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Quintessential LA???

excel Feb 22, 2010 05:48 PM

Greeting fellow Chowhounders,

I have heard a lot of wonderful things about LA, but I have never had the chance to visit. Until now that is, well, March. I'll be in LA, for a week in March and I am looking for "must eats" recs. I'm open to both fancy and hole in the wall/ greasy spoons, so long as it's quintessential LA. I would be interested in both old school top chefs and new up and comers. I look forward to your recommendation!

Thank you in advance.

  1. e
    excel Apr 6, 2010 06:17 PM

    Thank you everyone for your help and suggestions. We had an amazing time in LA! Loved the food, the atmosphere, the shopping, but NOT the traffic! Ack!

    We just wanted to report back and let you know where we went to eat and what we thought of the restaurants.

    We arrived on a Tuesday night and decided to go to Park's BBQ. Seriously the best Korean food we've ever had!! The banchan selection was amazing, and we loved the fact that the waitresses came and cooked for us. The service was amazing, as they changed the grill plate every time it started charring our food. We ordered the marinated kalbee, the pork belly, and the seafood pancake. The kalbee was just the way we liked it, not too sweet. The pork belly was amazing!!! We did leave it on the grill for quite a bit of time to allow the most of the fat to render and caramelize. It was perfect! The sauce that came with it was SO GOOD. The seafood pancake was excellent too. It had a good amount of seafood in it, and was perfectly cooked, crispy at the edges and softer in the middle.

    The next day, we went to Mariscos Chente for lunch and Animal for dinner.

    At Mariscos Chente, we had the shrimp ceviche, the Peppered Shrimp, and of course the Pescado Zarandeado. We have never tasted shrimp like that before! It was amazingly creamy, sweet, and rich. Our favourite dish was definitely the Peppered Shrimp. There was a lot of black pepper, but it wasn't too spicy or overwhelming. It just enhanced the cooked shrimp so well. And the RICE....oh the RICE! It was sooooo good. It was rich and savoury.....and I've never described rice like this. It might have been a little mushy, but still so good!

    We were so happy that we had the chance to try Animal. It was a Wednesday night when we went, but the place was packed!! We ordered one main dish and about 3 smaller dishes to share, and it was perfect. The highlights of that meal were the Chicken Liver Toast and the Fois Gras Loco Moco. The sauce/gravy in the Loco Moco was slightly sweet and complimented the Fois Gras perfectly. The service wasn't the best, unfortunately. I sat with an empty wine glass for quite some time before I could get our waiter's attention to ask for another glass.

    The next day, we went to Disneyland! We wanted to eat lunch before we went, so we decided to try Cole's. I had the lamb sandwich, while my other half had the beef sandwich. Both of us definitely preferred the lamb sandwich. The sandwiches are definitely the star of this restaurant of course, but they should probably work on their sides dishes. The coleslaw was NOT good. I've had better from my local Safeway. And the fries were only ok. We understand that you go to Cole's for the sandwiches, but most people order sides along with the sandwiches, so they should pay a little more attention to them.

    At Disneyland, we snacked on the famous Turkey leg, which was actually really good! We also had Churros (notice the plural!). Yum!

    After we left Disneyland, we went to Roscoe's for a late dinner. We've never had chicken and waffles before, so for that it was great! The combo is very good! We've had better friend chicken though.

    The next day, we had In and Out Burgers for lunch. Yum! Definitely good burgers for that price. For dinner, we went to Providence. A good experience overall. Food was good, of course, but service was only ok. Please tell me if this is normal for LA or not, since we aren't used to this....but we were seated at our table, asked if we wanted drinks. After the drinks were brought to us, along with some bread to nibble on, THEN a few minutes later, we were asked if we were ready to look at the menus. We just aren't used to that! At all the fancy restaurants we've been to, the wine list and menu are brought to the table as soon as we sat down. We just found it a little weird, but weren't too put off by it. Both of us ordered the 5 course menu, and ordered their recommend salt-baked prawns as well. The food was good, but the time between the courses were not even. We feel that when you have a multi-course menu, the timing between each course should be equal. ie. once our plates are cleared, the diners should expect to wait 10 to 15 mins for the next course. With our experience, we waited 5 mins between the 1st and 2nd course, and 20 mins between the 3rd and 4th course. It felt uneven. Unfortunately, the worst dish of the 5 course menu, was the meat dish. The chef definitely works with seafood better!

    Our last day in LA was pretty comical. We purposely didn't make any plans just in case we were all "fooded-out". We ended up just saying, "what the heck!" and waited in line at Pink's. There's 2 hours of my time I'll never get back!!! We did see a "celebrity" there though! David Hoffman made an appearance for a charity. Woo hoo! =P

    Thank you again for all your suggestions. We had an amazing time and will be returning soon to go to the places we didn't get a chance to go to! (Like Langer's! It's a MUST for our next trip.)

    Park's BBQ
    955 S. Vermont Ave, Suite G, Los Angeles, CA 90006

    Mariscos Chente
    4532 S Centinela Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90066

    2 Replies
    1. re: excel
      mc michael Apr 7, 2010 11:18 AM

      Thanks for the report!

      1. re: excel
        kauma Apr 7, 2010 06:07 PM

        How gracious of you (two) to report to us...thank you!

        And thank you for being so kind to the City of the Angels. We appreciate it!

      2. o
        oldusedcop Mar 2, 2010 03:31 PM

        Is no one going to speak up for El Tepeyac?

        1 Reply
        1. re: oldusedcop
          degustateur Mar 2, 2010 04:06 PM

          Quintessential, indeed. Just not what it used to be. Still, however, a viable recommendation.

        2. e
          excel Mar 1, 2010 02:16 PM

          Thanks guys!

          1. e
            excel Mar 1, 2010 12:25 PM

            Thanks guys for your input....We're coming from Toronto and Seattle. Mariscos Chente sounds really good and I think it's something we're going to add to our list. Thanks for that recommendation!

            Is it worth trying spago's or are we better off to go to providence? I only add spago to the list becasue it's Puck and he's the godfather of cali cooking isn't he?

            Can anyone give use a recent review on animal?

            Thanks again!

            6 Replies
            1. re: excel
              wienermobile Mar 1, 2010 12:28 PM

              I like Cut much more than Spago, if you want to experience Wolfgang Puck and are a meat lover.

              1. re: wienermobile
                excel Mar 1, 2010 01:15 PM

                would you saying experiencing Wolfgang Puck, whether it's Cut or Spago, it worth bumping providence? A lot of celeb chef restaurants are over rated, are puck's one?

                1. re: excel
                  wienermobile Mar 1, 2010 01:27 PM

                  If you were here longer I would tell you should try both, but if you only have the chance to go to one I'd chose Providence.

                  1. re: wienermobile
                    excel Mar 1, 2010 01:34 PM

                    Than you for that! Providence it is...I don't know why but I can't seem to find reviews of Providence?

                    1. re: excel
                      mc michael Mar 1, 2010 01:48 PM


                      1. re: excel
                        Servorg Mar 1, 2010 02:02 PM

                        You asked about an Animal review. I think this is the quintessential review as far as the LA board is concerned: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/620960

              2. m
                mdpilam Feb 28, 2010 08:19 PM

                To me, quintessential LA is eating from a taco truck. My favorite is El Chato (Olympic & La Brea, 9pm+) and Taco Zone is probably my 2nd fav.

                I would not miss Langer's either. I would go to Umami Burger for lunch one day too. I'd also try to go to Animal - I had one of the best meals I've had in a long time there.

                5 Replies
                1. re: mdpilam
                  excel Mar 2, 2010 01:11 PM

                  Going to a taco truck sounds like an awesome idea! I've been given other recommendations....which one is the best? And we would probably go around lunchtime.
                  How's.....La Oaxaquena (Rose and Lincoln), or the one on S. Soto and E. 7th? Or the ones recommended by mdpilam above?

                  1. re: excel
                    JAB Mar 2, 2010 03:08 PM

                    I don't know that a lot of the taco trucks being referred to will be around at lunch time.

                    1. re: excel
                      Jase Mar 2, 2010 03:22 PM

                      If you're going to be in the Westside area around lunch for taco trucks, one option would be the Cemitas truck parked in front of Smart and Final on Venice just west of Hughes. The cemitas from that truck gets lots of love on this board. It's usually there from mid morning till mid afternoon. I like it with the milenesa/beef. But the chicken has its share of fans.

                      1. re: Jase
                        mdpilam Mar 2, 2010 05:17 PM

                        This is a good rec as well. I am a fan of the carnitas cemita, but my SO had the milanesa and it was excellent.

                        Others are correct, the taco trucks are mainly a night thing (except for some around MacArthur Park).

                      2. re: excel
                        bad nono Mar 2, 2010 03:47 PM

                        el Chato is strictly a nightly experience. But it's a good truck.
                        If you can't find a truck and are on the Westside at lunch time, I really like Tacomiendo http://www.ta-comiendo.com/
                        I've only been to the Culver City location. It was my favorite lunch place when I worked nearby.

                    2. e
                      excel Feb 28, 2010 04:41 PM

                      Thanks for the recs so far!! We're only in LA for 4 full days, and one of the days will be spent at Disneyland. So that's 5 dinners and 4 lunches. We've narrowed our restaurant choices to the following, so far, and need your help to either confirm we've made good choices and which ones we should prioritize, or to steer us in another direction.

                      (1) Providence
                      (2) Church and State
                      (3) AOC
                      (4) Soot Bull Jeep

                      Lunch/Snack (could also be dinner):
                      (1) Roscoe's
                      (2) Wurstkuche
                      (3) In and Out Burger
                      (4) Langer's
                      (5) Phillipe's
                      (6) Grand Central Market for tacos
                      (7) Din Tai Fung for dumplings
                      (8) Daikokya for ramen

                      So what do you think? What should we prioritize since obviously we can't hit all these places!


                      13 Replies
                      1. re: excel
                        wienermobile Feb 28, 2010 06:10 PM

                        Don't miss Langer's and remember they close at 4pm.

                        1. re: wienermobile
                          excel Mar 2, 2010 08:59 AM

                          Besides #19, what else should we order at Langer's? (just 2 people are sharing the meal).

                          1. re: excel
                            wienermobile Mar 2, 2010 09:41 AM

                            It's the Pastrami that is king here but you can do some combo sandwiches. My sons like the #44 (their version of a ruben) and the # 6 Pastrami and chopped liver sandwich. Or go all the way with #28 - FRESSER'S SPECIAL SANDWICH Pastrami, Corned Beef, Tongue, Swiss Cheese and Turkey, Lettuce, Tomato and Russian Style Dressing. I stick with the #19.

                        2. re: excel
                          mc michael Feb 28, 2010 06:21 PM

                          Looks like your spread sheet is filling up. Where are you coming from? I think I'd scratch some of the lunch places in favor of Jitlada. Also, I'd hit Sushi-Gen around 11:15 for their sashimi lunch special. And we haven't touched on the bar scene.

                          1. re: excel
                            degustateur Feb 28, 2010 07:29 PM

                            Welcome to LA! I hope that you enjoy your stay. A few suggestions:

                            I would highly recommend Park’s BBQ over Soot Bull Jeep. Superior Korean BBQ due largely to the quality of meats used, including Kobe (Wagyu) beef and Berkshire pork selections. Great panchan too. Excellent service. The staff all but insists upon cooking your selections for you to ensure proper preparation and doneness.

                            Park’s BBQ
                            955 S. Vermont Ave.
                            Los Angeles, CA 90005
                            (213) 380-1717

                            Try to fit Pizzeria Mozza into your plans for lunch, dinner or late night. Absolute greatness! Start with a wonderfully flavorful antipasti followed by chicken liver crostinis with guanciale. For the main, be sure to include the fennel sausage pizza with panna, red onions and scallions. The guanciale pizza is extraordinary albeit a bit salty. The Bianca with fontina, mozzarella, sottocenere and sage is awesome. Superb service and wine pairings. They’re open continuously from noon to midnight daily. Reservations are essential.

                            Pizzeria Mozza
                            641 N. Highland Ave.
                            Los Angeles, CA
                            (323) 297-0101

                            I would definitely add Mariscos Chente as a priority, probably for lunch (very casual). Incredible Sinaloan/Nyarit style seafood creations by Sergio Penuelos – an up and comer who is already a living legend. Virtually all of the seafood is sourced fresh from Mazatlan and has that unique Gulf taste that cannot be duplicated. The pescado zarandeado, a specially spiced and prepared whole grilled fish, is extraordinary as are his aguachiles and other shrimp dishes. Try one of the delicious smoked marlin tacos for a rare, unique and tasty treat.

                            Mariscos Chente
                            4532 S. Centinela Ave.
                            Los Angeles, CA 90066
                            (310) 390-9241

                            You should also consider Sushi Nozawa, LA’s own, original “Sushi Nazi” - it's his way or the highway! Chef Kazunori Nozawa commands a very traditional sushi bar and serves up some of the freshest and finest sushi to be found anywhere. Mon-Fri, lunch/dinner only. No reservations. Be prepared for a brief standing wait. Sit at the bar and request the “omakase”, Nozawa-san's choice of the day's selections. Trust him, he will do you right. Whatever you do, DON’T ask for a California Roll unless you relish being the day's entertainment. (^_^)

                            Sushi Nozawa
                            11288 Ventura Boulevard
                            Studio City, CA 91604
                            (818) 508-7017

                            Bon Appetit!

                            1. re: excel
                              bulavinaka Feb 28, 2010 07:34 PM

                              I've listed a few alternates below. Aside from the historical value and the great hot mustard, the only one I really don't care for is Phillipe's. I've personally never had any wow moments there. Two sources of info that I've directed you to either directly or indirectly are Rameniac and Exilekiss. Both are very well versed in food and each deserve a bookmark.

                              Dinner: Park's (Soot Bull Jeep)

                              Lunch: Pann's (Roscoe's

                              Cole's (Phillipe's

                              Santouka or Asa (Daikokuya

                              1. re: bulavinaka
                                nachosaurus Feb 28, 2010 07:42 PM

                                cole's is much better than phillipe's. by miles.

                                1. re: nachosaurus
                                  bulavinaka Feb 28, 2010 07:53 PM

                                  Yeah, I personally dislike the place also for some service issues directed at me from one particular person there. Aside from that, it has it's place in LA food culture, but I would consider Cole's as well for far better versions of these types of sandwiches.

                                  1. re: bulavinaka
                                    nachosaurus Feb 28, 2010 08:01 PM

                                    i agree regarding the la food culture, and i do consider phiippe's a must do for la history (like the pantry, etc.). but, their food is just sub-par. i find it very fun to go to and to take people to - but it's never like some amazing meal. it's a fun place to go to see (as is union station across the street and olvera street nearby).

                                    cole's - which is newly re-opened (thus, breaking the string of openness) - just has much better food.

                              2. re: excel
                                sparkareno Mar 1, 2010 02:23 PM

                                I don't know if you've been to Disneyland but it is unlikely that you will leave there in time to do dinner somewhere. Were you counting that day as one of your dinner ones?
                                I think of Spago as a very LA/California place. Everyone should go at least once.

                                1. re: sparkareno
                                  WildSwede Mar 1, 2010 02:29 PM

                                  I agree - Spago is wonderful. And second the recs for Jitlada. I think I would skip Pann's, though. It is basically food you can get anywhere.

                                  1. re: WildSwede
                                    JAB Mar 2, 2010 03:07 PM

                                    I know that this is a food board but, Pann's architecture is not something that you can experience anywhere.

                                    1. re: JAB
                                      WildSwede Apr 7, 2010 02:10 PM

                                      I totally agree with you on that. Especially since we are losing most of our restaurants that have special architecture.

                              3. e
                                excel Feb 25, 2010 01:58 PM

                                Yes you guys are right, I shouldn't be expecting you to just tell me everything and I'm not. I am combing through the treads as we speak but, it's just nice some times to having at least a starting point. There are so many threads and it seems so scattered, I thought if LA founders could at least recommend the must hits I can start my research from there.

                                I appreciate all the help.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: excel
                                  allyoucanet Feb 26, 2010 12:35 PM

                                  Quintessential LA = Original Farmer's Market on 3rd and Fairfax. Just go and soak it all in! Be sure and stay away from The Grove next door!

                                2. m
                                  mc michael Feb 25, 2010 01:07 PM

                                  Some timely info: http://www.losanjealous.com/2010/02/2...

                                  1. e
                                    excel Feb 25, 2010 11:09 AM

                                    Thanks guys! Please keep the recs coming

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: excel
                                      Servorg Feb 25, 2010 11:27 AM

                                      "Please keep the recs coming"

                                      A goal of yours ought to be to comb through the board and take a look at any thread in which the title intrigues you. For instance, did you notice this thread http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/690213 which was recently started? There are literally a hundred threads like that, which have been started over the past couple of months, if you are just willing do some digging (and you will end up with a lot more fish in your creel if you learn "how" to fish the waters of the LA board yourself instead of having LA hounds place the fish into your basket).

                                      1. re: Servorg
                                        mc michael Feb 25, 2010 12:24 PM

                                        Except for the very newest places, or for downhill situations, all the info is already here on various threads--several times over . What isn't here are posts from excel telling us what he/she thinks of various places. But March is almost here.

                                    2. Skunk2Racer Feb 24, 2010 02:43 PM

                                      Tommy's Home of the original Chili Burger. Beverly & Rampart
                                      Oki Dog Home of the Oki Dog 2 hot dogs wrapped in flour tortilla with chili cheese & Pastrami
                                      Pastrami Burrito Pastrami grilled with Bell peppers, Onions & Cabbage.
                                      Dino's Burgers El Pollo Maniaco plate. Pastrami Sandwich

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Skunk2Racer
                                        Jase Feb 25, 2010 11:58 AM

                                        But to make it the quintessential LA experience, I think you should hit these places only after you've been drinking and it's after midnight. 2 a.m. trips to Original Tommy's are deeply embedded into my food foundations.

                                      2. e
                                        excel Feb 23, 2010 08:07 PM

                                        Wow guys thanks for the list!

                                        How about some up and comers?

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: excel
                                          Phurstluv Feb 24, 2010 02:57 PM

                                          A lot of neat, cool new places in downtown:

                                          Church & State - excellent bistro, in the industrial part of LA / ELA
                                          Rivera - cool Latin place, with a ceviche bar, in downtown at LA Live, by the Staples ctr
                                          La Descarga - a rum bar with live jazz, not sure re: the food
                                          Lazy Ox Canteen - in Little Tokyo, downtown, with interesting, eclectic pub food
                                          The Tar Pit - another bar with a well known chef and interesting bar food

                                          Have fun!!

                                          1. re: Phurstluv
                                            degustateur Feb 25, 2010 06:28 PM

                                            Great list!

                                            La Descarga is truly happening. Only a few powerful rum cocktails down the hatch. Enjoyed a Trinidad (Fundadore - Habana) on the patio. Intense, heady vibe.

                                        2. s
                                          sillygoosedown Feb 22, 2010 09:51 PM

                                          Here are my picks!

                                          Good upscale restaurants:

                                          Awful restaurants that have been around for ages:
                                          The Pantry
                                          Musso and Frank

                                          Authentic ethnic restaurants that appeal to 1% of the population:
                                          China Islamic
                                          [Some place that serves xiaolongbao. Is Din Tai Fung too prosaic? Let me agonize about the best XLB for a few months and I'll fill this in later.]

                                          Niche restaurants unique to LA:
                                          Pizzeria Mozza
                                          Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: sillygoosedown
                                            bsquared2 Feb 24, 2010 02:37 AM

                                            Those are all good choices, but the #1 choice is "In & Out Burgers". LA is a hamburger town and In & Out is a very unique LA chain. The quality has been good for years and they also have the crazy hidden menu that would be fun for tourists.

                                            1. re: bsquared2
                                              excel Feb 24, 2010 03:46 AM

                                              what's the hidden menu???

                                              1. re: excel
                                                degustateur Feb 24, 2010 03:56 AM

                                                In-n-Out Burger's Secret (hidden) Menu ...

                                                These links may serve to enhance your InO experience. Have fun! (^_^)


                                                For the record, my usual order:

                                                - 3 x 2, animal style, medium, whole grilled onion, extra toast, extra mustard,
                                                chopped chiles, no spread, no pickles
                                                - Fries, extra crispy
                                                - Root beer float or Lemon-up

                                                1. re: degustateur
                                                  laliz Feb 24, 2010 01:26 PM

                                                  my order
                                                  cheeseburger protein style w/grilled onions
                                                  Extra crispy fries, animal style
                                                  Large Diet Coke

                                            2. re: sillygoosedown
                                              mc michael Feb 25, 2010 11:21 AM

                                              I think you're off about 5% on your 1% selections. I also think you are in error about Musso. Just my opinion. Din Tai Fung is not too prosaic. It's just crowded. And it is definitely not a 1% spot.

                                              1. re: sillygoosedown
                                                bad nono Feb 28, 2010 09:51 PM

                                                But you don't go to Musso & Frank for the food, you go for the martinis! And, should you go for the food, you can eat very decently there, if you pick up wisely.

                                                And, if you really want to put in "awful restaurants that have been around for ages", I want to nominate Taix.

                                              2. n
                                                nachosaurus Feb 22, 2010 08:43 PM

                                                this has nothing to do with foodie la - but is a list of quintessential la from north west to eastish:

                                                geoffrey's malibu
                                                moonshadows malibu
                                                duke's malibu
                                                gladstones malibu
                                                patrick's roadhouse santa monica
                                                father's office santa monica
                                                hot dog on a stick under / next to the pier santa monica
                                                veince bistro on venice boardwalk
                                                gjelina abbot kinney
                                                westside tavern in westside pavillion
                                                in & out westwood village
                                                beverly hills hotel - pool restaurant or polo lounge
                                                spago beverly hills
                                                nate & al's beverly hills
                                                grill on the alley bevery hills
                                                dan tana's west hollywood
                                                rainbow west hollywood
                                                chateau marmot - west hollywood
                                                canter's - near the grove
                                                loteria - the grove
                                                el compadre hollywood
                                                24 degrees hollywood
                                                musso & frank's hollywood
                                                cat & fiddle hollywood
                                                roscoe's hollywood
                                                thai town
                                                k town
                                                langer's - almost downtown
                                                barrangan's - almost downtown
                                                king taco - almost downtown
                                                nick & stefs downtown
                                                sushi gen downtown
                                                hama sushi downtown
                                                cole's downtown
                                                nickle diner downtown
                                                traxx downtown
                                                yang chow chinatown

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: nachosaurus
                                                  Phurstluv Feb 24, 2010 02:58 PM

                                                  What's 24 degrees? Or did you mean 25 degrees??

                                                  1. re: Phurstluv
                                                    nachosaurus Feb 24, 2010 06:34 PM

                                                    ha ha - yeah. really, i meant the roosevelt hotel. but if you add chow. . .

                                                2. e
                                                  excel Feb 22, 2010 07:04 PM

                                                  Thank you - that's a great start!

                                                  1. Servorg Feb 22, 2010 06:23 PM

                                                    This first thread should be helpful to you and the second linked thread will take you to the recent 2009 Ultimate Restaurants as voted on by the LA hounds broken down into over and under $25 pp categories. .



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