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Innovation: the CHOW Tour

We’re hitting the road! Two of our CHOW editors, Lessley Anderson and Roxanne Webber, will soon be scouring three large and food-obsessed cities — NY, San Francisco, and LA -- looking for deliciousness with a twist: innovation.

For each leg of the trip, we want to hear from local hounds: Where would you go to experience creativity or originality, if given the budget and the time? For that matter, what does innovation mean to you? We're not expecting this to be exclusively or even majorly high-end dining. It may be a pop-up restaurant, or a particularly clever wine program, or a bold return to an old-timey craft like salumi.

For all who remember the OG CHOW Tour, the Jim Leff caloric extravaganza, you know the model. Roxanne and Lessley will be on the road starting July 1, traversing the cities for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; they start in San Francisco, then Los Angeles, then New York, for about a week in each place. They'll be blogging, posting video, and tweeting along the entire tour. In fact, you can start following them now on Twitter: @lessleyanderson and @roxanne_chow.

We're excited, they're excited, we hope you'll be excited too and will follow along. In fact, we hope you'll join them sometimes -- they'll be tweeting their location and will love the company.

All suggestions are welcome, we'll be checking in before they leave and on the way as well. Guide them!

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  1. Hi davina,

    For L.A., given unlimited budget and time, some places worth consideration for Culinary Excellence:

    (Not in order of preference, just listing off the top of my head (^_~))...

    1. Urasawa - MUST TRY. :)

    2. Providence - Chef's Tasting Menu - Let Chef Cimarusti go wild with his creations just for you. :)

    3. Animal - Pork Belly. Foie Gras. Fried Quail. Loco Moco Madness. Amazing. :)

    4. Torihei - Kyoto-style Oden and great Yakitori from Sakaki-san and Masa-san. Ridiculous for the low price they charge. :)

    5. Langer's - If you haven't tried Langer's Pastrami, you should. At least once. :)

    6. Ichimian (Honten) (on Cravens) - Handmade Soba Noodles made fresh daily. Gorgeous simplicity. Focused. Minimal. Delicious. :)

    7. Mori Sushi - Great Sushi, from a true master of his craft (Mori-san), with some of the best knife skills for an itamae in So Cal.

    8. Izakaya Bincho - Try some of the homemade, made-from-scratch Izakaya (Japanese Pub) Small Plate offerings from Chef Tomo in this little mom-and-pop operation right on the Redondo Beach Pier. Down-to-earth, humble, delicious.

    9. Patisserie Chantilly - Kurogoma (Black Sesame) Cream Puff. Amazing Choux a la Creme (try all 3 flavors - Vanilla Creme, Chocolate, Black Sesame).

    Enjoy L.A.! :)

    -----
    Patisserie Chantilly
    2383 Lomita Blvd., #104, Lomita, CA 90717

    Providence
    5955 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038

    Urasawa Restaurant
    218 N Rodeo Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

    Langer's Delicatessen
    704 S Alvarado St, Los Angeles, CA 90057

    Mori Sushi
    11500 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

    Ichimian (Bamboo Garden)
    1618 Cravens Ave., Torrance, CA 90501

    Animal
    435 N Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

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

    Torihei
    1757 W. Carson Street, Torrance, CA 90501

    1 Reply
    1. re: exilekiss

      when i think of innovation, i think of places like the bazaar and kogi. but maybe the tour should not just be innovation, but the best of the best for various cuisines and specific sought after dishes, plus highlighting things that people don't always talk about, such as the "thai tacos" sold in the back lot of Silom market in Thai town.

    2. Chego for a twist on Korean food at very reasonable prices. Bowls with boldness.

      Father's Office (either location - although Helms Ave. is a much more pleasant experience) for some of the greatest bar food (a burger to savor every bite of) in Los Angeles and a chance to not do it your way (lol). The LA Soup Nazi!

      Bite Bar & Bakery for some of the finest croissants and pain au chocolate you'll every wrap your butter lovin lips around.

      Park's Korean BBQ for some of the best, most delectable K food in LA.

      And what exile on main kiss said; Animal for the Tour de Meat.

      -----
      Father's Office
      1018 Montana Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90403

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

      Father's Office
      3229 Helms Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90034

      Chego
      3300 Overland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90034

      Bite Bar & Bakery
      3221 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90405

      1 Reply
      1. re: Servorg

        We did Chego to go the other night. Ordered five different bowls. While they were all very good and well-executed, I just wanted to give a heads-up to those who are averse to spicy hot food. They use (guessing) four different kinds of chili products in their dishes. The heat kinda builds up on some of the food, while others will hit pretty fast and hard. My wife and I loved them all, but our kids and my parents were bowing out to the varying levels of heat. My son, who can deal with an average amount of heat said, "My stomach is burning inside!" Gotta love that burn!

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        Chego
        3300 Overland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90034

      2. Exilekiss and Servorg have provided some excellent recommendations for eating across L.A., but I'm not sure if I would consider every one of them innovative. Well, some of them have some innovative dishes, even if much of their food is more traditional (all are well-executed versions of what they are). When I think innovation, I think of places like Animal, the Bazaar, Ludo Bites, and Bistro LQ. Animal has reinvented how L.A. thinks about meat. Ludo Bites has reinvented the whole restaurant concept with his pop-ups, ranging from a fried chicken truck to a high end restaurant. And many of Ludo's dishes are quite innovative...a delicious foie gras pina colada dish I had at the last Ludo Bites immediately comes to mind.

        May I suggest that in addition to tweeting their location, they also start a facebook page and post facebook updates that mirror the tweets? Many of us are not twitter users.

        -----
        Bistro LQ
        8009 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90048

        7 Replies
        1. re: Nicole

          Hi Nicole, Chino Wayne,

          Oops, my speed reading had me excited to hear about 2 Chow Editors visiting LA, NY and SF "looking for deliciousness" (and I conveniently put "with a twist" as a secondary thought :).

          In that light, I agree the Chow Editors can probably skip Izakaya Bincho (sniff), Langer's, Ichimian (but if they're looking for great food in L.A. period, they're still worth trying). :)

          I think the rest still have some merit. Urasawa, Animal, Providence, Chef Kimiko's take on a traditional Cream Puff is worth trying, Torihei is "original" and different in certain contexts. If these Chow Editors have only known food in their own home town, and are visiting LA, SF and NY for something different / creative / original, I'd say Torihei is definitely worthwhile. I've had some friends (major foodies) from New York visit recently, and I took them to Torihei and they went bonkers for it! :) They couldn't think of a place that had Kyoto-style Oden back home, and the newer dishes (like the Yokohama take on Chicken Pate was also a favorite of theirs).

          Mori-san can get pretty creative at Mori Sushi if you order the Full Omakase (not just Nigiri-only), where I've seen him generate some interesting new interpretations of traditional Kaiseki fare.

          1. re: exilekiss

            exilekiss, do you think lunch at Providence is a good way to check it out?

            1. re: Roxanne Webber

              I think the consensus on the board is that the best way to experience Providence is by having one of its tasting menus, which I believe are only available at dinner.

              1. re: Nicole

                I think the best way to experience it is by reading other people's experience of Providence instead of going there and being disappointed by the tasting menu. Never again.

              2. re: Roxanne Webber

                Hi Roxanne,

                As Nicole said, I think if you have the budget and time, the best way to experience Chef Cimarusti's creativity and excellence is with his Chef's Menu (you can make requests, etc.), then the 2nd best is his "Full Tasting Menu" (which features fewer courses and pre-set each night), and then his "5 Course Tasting Menu" which still gives you some exposure to a variety of creative dishes.

                Enjoy~ :)

                1. re: exilekiss

                  Thanks for setting me straight. If you want to make special requests for a Chef's Menu should you call ahead a few days before the reservation? A few weeks? Ask on the fly?

                  1. re: Roxanne Webber

                    Hi Roxanne,

                    You should give them at least a few days advance notice. Just let them know you want the Chef's Menu and have requests and let them know. Please let us know how your dinner turns out. :)

          2. Keeping in mind that the primary criterion is innovation, I am not sure if I would agree with most of the previous recommendations.

            Admittedly, through my own recent lack of exploration upon the local chow scene, I don't have much to offer in terms of recommendations of food I have tasted. But some thoughts do come to mind, that hopefully might stimulate more useful contributions to this thread,

            It seems to me that from what I hear of the food at Urasawa, the chef is highly innovative in his ability to extend how far Japanese cuisine can be taken. But, at those prices, a visit there might wipe out the budget for stops at multiple other venues. When I think of "chow tour", high end dining does not come to mind for me.

            I'll agree that when he first started serving them, Mr. Yoon's Father's Office burger was a very innovative burger, but in the context of the current burger scene, it is just one of the pack of artisan burgers. I'm not sure what else Father's Office does that is innovative, it is after all a beer bar. As long as we are talking about burgers, I would suggest that the chow tourers take at look at the recent Total Carnage... burger thread, for an opportunity to experience the best burgers and probably most innovative, available locally: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7010... .

            Yes, Animal has received a lot of attention lately and have innovated with the concept that meat is of primary importance. Perhaps as a contrast, the chow tourers might want to give a shot to one of the venues that specializes in raw food.

            I agree that chef Cimarusti has been very innovative, and has put seafood on the map in L.A.

            I woud not call Langer's innovative, unless innovative means consistently delivering a specialized product that is head and shoulders above the competition. But really, this is just food that has been a comfort, in its familiarity, and culinary legacy for generations.

            I can't get the thought out of my mind that somebody should be chiming in here with some Latin American recommendations. Not that I would term anything that I am aware of as particularly innovative, but authentic tastes, of a very wide range and quality of Latin American dishes can be found in the greater L.A. area. The Kogi truck comes to mind as an innovative fusion of Korean and Mexican cuisine.

            Any of the mariscos joints doing anything innovative?

            I am wondering if any of the other food trucks might be doing innovative things.

            -----
            Urasawa Restaurant
            218 N Rodeo Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

            Kogi
            Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles, CA

            Father's Office Bar
            1618 Montana Ave, Santa Monica, CA

            1. The food truck scene in LA has been a symbol of our lifestyle that is predicated by our region's sprawl - mobile on-the-go, get what you need and move on to the next place. But even this part of LA life is evolving into a sometimes trendy, sometimes classic kind of thing - it depends on your own perspective. Bringing food to the points of demand where there was previously little supply (at least worthy supply) via roach coach isn't new to LA. What is the newest phenomenon to catch fire in LA is bringing food that hopefully has more focus than a greasy burger topped with rancid chili. Kogi, Nom Nom, India Jones, Fresser's (RIP) and the numerous others that are either copy-catting the successes or pushing out new concepts have saturated this market - they are literally fighting so many forces for market share. And the fuel that keeps the fire of hype going is real-time mass communication (Facebook, Skype et al). The Queen's flagship of the food truck armada is the double-decker foodbus, "World Fare." I don't know how innovative this is in other parts, but it sure is around here, even by LA standards.

              http://losangeles.grubstreet.com/2010...

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

              1 Reply
              1. re: bulavinaka

                That's a great point...gourmet food trucks are an innovative dining trend. It all started with Kogi, and World Fare took it one step further with its "bustaurant."

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                Kogi
                Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles, CA