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best in LA

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My husband and I live in NY and will be spending 5 days in LA soon. I'd love to have some recommendations for some "musts", especially in Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, and Hollywood. Particularly interested in Mexican (not very good in NY), and sushi, but really would consider anything that you Chowhounders adore! Both cheap and high-end are fine. Thanks!

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    profe marchetti

    A.O.C. for eclectic tapas on Third Street (very close to Beverly Hills)
    La Serenata de Garibaldi for Mexican in Santa Monica
    Zucca for Italian in downtown

    16 Replies
    1. re: profe marchetti

      La Serenata has had very mixed reviews -- other than the flan, there are way better places to get Mexican food... if you want Nuevo Latino, head for Ciudad (yes, I know), but there are a few great places in Santa Monica.

      La Talpa, Pico near Barrington.
      Gilbert's El Indio, Pico near 27th.
      Tia Juana's, Olympic between Barrington and Bundy
      Gallegos Deli, Venice Blvd. between Walgrove and Lincoln
      Tito's Tacos (crunchy beef tacos only good thing), Washington & Sepulveda

      Sushi on the Westside:

      Sushi Sasabune, Sawtelle & Nebraska
      Hide Sushi, Sawtelle north of Olympic

      1. re: Das Ubergeek

        your list of Mexican places is spot on Tia Juana, Talpa, Tito's). Do you know of similar establishments in the Valley?

        1. re: ArsenalFan

          Tequilas: Victory and Woodman, Magnolia and Clybourn.
          Ernie's Taco House: Moorpark and Lankershim.
          Don Cuco's, Riverside Dr., Burbank.

          I'm an East Valley boy so I don't know about west of the 405.

          1. re: Das Ubergeek

            While also east of the 405, I go to Carrillo's on Sherman Way in Winnetka in the Smart & Final center for wonderful everything. Guac is spectacular, lengua, all kinds of burritos, and the other usuals, and also some wonderful daily specials.

        2. re: Das Ubergeek

          I have heard that Serenata in SM is not up to the quality of the one east of downtown. Even that being said, the one time I went to the latter, I had a delicious dish I don't think I would have seen on the menu at another Mexican place (trout filet in Mole Poblano), but it did not surpass a meal had at Gueleguetza or myriad other places for half the cost.

          This may sound like coals to Newcastle (or more like coals to a Newcastler) but you might actually want to try Langer's to see if you agree with the NYT that it has better pastrami than can be found in the Big Apple!

          Great chinese can be found in NYC, but I am not sure if the Thai food there is as good as in LA. Search these boards a little for Kruang Tedd, Ruen Pair, Sanamluang, and Sapp Coffee shop to see if these tickle your fancy. Those are listed in descending order of comfort, but not neccesarily any indication of deliciousness.

          Ca'Brea, Campanile, and Zucca are all options for more upscale Italian.

          Enjoy LA!

          1. re: Mike Z.

            ny thai food is nowhere near as good as what we have here [i'm a manhattan expat]...that's an excellent suggestion to add it to your list.

          2. re: Das Ubergeek

            Many people swear by Tito's, I do not. The seemingly boiled and definitely tasteless brisket-type beef(?) stuffed in a fried taco shell is not even close to the best Los Angeles has to offer. You can do much better at just about any taco truck that begins to appear on the streets of Los Angeles as the sun goes down on another perfect day.

            1. re: Andrew

              It would be a shame to fly all that way from New York and eat the crap known as Tito's

              1. re: Andrew

                gotta completely agree here,
                titos serves bland grease bombs that appeal mostly to those who were fed these things when they were kids.

              2. re: Das Ubergeek

                west side mexican, also lares. I like tia juana's. The handmade tortillas are good.
                Also, go to the stand on Lincoln near Rose called La Playita. Get the seafood cocktails. Seriously. The other stuff is good. You may have to eat it at a park though. I don't think there are tables. But it's more of an LA experience.

                LA PLAYITA / MARISCOS GUILLEN
                3306 LINCOLN BLVD
                90405
                SANTA MONICA

                LARES RESTAURANT & CATERING
                2909 PICO BLVD
                90405
                SANTA MONICA

                get in the car and drive to gueleguetza on 8th (there's one closer but this one is the classic - much as the east LA serenata de garibaldi is the classic and i think better one)

                GUELAGUETZA RESTAURANT
                3337 1/2 W 8TH ST
                90005
                LOS ANGELES

                LA SERENATA
                1842 E 1ST ST
                90033
                LOS ANGELES

                in re Sasaubune - please scroll down and see my recent review on it here. the discussion mentiones Kiriko and U-zen for sushi on the west side as alternatives, but your choice.

                U-ZEN
                11951 SANTA MONICA BLVD
                90025
                LOS ANGELES

                KIRIKO JAPANESE RESTAURANT
                11301 W OLYMPIC BLVD #102
                90064
                LOS ANGELES

                Also consider non-sushi japanese places. a few suggestions
                a tempura house, specializing only tempura, you can get omakase there, much as you can at a sushi bar - reserve for the tempura bar and go omakase see link below for a description.
                KOMATSU
                1644 W CARSON ST B
                90502
                TORRANCE

                Try okonomiyaki near Gardena. Sort of a make your own japanese pizza omelette thing.
                GAJA RESTAURANT
                2383 LOMITA BLVD 102
                90717
                LOMITA

                If you're downtown try
                Izayoi for japanese bar food (they also have excellent sushi, the one place that I go too for sushi that also serves other things)

                SUSHI RYO IZAYOI
                132 S CENTRAL AVE
                90012
                LOS ANGELES

                And closer to santa monica, there's another place that also has Japanese bar food (izakaya) - Furaibo

                FURAIBO & THE BLEU
                2064-68 SAWTELLE BLVD
                90025
                LOS ANGELES

                If you've never had Korean food, try the bbq at Soot bull jeep (on charcoal, smoky, don't wear your best clothes) and the soon dupu (fresh tofu in a spicy soup with your choice of meats or seafood or just plain seaweed and kimchi) at Beverly Soon Tofu in Koreatown.
                BEVERLY SOON TOFU
                2717 W OLYMPIC BLVD #108
                90006
                LOS ANGELES

                SOOT BULL JEEP
                3136 W 8TH ST
                90005
                LOS ANGELES
                (another bbq house -try
                TAHOE GALBI RESTAURANT
                3986 WILSHIRE BLVD
                90010
                LOS ANGELES )

                Last - umenohana has artisan house-made tofu in a myriad of styles. Beautifully served and unlike much other japanese food'
                UMENOHANA
                445 N CANON DR
                90210
                BEVERLY HILLS


                Enjoy.

                Link: http://www.calendarlive.com/search/97...

                1. re: Jerome

                  Agree on the La Playaita reco. Their seafood cerviche is awesome and under 5 dollars....nice avacado with some great chips. Sprinkle some Tapatio...heaven.

                  Also love Lares for Mexican.

                  Ditto on Gueleguetza....I love their moles! They have this one tamale with chicken inside then the mole negro on top that's pretty good.

                  1. re: Xericx

                    Definitely thumbs up to Lares and Guelaguetza -- the one on Palms Blvd. is still pretty good but it isn't like the one in mid-city.

                    I need to hie my behind to La Playita, it sounds like -- next time I escape from my heated ghetto north of "the hills".

                2. re: Das Ubergeek

                  Uber, have you been down the to the original Boyle Heights location? A very different experience from SM and IMHO food is worlds apart.

                  1. re: Noclue

                    I haven't... I used to work in Boyle Heights and now I don't, so I never end up down there. Is it worth fighting traffic down the 101?

                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                      Yes, it's definitely worth the drive if anything can be. Menu is very different from the SM location. I used to work downtown and we would head over to Serenata every month or so. This was before they opened their other restaurants. Its a power lunch spot for the local politicos. Parking can be difficult during peak lunch hours, but I have always found a spot.

                  2. re: Das Ubergeek

                    You have got to be kidding. You've just listed the same flavorless, leaden slop that gives Mexican a bad name the world over. This passes for Mexican in LA, but they wouldn't feed that stuff to their dogs in Mexico City -- and their dogs are starving. I'm sure I'll catch it for this, because it's trendy and "not authentic LA Mexican" (i.e; lard-based and bland), but we love Alegria on Sunset in Silverlake. The pollo en mole rules, the budin alegria or moctezuma will live in your dreams, and the burritos, if tortilla you must, could choke a horse and make him die happy. Make the drive to Silverlake and avoid the trip to the emergency room. Sorry, but I've had this argument too often and I'm tired of it.

                3. What are your approximate ages? There are sushi places yoots would like and mature folk would not, etc.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: mc michael

                    We're in our early 30s! thanks

                    1. re: NYfoodie

                      Sounds like you'd like The Hump for sushi.

                  2. you have traveled far...make it worth the visit!! westside sushi @ Chaya Venice - they have a sushi happy hour that beats everyone in town, and you get a very LA experience! Fantastic place! Also in Santa Monica try Rocca for Italian or Dominick's in Beverly Hills (not authentic, but very good) Just for great places, try Falcon in Hollywood (you must experience a true LA dining experience at its very best - hot new chef here!), for just fantastic eats, try AOC, Campanile, or Sona - all world class dining rooms!!!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: stan

                      another suggestion for decent asian fusion/sushi and a true l.a. scene when you hit west hollywood...koi on la cienega or katana on sunset.

                    2. Welcome to L.A.!! My current sushi/sashimi recommendations include:

                      High-end: Urawasa (Beverly Hills), Mori Sushi (West LA), Nishimura (West Hollywood), The Hump (Santa Monica Airport), R-23 (Downtown)

                      Moderate: Sushi Tenn (Sawtelle), Kiriko (Sawtelle), Sushi Gen (Little Tokyo), Hamakawa (Little Tokyo)

                      Cheap but good: Hide Sushi (Sawtelle, pay by cash-only), Sushi King (Santa Monica)

                      SKIP the following:
                      Sushi Sasabune (Sawtelle): I never got used to the warm, unpacked rice.
                      Matushisa (Beverly Hills): Unless you're a Nobu addict... Admittedly though, Nobu's flagship in Beverly Hills IS still his best restaurant hands-down.
                      Sushi Nozawa: Has seen better days.
                      Geisha House: All "scene"; the food takes a backseat.

                      Hope this helps.
                      JL, East-Coast transplant

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: JL

                        These are excellent sushi recs altho I think King Sushi is over rated here. Sushi Ike in Hollywood tho more expensive is far better. Some gear shifting is required. There's nothing in the realm of Mexican food that approaches Urasawa or Mori, for example, though the Boyle Heights branch of Serenata is pretty good, especially the seafood. But the pleasures of Mexican food are largely inexpensive at stands, trucks, and chains like King Taco (great Al Pastor tacos, sopes, etc) or at Grand Central Market downtown or at various mercados. More a food on the run concept than a sit down and take your time thing. Hell, even the huge Pepsis, tamarindos, horchatas and other drinks at King Taco are respectable. For a wild after dinner take on Mexican, go for the drinks only (many, many tequilas), people and loud music at El Carmen on Beverly Blvd. Avoid El Cholo--it's mediocre at best. You can get good basic stuff (like chile colorado)including hand made tortillas at La Cabana, Lincoln & Rose, just over the line from Santa Monica in Venice.

                        1. re: mc michael

                          if you're in a matsuhisa mood, though, go to Wa on La cienega. not straight sushi but could be fun for you, tasty food.

                      2. Not too long ago was I in NY and have noticed that you won't be able to find restaurants like this there:
                        The Grand Central Market (not a restaurant but a collective of various Mexican food stands) in downtown Los Angeles. You probably will never have anything like this in NY!
                        Mako in Beverly Hills (Asian Fusion). I've had friends from NY that return to this place every time they come back. They can't find anything like this in NY either and love it enough to go back on every return trip.
                        Mori in West L.A. (Sushi). Though a little expensive, they have great sushi and no attitude. The fish is so fresh and the chefs really know how to cut the fish. I'm not too good on elaborating on this but it really is fantastic sushi... just take my word for it! You definitly won't find anything like this in New York.
                        I am not sure if New York has something like JiRaffe in Santa Monica (French Bistro), but I'm recommending it anyway since it is now one of my most favorite restaurants in Los Angeles. Thanks to the 'hounds, I have found this little jem of a bistro. I had a spectacular dinner there last night that I should post soon...
                        If you're craving Italian (which you can find a whole lot of in NY, so I wouldn't rec wasting a meal on something like that while you're in L.A.!), your best bet would be Angelini Osteria in West Hollywood.
                        I don't think that any of these restaurants mentioned have received mixed reviews. In fact, I can safely say that all of them have had raving reviews lately and of past. If anyone disagrees please post but, I'm pretty sure that those are all great restaurants that all 'hounds can agree on. In fact, those are the places I would probably miss most if I were to move to NYC.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: JeniH

                          great list. i totally agree with everything. just would add a.o.c.