visiting Santa Monica - need recs for persian greek and great food
we're staying in Santa Monica starting Sun (visiting from Ssan Francisco area so have experience of good food :). I'd love to get some recommendations for great ethnic - greek, persian, indian - not mexican or asian - apart from japanese - lots of that in SF
also interested in good CA or Cal Asian dining. We're reserved for Hatfields and I've been to Lucques and Jirafe before
We're fine with driving 15 20 mins but not an hour
Sigh... great ethnic usually means you need a concentration of the recently-arrived, and that's hard to do in such an expensive place as West LA. Then take away the two things that LA really does better than SF (Mexican and Asian) and you're really limiting yourself. And frankly -- I lived for a while in both SF and the East Bay -- saying "oh, we have Asian food up here" is really a way to miss a lot of truly excellent restaurants.
Our Chinese food -- though it is 30-45 minutes from West LA in the San Gabriel Valley -- is broader in scope, cheaper and (I think) better than SF's. San Francisco has really no Korean food worth talking about, whereas LA has a Koreatown the size of San Mateo that is absolutely stuffed full of delights for your culinary delectation, and which is conveniently located halfway between Venice and Downtown. Regional Mexican is not something I remember a lot of in SF -- there's Monte Alban, Guelaguetza and Juquila for Oaxacan just in West LA alone.
Persian is easily done and Frommtron hit the nail(s) on the head.
Greek, as he pointed out, is not a strong suit in Los Angeles in general and you are better off waiting for your next trip to Chicago, Houston or New York.
There are some Indian places that are OK, though Artesia is our Fremont and it's that dreaded hour away. In West LA though is Ambala Dhaba, which is quite good, and there's Chandni Vegetarian Indian on Wilshire and 19th in Santa Monica.
I'm not quite sure why you're looking for Cal and Cal-Asian food in LA -- isn't that a huge chunk of what makes SF such a dining city? I mean, you can go to Josie and to Hatfields and to Michael's and to Chinois on Main and Melisse (well, that's Cal-French, but still).
What about Fraiche or Craft? I have to be honest that I only eat in these places when others are paying -- my chosen domain of expertise is cheap ethnic joints with little ambiance -- but I remember really liking Fraiche.
There's an excellent izakaya called Musha on Wilshire and (I think) 5th in Santa Monica, right next to the Do-Not-Chow zone of the 3rd Street Promenade. There is a bunch of excellent Japanese crowded along Sawtelle in West LA (but bring cash, some places do not accept plastic).
I tend to lump Santa Monica and West LA together so . . .
Greek does not exist in this dojo. And by that I mean all of Los Angeles COUNTY. You may find a few restaurants here and there but you don't want to pay the opportunity cost to eat there.
Persian abounds and is excellent in this area. You have Javan (on Santa Monica Blvd.) which is wonderful. especially for stews and rice. If you're looking for extensive vegetarian options then I'd recommend Shamshiri Grill on Westwood Blvd. Lastly, if kabobs are you're interest then I'd say try Flame, also on Westwood Blvd. If you're looking for lunch, then try Attari sandwich shop, again on Westwood Blvd.
Indian is supposedly much better in the Bay Area than anywhere in Southern California. However, I can list my favorite places in the area you specified. I'll second the rec for Pradeep's with a major caveat: this is not traditional Indian food. It's a light, healthy take on traditional Indian dishes. You probably won't find a new dish here but they do the classics well considering they are trying to lighten things up. The drop in flavor is undeniable, though. I like Ambala Dhaba on Westwood Blvd. (Alright, no more places on Westwood). They offer a variety of goat dishes, which is not all that common in these parts. Annapurna's has my vote for top Indian place on the Westside but we are getting a ways away from your home base (30 min). It's a vegetarian place and they seem to specialize in dhosas.
Japanese is pretty decent on the Westside. Mitsuwa market on Centinella just north of Venice houses a Santouka. I can't tell you how delicious the shio ramen broth is. Very rich. Get the small bowl for a snack or the large for a meal. Orris is the ultimate locals Japanese small plate bistro. Which means that we love the place but we also have ordered the misses and know to avoid them. It's not izakaya but rather it bends very heavily towards the chef's European influences. For Izakaya, I'd try Musha near the Promenade on Wilshire. The staff is incredibly friendly and the food is adventuresome (not in an Andrew Zimmern sort of way). I'd rate them highly. There is aslo Torofuku on Pico. They indulge a very serious rice fetish so be sure to focus on those dishes. Sushi is so so there.
Lastly, head in to Culver City to Fraiche if you're looking for something from the western tradition.
Really though, you need to get in the car and drive and open up your criteria to enjoy LA. Mexican food in LA is totally different and worthy of consideration. And once you get out to San Gabriel Valley, San Francisco just can't keep up with the Chinese food out there. It's that good.
Let us know if your criteria narrow and we can fine tune the advice a little.
just to make a tiny correction to frommtron's post:
attari sandwich shop, although their address is on westwood blvd, i believe the entrance to the shop is around the corner from westwood blvd on wilkins.
fwiw, to me, the shirazi salad served at attari is superior to the one served at shamshiri.
There's a place in Westwood that does a fabulous roasted cornish hen. It's Canary at 1942 Westwood Boulevard. Our pulitzer prize winning food writer from LA Weekly wrote a review that raved about their dishes and said they were one of the best Persian's in LA. I agree! They roast the hens and serve them over rice with roasted tomato and a squeeze of lime. Soooooooo good! Have a great trip.
Sham for Arabic / Lebanese food.
For California cuisine give Josie a try. 2424 Pico Blvd. on the eastern edge of Santa Monica. Short ribs, Camp Fire Trout, Venison are all great and if you like chocolate desserts then get the chocolate bread pudding.
716 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401
The closest Persian would be Javan on Olympic near Westwood (in West LA). Nothing in SM for Persian nor Greek, sorry. We wish!
For Indian, the best would be (to me) Pradeep on Montana Avenue or Daba on Main Street.
Be sure to visit Anisette for great French Brasserie (any meal - bfast, lunch, dinner).
Sort of the definitive restaurant list: