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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!

        -----
        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."

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

              2. As far as unique in the burger world, check out 26 Beach Restaurant. They just won DineLA's Best burger competition. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RK401k... They beat In n Out, Father's Office, The Counter, Umami, 25 Degrees, 8 oz Burger Bar, Comme Ca and several others. I know people say I am their pimp but once you try their California Roll Hamburger, a sushi burger if you will, the Peanut Butter & Jelly burger, The UFO, sour cream, grilled onions with mushrooms in a teriyaki sauce & avocado, they just brought this back, The Bombay Burger or The King Kobe the lV, you will understand my zelousness. They have been doing , IMHO, the best burgers in LA for 20+ years and they make their own buns. I hope you have time and desire to try some very unique burgers. They just put a fudge bacon burger on the menu. okay so I am a little skeptical about that one, time will tell. For Armenian lahmajune try Partamian's bakery http://findlocal.latimes.com/na/resta... it is the best bar none, my family has been going since the 60's. There is a place that does a chili taco with a hamburger patty, yes it is junk food, that is great called Original Bill's Taco House http://www.yelp.com/biz/original-bill... Have a marvelous and amazing journey.

                -----
                25 Degrees Restaurant
                7000 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028

                26 Beach
                3100 Washington Blvd., Venice, CA 90292

                Bill's Taco House
                219 E Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90011

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

                M Restaurant - Hotel Metropole
                205 Crescent Ave, Avalon, CA 90704

                3 Replies
                1. re: Burger Boy

                  Here are the top 5 from tthe LA facebook page., which is tied in to DineLA and Discover LA, or so it seems.
                  Los Angeles would like to congratulate 26 BEACH for winning the Best Burger in LA Contest, and Bridget T. for winning the free vouchers to all the featured burger joints! 26 Beach ran away with the win (nearly 900 votes). The Counter (503 votes), In-N-Out (492 votes), Umami (433 votes) and Father's Office (250 votes) rounded out the top 5.

                  -----
                  26 Beach
                  3100 Washington Blvd., Venice, CA 90292

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

                  M Restaurant - Hotel Metropole
                  205 Crescent Ave, Avalon, CA 90704

                  1. re: Burger Boy

                    Just curious; how many votes did Boulevard Burger or Fatburger get? Their burgers beat In -n-Out by a mile

                    -----
                    Boulevard Burgers
                    21718 Ventura Blvd, Woodland Hills, CA 91364

                    1. re: mucho gordo

                      They had 24 places on their list, Boulevard and Fatburger were not there. It is silly for Father's Office, 26 Beach, Umami to compete against fast food burgers and vice versa. The should have 3 categories fast food, basic and Kicked-up burgers. JMHO

                      -----
                      26 Beach
                      3100 Washington Blvd., Venice, CA 90292

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

                      M Restaurant - Hotel Metropole
                      205 Crescent Ave, Avalon, CA 90704

                2. Given the heavy emphasis on innovation, I would go for the following:

                  1. One of the food trucks. While I'd love for you to visit Nina's on the gritty streets of East L.A., and while Nina was the winner of the inaugural Street Food contest and makes amazing Mexico City-style antojitos, you should probably visit one of the new FancyTrucks™. I'd suggest Piaggio on Wheels, Vizzi Truck, Barcelona on the Go, the Buttermilk Truck or perhaps (though I haven't tried it yet) Manila Machine, since Filipino food is uncommon.

                  2. I agree that Torihei or Musha would be a good option: reinterpretations of Japanese pub food.

                  3. Animal, for sure, and others can weigh in on it.

                  4. Mariscos Chente. While Mexican seafood isn't exactly new, having seafood of this quality and prepared this well is, really anywhere in the U.S.

                  5. Babita for updated, upscaled Mexican cuisine. (Someone is bound to recommend Red O, but I haven't been yet and can't say if it's any good.)

                  6. Bootleggers Brewery in Fullerton, where they have two boards full of beer selection: standard offerings to the left available in half-pints, pints and half-gallon growlers, and then "guinea pig" experimentation to the right, used to gauge the public's reaction to new and exciting ways of crafting beer. At any given time there will be 15-20 beers on the boards and a tasting of five 2 oz. pours will part you from the princely sum of $3. They also have FancyTrucks™ outside most days. Open only Thursday through Saturday.

                  7. M Cafe de Chaya, because it's a great example of a diet-limited restaurant (macrobiotic, in this case) that has gained wide mainstream appeal. When the reaction is, "Wow, I had no idea it was special diet food," you know they've done well. Locations in Beverly Hills, on Melrose and in Culver City.

                  Don't eat at Langer's. It's not particularly innovative and pastrami isn't associated with our city, though the pastrami is outstanding.

                  -----
                  Musha
                  1725 W Carson St, Torrance, CA 90501

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

                  Torihei
                  1757 W. Carson Street, Torrance, CA 90501

                  M Cafe de Chaya
                  9433 Brighton Way, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

                  Red O
                  8155 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                    Agree on Musha. For instance, their risotto is an excellent example of putting a new twist on a familiar food.

                    -----
                    Musha
                    424 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                      Hi Das Ubergeek, nice list! Are there specific beers that are must-haves at Bootleggers? It sounds like a fun brewery! And if the trucks are there, even better. Which of those "FancyTrucks" are worth a shot?

                      1. re: Roxanne Webber

                        For Bootlegger's, I would say go for the Rustic Rye IPA, the porter and the Anniversary 77. You can taste five beers (generous 2 oz. pours) for $3. Half-pints are $2-$3, full pints are $3.50-$5 and growler fills are $10-$12 (plus $5 for the growler itself).

                        As for the FancyTrucks™, I think Piaggio on Wheels, Buttermilk Truck, Vizzi Truck and Barcelona On the Go are the ones I like best. I haven't had Manila Machine (it was started by two Chowhounds and food bloggers relatively recently) but am looking forward to it, since my education on Filipino food is incomplete at best.

                        They reserve one spot for a FancyTruck™ at Bootlegger's, so check their Twitter (http://twitter.com/bootleggersbrew) to see who's showing up when.

                        M Cafe de Chaya's quinoa salad with roasted beets runs through my dreams. Same with the kale salad.

                        -----
                        Chaya
                        525 S Flower St, Los Angeles, CA 90071

                    2. Looking forward to your reports! You got some great suggestions... here are some more that rather signature to LA

                      Jitlada: Crispy Cat Fish Salad, Dry Curry Beef
                      Pa Ord: Boat Noodles!
                      Chichen Itza: Yucatecan Cuisine including Venado, Poc Chuc
                      JTYH: Hand made Cats Ears Noodles

                      --Dommy!

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

                      Chichen Itza
                      3655 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90007

                      1. davina, Lessley and Roxanne,

                        I'm a bit turned off by the concept of a food tour based on the theme of "innovation". It reeks of foodieism and has a significant hipster bias. (Hipsters, as very loosely defined by Wikipedia, are young urbanites who freely borrow from other cultures and eras and reinterpret them in an inauthentic and/or ironic way, with a wink and a nod to that same inauthenticity.)

                        The majority of hipsters-as-foodies are bound to find, for example, the Shandong style beef roll an innovative concept... ("it's a Chinese style burrito!! That's so culturally diverse, and is therefore awesome!!"), but I doubt that the residents of Shandong province in China feel the same way. They eat it because it's delicious and is a part of the culinary tapestry of the region, not because it is innovative. However, the casual foreign visitor to Shandong might well feel that this is an innovative food, simply because they've not personally experienced it.

                        So what it sounds like the Chow-tour authors are really looking for are places that hipsters-as-foodies would find innovative. With that as a guiding principal, I highly recommend the beef roll at Noodle Express 101. The cumin lamb kebabs and shrimp/pumpkin dumplings are pretty "innovative" (and delicious) too.

                        "Oh my God you guys, it's the best thing ever. It's like a super-awesome Chinese burrito!"--Trendy McChow

                        Mr Taster

                        -----
                        101 Noodle Express
                        1408 E Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA 91801

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Mr Taster

                          Beef Roll! Yeah Baby, not sure if it is inventive or innovative but it is good, be sure to get the cilantro chili sauce to put on it!

                          1. re: Mr Taster

                            I'm peeking at this LA thread today because the SF leg of the tour is boring me to death and not living up to the promise of "innovation". I'm hoping the editors might make more interesting choices when they turn south.

                            Mr. Taster turns out to be quite prescient in his perspective above. You might find this Chow Tour piece on the "Chinito" and my comment of interest.
                            http://www.chow.com/blog/2010/07/chin...

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              I feel that trendiness and food make for uneasy bedfellows. While I am very glad to see more and more people caring about different kinds of food, this trendy concept of "discovery-as-innovation" is akin to Columbus "discovering" the Americas and puts me ill at ease. Eat new foods, love new foods, but above all respect and give due deference to where these "discoveries" came from.

                              Mr Taster

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                Now that the LA leg of the Chow Tour is wrapping up, I'm agreeing with Melanie that I'm just not feeling the love for several reasons.

                                As I've stated, the overall theme of "innovation" is inherently weak one, because the meaning is so ambiguous. If your theme means nothing, then why have a theme at all?

                                Let me illustrate the absurdity of the "innovation" theme by suggesting an alternate theme with actual substance.

                                I'm struck by what seems to me to be an incredibly obvious parallel between SF, NY and LA... you're looking at three very large and historic Chinatowns. Particularly in SF and NY you've got deep historical ties to the immigrants and their food, with LA's modern San Gabriel Valley (and to a lesser degree Flushing and Milpitas/Silicon Valley area) as the penultimate manifestation of 150 years of Chinese cookery in the Americas... it's would be fascinating to get a current, on-the-ground look at how Chinese food started 150 years ago in San Francisco with chop suey, and has "de-evolved" more or less back into it's native form. Starting point: this book http://www.amazon.com/Chop-Suey-Cultu...

                                In addition, you have all the multiple ethnic permutations of Chinese food to contend with-- NY style American Chinese (those delicious eggrolls that I grew up with!) vs. SF vs. LA, and then you have Korean Chinese, Indian Chinese, etc. Plus you have all the regional styles of Chinese cooking which are (for the most part) broadly represented in LA and to a lesser degree in Flushing and Silicon Valley. A chronological exploration of the evolution of Chinese food, starting in the birthplace SF, then to NY and finally to LA would have been epic.

                                Granted, this Chow tour would take real research and effort (moreso than making a reservation and repeatedly blogging, essentially, "this is awesome") but I the potential for actually producing something meaningful is much greater. At the end of the LA leg of the chow tour, I'm left feeling thin, short shrifted, This tenuous, meaningless theme of "innovation" has made an equally tenuous and meaningless survey of the food scene in Los Angeles. Our city deserves better.

                                Mr Taster

                            2. I'm sure that there will be plenty who disagree but here's a vote for Slaw Dogs. Had a Holy Roller today that was just excellent. And besides the really innovative creations they've got going on, Ray and his crew are just genuinely welcoming and friendly.

                              J. Gold did a nice writeup recently that describes it better than I ever could - http://www.laweekly.com/2010-06-10/ea...

                              -----
                              The Slaw Dogs
                              720 N Lake Ave, Pasadena, CA 91104

                              1. I don't know if it falls into the innovation category, but I'd say Mole La Tia and Mo Chi-Ca, and maybe Scoops.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: bad nono

                                  Thanks to everyone for taking the time to reply. We will definitely be checking out some of your suggestions.

                                  bad nono, what do you recommend at Scoops and Mo-chica? We were eyeing both spots and don't want to miss the good stuff!

                                  -Roxanne of CHOW

                                  1. re: Roxanne Webber

                                    With scoops it's hard to say because his flavor rotates. What I recommend actually is kinda skip scoops and head to Golden State and have a beer float WITH Scoops ice cream. Tell the counter the type of beer you like and they will make the PERFECT match with ice cream. :)

                                    As for Mo-Chica, you can go wrong with the Ceviche. I also LOVE causas (You don't see these all the time), so I recommend those.

                                    --Dommy!

                                    -----
                                    The Golden State
                                    426 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90036

                                    Mo-Chica
                                    3655 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90007

                                    1. re: Dommy

                                      Agree that the thing to get at Mo Chica is the ceviche. Causas are good too, but I prefer it with crab rather than chicken (it is a daily special that varies). I would also recommend their quinotto, a quinoa risotto that is both innovative and delicious. Oh, and last time I was there they had a carob pudding for dessert that was incredible! That is also something innovative that you can't find just anywhere.

                                      1. re: Nicole

                                        I heartily, heartily agree with Mo-Chica. I love their ceviche but I have spent at least a hundred dollars and hours and hours trying to replicate their causas. They had a scallop causa with bitter orange that did the tango down my throat.

                                        Also, as pedestrian as it is (through the lens of Peruvian food, which is pretty new to a lot of people), their ají de gallina is insanely good.

                                        I'm also going to pimp Pal Cabrón here, mostly because hardly anyone except deep Mexican-food geeks had ever heard of cemitas, clayudas or tacos árabes before they opened. None of those foods are exactly 'new' but the marketing (Twitter, of course!) is what is bringing white people in droves to Huntington Park, itself a very cool part of LA that has heretofore been completely ignored.

                                        Specific recommendations: cemita de barbacoa de borrego con quesillo y papalo (a huge, sesame-studded roll filled with chile-rubbed, pit-roasted lamb, shredded fresh Oaxacan cow's-milk string cheese and a native herb that lends a necessary, slightly bitter cast to the sandwich); clayuda con cecina enchilada (an absolutely enormous, crispy, thin, handmade tortilla topped with black beans and aciento [unrefined pork fat], then shredded string cheese, fresh cheese [queso fresco], shredded cabbage and a slab of chile-marinated dried pork). Make absolutely sure you get a michelada if you go; it's a hell-strong mix of chile, lime and soy mixed with the beer of your choice, served in a glass rimmed with a salt, chile and ground maguey worm mixture. They'll suggest a lighter beer; it goes much better, I think, with Negra Modelo.

                                        Pal Cabrón, 2560 E. Gage, Huntington Park; www.lascabronas.com

                                        -----
                                        Mo-Chica
                                        3655 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90007

                                    2. re: Roxanne Webber

                                      I saw you had good advice below re Mo-ChiCa, I have nothing to add to it, except that everything is insanely good there.
                                      re: Scoops, I cannot recommend anything innovative because I'm very conventional in my ice cream taste (gimme vanilla or pistachio anytime) and I prefer Bulgarini Gelato anyway. But it seems everybody else but me adores the Brown Bread and the Avocado flavors at Scoops.

                                      I would really recommend Moles La Tia, most specifically the halibut in white mole, and the salmon with pistachio mole. It would be very sad if you were to miss on that.
                                      You can check the menu here http://www.moleslatia.com/menu.html

                                      -----
                                      Bulgarini Gelato
                                      749 E Altadena Dr, Altadena, CA 91001

                                      Moles La Tia
                                      4619 E Cesar E Chavez Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90022

                                    3. re: bad nono

                                      Mole La Tia is GREAT and INNOVATIVE!

                                    4. The Lazy Ox Canteen is the latest home to Chef Joseph Centano. The creator of the "Baco" is incredibly innovative. I have eaten in this place about 15 times in the past few months. Today my 13 y/o daughter and I will be on hand for the debut of the Sunday night Crawfish Dinner.
                                      Ask any knowlegble foody in LA and Centano's name comes up as a brilliant, innovative,Californian chef. Check it out!!!!!!!!

                                      Some recent dishes that are not only innovative but incredibly DELISH.....Lamb belly: the belly is braised in duck fat then deep fried....OOOOOHH Baby! Everyone that tastes this goes nuts....
                                      The "Baco". This is Centano's signature dish. It is a super taco with a wrap that is a yeast bread with deep fried pork and other ingrediants and sauces that make a scrumptious snack. A rare apperance on the menu but a must have....
                                      Buche: LA is infatuatuated with organ meat at the moment. Check out the Buche (stomach) here. Centano does not hide the flavor of this organ but lets it shine through.
                                      Roasted baby beeets with onions: a wonderful mixture of long cooked onions, beets and sour cream based sauce. This showcases the amazing farm produce we have in CA with a chefs ability to weave flavor in.
                                      I could go on and on but what I say is this: "Hit the Lazy Ox Canteen and use the board on the wall to make your choices." If innovation and taste are on the agenda, this is a great stop!

                                      -----
                                      Lazy Ox Canteen
                                      241 S San Pedro St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                                        1. When I read the OP, two places immediately came to mind:

                                          The California Roll Burger at 26 Beach

                                          The Choux ala Sesame creme puff (and other pastries) at Patisserie Chantilly

                                          Having thought some more, I have this to add:

                                          The Pescado Zarandeado at Mariscos Chente is pretty impressive, but I had it Sunday night and was not blown away, I think of it more as a fun family/locals place with great seafood than a foodie destination restaurant (this also applies to Sakura across the street, which has always served me very good and often excellent food, both nothing unique or mind blowing)

                                          Urasawa has always struck me as a unique within LA take on sushi (we don't have a lot of kaiseki, or sushi this extravagantly priced)

                                          Some of the food trucks are simply wild. If you want a massive conglomeration of them in one place (and an insane amount of people) hit up Abbott Kinney Blvd for First Friday on July 2nd. dozens of trucks, thousands of people, there are usually art openings and a lot of happenings at the various clubs etc. (though I do say the gelato at N'Ice cream on Abbott Kinney, which occasionally has unique and amazing flavor combinations, is better than anything I've ever gotten from a food truck).

                                          The chocolates at Jin Patisserie on Abbott Kinney are pretty mind blowing too. I've always wanted to try their formal tea, but never have.

                                          The Bazaar serves a lot of molecular gastronomy type of tapas cuisine, I'm not sure if anyone else does a foie gras and cotton candy lollipop.

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

                                          26 Beach
                                          3100 Washington Blvd., Venice, CA 90292

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

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

                                          1. Nobody has brought up breakfast, which unsurprisingly is my favorite meal. It's also the one wherein innovation is seldom looked for, or even welcomed. However, I will submit Square One Dining as combining solidly traditional offerings with some surprisingly inventive variations; I've often mentioned the house-cured salmon Benedict as a brilliant combination, so good that I have great difficulty ordering anything else, even for lunch.

                                            Square One Dining
                                            4854 Fountain Avenue
                                            Los Angeles, CA 90029-1654
                                            (323) 661-1109

                                            www.squareonedining.com

                                            -----
                                            Square One Dining
                                            4854 Fountain Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90029

                                            7 Replies
                                            1. re: Will Owen

                                              If we're talking about breakfast, and we're talking about the entirety of the LA Chowhound board, then I have to plug Break of Dawn. Viet-inspired, high-end breakfast at shockingly low prices. It's worth the drive to south OC from LA.

                                              Specific dish recommendations: the smoked salmon (with poached eggs, grilled savoury oatmeal cakes, herb sauce... excellent homemade lamb sausage, potted pâté... it goes on and on and on.

                                              -----
                                              Break of Dawn
                                              24351 Avenida De La Carlota Ste N6, Laguna Hills, CA 92653

                                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                Great point, Will, we do need breakfast recs. Anything else come to mind?

                                                Re: Break of Dawn, wow that menu looks great. I wonder if we'll have enough time to make it that far south? Is there anything else along the same lines/creativity closer to LA proper?

                                                Thank you!

                                                -----
                                                Break of Dawn
                                                24351 Avenida De La Carlota Ste N6, Laguna Hills, CA 92653

                                                1. re: Roxanne Webber

                                                  "...we do need breakfast recs. Anything else come to mind?"

                                                  Nothing innovative, which was kinda my point. Breakfast is something that even adventurous eaters go all boring and hidebound about. My happy response to Square One's innovation was a breakthrough for me. Though honestly I've eaten all kinds of things for breakfast, I do tend to hang out in the eggs-and-grits-and-smoked-pork-products rut when I've sat down to a restaurant table. DU's revelation, though, looks well worth a morning trip to OC...

                                                  1. re: Roxanne Webber

                                                    I've got no more innovative stuff. A point I was trying to make is that when it comes to breakfast, even the most adventurous gourmand can go all stuffy and hidebound. We breakfast freaks tend to have a thing for eggs and biscuits and grits and gravy, to prefer our meat to be cured pork, to want food that does not so much thrill us as to wrap us in flannel and make us all cozy. That's why I was so delighted by how much I loved the Square One dish, especially when I had to eat it with the baby arugula salad because they were out of grits. I was forcibly manhandled into one of the best plates of food I'd ever had.

                                                    Ubergeek's recommendation looks well worth an early-morning trip to Orange County, too.

                                                    1. re: Roxanne Webber

                                                      26 Beach has some interesting breakfast/brunch items (stuffed french toasts, egg/pasta scrambles) that I have never seen on any other menu. I also like their house-baked pastries and they always serve top-grade produce. Check before you go, but I think they serve breakfast daily until 3 p.m.

                                                      http://www.26beach.com/brunch.htm

                                                      -----
                                                      26 Beach
                                                      3100 Washington Blvd., Venice, CA 90292

                                                      1. re: ElissaInPlaya

                                                        Actuallly the pasta & egg dishes have been around at other places also, There was a place in North Beach in San Francisco I used to go in the early eighties, Hugo's on Santa Monica since the late 70's early 80's and at a place on Wilshire near Crescent Heights called, darn I forget the name, they were in a strip mall on the south east corner.

                                                      2. re: Roxanne Webber

                                                        Little Dom's breakfast pizza! Sunnyside up egg, speck and mozzarella. Or, while not necessarily innovative, the egg salad sandwich at Euro Pane in Pasadena. A simple egg salad made creamy with soft boiled eggs. Served with greens and sun dried tomato paste on a slice of great bread of your choice form their bakery! Try rosemary currant.

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

                                                  2. I don't think LA chowhounds really like innovation too much. I think most on this board like "authentic" ethnic since we are the best in the country at it.
                                                    But for innovation I'd say:
                                                    LudoBites
                                                    Orris
                                                    Rivera
                                                    Chego
                                                    Kogi
                                                    Cook's Tortas
                                                    Father's Office Burger
                                                    Spago (still the best and most innovative after all these years)

                                                    Bazaar and Animal as also options, but I think they're both overrated

                                                    -----
                                                    Spago
                                                    176 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

                                                    Cook's Tortas
                                                    1944 S Atlantic Blvd, Monterey Park, CA 91754

                                                    Kogi
                                                    Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles, CA

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

                                                    Chego
                                                    3300 Overland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90034

                                                    9 Replies
                                                    1. re: peppermonkey

                                                      Just curious but how is Father's Office innovative?

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

                                                      1. re: Burger Boy

                                                        The first time I had the FO burger it just blew me away. The combination of sweet, tang bitter, and texture was just so unique. The meat itself has so much more beef flavor than any other burgers, I've had. It really was a reinvention of the burger to me. No I haven't had a burger at 26 Beach or the counter. But I have had many of the supposedly best burgers and none of them have really made such an impression.

                                                        -----
                                                        26 Beach
                                                        3100 Washington Blvd., Venice, CA 90292

                                                        1. re: peppermonkey

                                                          Try The California Roll Hamburger, The King Kobe or The Maytag for starters and let me know.

                                                          1. re: Burger Boy

                                                            We went to 26 Beach last night and had the CA Roll Burger and the Maytag. The Maytag, while not innovative in the sense that no one has done it before, was superb it its execution. Laying on a slab of Maytag on a big juicy burger patty cooked to order, and coiffed with a bunch of perfectly cooked bacon slices.

                                                            Now the CA Roll burger was a total fusion phenom that could only be pulled off on the Pacific Rim. Talk about innovation; East Meets West/Surf Meets Turf/Sushi Bar Meets Craft Burger Joint umami bomb that is worthy of making this thread's list. Don't even try picking this one up. Not even the superb house-made brioche bun could support this mass of deliciousness. Fork-&-knife the thing to enjoy every bit.

                                                            -----
                                                            26 Beach
                                                            3100 Washington Blvd., Venice, CA 90292

                                                            Pacific Rim Cafe
                                                            113 Hermosa Ave, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254

                                                            1. re: bulavinaka

                                                              Now all you have to do to earn your "first mate's" merit badge is make it over to Umami for a "Sea-Mami" Burger http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1254/3... (an open face scallop "patty" grilled to perfection with nori and meyer lemon grace notes). Then you'll be ready to solo circumnavigate! ;-D>

                                                              1. re: Servorg

                                                                My sea legs have gone flabby over the decades, but this burger sounds like it might bring back the salty dog in me! Thanks for the rec...

                                                      2. re: peppermonkey

                                                        Spago is about as innovative as a country club restaurant.

                                                        Father's Office is innovative about being annoying and fanatical. The quality of their burgers is debatable. Don't tell the owner that.

                                                        -----
                                                        Spago
                                                        176 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

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

                                                        1. re: epop

                                                          dont know what you're smoking but the tasting menu at spago is great as is the FO burger...if you don't get it, you don't get it

                                                          1. re: peppermonkey

                                                            I took a sober look at both places and am all too glad to take my business elsewhere. I realize I'm in the minority.

                                                      3. You LA Hounds are the best! thanks for all your amazing recommendations. Roxanne and I are especially excited about the LA portion of our trip. There are so many interesting fusion-y things going on there.

                                                        1. I totally forgot to mention, I had some interesting fusion-y stuff at Street. Don't know if it qualifies as innovative. Right now, what really comes to mind is their Turkish donuts with rosehip lekvar.

                                                          1. As mentioned already... Ice cream! We got an ice cream revolution goin' on here!

                                                            1. Scoops (on Heliotrope) comes to mind first. Owner/Operator Tai is adventurous, and very open to suggestions. Cabernet, curry, champagne, Jack Daniel, brown bread, star anise, balsamic... the unusual ingredient-themed flavors I've seen at Scoops go on and on...

                                                            Tai's flavors change from day to day - you'll have to play the hand you're dealt by the flavor fates at the store that day. I DO advise going on a weekday, and going early (some flavors run out by evening 'cuz if the flavor is a winner, certain hounds.. (*ahem...) buy a few pints at at a time)... Brown Bread is a staple flavor (tried and true), so that should always be available.

                                                            2. Persian Ice Cream (on Westwood Blvd.). Hot damn! That Persian Ice Cream is some good dessert eatin'... Cantaloupe ice cream, cucumber ice cream, in addition to the usual Persian golab (rosewater) bastani / gole bol bol. I'll personally buy you CHOW Editors a round if you email me in advance (I'm not a twitter user), and let me know when you're coming to Westwood.

                                                            3. Oldie but goodie (AND innovative): Fosselman's fantastic taro, lychee, and ube (purple yam) ice creams reflect the Asian influence of its HQ in Alhambra.

                                                            Non-ice cream food in L.A.: We Angelenos cannot match San Fran or NYC in terms of high-end, fine dining, BUT we do excel at hole-in-the-wall, ethnic fare. I will therefore exclude Providence.

                                                            Innovative does always NOT equal the best cuisine in L.A. Langer's, for example, is definitely the best pastrami in America, but it's not innovative. Bite Bar's croissant is sublime, but no better or different than the local patisserie in the 5eme Arrondisement. Park's BBQ is outstanding, but, um, just how is it innovative?

                                                            Japanese cuisine in L.A.: Much as I adore and love Urasawa (7 visits, 2 in the last year alone), Hiro-san's sushi kaiseki cuisine can also be found in Japan.

                                                            On the other hand, Ken-san' creativity with fusion sushi at Kiriko (on Sawtelle), however, borders on high art (more wild salmon with ripe mango and caviar, please!). Another oft-unsung Japanese auteur is Niki Nakayama's Inaka Cuisine in Arcadia (RSVP a must) - Tangent: While you're in that neck of the woods, try SinBaLa's excellent Taiwanese fare (shaved ice is a must). Digression from tangent: Do try the (very innovative) shaved SNOW at Class 302 in Hacienda Heights.

                                                            Nobu Matsuhisa doesn't get as much love as it used to on this board, but his flagship Matsuhisa (on La Cienega) is STILL doling out some fine Peruvian-Japanese fusion cuisine (sit in the private room, and NOT the main dining areas, for best experience) - Matsuhisa is thought of as just another high end sushi place, but it is actually first and foremost a fusion restaurant in a sushi-ya's clothing. Order from their "Specials" board, and know that their pineapple-infused sake is still the smoothest, tastiest fusion sake drink around... An Oldie but Goodie, IF you know what to order.

                                                            Enjoy L.A. - Remember my offer for the Persian Ice Cream!

                                                            -----
                                                            Matsuhisa
                                                            129 N La Cienega Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

                                                            Kiriko
                                                            11301 W Olympic Blvd Ste 102, Los Angeles, CA 90064

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: J.L.

                                                              Good choice, J.L., mentioning the Persian Ice cream place on Westwood. They're traditional and innovative at the same time.

                                                              Could you say a little bit more about Inaka?

                                                              -----
                                                              Inaka Restaurant
                                                              61 Peninsula Ctr, Rolling Hills Estates, CA 90274

                                                              1. re: epop

                                                                Inaka Seafood Gourmet is a tiny storefront in Arcadia. The Executive Chef is Niki Nakayama, former head of Azami Sushi Café.

                                                                Chef Nakayama offers a Chef's Table Japanese fusion omakase each night (by RSVP only), featuring some inventive, healthy cuisine, fresh from the market... Not your typical omakase. Her delicious creations are, in my opinion, very innovative.

                                                                http://www.inakagourmet.com

                                                                -----
                                                                Inaka Seafood Gourmet
                                                                838 S Baldwin Avenue, Arcadia, CA 91007

                                                                1. re: J.L.

                                                                  Their website doesn't do it justice then. I don't see anything all that innovative. I guess you're saying to ignore the website and go.

                                                                  1. re: epop

                                                                    Having been there 4 times (each time a great omakase meal), I would say that Inaka's website does not do it justice indeed.

                                                            2. Many good suggestions here. In the spirit of "innovation" and having religiously followed Mr. Leff's tour, I suggest the following:

                                                              1. Bacon wrapped hot dogs. While these may be available in other cities, I don't think they are regularly served out of converted shopping carts with questionable mayo and grilled jalepenos anywhere else. These can be found downtown throughout the Fashion/Jewelry/Flower/Historic downtown district during the day but seem to taste best in Hollywood around 2:01 a.m. outside Playhouse or MyStudio or The Henry Fonda Theater.

                                                              2. Oki Dog. I am fairly confident you will not find this anywhere else. There are varied opinions on the culinary, let alone the nutritional, intelligence of a chili cheese pastrami dog in a tortilla but if nothing else it is "innovative." Once again, these tend to taste better as the fourth meal.

                                                              3. Pastrami Dip with Spicy Garlic Fries and Atomic Pickles at Cole's. Now I am sure to get a whole bunch of people burning with rage at this suggestion but whatever. Here is the water to throw on that fire. Though Cole's is known (historically) for their French Dip, they are now sourcing their pastrami from the same place Langer's gets theirs. The Atomic pickle is not in any possible way traditional yet it is also delicious, and not ironically, hot. The spicey garlic fries...these are not the universally disappointing yet terrific smelling fries you can get at countless stadiums and brewpubs nationwide. My point here is that this meal is a twist on something you'd get at any good deli in the country and at the same time, not at all the same.

                                                              4. Fig. Period. Raymond Garcia is a brilliant cook and innovator. His location in the Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica might hold back a less creative chef but he finds ways to sneak heart, tongue, made to order tacos and a hot dog cart into what he offers. Okay, I know that this is becoming a lot of hot dogs but we already changed the way the rest of the country eats pizza so we need a new mission. ;) Seriously though, I would hazard a guess that there are few high-end restaurants in country serving braised cow tongue in a tomatillo sauce with breakfast radish. And if there are, it cannot possible taste as good as his. Add that you can get a taste of Boccalone's Nduja with a side of Andante cheese (if they can keep it in stock)...this is a gem. Los Angelenos are notoriously poor at supporting hotel restaurants and that is in large part becuase they mostly suck here, but along with Bazaar this is one not to miss.

                                                              I agree with the previous recommendations in no particular order: Animal, Providence, Mo Chica, Urasawa, Father's Office (origninal Montana location is my preference), Musha, Food Trucks, Orris, Rivera, Chego and Lazy Ox. Obviously you won't go everywhere but I don't think you can go too wrong with these.

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

                                                              Musha
                                                              424 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

                                                              Oki Dog
                                                              860 N Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046

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

                                                              Chego
                                                              3300 Overland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90034

                                                                1. Delicious spot in Venice, CA. Check it out!

                                                                  -----
                                                                  Gjelina
                                                                  1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291, USA

                                                                  1. Hi LA Hounds,

                                                                    Just wanted to drop a quick note to thank you again for all your great LA recs for the CHOW Tour. We are nearly done with our time here (boo hoo) and about to move onto steamy New York. But we have tried many of your suggestions, from Mo Chica to Lazy Ox and more, and we have not had a bad meal yet. I know that good reviews don't make for much drama or controversy, but MAN you have some good and inventive food down here!

                                                                    If you haven't checked our posts recently, they are stacking up here:
                                                                    http://www.chow.com/blog/chow-tour-in...

                                                                    Thanks again,
                                                                    Lessley (and Roxanne)

                                                                    1. Wow, I hope there are some more posts coming for L.A.. It seems like we got the short end of the stick, San Francisco 18 places, L.A. got 10. I wonder how many the Big Apple will get?

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Burger Boy

                                                                        Their last post from LA went live this morning, Michael Voltaggio sounds pretty amazing:
                                                                        http://www.chow.com/blog/2010/07/is-m...

                                                                        As for the number of places hit, they had to factor in travel time in LA -- big place, bad traffic. But quality over quantity: they found LA to be pretty amazing. here's their wrap-up post:
                                                                        http://www.chow.com/blog/2010/07/san-...

                                                                        Now they're in NY!

                                                                        1. re: davina

                                                                          Hey! I just enjoyed (immensely) Chef Voltaggio's Menu there on Bastille Day (July 14th)! Were you guys the group in the center of the dining room?!