?

TIA for any of your suggestions or comments!

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  1. persian: sharzhad, shamshiri, flame and/or java. the first three are all within a few blocks of each other on westwood blvd. javan is on santa monica blvd.

    mexican: juquila and monte alban for oaxacan, both on santa monica blvd.

    10 Replies
    1. re: wilafur

      Unique food experiences are found in all areas of LA, not really on the Westside.

      Musha for Japanese tapas, Monte Alban for great Oaxacan, Javan for persian.

      But Korean Barbeque, Dim Sum in Monterey Park, and taco trucks are what you should seek. Others can give specific recommendations.

      1. re: yogachik

        Hearty second to Monte Alban, which is on Santa Monica Blvd. between Barrington and Bundy. I have not had anything there that was less than terrific, but my favorite is the barbacoa de chiva -- a large portion of tender baby goat in a dense, complex red broth that is spicy but not hot, served with tortillas and a bowl of chopped stuff to stir into the broth. It is a remarkable dish, and PLEASE don't be put off by the word "goat"; it is sweet and tender, like the best spring lamb, and not even a tiny bit gamy.

        1. re: ozhead

          Thanks for the recommendation, ozhead;)

          I'm happy to hear you mention a goat dish. I really like goat when it's done nicely (usually in the form of Greek style roast goat or West Indian goat roti), but I've never had it in a Mexican restaurant. And my mom, who will be dining with me, loves a nice goat dish, too.It's something that is fairly rare in Toronto (where I live).

          1. re: phoenikia

            A great opportunity to go to Monte Alban and try the goat plus one (or more) of their other great dishes, and split them all. The portions are very generous, and -- as I said before -- everything I've had there has been good. I don't know how much, if any, Oaxacan food is available in Toronto, but if the Mexican food you're accustomed to is the usual stuff you are in for a big surprise.

            1. re: ozhead

              Mexican food is not one of Toronto's strengths- so any Mexican, Mexicali, Tex Mex, even fast food Mexican in CA, is already a huge treat for me. I'm not aware of any Oaxacan food being served in Toronto.
              Have only tried Oaxacan food on one other occasion ( a man from Oaxaca ran a restaurant in Calgary for a while), so I'm really looking forward to this meal.

              1. re: phoenikia

                for fast mexican, i suggest:

                - taco's por favor, el abajeno, don felix, tacomiendo, el super taco and taco plus.

                1. re: wilafur

                  For Mexican taquerias on the westside, I agree with Tacos Por Favor and El Super Taco. Tacos Por Favor is in an industrial area of Santa Monica on Olympic at 14th -- their tacos are fairly big and about $2. Many love their chorizo and cheese -- it is indeed rich and tasty. Their salsa roja on their salsa bar is the best I've found in the area. El Super Taco is in a minimall on the N/E corner of Santa Monica Blvd. at Brockton in West L.A., a door down from the beloved Monte Alban. (I think they are associated -- they tell you to use the latter's bathroom and I see the employees eating the food.) Tacos at El Super Taco are on the smaller side, but they are accompanied by grilled onions and are now $1.25 (up from a buck originally). I have had great charred juicy fresh carne asada there, but also grey, gristly, old, horrible inedible beef. Their carnitas and al pastor are more consistent. The regulars order tortas there, grilled on a press, and be sure to try their wonderful habanero salsa (marked extra hot) which spices up their salsa roja. Tacomiendo and Taco Plus both impress me as being a notch below, and definitely avoid Don Felix -- they recently had a change of menu but the place is downright depressing.

                  You mentioned the scallop tacos at Senor Fish, which are crisp fried and delicious, served with cabbage. But it is a haul to downtown. Some chains like Rubio's or Baja Fresh try to emulate them, without success and at grossly inflated prices.

                  Go to Taqueria Sanchez, on Centinela south of Washington. Order the shrimp taco -- less than two bucks. Get a couple of corn tortillas loaded with marinated and fresh-cooked shrimp with some onion and cilantro. Amazing -- tasty and wonderful and never rubbery. Supplement with some squeezed lime and any of the multitude of salsas (roja, pico de gallo, avocado, green) from their salsa bar. Their carnitas and al pastor is also good. Clean, easy parking in back, mostly an ethnic worker or family clientele -- a real taste of L.A. on the westside.

                  1. re: nosh

                    Thanks so much for the detailed response, nosh. Incredibly helpful that you included specific strengths at the various places.
                    My mouth is watering already;)

                    1. re: nosh

                      completely concur with the taqueria sanchez recommendation. imho, all of their shrimp dishes are particularly wonderful.

        2. re: wilafur

          Thanks for your suggestions, wilafur and yogachik;)

          Which dishes would you recommend at the restaurants you've recommended?

        3. Border Grill
          Chez Jay
          Chez Mimi
          the Lobster
          City Bakery (for breakfast or lunch)

          That's my 2 cents!

          3 Replies
          1. re: bosanova99

            Thanks bosanova99! What are you favourite things to order at the restaurants you've mentioned?
            The lunch menus at the Lobster and the Border Grill look amazing!
            the Lobster:
            the Border Grill:

            1. re: phoenikia

              the Lobster: I've always gotten the Spiney Lobster, but their menu changes with what is fresh at the moment. I've never had a bad meal, but it can pretty pricey at $32 a pound! Love the crab cakes.

              Chez Jay: Sand Dabs are great! Reservations are a must! It looks divey, but gets packed!

              Chez Mimi: Must admit I haven't been there in awhile, but it's so charming and you fell like you're a guest in Mimi's house. The food is standard french and very good.

              Border Grill: Great Mojitos and Green Corn Tamales. It gets pretty loud in there, but just adds to the fun!

              1. re: phoenikia

                last time i was at the lobster, i had the lobster, but my BF had this great special - crab stuffed -- i want to say halibut or opah -- it was just fabulous. tomato soup and clam chowder are also really good here.

            2. Jiraffe
              Father's Office - because its much more than a hamburger
              La Playita for a cheap Mexican seafood lunch
              Upstairs 2 or Nook if you want bistro fare with good wine
              Warzawa - not amazing food, but good polish and unique back patio
              Joe's on Abbot Kinney
              3 Square on Abbott Kinney for breakfast/brunch
              Musha (even if Japanese doesn't wow you), this is my #1 or Orris
              TONS of good Persian/Mexican that the others have covered.

              If you consider Culver City West Side, that opens up dozens of additional options...

              15 Replies
              1. re: ElJeffe

                Thanks ElJeffer- nice list. Hope to try Musha and La Playita when I visit, and I'd love to hear more about your other recs.

                I rarely eat beef and I don't drink beer, so I don't think Father's Office is really a good option for me;)

                What are the best dishes to try at Jiraffe, Joe's on Abbot Kinney and Josie? The menus look great, esp. at Joe's and Jiraffe. Looks like it will be a hard decision deciding what to order.

                Thanks for also suggesting 3 Square- looks like an interesting option for lunch or brunch. 3 Square:

                1. re: phoenikia

                  Yes, La Playita on Lincoln is very good. The shrimp burritos and other things are excellent. There's no seating except for this big metal bench, however, so be prepared to perch, lean, or get food to go.

                2. re: ElJeffe

                  If you are gonna talk burgers on the West side, you MUST mention 26 Beach Restaurant, they been doing burgers since the 80's, all unique, on buns they bake fresh everyday. Father's Office is one trick pony. Try the Bombay burger or the off the menu UFO, a cute manager was eating one and I twisted her arm to let me order one, she told me it was one of the burgers from their old location. She also told me the owner has about 25-30 burgers or more in his burger catalog.

                  1. re: Burger Boy

                    Sorry, UFO= grilled onions, teriyaki, sour cream, avocado!

                    1. re: Burger Boy

                      FO burger may be "one trick pony" - but as Eliot Spitzer can attest, if it's the best trick in town it's worth the single minded approach.

                      1. re: Servorg

                        LOL! Servorg with the Chowhound quote of the year!

                        Will try 26 Beach however. Haven't had much West Side burger luck outside of Father's Office & Hinano.

                        1. re: ElJeffe

                          Have you tried the one at SF Saloon?

                          1. re: mollyomormon

                            I used to love the beef burger at SF Saloon, but about a year or so ago they changed their beef and it is not nearly as good. Now when we go I only have the turkey burger - which is a pretty fine example of that particular beast. Still EXCELLENT French fries however. And their Nob Hill sandwich (chicken salad on sourdough) is terrific - especially with the addition of raw onions.

                            1. re: Servorg

                              You're right that the SF burger is not at all what it once was. It used to be thick, juicy patty that appeared to be handformed and oozed juice when you bit into it. And then it changed. For a little while it was a gross, clearly premade patty that was grey on the inside even when I ordered it rare so I stopped going. It's back now to a thicker patty that they will cook to order, but still a shadow of what it once was. I have to try that turkey burger!

                              1. re: mollyomormon

                                Molly, I've been flamed about this though some have defended my choice: Have you tried the burger at Philly West? Email me and maybe we can share a burger and cheesesteak and an order of fries.

                                1. re: nosh

                                  I personally want to try this burger after hearing so much about it. Bring on the BURGER WARS!

                            2. re: mollyomormon

                              fyi, phoneika specifically posted that s/he was not interested in hamburgers nor hot dogs.
                              phoneika does not eat beef.

                            3. re: ElJeffe

                              The Arsenal has a fantastic burger (the kobe burger, not the regular cheeseburger). I also love the burger at Cora's.

                              1. re: ElJeffe

                                Also on the westside, both Anisette and Beechwood have phenomenal burgers. Two of my very favorites, and I eat a lot of burgers!

                              2. re: Servorg

                                To bad it is only one of the best tricks, there are several!

                          2. Musha (even if you don't like Japanese)
                            Father's Office (as its much more than a hamburger)
                            Joe's on Abbott Kinney
                            3 Square for breakfast/brunch
                            Warzawa for polish & patio
                            Jiraffe (or Josie)
                            La Playita for cheap Mexican seafood lunch

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: ElJeffe

                              Versailles, Versailles, Versailles! The best Cuban style roast chicken anywhere. One of the only two unique to LA tastes worth mentioning - the other being Langer's pastrami.

                              1. re: Jeryy

                                Sorry but I have to butt in and say that IMHO Versailles is awful, just awful.

                                If you're interested in Cuban food, we'll find you somewhere else. Bamboo on Venice Blvd is a far better choice!

                                OTOH, Langers is very good!

                                1. re: compucook

                                  Totally agree Versailles is embarrassingly bad for food let alone Cuban food!!

                            2. I second El Jeffe and wilafor's recommendations, and advise you to be cautious of some of the others. I also recommend Anisette.

                              Anisette Brasserie
                              225 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: ElissaInPlaya

                                Now this is why Elissa is my favorite person on Chowhound:)