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Have 24 Hours Free, Who/What/Where Should I Eat?

Two weekends from now, I will be left to my own devices (no wife, no kids), for approximately 24 hours; let’s say from 6 PM Saturday to 6 PM Sunday. Seeing as my birthday’s this month, and having gotten a (small) raise at work recently, I’ve decided to put together a quick solo eating tour of L.A. for that weekend.

I’m not as young and spry as I used to be, so I can’t make this a true round-the-clock tour (i.e., not going to pull an all-nighter and hit places at 4 AM), so, practically speaking, I have ~6 hours Saturday evening and ~9 hours in the daylight on Sunday.

I’m making my list now, with a focus on places I’ve never been before (marked with an asterisk below), with a couple of favorites thrown in. I plan on sampling just one or two dishes at each place so I don’t fill up, or go broke, too quickly. Here’s my list so far...

SATURDAY:

6 PM - Animal*: I want to hit this place right when it opens. I'm ordering just two dishes: the pig ear, chili, lime, fried egg; and one of the dishes with foie gras, but which one? I’m leaning toward the veal tongue, smoked foie gras, pastrami spices, crab apple, as it is less expensive and a smaller dish, and I want to pace myself. (~45 minutes, $26+)

7 PM - Red Medicine*: Since I’ll be dining alone, I’ll probably just try the bánh mì at the bar. I’m hoping that’ll also save on waiting for a table. Do they serve the full menu at the bar? (~30 minutes, $12+)

8 PM - Scoops Westside*: Of course, it will depend on the flavors they’re serving that day, but any recommendations? (~30 minutes, $5+)

9 PM - Shunji: I’ve been wanting to go back for a while. I’m doubtful bamboo will still be in season, so I’m hoping he’ll have chawanmushi. And, of course, I’ll have a few pieces of sushi too. (~45 minutes, $30+)

10 PM - ??? I’d like to hit at least one more new place before retiring for the night. Taking suggestions.

Here’s a Google Map of the Saturday leg of my tour: http://goo.gl/maps/WmKZ (to protect the guilty, I put West L.A. as my starting location). Not a bad little circle, if I do say so myself. I tried to be conservative with my schedule, but I know I’ll be at the mercy of Saturday-night wait times. How realistic are my time/cost estimates?

SUNDAY:

10 AM - Sea Harbour: First and only visit was nearly a decade ago. I plan on arriving early, as I do not want the wait to throw off my schedule. Hopefully going solo will score me a quick seat at a shared table. I’ll be ordering chicken feet, bamboo steamed tofu skin rolls, and maybe one other dish. (~45 minutes, $15+

)

[Argh, why does the CH code keep closing the <p> tag before the closing parenthesis in the preceding paragraph?!?]

11 AM - Mama Lu’s Dumpling House*: On their last visit to L.A., my parents tried both Dean Sin World’s and Mama Lu’s xiao long bao and liked the latter’s much better. Naturally, I have to try both places’ XLB in person myself. (~30 minutes, $5+)

12 PM - Dean Sin World*: See last stop. Just getting a plate of XLB to compare the mother/daughter restaurants. (~30 minutes, $5+)

1 PM - Happy Garden*: Can’t believe I haven’t been to what I’ve heard is one of the best Taiwanese restaurant in L.A. Going to order a bunch of those “small eats” that would meet ClarissaW’s grandmother approval, e.g., dishes with pigs blood, kidneys, or intestines; chou dou fu. :-) (~60 minutes, $15+)

2:30 PM - Mama Lu’s Dumpling House*: Hoping to arrive right before they close for the afternoon, just to pick up some frozen dumplings. Must remember to bring a cooler and ice. (~15 minutes, $15+)

3 PM - VP Tofu*: Technically, I’ve never been, but I’ve had their dou hua once as take out. I’ll probably just opt for some fresh cold dou jiang on this stop. (~15 minutes, $5+)

3:30 PM - UMAMIcatessen*: For the foie donut. (~15 minutes, $8+)

4 PM - Water Grill*: For a half dozen raw oysters and whatever else strikes my fancy. (~45 minutes, $30+)

5:30 PM - Nanbankan*: Thought I’d wrap up my tour with some authentic kushiyaki, and this place has been on my radar for a while. Any suggestions for three or four dishes to order? (~60 minutes, $25+)

Here’s a Google Map of the Sunday leg of the tour: http://goo.gl/maps/XmGu. The reason for the backtracking to Mama Lu’s is because I don’t want to buy frozen dumplings in the morning if I’m not going to get home until early evening. I’m a little worried that the wait times for Sunday will be longer than it usually is, as it will be Father’s Day. How realistic are my time/cost estimates?

Any red flags, recommendations to skip a place (with explanation) or to add a place? Am I being too ambitious?

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  1. OMG Peter - this is an all-time great chowhound post - cannot wait to see what kind of answers you get.
    Of course you are being too ambitious, but that's the point, innit?

    Red Medicine does serve full menu at the bar now (they did not when they first opened). Have the Uni Congee, not the BM.

    Nanbankan is solid but not mind-blowing. I always get, and love, the hamachi kama, chicken "oysters," grilled onigiri and the whole squid. But, to me, it seems like a pedestrian way to end your tour, especially when I consider all that lies between Water Grill and WLA.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Ciao Bob

      Thanks Ciao Bob, this was exactly the kind of feedback I was looking for, a recommendation for a different dish at one of the restaurants on my list (glad to know I can get the full menu at the bar at RM, and uni congee definitely sounds better than the bánh mì; the foie sounds good too), and a recommendation to swap out a place. (Any suggestions for what to take NBK's place?)

      1. re: PeterCC

        If you are looking for something in the same geographic area as Nan Ban Kan then you might just give Gottsui and whirl: http://gottsui-usa.com/

        1. re: Servorg

          Thanks, Servorg. I think if I stick with the same genre of food, I'll probably just stick with Nanbankan.

          (Not sure if Ciao Bob's original comment was directed at Nanbankan specifically, or at kushiyaki in general, as a "pedestrian" way to wrap up my tour.)

          1. re: PeterCC

            Peter -
            I meant NanBanKan specifically; however, I do like it and I eat there frequently. It is fun and relatively inexpensive. So why the comments above? I am a huge fan of yakitori, crazy about it, acutually, but I find NBK's chicken quality kind of so-so, nothing like Kokeekoko downtown for chicken-on-a-stick. That kind of bugs me. But I like very much the dishes I recommended. Enjoy.

            1. re: Ciao Bob

              Thanks Ciao Bob. I probably won't get straight chicken meat anyway. Want to try the chicken hearts (and I assume they have liver and gizzard too). Whole squid sounds good too.

            2. re: PeterCC

              2 musts whenever I go to Nanbankan (which is quite often) are:

              Gobo
              House special onigiri

              I ordered the gobo the very first time I went there ~12 yrs ago and have ordered it on every single subsequent visit since (prob 20+). I just love it.

          2. re: PeterCC

            one quick note about that congee. if you don't exhibit restraint and finish that bowl i will guarantee that there will be no room left in your stomach for your 8PM, 9PM and 10PM stops.

            1. re: emosbaugh

              That made me laugh, but it's oh so true.

        2. You could end the night with a Pastrami Nosh sandwich at Plan Check in West LA but by then you would certainly explode. You are my hero.

          1 Reply
          1. re: wienermobile

            Thanks, weinermobile. Plan Check is on my list of things to try, so that's a good call.

            Of course, the nice thing about this being a solo tour is if I think I'm too full, I don't feel obligated to go because someone's with me. The only person I'd disappoint is myself (well, and possibly you folk).

          2. How about a pizza from 800 degrees? Open till 2am nightly.

            1 Reply
            1. re: wienermobile

              Not sure if I want to brave the Westwood crowds on a Saturday night, though school should be out by then (not that it turns into a ghost town or anything even when school's not in session). Plus, kinda overdid the gourmet pizza thing with Milo and Olive the last few weeks, but thanks!

            2. Your tabe aruki is not too ambitious. I myself am leading a food crawl similar to this tomorrow with friends (Mrs. J.L. & the Chowpup are out of town).

              Remember, having dim sum solo limits your # of dishes you can try (unless you don't mind lots of leftovers) - Ask some friends to come with you!

              If time permits, start your tabe aruki a bit earlier on Saturday afternoon by going to Tsujita LA for their tsukemen (bring your own sudachi, as they give you the suboptimal choice of lime at the restaurant) - they stop serving noodles at 3:30PM. Either before or after your Tsujita bowl, you will want to walk across the street to Miyata Menji for their Italian-influenced tsukemen.

              For your last stop Saturday night, do (1) Wakasan on Westwood Blvd., or (2) the excellent Morinoya izakaya in the Olympic Collection, or (3) Plan Check on Sawtelle.

              On your Sunday excursion (the West LA portion), go to (1) Naan Hut on Santa Monica Blvd. for their sangak bread, then (2) Attari (in Tehrangeles, on Westwood & Wilkins) or their Ash & beef tongue & chicken olivieh sandwiches. Then, walk across the street to (3a) Saffron & Rose Ice Cream for the cucumber ice cream, then. You can go to (3b) Fundamental for a very different sandwich experience in the same neighborhood. Also, try (4) Bar Pintxo in Santa Monica later for some Spanish tapas, followed by (5) Churros Calienetes in West LA for great Venezuelan churros con chocolate.

              As for the SGV: How about a traditional Chinese breakfast (cruellers, sao bing, soy milk) at Si Hai (Four Seas) on Las Tunas? How about knife-cut noodles in stewed beef with tendons at Kam Hong Garden? Beijing Pie House for meat pies? Have you been to SinBaLa (Taiwanese) in Arcadia for their "yeow fan" (oily rice)? Have you tried the mango shaved snow at Pa Pa Walk in San Gabriel?

              ... food for thought... And for your stomach.

              Happy eating!

              8 Replies
              1. re: J.L.

                Wow, thanks for the detailed recs. Good luck on your own food crawl! I look forward to reading about it.

                Don't worry on the dim sum, I have a separate stomach for that (next to my sushi stomach), but I may call a friend up to join me for just that part of the tour (and not even mention the tour, as I may get funny looks).

                I think the earliest I can start that Saturday is probably 4 PM, but Tsujita LA and Miyata Menji are just up the street from Kiriko, and I can easily try either of them during the lunch hour on a workday. For the weekend in question, I'm really trying to get to places that would not necessarily appeal to my wife or kids, or are far enough away to require a special trip (like the Sunday stops in SGV and DTLA).

                Hmm, Wakasan after Shunji, is that too much Japanese? :-) Perhaps Wakasan instead of Shunji. That'll make all of Saturday's stops brand new to me, which is a big goal of mine. And, that may take me to the finish line, as Wakasan is omakase-only and I assume will take close to two hours?

                (Oh, thanks for not telling me to go to Kiriko and do their omakase already! I know, I'm turning it into running joke now... I'll stop bringing it up.)

                Dang, that's a lot of stops for Sunday in WLA. I do want to try Bar Pintxo, but it's another place that I could pretty easily get to at other times. The other recs don't really fit with what I have in mind for Sunday (definitely more Chinese-centric, with a blip of Japanese at the end that I may swap out), but I'll remember them for other excursions in the future.

                Wow, Si Hai sounds fantastic. I was wondering if I could hit a place before Sea Harbour Sunday morning. Didn't even know this place existed. And they have tea eggs! Making notes on the other places, but between Sea Harbor, Dean Sin World, Mama Lu's, and Happy Garden, I think I would explode if I tried to fit all of them in.

                Haven't been to SinBaLa. Actually, haven't really been to many Taiwanese restaurants at all. I've gone to My Way Deli by Atlantic and Garvey several times on a rec from a Taiwanese friend. Been to Yung Ho on Valley (the one by New Ave, not the one by Walnut Grove) once or twice. Tried a little place on the second level of the large shopping plaza on the corner of Valley and Del Mar (with the 99 Ranch) but can't remember the name of the place.

                1. re: PeterCC

                  <<Wakasan instead of Shunji>>
                  Big mistake, IMHO.
                  Different leagues entirely.

                  1. re: Ciao Bob

                    I'm hoping not to have been spoiled by my experiences at Shunji, but I don't mind trying some place new even if it's in a different league. I mean, the omakase at Shunji starts at (or is set at) $80, while the omakase at Wakasan starts at $45, so that right there tells me not to expect as much from Wakasan. Having said that, I wasn't going to have the omakase at Shunji, just a la carte, so Wakasan would actually cost more. I'll have to ponder this more.

                    1. re: Ciao Bob

                      Wakasan = Home-style food, omakase only, 5-8 courses, mostly cooked, priced accordingly (read: cheaper). When the local Japanese expats don't feel like cooking, but still want homestyle casual food, they come here. You can finish the meal at Wakasan in an hour.

                      Wakasan is NOT kaiseki. Shunji & Wakasan are very differently genres. Apples & oranges. Each place is good in its own right. Don't do both back-to-back, though.

                    2. re: PeterCC

                      For the Sunday SGV portion of your food crawl, might I suggest the following additions/changes (some of which is to make your driving route a bit easier/logical):

                      _____________________________________

                      8:30 am - Si Hai (or Four Seas): rice roll (or "fan taun") and some taro egg tarts

                      9:00 am. SinBaLa: Taiwanese sausages (eat in or take it home)

                      10 am - Sea Harbour

                      12 pm - Beijing Pie House: meat pies

                      1 pm - Happy Garden: goose, yam leaves

                      1:30 pm. - Champion Provisions: duck tongue, gizzards and walnut rice and take it all to-go

                      2:00 pm - Mama's Lu

                      2:30 pm: Dean Sin World

                      Enjoy!

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        Definitely adding Si Hai as my first stop. The others all sound very interesting, especially the Champion Provisions. Will see if I can fit them all! Thanks!

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          seems a shame to go to dean sin world and not bop across the street to qingdao bread food.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            According to Yelp, SinBaLa does not open until 11 AM. I'll either need to shuffle the order around or cut it out of this tour, since Arcadia is a little more out of the way than all the other SGV spots I'm visiting.

                      2. Major kudos to both PeterCC and JL!! :D And here I thought I was the only crazy fatty (no offense intended) to attempt this type of ambitious food itinerary... it's great to know I'm not alone. I spent the Memorial Day and Tues following to check out as many places on my SF list as I could, while I was up there for the weekend. Most unfortunately, half of the places were closed but I was still able to try about 17 places in 2 days. Needless to say, I came back to LA 4lbs heavier (worth it, i think??). On your way to the sg area, perhaps you could stop by Guisados...most all of their tacos are amazeballs, my fav being the rajas (spicy!!). For late night I'll throw in al pastor tacos from leo. I agree with CiaoBob in that you should get the uni porridge (if available) @RM. In any case, good luck with your weekend of fun!! Can't wait to hear your report afterwards!! high5*

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: namstermonster

                          Ah, a kindred spirit (we can high-five online?!). :-) Did you make a post on the SF boards about your trip? I'd be interested to read what you tried. May be taking a trip up to SF in the fall. The only thing on my list right now is Good Mong Kok for some fantastic take-out har gow and siu mai (among other things).

                          Good call on Guisados! Another on my must-try list, and maybe I should throw in Ricky's as well, while talking tacos.

                          (Searched on Tacos Leo and it sounds amazing too, with the al pastor on the trompo. Venice and La Brea would be backtracking from Shunji or Wakasan or whatever I decide will be the "main" place Saturday night, but it sounds like it's worth going out of the way for this taco.)

                          Will definitely report after, with copious photos. :-)