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East Cost CH needs greatest hits, only-in-LA Recs

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I have just a week to visit, and will be staying with friends in Silver Lake, then West Hollywood. Will probably hit up Venice and Malibu, and have to spend some time near UCLA.

I would love to hear recs of yummy, only-in-LA places. I would do the research myself on CH, but unfortunately given the various neighborhoods we are visiting, I don't have much time to do so.

A few parameters:
- the significant other has already rejected Pinks as a destination
- we already know about Kogi and will definitely be hitting that up
- ethnic is a plus, not a problem! Love Mexican, South American, Central American, Chinese, Taiwanese and Korean (sig-o not a Japanese food fan)
- prefer hole-in-the-wall finds and good values to hot scenes and atmosphere (though would love to hear of place that combines both)
- not interested in "New American", organic, local -- we have that here in Boston, and while it's all good, I want authentic can-only-get-in-LA recs.
- would also love to hear about consistent, unsung heroes ... places that may not knock your socks off but are reliably tasty and trusted by a consensus on this board.

Thanks in advance, kind-hearted West Coast CHers!

-----
Kogi
Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles, CA

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  1. Been there, done that. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6899...

    4 Replies
    1. re: mc michael

      Awh quit being a thread-killer right from the start! :)

      If the OP has no access to great Peruvian, I'd hit up that category. Mo Chica, Kotosh at Kamiyama and Puro Sabor.

      For Chinese in the general area, that would be like asking where's the good chowdah in New England. You will be blown away by the breadth and depth of Chinese cuisines and specialties here but if I had to create a real short list for someone visiting, it would be:

      Dim sum: Sea Harbour or Elite for menu-driven, 888 for carts.

      Xiao long bao: Mei Long Village or J&J/Jin Jian; Din Tai Fung if it's your first time trying these.

      Dumplings/noodles: JTYH or Luscious Dumplings

      Taiwanese Breakfast: Yung Ho or Yung Ho King Tou Chiang

      If you're Mandarin/Cantonese-challenged, you could still do each category but "Taiwanese Breakfast" might be tougher. The easiest would definitely be dim sum.

      Don't short-change yourself or your SO on Japanese. There are quite a few reputable places in most categories of this cuisine. For someone who is timid or blah on Japanese, I challenge them not to like Torihei, Izakaya Bincho or Musha. The permalink function shows Musha in Santa Monica, which it is, but the bigger (and probably better) location is in Torrance, right across the parking lot from Torihei.

      -----
      Din Tai Fung Restaurant
      1108 S Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007

      Luscious Dumplings
      704 W Las Tunas Dr, San Gabriel, CA 91776

      Musha
      424 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

      Kotosh at Kamiyama
      2408 Lomita Blvd, Lomita, CA 90717

      Mei Long Village
      301 W Valley Blvd Ste 112, San Gabriel, CA 91776

      Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant
      3939 N. Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead, CA 91770, USA

      Yung Ho Restaurant
      533 W Valley Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776

      Puro Sabor
      6366 Van Nuys Blvd, Van Nuys, CA 91401

      Izakaya Bincho
      112 N International Boardwalk, Redondo Beach, CA 90277

      Torihei
      1757 W. Carson Street, Torrance, CA 90501

      1. re: bulavinaka

        I agree with bulavinaka's suggestion to not overlook Japanese...in my experience, most East Coasters equate Japanese with sushi (I know I did when I lived there), but L.A. is blessed with a dynamic Japanese dining scene that goes far beyond sushi. It seems like you won't make it down to bulavinaka's Torrance recs, but you may want to consider her suggestion of Musha's Santa Monica location (near Venice where you say you'll visit). You also may want to consider visiting some of the Japanese restaurants on Sawtelle Blvd, which is close to UCLA. There are lots of interesting restaurants in the area, but I think you'd really like Orris, which is Japanese-French fusion small plates. For hole-in-the wall Oaxacan Mexican near UCLA, check out Monte Alban. Mariscos Chente is a board favorite for Mexican seafood (although I still haven't been there myself). Animal is another board favorite that is not ethnic but is only-in-L.A.: meat-centric, high-end comfort food. Unfortunately, many of L.A.'s authentic ethnic hole-in-the wall places, as per your request, are not located near the areas you will be in.

        -----
        Monte Alban
        11927 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

        Musha
        424 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

        1. re: Nicole

          I was fortunate enough to attend a wedding catered by Animal the last time I was in town... and it was delicious!

          1. re: Nicole

            the fabulous chef at mariscos chente has left the building, permanently.

      2. How much driving around are you willing/able to do? This will have implications in your quest for Chinese and Taiwanese--all East side based. Where you are staying you should have access to good Mexican, Thai, Korean, and Peruvian (as mentioned) all kinds of burgers (if interested), lots of trucks. What say you? What's the budget?
        You will not find any scrod, Indian pudding, etc.

        4 Replies
        1. re: mc michael

          Thank you for the link. That was very helpful. As for driving, I am somewhat limited in that the husband is less willing to make a long drive specifically for a specific food item. So the recs nearer to where we are staying are more helpful. As for budget, I love cheap finds but will drop $50-70 (without drinks) on a meal if it's a tremendous, satisfying meal.

          1. re: astrid

            Given the pricing and driving parameters, give serious consideration to the first 25 or so of the under $25 list in this link. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6736...

            1. re: astrid

              If you've been here before, you know that having a smooth drive depends on the time, the area and a little luck. WeHo driving sucks. Everywhere else is a crap shoot. If you're planning on an easy egress/ingress for the San Gabriel Valley, I'd do it from Silverlake during the week mid-morning. It's also a good place to plan a trip to Koreatown from. Mario's is another Peruvian place you could hit up from either Silverlake or WeHo, as is Thai Town.

              1. re: bulavinaka

                Second Orris.

          2. How ethnic do you want to get?

            Live octopus Korean-style at The Prince?
            Pig's blood congee served Canto-style at Sam Woo?
            Taiwanese chicken knees at Indian?
            Liuzhou style snail noodle soup at NRN?
            Hong Kong sea turtle soup at China Bistro?
            Or maybe bull penis shish-kebabs at Feng Mao Mutton Kebab are more your type of deal?

            Let us know if those examples tickle your fancy and we'll be happy to provide more ...

            3 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit

              In response:

              Live octopus Korean-style at The Prince?
              I WILL TRY THIS BUT THERE IS NO WAY THE HUSBAND WOULD.

              Pig's blood congee served Canto-style at Sam Woo?
              I'VE EATEN THIS BEFORE, THANKS. I LIVE IN DORCHESTER, MA, WHERE THE VIETNAMESE POPULATION HAS THEIR OWN VERSION OF PIG'S BLOOD CONGEE (WHICH I LIKE!).

              Taiwanese chicken knees at Indian?
              ARE THESE LIKE CHICKEN FEET? I HAVE BEEN EATING THOSE SINCE I WAS A KID.

              Liuzhou style snail noodle soup at NRN?
              I HAVE EATEN THIS IN GUANGXI PROVINCE BEFORE, SO I WOULDN'T GO OUT OF MY WAY TO TRY IT AGAIN.

              Hong Kong sea turtle soup at China Bistro?
              HUSBAND WOULD NIX. I'VE EATEN TORTOISE SHELL -- IS IT SIMILAR?

              Or maybe bull penis shish-kebabs at Feng Mao Mutton Kebab are more your type of
              SO LONG AS ITS THE UIGHUR SPICE MIX (CUMIN/CHILI/SALT OVER BRUSHED OIL), I'LL TRY IT!

              -----
              Feng Mao Mutton Kebab
              3901 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019

              Sam Woo Cafe
              727 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012

              China Bistro
              8310 Valley Blvd, Rosemead, CA 91770

              1. re: astrid

                Chicken feet and knees are different. Same idea, but different texture.

                Sea turtle soup is not like tortoise shell. The soup is very herbal, almost a bit medicinal like.

                Yes, the skewers are Ugher style.

                Enjoy your stay.

                1. re: astrid

                  That's as good a retort as has ever been written on this board.

                  I'll add for Silver Lake: Thirsty Crow on Sunset / Parkman, Viet on Glendale in Atwater, Pho on Sunset/ Parkman

              2. If you're staying in Silver Lake, you must try Cliff's Edge. I haven't been personally, since I live on the other side of town, and RARELY get over to that side, but it is supposed to be beautiful and all around lovely.

                With only a week's stay, I would skip the recs that take you down to Torrance, Lomita & Redondo beach, you will sit in traffic more than anything else. Most likely not worth it.

                Also Jitlada is the BEST Thai in town. Period. Strip mall locale in Hollywood, so it definitely fills your hole in the wall criterion.

                -----
                Cliff's Edge
                3626 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026

                Jitlada
                5233 1/2 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027

                1. second the rec for Jitlada and Musha and Mario's Peruvian.

                  on your way to venice, hit up Monte Alban for Oaxacan. or stop for Mexican at Lares on Pico or Gilberts El Indio or Tacomiendo

                  you could do korean bbq at Park's BBQ or Soot Bull Jeep

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

                  Jitlada
                  5233 1/2 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027

                  Monte Alban
                  11927 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

                  Soot Bull Jeep
                  3136 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90005

                  Musha
                  424 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

                  Tacomiendo
                  11462 Gateway Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

                  Mario's Peruvian
                  15720 Imperial Hwy, La Mirada, CA 90638

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Emme

                    Emme's recs are great; I love them ALL except Gilberts. I also second the rec for Alibi Room or Chego, Mo Chica, Sea Harbour. For a higher end fusion place, try Chinois in Santa Monica.

                    -----
                    Alibi Room
                    12236 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                    Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant
                    3939 N. Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead, CA 91770, USA

                    Chego
                    3300 Overland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90034

                    1. re: ElissaInPlaya

                      These are largely good suggestions, but some of them are out our your geographical range. But I would nix Chinois on Main. I recently went to Chinois for the first time and was decidedly underwhelmed...I think there are a lot of better places at that price point. Also, the decor brings down the food a notch...think 80's miami, and also imagine that it has not been renovated since the 80's. Dirty, chipping paint meets a $40 entree restaurant in the most unusual way.

                    2. re: Emme

                      Lare's, IMHO, is really terrible tasting to me lately, almost inedible. I don't kinow if I have learned more about truly good Mexican food or they never rebounded from the fire (both I guess) but it just ain't the same.

                    3. If you don't want to find a Kogi truck and wait in line, be aware that Alibi Room Bar in Culver City has a tiny Kogi Kitchen inside and a good menu. I had the taco trio there and it was fantastic. The place was full and everyone was ordering Kogi, but it didn't seem to hard to order, get drinks at the full bar and find a couple of cubes next to a coffee table to sit and wait for our order to be delivered with hardly a wait. That's about 15 minutes from UCLA, but they open at 6PM M-Sat.
                      http://www.alibiroomla.com/home.php

                      fyi, the chef has just barely opened a Korean Rice Bowl restaurant, it's even closer but also 6Pm! No booze.
                      http://eatchego.com/

                      -----
                      Alibi Room
                      12236 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                      Kogi
                      Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles, CA

                      1. Local Recs...
                        For Taco's near Silver Lake you cannot beat the Taco Zone truck in Echo Park. It's on the street 8pm - til late. So worth it. for $5 you'll eat like a king.

                        Also in Silver Lake Allegria on Sunset has got great mexican in a completely different way. cool vibe, fresh food. i've never had a bad meal here.

                        1. Hi! I always bring my out of towners to Los Balcones De Peru on Vine right across from the famous Arclight Cinemas. It's been on Jonathon Gold's essential 99 restaurant list for years, but furthermore, its just so fricking delicous, I've never left there without grinning ear to ear from sheer food happiness. It's definitely a hole in the wall! But its so authentic and tasty. Been thinking about it, and I don't like Mo Chica as much. I just went bak to Mo Chica this past weekend, after falling in love with it the first time. It has some definite pluses, but overall the flavors, ambience, and authenticty do not hold up to Los Balcones. Also they dont serve wine or beer (I love the Peruvian beer at balcones!) and they were out of half their menu at 8:30 pm last Saturday! And if you go to Balcones it fits in well with being in the hollywood area for sight seeings, even better is to actually go see a movie in teh famous Arc Light cinemas and see what the fuss is about. (just not the dome theater, that one is weird, the regular larger theater) My favorite dish is the Arroz con Mariscos.

                          Jitlada is one of my very very very favorites if are willing to try different specialties (the fish balls in green curry haunts me with phantom cravings) but if you can't resist ordering what you would usually get at other thai restaurants, its not worth the trip. ; )

                          I'm not so into the Kogi Tacos myself (I Loooove real carne asada tacos, no fusion necessary, and my favorite carne asada tacos are at a hole in the street caled Burrito King at Sunset & Alvarado in Echo Park (not a super nice area but kinda convenient to say Griffith park if youre exploring the observatory or something)

                          Korean BBQ, however, is quintessential LA foodie eating that you can't do (or do well) in most cities. Los Angeles may have the best Korean food in the country. So, Soot Bull Jeep or Park's BBQ (or see thread on KBBQ recs).

                          Scoops Ice cream (also in a random area on the east side of town) is a must. Huge amounts of freshly made gourmet flavors (brown bread, chocolate guiness, but my favorite is fig-pistacchio) for low price.

                          Also if you go downtown you cpuld hit up Cuidad's happy hour one day -- a great latin restaurant, extremely tasty-- i think they have deals on appetizers and drinks at happy hour, a good way to get that taste for less. Similar, the owner of Cuidad also has Border Grill in Santa Monica that has happy hour deals, that is upscale mexican food (the owner Susan Feniger recently advanced to next round on Top Chef masters)

                          Speaking of top chef, if you're a fan, many of the former contestants have resturants here in LA. LA chows may scoff at this suggestion, but for out of towners it is a unique opportunity if you're a fan. The most interesting of late seems to be Elan the winner of season 2's The Gorbals in downtown LA- Scottish Jewish fusion...sounds strange but is getting very good reviews, looks very interesting.

                          Ohhhhh and go to the Central Market in downtown LA, which is like a huge dirty grimey famers maket, old as the hills, filled with stands of food. Budget foodie's paradise and the best thing there may be the Pupusas (el salvadorian stuffed cornflour patties) at Sarita's, I love them!

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

                          Border Grill
                          1445 4th St., Santa Monica, CA 90401

                          Jitlada
                          5233 1/2 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027

                          Soot Bull Jeep
                          3136 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90005

                          Kogi
                          Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles, CA

                          Burrito King
                          2823 Hyperion Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027

                          Marisco's
                          718 S San Jacinto Ave, San Jacinto, CA 92583

                          1. Wow, you LA folks are very, very lucky. You have so many fantastic places to eat -- as far as the eyes can see.

                            Highlights include:
                            - blue crab handroll (part of lunch special) at Echigo in Santa Monica (we cannot get seafood like that out here -- or if we can, I'm not eating it prepared that way). YUM.
                            - homemade papadelle and sausage at Little Dom's in Los Feliz
                            - short rib sliders and tacos at Kogi truck (one evening in Glendale)
                            - a "blackberry muddle" cocktail at Comme Ca in West Hollywood
                            - steamed mussels at the Village Idiot in West
                            - sweet corn breakfast tamales from Corn Maiden and "Black Gold" coffee from Groundwork Coffe at the Sunday morning Santa Monica farmers' market. And OH THOSE FRESH STRAWBERRIES
                            - chicken in mole at Los Antojitos in East LA
                            - roasted asparagus with hazelnuts and fresh mozzarella, as well as grilled lamb loin at Ammo in Hollywood
                            - "angel wings", curry and pineapple fried rice at the Thai Palms

                            And of course -- great shakes at In and Out Burger (though I wouldn't trade it for Shake Shack any time soon). Thanks so much for the recs. I can't wait for my next visit, as I know we barely scraped the surface.

                            -----
                            Village Idiot
                            7383 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046

                            Echigo
                            12217 Santa Monica Blvd Ste 201, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                            Little Dom's
                            2128 Hillhurst Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027

                            Kogi
                            Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles, CA

                            Los Antojitos
                            2122 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90033

                            Thai Palms Restaurant
                            957 E Palmdale Blvd, Palmdale, CA 93550

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: astrid

                              Wow you hit some great places!! Well done chowhound!!

                              1. re: astrid

                                Wow, thanks for reporting back! That blue crab handroll at Echigo is one of my favorite things to eat, but I don't feel like it gets much love on the board. So glad you got to sample such a wide range of the fantastic foods LA has to offer.

                                -----
                                Echigo
                                12217 Santa Monica Blvd Ste 201, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                              2. Went back for another round last week (man, that 80 degree weather is SOMETHING compared to all the snow we've had dumped on us in Boston). Still love eating in LA and can't wait for my next trip.

                                Some highlights:
                                - savory, buttery, crumbly bacon and gruyere scone at Square One on Fountain (served with a fruit bowl)
                                - sublime albacore tuna sushi at Sugarfish in Santa Monica
                                - prosciutto, mozarella and balsamic on baguette at Larchmont Village Wine & Cheese
                                - a tart Moscow Mule and salty, crispy fries at The Tar Pit's Gilded Hour
                                - fried chicken sliders and a lovely cucumber line cocktail at Tart (Farmer's Daughter Hotel on Fairfax)
                                - BL(A)T at the Mustard Seed Cafe on Hillhurst in Los Feliz
                                - spicy chocolate gelato at the Gelato Place in Los Feliz
                                - fried beef and pickles taco at Malo in Silverlake
                                - powerful, milky latte at LA Mill in Silverlake
                                - non-dairy strawberry balsamic gelato at Scoops in East Hollywood (actually, this place was only OK)
                                - take-out "Angel Wings" from the Thai Palms in Hollywood
                                - ridiculous, enormous slice of seven layer chocolate cake at Sweet Lady Jane in West Hollywood

                                Once again, we enjoyed sweet corn tamales for breakfast at the Santa Monica farmers market and an In and Out burger.

                                The supreme highlight of the trip was Feng Mao Mutton Kebab -- man, was this place worth the wait! In addition to devouring the succulent lamb, we feasted on beef, chicken and quail kebabs and quaffed numerous Hites. Also found the eggplant with garlic sauce to be ethereal - crispy edges with just a touch of sweetness, meltingly soft eggplant and a touch of chili. I loved all the ban chan that came out before hand too -- we ate EVERYTHING, and I mean everything. I am supremely jealous that my city does not have a Feng Mao Mutton Kebab.

                                Which brings me to the lowlight of the trip... Animal. I had booked this in advance for my sibling's birthday and we were both supremely excited -- but ultimately disappointed. While Animal is undoubtedly experimenting with some interesting ideas and high-quality ingredients, what we ate was either unimpressive or too weird to be tasty. Our meal:

                                > foie gras terrine, pickled crab apple, black pepper - this was the best dish we got. No quibbles with the terrrine -- absolutely adored the gelatinous crumble of something that was scattered on it. Tasted like Christmas! Sugarplums or wine or something... menu description was not helpful; wish I had asked the waitstaff what it was.
                                > hamachi tostada, herbs, fish sauce vinaigrette, peanut - while this was tasty and had great texture, I was not impressed because it struck me as a copy of a Thai salad, stacked on top of an expensive piece of fish. It works and it's tasty... but the flavor profile was Southeast Asian to a T, and nothing new.
                                > barbeque pork belly sandwiches with slaw - not impressed with these; while the pork belly was well-prepared (meltingly fatty), the sloppy, vinegary slaw overpowered the porkbelly, rather than complimented it. A plus here was the perfect, buttery brioche-y bun.
                                > cavatelli, lamb sausage, pecorino, pea tendrils, crouton - the cheese was WAY too strong here, and we could barely taste the lamb. Like mac and cheese gone wrong.
                                > our last dish was some kind of broccolini with cheese, pancetta and chili flakes. It was sweet, watery, oily and the flavors just didn't go together-- utterly a mess. Like something you would try to make out of whatever you had left in your fridge.

                                We skipped dessert because at that point we had become wary of the combinations they were putting together. The best part of the meal? The $20 bottle of house red that was quite drinkable. Other than that, we just weren't feeling it -- there's probably some good stuff going on there, but we clearly didn't get to eat it. .Maybe I ordered wrong, or maybe I'm missing something, but I don't think I would go there again.

                                I also had a disgusting cucumber martini at Lola's martini bar on Fairfax, but that likely doesn't merit much discussion. Neither did Rouen Pair or Tacos Por Favor... but not every meal can be great.

                                -----
                                Malo
                                4326 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90029

                                Larchmont Village Wine
                                223 N Larchmont Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

                                Feng Mao Mutton Kebab
                                3901 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019

                                Mustard Seed Cafe
                                1948 Hillhurst Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027

                                The Tar Pit
                                609 N La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: astrid

                                  Thanks again for the report. I like Scoops, but, having grown up in Boston, I can see why it would disappoint a Bostonian. Also, gelato isn't really their thing. Their ice creams are very good, though. Not enough to displace my fondness for Toscanini's, though.

                                  Thanks also for reminding me I have to try Feng Mao Mutton Kebab. After the buzz died down about it I sort of relegated it to the back burner.

                                  1. re: astrid

                                    Thanks astrid.
                                    I have loved animal since its birth, but my last visit a few weeks ago, was not up to the high bar they went over (easily) in the past.
                                    I suspect opening a new place has taken their focus off the ball.
                                    I hope comments like yours will wake them up before it is too late.

                                    1. re: astrid

                                      I think I will update this post each time I visit LA. This time, I got to experience the following yumminess:

                                      - fried chicken sandwich with pickled green tomatoes and mayo on a toasted bun; burrata with melon and mint at Canele in Atwater Village

                                      - shortribs bbq; pancake with shrimps and scallion at Park's BBQ in Koreatown

                                      - scoops of each of ginger snap ricotta and chocolate orange gelato at Pazzo Gelato in Silver Lake

                                      - sweet corn tamales, golden raspeberries, heirloom tomatoes, smoked cheddar and cold-brewed coffee at Cafe Organico's stand at the Hollywood farmer's market

                                      - vegetarian platter, plus Gored Gored (beef) and Yebeg Siga Alitcha (lamb) at Messob on South Fairfax

                                      - a ridiculous combination of flavors at Yogurtland in Hollywood

                                      - Monday night supper at Little Dom's in Los Feliz (mushroom crostini; brisket and garlic potoatoes; chocolate sorbet)

                                      All in all, another satisfying visit. Y'all don't KNOW how lucky you are. Till next time.

                                      -----
                                      Canele
                                      3219 Glendale Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90039

                                      Little Dom's
                                      2128 Hillhurst Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027