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Aug 26, 2010 11:48 AM

Read, realized and confused - please HELP!

Hi everyone,

First of all I want to congratulate the members here. I think it's incredible what you people have been doing over the years on the boards here. I have often looked up Chowhound but since I am based in India (I am a journalist) and I do not travel a whole lot, I haven't had the opportunity to understand the detailing and the method to the madness that is Chowhound. Thanks for this online culinary h(e)aven.

I am going to LA for 6 days on work and I will be staying near the Del Mar station in Pasadena. I am not sure I will have the dozen meals wherever I want because I have to eat the boring work lunch with my colleagues more than a couple of times. But for the rest of the meals, I really want to explore LA the hound way. So i have been reading the boards here like crazy for the last week or so and to be honest while I am incredibly impressed, I am so confused... what to hit and what to miss.

Yes, I have shortlisted a few places but I am no longer sure about any place anymore because the reviews have been mixed and there are so many. Can you guys please help me decide on 7-8 must go places? I should go on my own or with one or two friends/colleagues.

Here's a few I have shortlisted. Please feel free to trash my choice and suggest other places.

Sea Harbor for the Dim Sum (I am a sucker for Chinese and love dim sums; I believe this is better than Elite as of now)
Philippe's (for the history mainly, never had a dipped sandwich and the potato salad... not sure which sandwich to go for, though)
El Tepeyac (for the Chilli Verde burrito, as seen on Man Vs Food)
Pink's Hot Dog (I believe one shouldn't miss this)

Now I need a great taco place, more Chinese food ideas for lunch and dinner, maybe Korean food (I have never had it) and any other must-go places. I can go anywhere in and around LA.

Please suggest! Thanks in advance...

El Tepeyac Restaurant
385 E Mill St Ste 4, San Bernardino, CA 92408

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  1. Hi prats,

    I hope you enjoy your stay in LA. 6 Days affords you a lot of opportunities to explore some of our best restaurants. :)

    A few questions if I may:

    1. Any budget considerations? Are you willing to try any of LA's best restaurants regardless of budget?

    2. I see you mention "more Chinese food ideas" but nothing about French, Italian or Japanese. Is Chinese cuisine your primary focus?

    As to your list so far, hehe, you've included some controversial places for sure. You mention that you want to "explore LA the hound way." I would take that to mean you want the focus on great food first, right? :)

    For your first time exploring the best of LA's restaurants, I'm not sure I'd put El Tepeyac and Pink's Hot Dogs as the 2 "must go" places, unless you want to go for other reasons than the best food LA has to offer. :)

    * Sea Harbour - I love their Dim Sum, and it's my favorite in So Cal. I don't think you'd have a bad time trying Dim Sum here (versus any of the other possibilities).

    Other suggestions (which may change based on your answer to 1 and 2 above (but these are "must-go places" you're asking about)):

    * Urasawa - Just do a search and you'll see what the fuss is about. Amazing creations from Chef Urasawa, and a Michelin 2 Star Restaurant (FYI).

    * Providence - Go for their Chef's Menu, and let Chef Cimarusti wow you with his creations that night (you can request specific ingredients to focus on, or just let him do his thing :).

    * Mori Sushi - Some of LA's best Sushi prepared by a master in Mori-san. Be sure to sit at the bar and request to be seated in front of Mori-san for the evening and go for their Omakase.

    * Torihei - Amazing Yakitori (Grilled Chicken Skewers) and Kushiyaki (Meat & Veggie Skewers), along with Kyoto-style Oden (Stewed Vegetables and Meats).

    We can provide more recs based on your answers.

    Enjoy~ :)

    5955 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038

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

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

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

    1757 W. Carson Street, Torrance, CA 90501

    3 Replies
    1. re: exilekiss

      Exilekiss, you didn't let me sleep last night! Don't take it in a bad way... But I was up all night reading your blog and I must say it is the most comprehensive coverage of a restaurant that I have come across. Great great going! I hope it becomes bigger and bigger!

      As for me, budget isn't a problem but at the same time, I am a very street food, hole-in-the-wall joint kind of a person. I see myself munching a secret burger than appreciating the finer nuances of a Michelin 3 chef as opposed to a Michelin 2 chef. But if you think I must eat at some restaurant, sure recommend. Let me go through your new reccos.

      Just to give you an idea, reading your post on Metro Balderas made me simply salivate! That's the kind of place I am really looking for.

      Cheers and thanks for replying!

      1. re: prats

        Hi prats,

        Hehehe, I'm glad you found something useful from my ramblings. :)

        And thanks for clarifying your preferences. If the post on Metro Balderas got you excited then that helps us with recommendations for you. :) So, based on that, I'd say the previous recommendations still stand, but I'll add some others:

        * Sea Harbour - I love their Dim Sum, and it's my favorite in So Cal. I don't think you'd have a bad time trying Dim Sum here (versus any of the other possibilities).

        * Urasawa - This is more on the "fancy" side, but if you want to try one of LA's best restaurants, hands down, you owe it to yourself to try Urasawa if it's within your budget. Just amazing execution and there's no "stuffiness" involved. Do a search and you'll see what the fuss is about. Amazing creations from Chef Urasawa, and a Michelin 2 Star Restaurant (FYI).

        * Providence - If Urasawa is out of your budget, and/or you want to experience another of LA's great "fancier" restaurants, Providence is worth stopping by. Go for their Chef's Menu, and let Chef Cimarusti wow you with his creations that night (you can request specific ingredients to focus on, or just let him do his thing :).

        * Mori Sushi - Some of LA's best Sushi prepared by a master in Mori-san. Be sure to sit at the bar and request to be seated in front of Mori-san for the evening and go for their Omakase.

        * Torihei - This is great, "street food" in a sense. Simple, humble, deliciously amazing Yakitori (Grilled Chicken Skewers) and Kushiyaki (Meat & Veggie Skewers), along with Kyoto-style Oden (Stewed Vegetables and Meats). Inexpensive and a fun vibe. :)

        * Metro Balderas - You said you saw my post on Metro Balderas, so you know what to expect. 8 types of juicy Carnitas, so good and cheap! :)

        * Langer's Deli - As others have mentioned below, Langer's is a great LA institution and their Pastrami has been rated the best in the world by some.

        * Golden State - Depending on how much you enjoy "Burgers" The Golden State makes a pretty good Burger (get it medium rare :), and you can get a free "download" of Beer knowledge from Jason and Jim (the owners who run the place), enjoying some fantastic Micro-Brews. And at the same time, they carry the famous SCOOPS Gelato, so you can enjoy the madness and creativity of what Tai Kim makes that day. All in 1 place. :)

        * Father's Office - If you don't care for the Gelato, or want to try the most (in)famous of the Chowhound Burgers in LA, give Father's Office a try. The Office Burger is distinctive and different and quite excellent. And they have a lot of craft beers on tap as well.

        * Mariscos Chente - I haven't been to the new location of where Chef Sergio moved to, so I can't vouch for it, but he was the mastermind behind the brilliant Mariscos Chente in Mar Vista (if you search this board for threads and see all those excited posts, that's what it's referring to :). He moved to a new location recently, but if he's there, then I'm sure the Sinaloan / Nayarit Camarones (Shrimp) dishes he creates will be just as good. He's at the Inglewood location now, I believe (westsidegal, Servorg and others please correct me if I'm mistaken).

        * Sea Harbour (Dinner) - As bulavinaka so eloquently put it, the very same place you're thinking of trying for Dim Sum serves some great Hong Kong / Cantonese Seafood dinner items as well! Go for their Live Seafood and you can't go wrong (except skip the Tilapia :). Their "Boiled Prawns" is the way to go. You can see some Pics and thoughts from everyone if you do a Search on it.

        * Animal - This is a rustic, but stylish, fantastic meat-lover's restaurant. :) It's also one of LA's hottest at the moment (rightfully so). Forgive the last link (there are so many threads linking Animal that you might give up before reading some reviews of it and I posted some pictures in case that helps):

        * Izakaya Bincho - Small, hole-in-the-wall (no sign!) Izakaya (Japanese Pub) delivering some of the best Izakaya items in So Cal. Let Tomo-san and his wife Megumi-san, take care of you with their made-from-scratch Japanese Small Plates like Agedashi Tofu, Buta no Kakuni (Slow Braised Pork Belly in Mirin, Soy Sauce, etc.), their amazing Zosui (simple, awesome Chicken Rice Porridge), amongst many other dishes. All situated on the Redondo Beach Pier.

        * New Chong Qing - Recently veteran Hound ipsedixit got us excited about this Szechuan restaurant's Dan Dan Noodles and Cold Spicy Noodles. Delicious stuff, and their Ma La Huo Guo (Spicy Hot Pot) isn't too bad either. :) (it's quite good.)

        * Patisserie Chantilly - Outstanding Cream Puffs. I know, you might be thinking, "Cream Puffs?" But try their Kurogoma Choux (Black Sesame Cream Puff) and be stunned at how good that is. :)

        Running a bit late, but I'll add some more suggestions later.

        Enjoy your trip! :)

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

        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

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

        Metro Balderas
        5305 N Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90042

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

        435 N Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

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

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

        1757 W. Carson Street, Torrance, CA 90501

        New Chong Qing
        120 N San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91775

      2. re: exilekiss

        Hole-in-the-wall for breakfast...Nick's Cafe in downtown Los Angeles. One block from the Chinatown Gold Line stop. (Few blocks from Philippes)
        Ham and eggs are their signature dish. Opens 5:30am M-F 6:30am Sat/Sun.

      3. For Korean food I love Park's BBQ in Koreatown. They have some of the best cuts of meat in Los Angeles. Make sure you try the beef short ribs, they are incredible. Everything is cooked at your table. At Park's the more people you bring the more dishes you can share. Great flavors, service and a wonderful meal.

        As for Pinks Hot Dogs, I don't think they're worth the 60 to 90 minutes lines on La Brea but now you can get them right a LAX on the second floor of The Tom Bradley International Terminal.
        Same Pink's Hot Dogs but now with just a 5 minute wait right at the airport..

        For a real taste of LA visit the Original Farmers Market on 3rd and Fairfax. It is a permanent outdoor market open everyday. You can try everything from Tacos at Loteria Grill to Pizza to Cajun to Greek to Brazilian BBQ and everything in between. Great local produce too. Great for people watching. Welcome to LA.

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

        Farmers Market
        6333 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90036

        1. Prats -

          Agree w/ Exilekiss (of course) - let us know your preferences. Hole-in-the-wall type places vs. knock-your-socks-off, blow-out feasts, or maybe a little of both? L.A. has so many small cheap places with food you can't really find without traveling to several continents, things like the whole fish at Mariscos chente, or the Szechuan places of San Gabriel/Monterey Park, or amazing sushi at crippling prices. All depends on your angle, which is probably why you're confused - option overload. Maybe have some fun with it and limit your play to the Gold Line and Red Lines? You can move through Mexican of E. L.A., then hit up Koreatown (Wilshire) then double back up to Thai Town? And not have to deal w/ L.A. traffic on the way.

          Anyway, reconsider Pink's. Sort of like saying, "I'm planning a trip to India and hitting the Taj Mahal, the western Ghats, and this really cool vending machine at the airport I've heard a lot about." You get the idea.

          2 Replies
          1. re: cant talk...eating

            cant talk...eating & wienermobile

            Pink's is gone from my list! Thanks so much!!

            1. re: prats

              prats: I seriously disagree with the anti-Pink's movement. I have had a zillion Pinks dogs over the years, mostly at 1 a.m. They may not be the best things L.A. has to offer, but they're pretty great. It's also a scene late at night. If you want to make room for other, "better" food, share a dog with a friend.

              I now live in NorCal and rarely get to eat them anymore. Sigh. Husband and I are bringing son and DIL down to L.A. next week and we're taking them there.

          2. It depends on how long you have for lunch, how much you're willing to spend on meals, and how far you are willing to drive.

            Sea Harbour is good for dim sum, but you would need at least 90 minutes for lunch to account for driving (assuming your work is in Pasadena). You can also go there for dinner (the menu will be completely different from the lunch menu).

            If you eat beef, try In-and-Out Burgers for the quintessential California experience.
            2114 E. Foothill
            Pasadena, CA 91107

            The food in El Tepeyac isn't gourmet, but it's definitely quite an experience to eat there. I'd go for Manny's/Manuel's Special to be shared by your co-workers. It's big enough to feed three or four people, depending on your appetite.

            If you're willing to drive, go to Garden Grove for Vietnamese food. But if you can't make it that far, try Golden Deli:
            815 W Las Tunas Dr, San Gabriel
            (626) 308-0803

            20 Replies
            1. re: raytamsgv

              To piggyback on raytamsgv's post, Sea Harbour's dinner menu is pretty amazing for seafood lovers. I would guess that only a small percentage of Sea Harbour fans have actually experienced their dinners, which is a real shame. They literally have three separate menus for their dinner, which are heavily focused on seafood and live seafood. The live seafood is top-shelf quality. They do offer other dishes that include tofu, chicken, squab, pork and beef, many of them braised or roasted. You will also find a good handful of standards like fried rice or noodles, but these are leagues above what one would typically expect from a decent Chinese eatery. And because of their Cantonese pedigree, Sea Harbour's flavors will be light and balanced, particularly on the seafood dishes. I think it is almost instinctual in the way that the Cantonese offer reverence to quality seafood by highlighting the natural flavors, rather than bludgeoning them with heavy-handed sauces.

              Right now, Santa Barbara Spot Prawns are in their tanks. These are a regional specialty that are considered to be one of the best eating crustaceans on the planet. The Spot Prawn can be very delicate and must be live up to the point of preparation to be enjoyed properly. Because of this, it is rare to find them served in restaurants, with the exception of vaunted seafood places like Providence, and of course, the Chinese seafood restaurants that have the tanks to keep their specimens live. We ordered it poached in Chinese wine (they will do this tableside for you), which we then enjoyed by dipping the tails in a flavorful yet light soy-based dipping sauce. And do enjoy the contents within the head as well. Some of the specimens we enjoyed were quite large - about 18-20 centimeters from head to tail.

              It sounds like you are seriously considering dim sum at Sea Harbour. If so, you can give their dinner skills a test run by ordering something off-menu during their dim sum service. They will gladly accommodate your request as long as the kitchen has access to the ingredients that are involved in your requested dish. And if you are serious about having dinner there as well, please request their dinner menus while at dim sum, as some of the dishes do require advance notice.

              1. re: bulavinaka

                Honestly bulavinaka, there have been so many contradictory reports about Sea Harbor and Elite... I am not even sure now. I really like dim sums and dumplings and want to have LA's best. Now, tell me what should I do... You are a veteran here! :)

                1. re: prats

                  You can't go wrong with either Elite or Sea Harbour for dim sum, both are excellent. Just comes down to personal preference. Sort of like Pepsi or Coke?

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    I find Elite steps it up a notch in their creativity.

                  2. re: prats

                    Both ipsedixit and monku have valid points. And I think the contradictory reports that you mention comes down to two things - splitting hairs and personal allegiance.

                    Both are excellent and I'm sure timing is important as well. I have never experienced anything that seemed like it was left over from the past dim sum cycle at Sea Harbour. Monku says he has. But he has also posted the same about Elite, and I have had what seemed to be something "pre-prepared" there as well, on the same past Mother's Day when they opened extra early (which we both unknowingly attended!). Most who are well-versed in dim sum will tell you to go mid-cycle for the best selection, but I think this applies more to the cart places. But maybe following this strategy will also lower the chances of getting "yesterday's dim sum," as those will be rotated out first no matter where one goes.

                    - We've been to Sea Harbour many times for dim sum and have never had a slip-up.

                    - We've actually been to Elite more often - only because their proximity and hours work better for us on weekends - and have had but a few minor quibbles (e.g., as stated above) - we'd expect that since we've been here more often (statistical inevitability, right?).

                    - I personally prefer Sea Harbour because I feel their quality and execution shines, and the dining room is very nice, open and crisp.

                    - I like Elite almost as much because the kitchen shows more whimsy and creativity. And if some particular dim sum item becomes a star here, rest assured Sea Harbour will probably try to offer it as well.

                    - If someone were to insist on going to one over the other, I wouldn't feel short-changed either way for the stated reasons.

                    And if I'm a veteran on these boards, then the serious all-stars who have posted on this thread are by far legendary hall-of-famers!

                    1. re: bulavinaka

                      The taste in the shu mai I experienced at Sea Harbor was like it was steamed with other items and may have picked up some other flavors.

                      Thanks for reminding me of the perceived leftover shu mai I had at Elite.
                      Beginning to think maybe going early for dim sum has it's drawbacks.

                      1. re: monku

                        Did you ever consider sending either of the shu mai items back, either at Elite or Sea Harbour?

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          I've never sent anything back at a Chinese restaurant unless it was the wrong order for fear of retaliation.
                          You've got to believe nothing from the day before is thrown away and the risk you take when you go early.
                          It's a few bucks a dish, I'm not that cheap.
                          Yes, you've mentioned they cook to order, but I don't think so.

                          1. re: monku

                            I don't know if it's necessarily being cheap, but more about getting what you want and enjoying it.

                            I've returned fries at In N Out that weren't "well-done" enough.

                            Re: cook to order. I know for a fact that certain items are definitely made and then cooked when the order comes in, e.g. things that are less commonly ordered, or do not hold up well.. But for something like shu mai I'd imagine they are continuously making and cooking them throughout the morning/lunch hours.

                            And I certainly can't imagine them (either Elite or SH) holding something over that was cooked from the day before. It just doesn't hold up that well. Now they might make it the day before and cook it the next day (that happens quite often), but certainly the items are "cooked" that day.

                            And if there are leftovers, I'd imagine they go home with the staff.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              I've been to both SH and Elite many times and trust my taste buds.

                              Despite what you may think is the right way, they all (all dim sum places) reheat leftovers from the day before and try to sell them first. (FIFO)
                              Matter of fact I've been the first customer at Elite on several occasions and see dim sum containers steaming in the kitchen...if they aren't pre-cooking what are they doing?....sterilizing the containers?

                              Leftover or not, if they can sell it they will sell it and not give it to the staff to take home.
                              My grandfather had Chinese restaurants.

                              1. re: monku

                                Pre-cooking, yes. Re-heating leftovers? No.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  "Re-heating leftovers? No"
                                  Do you believe in the tooth fairy?

                                  It's not a sin or against the law to reheat leftovers from the day before in the restaurant business. You go to a place like Yum Cha Cafe and see all that stuff when they first open and you think it's all "fresh" ?

                                  1. re: monku


                                    I never said anything about Yum Cha? And who brought legality into this?

                                    All I'm saying is that I do not think either Elite or Sea Harbour are reheating leftovers from the day before. Why would you bring Yum Cha into this? Or the law?

                                    It's like following up with, Do you think McDonald's reheats their leftover burgers Just a total non sequitur.

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      "Pre-cooking, yes."

                                      In this post you said they wouldn't pre-cook.

                                      I can think of several items at any dim sum place that are cooked and if they weren't served that day they would reheat it and serve it the next day.

                                      1. re: monku

                                        Hmm, where in that thread did I say that exactly?

                                        I could only find a suggestions that menu-style dim sum places would not have overruns because they made things to order, probably a little sloppy on part with the choice of words, as I probably should've said "cooked when ordered".

                                        [shrug] Believe what you want.

                      2. re: bulavinaka

                        I was at Elite Father's Day, were you?

                        1. re: monku

                          My dad had to head out of town during Father's Day. :( I hope Elite treated you and your family well...

                          1. re: bulavinaka

                            No complaints, except my SIL ordered way too much as usual.

                            1. re: monku

                              Now, thinking of doing both Elite and Sea Harbor. :) Maybe Elite for Dim Sums and Sea Harbor for dinner. But not sure what should I order for dinner at Harbor...

                              1. re: prats

                                "But not sure what should I order for dinner at Harbor..."

                                That was covered in great detail recently by exilekiss:

                2. I would not recommend El Tepeyc for one of their burritos, yes, very large and overabundant, but nothing remarkable taste wise.

                  You might want to check out Mariscos Chente for Mexican seafood or Guelagetxa for Mexican (Oaxacan) tood, both in Los Angeles.

                  You might want to check out Din Tai Fung in Arcadia for dim sum. Here is and old report of mine which is fairly comprehensive about the experience there:

                  You wil be able to catch the light rail at the Del Mar Station which would take you to Union Station and further on in to downtown L.A. where you could transfer to other public transportation, but if you have access to a car, it will improve the speed and range of area you can cover in the greater L.A. area, Expect traffic congestion any time of day, before mid-evening.

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

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

                  Del Mar Cafe
                  712 S Del Mar Ave, San Gabriel, CA 91776

                  8 Replies
                    1. re: namstermonster

                      Yes Langer's Deli has the best pastrami on earth. Also it's right off the Red Line subway.

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

                      1. re: wienermobile

                        Check Langer's website for their restricted hours (IIRC they are open from around 7 AM until 4 PM and are closed on Sundays).

                        1. re: Servorg

                          Langer's hours are Monday - Saturday, 8am - 4pm.

                        2. re: namstermonster

                          Agree on the Langer's recs. Also agree on the In N Out Burger - many locations. Also, how about Shabu-Shabu?

                        3. re: ChinoWayne

                          "You might want to check out Din Tai Fung in Arcadia for dim sum."

                          There is no dim sum at Din Tai Fung.

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

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            I meant, juicy dumplings and soup dumplings, as noted in my related post.