Coming down from SF to LA for a week, need advice...
I'll be in LA this week-end and next week with my wife, and we're looking for advice on interesting restaurants.
We'll be staying in Pasadena, but will travel to Hollywood, Silverlake, Downtown, Burbank.
I made a reservation at Animal, after seeing it on Bourdain's, but otherwise nothing. I'm also a fan of ethnic food, and don't really care for super fancy places.
As you will be staying in Pasadena, and are a big fan of ethnic food the San Gabriel Valley beckons. A quick search will reveal dozens of threads recommending wonderful places near you. A quick suggestion is Seafood Village in Temple City. Its a short drive from Pasadena. Their house special crab is excellent. There is also a long thread recommending the sandwich from Roma deli which is in Pasadena. Enjoy your visit.
My favorite in the Pasadena area is Julienne's in South Pasadena. They are only open for breakfast and lunch, and there can be a weight at prime times. They also have an adjoining take-out/gourmet food store.
Check on Yelp or Facebook for food trucks in the area. There is debate about how good the food really is, but it is one of the few real street foods available in the Southland, and worth an afternoon or evening to experience.
I'm switching cities with you this weekend.
I recommend Red Medicine the highest. Get the brussel sprouts with fish sauce, maitake mushrooms with long beans, foie gras, porridge with butter and uni supplement, gage plum dessert.
If you're downtown, I also recommend Spice Table. Get the fried cauliflower with fish sauce, lamb belly sates, beef rendang, and kon loh mee.
Skip dim sum down here as I still find Koi Palace superior on the high end. But the rest of the asian food down here is worth trying.
As a previous poster stated, the adjacent San Gabriel Valley is arguably the country's best place for various types of Chinese and Vietnamese food. You've gotta try JTYH Heavy Noodle II in Rosemead.
We also enjoy stopping for dessert at Fosselman's Ice Cream in Alhambra. Try the horchata ice cream. It's pretty amazing.
Check out this link by a resident DJ/Atlantic Monthly writer on nearby Taco Trucks. The Taco Zone in Silver Lake has killer offal tacos - the tripe and cabeza are my favorites - and the best salsa bar among the local competitors. They don't really get going until 8pm and continue through into the wee hours.
Ethnic? Hit little ethiopia, I try a new ethiopian every time I go and it ranges from good to excellent. I would also try to hit Chego, as it is orders of magnitude easier to manage than food trucks and offers the prototypical mashups expected of such. Right off the 10, too.
Animal is a great start. Love Red Medicine. San Gabriel Valley is another good recco as is Little Ethiopia, though the SGV is more vast and far reaching in terms of options and LE is, well, little--but serious about the food. Hunting down trucks can be fun, but at this point, you have enough teriffic trucks in the City that it may not feel special.
Beyond Spice Kitchen, I will work a little on some Downtown recs. None of these are super fancy.
--Bar | Kitchen at the O Hotel. Improbably awesome. And in a hotel!
--Starry Kitchen. Taste their balls.
--Lazy Ox. Gastropub done properly.
--Aburiya Toranoko. Japanariffic.
--Wurstkuche. Wieners, wieners, wieners. And beer.
--Rivera. Chef once had neon sign that said, "Chateau d'Yquem on Tap." That was the 80's. Now he rocks tacos though in a very thoughtful way.
--Cole's. Claiming rights as the oldest public house in L.A. and the home of the orginal French Dip.
--The Gorbals. Ilan from Top Chef. Wierd, irreverent and fun. Oh, food good too.
Wood Spoon (downtown) is another option. Casual and cozy vibe, good food, reasonable prices. People rave about the chicken pot pie, but I've enjoyed the short ribs and chicken stew even more, along with the croquettes.
in my opinion, i'd skip Julienne's/Fosselman's/Lazy Ox and try the ethnic route like Chinese in San Gabriel Valley and Korean in K-town. Even Mexican and sushi too. I only say this bc sounds like you're into ethnic. I used to live in SF and every time a SF friend visits the ones who leave sort of disappointed go eat at the LA Farmer's Market at 3rd and Fairfax, Fosselman's, and Mozza. Go eat where LA shines which with Chinese in San Gabriel Valley or Korean in K-town. I know it's far but Japanese food in Torrance is great. Nothing like what you'll find in SF. I'd even try to go get sushi at Zo on the west side. It's fancy on the pocket book but not fancy as in dress up. After all you guys have Tartine, Altelier Crenn, Humphry Slocombe, etc. no need to try to get food here that is a facsimile of what's done so well in SF.