In LA next weekend
I'm travelling to LA next Friday evening to meet my wife following her business trip. We are returning home to Seattle on Sunday. I am flying in and out of Burbank, most likely. We would appreciate any advice on essential restaurants for a weekend visit, with logistical considerations in mind.
I read J. Gold's columns pretty regularly, and his top 99 lists. I also looked at the recent poll of favorites on this board.
I was thinking maybe one dinner in the higher end category, with the rest of the meals in the cheap to moderate range. I am a huge fan of regional cuisine, and I was thinking initially visiting Babita, along with an excellent Thai and Korean BBQ. Maybe a Persian and some exceptional tacos too. For the higher end, I'm really open to suggestion, and would probably go to a place somewhat convenient to evening activities. We haven't decided yet where to stay or what to do (other than eat!)
And reporting back:
Friday ended up at Park's BBQ; it's open till two. Easily the best Korean 'cue I've had. Banchan plentiful, top-shelf quality; I had never seen a couple of them before including the raw crab smothered in chile paste. The prime kalbi and the "tokyo x style" pork belly were superb, and grill-tending/service was attentive The only quibble is that I wished they employed full charcoal instead of the gas/coal hybrid (a techniqueI had seen once before in Seattle) for more of that irreplacable smoke flavor. Still, unparalleled BBQ.
Probably as good as the food was the 80 degree weather that weekend. This caused a change in plans, so we stopped at Clementine on the way to the beach in Malibu. Really classy breakfast and take-out, esp. the calamari salad with chickpeas, and the quirky lox with huge capers. Nice attention to detail there.
After the sunset, for convenience sake, we stopped off at El Super Taco for just two tacos. Quality was very high, and the diversity salsa bar was appreciated. However, I feel like the Eastside is where its at for tacos. Will need to focus more on Mexican upon the next visit.
Late dinner at Lucques. We entered an ambiance and clientele which amounted to what my wife adeptly described as a restaurant scene "out of Curb your Enthusiam". Not to say the exposed brick digs and fireplace were not appreciated, its just the crowd just gave us pause--we are LA neophytes. After two very expensive (but smartly made) drinks (and getting carded after they were already made), we braced ourselves for an imperious swell of attitude. We were wrong. Our server was gracious and helpful, allowing me to taste wines before I ordered just a glass of them, including a very nice and unusual french dessert offering. The leeks vinaigrette with american prosciutto, burrata, dijon mustard and breadcrumbs was one of the best dishes we've ever had. Texture and flavor composition just outstanding. alaskan black cod with vanilla potatoes, acorn squash, chorizo and golden raisins was also very nice; the chef's cooking of the squash coaxed the essence from it, which, as I had read from J. Gold, was part of what is remarkable for Lucques. The rabbit with faro was probably the least impressive, which is not to say it was bad. It seems all the dishes were luxuriously oiled, and on the rabbit it crossed over into excessive. pear mousse with pomegranate compote and granola tuille was great.
Sunday we had fairly poor croissants at the hotel, and then lunch at Jitlada, which we took to the La Brea tar pits. With the lengthy southern menu and so much acclaim, it was very hard to decided what to try. The rice salad was a remarkable combination of bright herbs and rhizomes. The tumeric curry with tea leaves and clams was highly unique and carried a stealthy heat. Would love to return and eat in the restaurant with a larger group.
Just before leaving from Burbank, we drove around in vain looking for a second taco allotment, and Porto's had closed. We ended up at In-and-Out Burger. What's the deal? The burgers were baseline, and the fries were horrid: mealy, as if nearly frozen but not cold. We don't usually just dispose of freshly cooked fries, but these found their way to the trash. Maybe you have to know the secret handshake or whatever.
Overall though, we were thoroughly impressed by the LA scene (and sun), and are hopeful for many happy returns. Thanks for the info.
Thanks for reporting back, and glad that you had such a good weekend in our fair city. You really did a great job -- seemed to get a good deal at a hot Hollywood hotel, had a good experience at one of our top restaurants (Lucques), squeezed in some fine Korean Q, and hit perhaps our best Thai restaurant. Nice save with Clementine -- can't do to much better for takeout gourmet sandwiches and salads than them. And what kind of tacos did you have at El Super Taco? You mentioned you were in search of al pastor, which is pretty good there. Their carne asada is wildly inconsistent (I've had juicy char, but also grey gristly nasty beef). I do like that they serve grilled onions with the tacos, and I like their habanero salsa mixed to spice up their salsa roja. Note that they seem to specialize in tortas -- I'm assuming that you were at their original on Santa Monica Blvd. at Brockton; they've opened a couple new branches. For next time, note that perhaps our best Oaxacan restaurant, with an assortment of moles and other authentic specialties, is a door to the left -- Monte Alban.
Next trip, I have a very strong recommendation for your search for al pastor -- Carnitas Michaocan, the branch north of downtown and Chinatown (a bit east of Hollywood) on the N/W corner of North Broadway at 19th. Their carne asada is good, their al pastor is even better, prepared on a rotisserie spit. (You may need to specify to the counterman that you are willing to wait for some freshcut from the grill and not served from the warming dish -- it makes a difference.) This branch is open 24/7 and makes the very best salsa roja in town -- thin, brick-red brown, smoky, hot, complex, fantastic. This branch of Carnitas Michaocan was named Bandini's best of the last year he published The Great Taco Hunt. El Taurino is great, El Parian may be the best in town for carne asada or goat, and King Taco is a beloved chain. On the westside, Tacos Por Favor in Santa Monica (S/E corner of Olympic at 14th) is excellent, with many loving its chorizo and cheese tacos and milanese tortas, while Taqueria Sanchez (on the west side of Centinela between Washington and Culver) is known for wonderful, inexpensive shrimp tacos ($1.75).
The report back is appreciated and is far too often overlooked. Thanks.
Glad you enjoyed Lucques. I think you nailed the food, although I'm not entirely sure what you're saying about the crowd. I wouldn't call Lucques a celebrity hang. Funny, the only dish I've ever had that wasn't wonderful at either AOC or Lucques was rabbit. Perhaps Suzanne Goin has a chink in the armor after all.
Again, totally agree with your assessment of El Super Taco. It's great, in my opinion, but it isn't the best stuff in LA by a long, long shot. You do need to head east for the best stuff, although I've had my fair share of very average tacos there, too, sadly. But if you and the family are ever up for a taco crawl then it needs to be to the east. Definitely worth it.
You know, I just wish In-N-Out would do their fries right. They need to be fried twice. The problem is, it would take to long and they couldn't make them to order. You can order them extra crispy but the texture is never really correct. They do have a fresh potato flavor that no other fast food joint has. So close, yet such a failure. You and I will have to disagree about the burger as I think it rates highly in the fast food category.
All that and Jitlada and Clementine, too.
You did very well for yourself.
So via priceline we are staying in Hollywood at the Roosevelt. Our dining plan is gelling as:
Fri night: Soot Bull Jeep
Sat lunch: Jitalda or El Taurino (Bandini's al pastor pick)
Sat dinner: Lucques or Babita
Sun lunch: El Taurino or Jitalda
Sun take-away: Porto's bakery
Is the comme ca burger really all of that, and worthy of swap for one of the above lunch targets? On that tip, is there a different LA lunch burger that could displace first rate tacos or thai?
Lucques v. Babita?
Good breakfast/bakery in H-wood vicinity, or en route to Getty or Malibu beaches?
I like Lucques over Babita. Babita is definitely worth a try and I truly enjoy it, but Suzanne Goin is my favorite chef in LA and Lucques is her flagship. If Babita were a bit cheaper then I might give it the nod for value but you can drop just as much money at either place. And I find the food at Lucques is just better.
I have not had the Comme Ca burger but I have sampled a good chunk of the menu between 3 visits and I just don't think the food is special. For cocktails, it's wonderful. That said, Father's Office might be open, depending on the location (Culver City or Santa Monica) and the day you plan on squeezing it in. They have my vote for best burger and the rest of the menu is pretty fantastic, too. It's a tough call. How do you skip good Al Pastor? You kind of don't.
I'd skip the Persian, stay in Studio City or Hollywood, and go to Jitlada, Babita, Park's BBQ and then hit up your choice of taco trucks from Bandini's Taco Hunt blog. If the Tacos La Fonda truck is still around on Vanowen and Vineland (I moved from the area two years ago) it is probably your best stop.
There is also great and cheap Thai in North Hollywood, just west of the Burbank airport, along Sherman Way from the 170 to Woodman... Krua, Sunshine, Bua Siam and Swan would be my choices there.
And on the way back out, stop in Burbank at Porto's Bakery and get stuff to take with you. :)
re: Das Ubergeek
Thanks so much for the thoughtful advice.
We are planning to go to Soot Bull Jeep friday night (it's open later than Park's), and then drive up to Hollywood or vicinity and stay there for two nights. Probably hit Jitalda for lunch Sat or Sun, with Bandini-approved tacos for the other lunch, depending on what else we do (Griffith Park, the Getty, or Malibu maybe).
Is there a choice place for Saturday night dinner in the Hollywood vicinity, either regional Mexican or something more unique and higher end? Babita seems a long drive out east - am I wrong?
Since you're going to be in the Burbank area to catch your plane, might want to consdier Palate in nearby Glendale (about 10 minutes away). http://www.palatefoodwine.com/
For Thai, you can't go wrong with Jitlada in Hollywood (also pretty convenient from Burbank airport).
For Korean BBQ, my top two recs would be Park's or Soot Bull Jeep (in that order).