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Seeking unique LA food experience on the Westside

phoenikia Aug 12, 2008 02:00 PM

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!

  1. wilafur Aug 12, 2008 02:54 PM

    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
      yogachik Aug 12, 2008 06:23 PM

      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
        ozhead Aug 13, 2008 10:37 AM

        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
          phoenikia Aug 13, 2008 11:32 AM

          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
            ozhead Aug 13, 2008 01:00 PM

            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
              phoenikia Aug 13, 2008 01:17 PM

              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
                wilafur Aug 13, 2008 01:40 PM

                for fast mexican, i suggest:

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

                1. re: wilafur
                  nosh Aug 14, 2008 02:38 PM

                  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
                    phoenikia Aug 14, 2008 02:45 PM

                    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
                      westsidegal Aug 14, 2008 02:59 PM

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

        2. re: wilafur
          phoenikia Aug 13, 2008 07:25 AM

          Thanks for your suggestions, wilafur and yogachik;)

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

        3. b
          bosanova99 Aug 12, 2008 09:05 PM

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

          That's my 2 cents!

          3 Replies
          1. re: bosanova99
            phoenikia Aug 13, 2008 07:26 AM

            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: http://www.thelobster.com/lunch.php
            the Border Grill: http://www.bordergrill.com/BGSM/bgsm.htm

            1. re: phoenikia
              bosanova99 Aug 13, 2008 12:01 PM

              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! chezjays.com

              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. chezmimirestaurant.com/

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

              1. re: phoenikia
                Emme Aug 13, 2008 11:05 PM

                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. ElJeffe Aug 13, 2008 12:38 AM

              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
                phoenikia Aug 13, 2008 07:31 AM

                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.
                jiraffe: http://www.jirafferestaurant.com/menu/index.html
                josie: http://www.josierestaurant.com/entermain.htm
                joe's: http://www.joesrestaurant.com/menu_dinner.php

                Thanks for also suggesting 3 Square- looks like an interesting option for lunch or brunch. 3 Square: http://www.rockenwagner.com/cafe-menu...

                1. re: phoenikia
                  emmy Aug 17, 2008 10:13 AM

                  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
                  Burger Boy Aug 13, 2008 09:17 PM

                  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
                    Burger Boy Aug 14, 2008 08:14 AM

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

                    1. re: Burger Boy
                      Servorg Aug 14, 2008 08:56 AM

                      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
                        ElJeffe Aug 14, 2008 11:19 AM

                        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
                          mollyomormon Aug 14, 2008 11:35 AM

                          Have you tried the one at SF Saloon?

                          1. re: mollyomormon
                            Servorg Aug 14, 2008 04:20 PM

                            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
                              mollyomormon Aug 14, 2008 04:32 PM

                              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
                                nosh Aug 14, 2008 05:28 PM

                                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
                                  Burger Boy Aug 14, 2008 07:23 PM

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

                            2. re: mollyomormon
                              westsidegal Aug 17, 2008 08:56 AM

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

                            3. re: ElJeffe
                              hrhboo Aug 14, 2008 07:55 PM

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

                              1. re: ElJeffe
                                hrhboo Aug 15, 2008 07:42 AM

                                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
                                Burger Boy Aug 14, 2008 07:22 PM

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

                          2. ElJeffe Aug 13, 2008 12:41 AM

                            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
                              Jeryy Aug 13, 2008 10:22 AM

                              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
                                compucook Aug 13, 2008 10:47 AM

                                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
                                  monkey Aug 13, 2008 04:40 PM

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

                            2. e
                              ElissaInPlaya Aug 13, 2008 12:39 PM

                              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
                                ElJeffe Aug 13, 2008 01:28 PM

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

                              2. Emme Aug 13, 2008 11:10 PM

                                so many recs here so far... love monte alban, musha, shamshiri, warszawa, jiraffe, josie, 3 square...

                                the one place i don't see listed here yet is Wilshire on Wilshire... try and hit the patio for a great evening experience.

                                it may not be something you want, but if you like good sammies, try hitting Bay Cities Deli for lunch.

                                there's also sunnin lebanese cafe.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: Emme
                                  westsidegal Aug 14, 2008 03:06 PM

                                  if you go to sunnin, don't order the falafal unless you are ok with having your falafal balls precooked and then reaheat in a microwave.
                                  also, don't even think of getting the falafal sandwich unless you like soggy falafal balls wrapped in a huge amount of saturated, soggy/wet white pita bread. they make the sandwich with cold pita and the microwaved falafal balls, then douse it in sauce, then wrap the whole thing up in tin foil and heat it--this causes the sandwich to steam and turn into a complete wet/soggy mess.

                                  1. re: westsidegal
                                    wilafur Aug 14, 2008 03:12 PM

                                    funny, i've never had reheated falafels at sunnin. sucks it happened to you. in the event it happens, i'd simply refuse it and make them fry up a fresh order.

                                    1. re: wilafur
                                      hrhboo Aug 14, 2008 07:56 PM

                                      I've never had reheated falafels at Sunnin either, they've always been fried to order whenever I've eaten there.

                                      1. re: hrhboo
                                        westsidegal Aug 17, 2008 08:59 AM

                                        there is a reason that the microwave oven is sitting right next to the falafal fryer. . . . ..

                                        1. re: westsidegal
                                          hrhboo Aug 17, 2008 10:11 AM

                                          I've eaten there dozens of times and never had a reheated falafel. Sorry you had a bad experience.

                                2. p
                                  pretzelfan Aug 14, 2008 01:38 PM

                                  For Mexican: El Cholo at Wilshire & 11th in Santa Monica..

                                  I also suggest for breakfast, if you like pancakes in a mom & pop friendly atmosphere, try John O'Groats on Pico & Patricia. It gets crowded on weekends but it's worth it.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: pretzelfan
                                    nosh Aug 14, 2008 03:05 PM

                                    I don't want to be one of "those" Chowhounders, but El Cholo in Santa Monica or L.A. is sending someone to Casa Mexicali in Des Moines or Kansas City. Sure, the Los Angeles location has history and serves good margaritas to USC students and tourists, but the Santa Monica location is a recent reincarnation. Yes, they do a good blue corn tamale in season, but it is mostly an overpriced, combo-plate bastion to overpriced mediocrity.

                                    John O'Groats -- resting on its reputation. Gets the crowds, so it doesn't have to try. See the recent postings on this board, where it was tested. Many like their biscuits (though I found them dry and powdery) but they are overpriced, service is tired, and I'd hate for them to provide your impression of L.A. If you want a hearty breakfast, go to S & W on Washington in Culver City and get the homemade corned beef hash, eggs, hashbrowns, and pancakes. For a lighter cosmopolitan start, go to Amandine on Wilshire a block or so west of Bundy and enjoy the city's best croissants, excellent quiche, and other bakery fare.

                                    1. re: nosh
                                      bosanova99 Aug 14, 2008 11:56 PM

                                      El Cholo's history and the Green (not Blue) Corn Tamales are what make it an L.A. institution. It's not the worse mexican food in the city and they do have good Margaritas.

                                    2. re: pretzelfan
                                      westsidegal Aug 14, 2008 03:08 PM

                                      must respectfully disagree with your recommendation of el cholo.

                                      1. re: pretzelfan
                                        yogachik Aug 14, 2008 04:54 PM

                                        El Cholo? Yuck!

                                        1. re: pretzelfan
                                          ElJeffe Aug 14, 2008 11:42 PM

                                          I have to agree that El Cholo is offensive to the word 'Mexican'

                                        2. t
                                          tomritza Aug 17, 2008 08:52 AM

                                          You have a couple of votes for Monte Alban and I will throw mine in as well. Mole is a particular favorite and mine and it is harrrrrd to find good mole. Very hard.
                                          Monte Albans Mole Negro has the complex, slightly smoky fine wine complexity that is sooo hard to find. Its texture is smooth and silky, not the clunky chunky too sweet moles that are far to common. The Mole Rojo had the appropriate added heat that just added and did not overwhelm the flavors.
                                          Based on a recommendation we also tried the Estofado De Pollo Mole, which is tomato based. Perhaps it was the tomatoes, perhaps it was my drooling tastebud expectations but it seemed too sweet and lacked the complexity.

                                          I will also throw in a vote for Shaherzad for Persian. Good breads,Tahdig and stews. Lots of families when I was there, lots of energy! The decor has that "welcome to 1985" look going and the service has a bit of the "please dont ask me any stupid questions I have been answering since 1985" also....at least in my experience. But overall, I enjoyed it!

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