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Jul 28, 2009 05:20 PM

Quick Impressions of Our Los Angeles Dining

We're back. And I wanted to give you some feedback (my computer was indisposed when I came home - it is now only partially indisposed after 4 hours of tech work - I am catching up - so I'll be brief). Best meal in a serious setting: Providence. Kind of traditional setting - but excellent fish. Outstanding service. Picked many courses and kitchen arranged them into a tasting menu for 3. Not especially convenient to BH but worth the trip.

Best meal in a non-serious setting: Bazaar. Most fun trip of the meal. Food surprisingly good considering the scene. Service extremely competent (we picked lots of dishes and server arranged them in logical courses for 3 people). Loved the drinks (especially my "gin and tonics"). I recommend going very early (we did 6:30) if you're interested in eating because - even on a Wednesday - it was a madhouse by 9 pm (we were on dessert by then - didn't leave until about 10 pm). The late night "scene" isn't conducive to fine dining.

Church & State: Very loud (we wound up dining outside so we could talk with our dining companions - good thing it was a pleasant night).. Not worth the trip from BH (took us almost an hour to get there). Service somewhat worse than laid back (3 gougeres for 4 people? - we had to ask for a 4th). Not bad - but - like I said - not worth the trip.

Tavern - Decibel level was unbearable. Food was ok but would not recommend unless one were dining alone or on non-speaking terms with one's dinner companion(s).

Asanebo - Excellent. Go with a friend who knows how to order there (we did) or ask for suggestions about the best way to order. Also get a friend who knows how to drive over the hills :) (we're from flat as a pancake Florida - driving over hills like that isn't something we do every day).

Rancho Bernardo Inn (Veranda) - Pleasant patio where one can have lunch with elderly aunt who lives a mile away. No other reason to go there.

Gardens (Four Seasons) - Civilized place to meet and chat and dine with old friends. Food was quite good for a high end Four Seasons (where we were staying) restaurant (we were there the first night they had a new menu - there were probably some kinks to be worked out). Four Seasons Bar and patio also have a nice tasting menu - 3 "small" dishes (although not all that small) for $45. Plenty for 2 people. We did that twice (night of arrival and night we returned late from San Diego).

I'll note that we had breakfast included at the Four Seasons. Since we were on eastern time - breakfast there was early lunch for us. So we did it just about every day. 20+ choices - each excellent. Real power scene breakfast on a lovely patio. Great way to start the day. If you're staying at the Four Seasons - use a Four Seasons Preferred Partner Agent to book to get the breakfast included.

Overall - if there's one not to miss restaurant here IMO - it would be Bazaar. Close second - although it's pretty much a tie because they're such different types of restaurants - would be Providence if you love fish (we do).

What are your impressions? Robyn

P.S. Best little known new tourist attraction: Annenberg Space for Photography in Century City. Opened in the spring. Great exhibit running now (best photojournalism of the last year). Must see.

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  1. Glad you liked L.A. Yeah, the Annenberg exhibit space is cool. I hope they have a food photography exhibit soon.

    1. The original comment has been removed
      1. We had excellent service at Church & State. Your service suffered probably due to the fact you were outside, they don't usually encourage diners to sit outside, if you noticed, no heat lamps ;)

        14 Replies
        1. re: Phurstluv

          It was actually quite warm the evening we dined (we're from Florida and a short sleeved shirt was fine) - and the patio was almost full (I recall a large group - maybe 8 - sitting next to us). I didn't think the service was terrible - but the 3 gougeres for 4 set us off on the wrong foot - even our non-foodie dining companions figured out the math was wrong :).

          This was our last meal in Los Angeles. I think a week of the traffic there really wore us down - and the hour long crawl to go 12 miles to Church & State was the final knock-out punch. Think I would have enjoyed everything a lot more had the ride been 15 minutes. I guess if you live in Los Angeles it's important to develop a driving cost/eating benefit analysis - and to keep your radio tuned to the traffic report all the time. We had a great week - lots of interesting things to do/see/eat - but the traffic wound up driving us nuts. Does it drive those of you who live there nuts too?

          1. re: pvgirl

            First, thanks for the interesting and well-thought-out report; it's always a good thing for the Angelenos on this board to get feedback from visitors.

            As to traffic: It drives everybody nuts, of course, but a lot of folks find ways -- when they can -- to either get around it (e.g., alternate routes, great shortcuts) or to compensate for it (e.g., drive at non-peak times). Three words: Books On Tape.

            1. re: pvgirl

              Re: the gougeres. Most kitchens have a palate for each plate that's ordered. As in, the chef ( Walter Manke, here) tells them what each dish should look like before it gets to the tables. For whatever reason, the dish is to have 3 cheese puffs on it. The waiter could have either, informed you & your diners of that beforehand, so you weren't surprised & suggested an additional small plate, or suggested another app that would've been more easily shared with 4 people. I blame the server on this one, not the kitchen.

              Re: traffic. Yes. It's horrible here, probably like nothing you've ever seen in FLA. And trying to navigate downtown during rush hour is probably the worst thing you can attempt as an outsider. We all listen to traffic on radio and books, and rely on our gps with up to date traffic info. This is just something you have to be prepared for in this city. The traffic is not going to go away anytime soon. Hope that doesn't deter you from another visit.

              1. re: Phurstluv

                I'm pretty sure the gougeres were an amuse - not an appetizer. Someone can correct me if I'm wrong. If an amuse - then I'm right. If not - then you're right. FWIW - a lot of the dishes at Bazaar came in 3's. Fine for us - since we were 3. Ok if you're 2 (you can fight over the third). Not so good if you're 4. If I recall the menu at Bazaar correctly - it specifically stated when there was a certain number of something.

                SE Florida traffic (we lived in Miami for 20+ years and moved to north Florida about 14 years ago) is pretty awful - but not quite as bad as Los Angeles. My cousin and husband from the SFV drove us downtown. We probably would have been better off if we had done the driving - since our rental car had a GPS and satellite radio (with the "traffic channel"). Their car didn't have either - and they didn't have any maps - so they only knew one way to get there. After a week - I knew our GPS favored certain roads that had awful traffic - and sometimes "hit the map book" (that big Thomas book of maps) to avoid those roads. My husband would freak out (he loves having a GPS). But he's the driver - and I'm the navigator - and sometimes I just had to turn the darn thing off. The traffic wouldn't deter us from visiting again. It's just that we like to mix things up - and usually don't get to any particular distant place more than once every 5 years or so. FWIW - I think a partial solution to the traffic is tolls. On our way to San Diego - the GPS took us on a toll road between the 405 and I-5 (73?) - about 15 miles for about $4.50. I think we saw 10 cars during that 15 mile drive. I also saw lanes that said 50 cents for X miles on certain roads - but didn't try them because the traffic was ok on those roads when we were on them.

                One thing that skipped my mind. The Annenberg Space for Photography is a 2 minute walk from Craft/Craftbar in Century City. Both are open on Sunday (the Annenberg until 6) - so a museum visit and a visit to that restaurant might make for a nice early Sunday evening. I know Lizziee has recommended Craftbar - and I wanted to try it - at least for a drink and some appetizers. But that day we were with THE FRIEND WHO ONLY EATS AT SUSHI PLACES. After determining that his first choice (Katsu - relatively close to us) was closed - we made a mad dash over the hills to get to Asanebo shortly after 6 so we would be sure to get 4 seats at the counter. This friend lives on Mulholland Drive - so he is used to doing the hills at about 50 mph. I drove with him - and arrived with white knuckles. My husband drove with our friend's companion - and arrived 20 minutes after us - also with white knuckles <LOL>. One thing I forgot to mention about Asanebo. I usually drink spirits - no wine (doesn't agree with me) - but champagne is ok. Asanebo has Veuve at $80/bottle - less than 100% markup over current Costco prices. Good value IMO. It also had the best tomatoes I have ever tasted (they called them "Japanese tomatoes" - but I really don't know what the heck they were - probably some California tomato that never leaves California. I also thought the toro was excellent - although some of the other fish was simply very good (having spent 3 weeks in Japan a few years ago - I'm a little spoiled). Robyn

                1. re: pvgirl

                  As for the traffic... For those fo us who work and live here, we deal. Either that, or we LEARN to deal. L.A. is really sprawled out. It's a fact of life. You just allot time for the commute, wherever you may be going. Also, I like to keep a list of "must tries", sorted by geographic area. If, for example, I'll be in the Pasadena area one day, I'll look at my list and see what Chow I need to try in that particular area... It's more efficient that way. Planning DOES go an awful long way.

                  BUT , at other times, part of the essence of being a Chowhound is saying, "Damn the torpedoes (or traffic), I need me xyz food fix, now!", getting in the car, and braving it out.

                  As for your friend who has to have sushi, if he/she lives in L.A. he/she would probably know that:

                  (1) Sushi is certainly less fresh on Sundays & Mondays in L.A. (the fish market has been closed >24hrs. by that time. You can put 2 and 2 together.

                  (2) Assuming it is Tue.-Fri.,GREAT sushi is to be had within 10 minutes drive time of Century City, on Sawtelle Blvd.!

                  1. re: J.L.

                    I've flown halfway around the world to have great food. But there is something about having heavy traffic as an appetizer and a dessert that diminishes the main course IMO. It wasn't even the length of drives or time involved that drove me nuts - because we often drive 30-40 minutes to St. Augustine to dine (pleasant drive on A1A along the ocean). It's more the stop/go stop/go stop/go with thousands of cars all around you.

                    FWIW - the area where we live (the greater Jacksonville FL area) is really sprawly too. And many places aren't close to our house. E.g., nearest Whole Foods - only one here - is about 20 miles away. But we go to those places because the drives aren't unpleasant (except maybe during regular rush hour - which we try to avoid). We also do exactly what you do. Combine things to do/places to dine in particular parts of town. Like if we go to a show or a concert downtown - we'll pair it with a trip to a restaurant there (old favorite or new place we want to try).

                    I hear what you are saying about fish - and I suspect our friend would agree (although I personally don't know which markets are open on which days - and what they offer - I know there's supposed to be a good Farmers' Market in BH on Sunday mornings - but don't have a clue what's offered there - or if any of it makes sense for a restaurant). But sometimes vacation/work schedules dictate eating schedules. First time we could get together with this friend was Friday night. We hadn't seen him in 9 years - and my husband and I insisted on dining in a place where we could chat for hours in a relaxed non-hassled setting (hard to do on a Friday night anywhere). So my husband and I chose the hotel dining room (which was exactly right for the occasion). Only other day we could get together during our week in Los Angeles was Sunday. So that's how we wound up with Japanese food on Sunday. So be it. It was a lot better than the RT to San Diego on Saturday. Robyn

                    1. re: J.L.

                      "(1) Sushi is certainly less fresh on Sundays & Mondays in L.A. (the fish market has been closed >24hrs. by that time. You can put 2 and 2 together."

                      Chowhound has been very educational for me. And one of the things which I have become more knowledgeable about via this site is that old canard about not going to a sushi restaurant on a Sunday or a Monday because the fish won't be "fresh." Turns out that is mostly an Urban Myth that seems to have gotten handed down from one person to the next, and consequently has taken on a life of its own.

                      Except for a few items such as shell fish you won't be in any greater danger of having a bad experience at a sushi bar on Sunday or Monday than any other day of the week.

                      1. re: Servorg

                        I think there are lots of urban myths about food - including fish. After all - some of the best tuna in the world is caught off the coast of the NE United States - flash frozen - shipped to Japan - sold at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo - and then - in some cases - reimported to the US and served at high end Japanese restaurants. Too bad the fish doesn't get frequent flyer miles <smile>.

                        Wouldn't bet my life on it - but if I recall the tuna auctions at Tsukiji correctly - the larger frozen tuna from the NE US drew higher prices than than the smaller fresh tuna which were more local to Japan.

                        FWIW - I grew up in a recreational fishing family - and - unless you wanted to eat fish you caught same day - best way to deal with them was freezing them after cleaning in salt water ASAP. Of course - those big tuna boats have flash freezing capabilities no recreational fisherman could hope to duplicate in a million years.

                        With shell fish - like clams - scallops - oysters and the like - you have to keep them alive if you want to eat them fresh. Once they're dead - they go to h*** pretty fast (I used to collect shells - and - when I took live specimens - which I haven't done in decades - you had to clean them out fast or risk a big stink wherever you put them).

                        Things like shrimp - well they'll last a couple of days (we have a shrimp fleet here - so we get lots of fresh local shrimp).

                        Anyway - I had not had high end sushi type fish from the time we dined in Japan in 2006 until we dined at Asanebo last week. Asanebo didn't live up to high end Japanese restaurant standards - but it didn't have anything to do with freshness IMO.

                        1. re: pvgirl

                          Last time I was at Tsukiji, 3 months ago, I noted the same price disparity, so I asked a local Japanese fishmonger about it. He replied that of course the Atlantic fish will fetch a higher price, it has to travel further, and the Atlantic fisherman (on the spot) will get high bids from more closeby markets (e.g. Spain, USA), so invariably the Japanese must outbid them locally. That price increase must be reflected forward onto Japan.

                          But, the most important thing is that all the waters around Japan are "all fished out", so of course the Japanese must go further to get their seafood fix.

                          Asanebo is not the highest end we have to offer in L.A., but it's indeed a decent meal.

                        2. re: Servorg

                          Oh, you certainly won't die or anything like that, but the Sun-Mon offerings are less fresh than on other days. Myth or not, it's been my personal experience from going to sushi places on Sundays & Mondays, before I learned this tidbit.

                          Yes, I admit, the miracle of modern refrigeration goes a long way.

                          1. re: J.L.

                            I'm not talking about being safe from food poisoning. I'm talking about the impression that people have that the fish is going to suffer in terms of taste by being a day or two older. Take a look at this post on General Topics for a much more informed point of view about this topic.


                            1. re: Servorg

                              fwiw, repeatedly i've had perfectly fine sushi on sundays from hide and from k-zo.
                              on the other hand, i've been served very poor sushi on sundays at chaya venice.

                              my conclusion, based on these experiences is that if you're going to eat sushi on sundays, select your restaurant carefully.. . . .

                              1. re: westsidegal

                                The issue is that the extra day or two in between fish deliveries has little to nothing to do with the quality of the sushi in just about every case. Lousy sushi restaurants will have lousy sushi any / every day of the week and good ones will have good sushi those same days. Sundays and Mondays are no exception.

                      2. re: pvgirl

                        pvgirl, you are correct. the gougeres were an amuse bouche. I just dined there recently. So yeah.. you should have gotten 4!

                2. I'm starting to get a bit more organized (even though my computer isn't well yet - I've set up the guestroom for the IBM repair person :(. Anyway - here is what I wrote about Bazaar night after I dined there. Hope this helps you to enjoy your dining experience there.

                  "Some of you asked me to write about my meal at Bazaar. So I will. Since I am on vacation - and don't dine with a camera - you will get more comprehensive writeups with pictures on blogs like the Refined Palate. So I will just give you my general impressions.

                  Bottom line. This is a really fun restaurant with surprisingly good food (for both Los Angeles and a "scene" restaurant). We dined there last night (a Wednesday). For someone who is seriously into food (as opposed to scene) - I recommend dining early. We had a reservation at 6:30 (ok for us since we were on eastern time). At 6:30 - the place is all about food. By the time we left (close to 10) - it was a very crowded zoo type of scene. With regard to reservations - when we did ours - I was told that requests for seating in particular places could only be accommodated at 6:30 and 8:30 (in between - you take your chances - which I wouldn't do here - the patio overlooking the hotel driveway isn't attractive). Also - the FOH gave me a slight bit of a hard time when we checked in ('your table isn't ready" even though the place was 3/4 empty - etc.") - but since I had a note of the person with whom I had made my reservation - and the terms - and spoke up - the BS lasted for about 30 seconds. Anyway - we had requested the rojo or blanco room - and got the blanco - which I really liked (better than the rojo when I took a look - but that is a personal preference).

                  The menu is extremely large - many dishes. So I very much recommend reading blog entries before going - and having a rough idea of the things that most people have liked the best. I also recommend having a piece of paper and a pen - so you can write down the dishes you're thinking of ordering (like in a Chinese restaurant). This is a small plates restaurant - and - even with 3 people - we wound up ordering a fair number of dishes (11 or 12). Some of the things that had stuck in my mind were the Philly cheesesteak - the Bellota ham (expensive Spanish ham from pigs raised on acorns) - the foie gras sliders and the cotton candy with foie gras (they brought us 2 of the latter by mistake and only charged us for one :) ). We had others - the caprese - the butiferra - the king crab - the scallops - and the croquetas. Some were from the "traditional" side of the menu - some from the "modern". I recommend mixing it up. Our server was excellent - and when he thought we might be making a mistake - he steered us in the right direction. Overall - I can honestly say we didn't order a single dish we didn't like. Also - our server served a couple of dishes at a time - pairing them appropriately (which we asked him to do).

                  The spirits were excellent. Our companion had a mojito made with frozen sugar which dissolved when mixed with liquor. I had a very floral gin and tonic (it actually had flowers in it). Excellent drinks. Very good pours. The wine service (my husband had wine) left a lot of be desired. The GM (we spoke with him after our meal) said a sommelier will be coming on board soon - and he hopes to improve things in that category a lot in the near future.

                  After our main meal - we went to the patisserie for dessert. We shared a "floating island" made with liquid nitrogen. It was delicious. But - by this time - the place was a) jumping; or b) overcrowded - depending on POV. The patisserie is next to a branch of Moss - and there are lots of gawkers at the store after 9. I think on a subsequent visit - we might prefer to stay put for dessert - but - this being our first time - I was agreeable to seeing more than one part of the restaurant. By the time we left maybe 45 minutes later - no question the place was a zoo (unless your only interest is the scene).

                  This is a definite "must go" in Los Angeles IMO. But - for someone interested in food - a bit of planning will go an awful long way. Robyn"

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: pvgirl

                    Robyn, I agree with all your comments and suggestions. Traffic in LA is a nightmare and we only go to Church and State on the weekends. Also, I absolutely agree about Bazaar - going EARLY is a must - food people not scene people at that hour. Also, Sunday brunch at Bazaar is a must - the quail egg dish is worth the price of admission. I love Providence and no one does fish better than Michael. Too bad you didn't make it to Craftbar - I like the the bar area much more than the actual restaurant and again we go on the earlier side to avoid the crowds. The best omakase experience in Los Angeles is Urasawa, but you have to be prepared for a very expensive meal.

                    1. re: pvgirl

                      I just went to Church & State on Friday nite. Liked the vibe & starters - though no sign of a gougeres in site and had to repeatedly ask for bread w/ our entrees - but things just a little off. Apparently the chef wasn't there - which is what I chalk my meh entree up to. But I will give it another shot b/c I really liked the nite. Took me an hour from Westwood on a Friday but I expected that and planned for it.

                    2. The original comment has been removed