Los Angeles in October
My wife will be celebrating her second 30th birthday in October. We'll be there for a week beginning the 23rd. We will be staying at the Beverly Wilshire and will have a car. General thoughts on food, lunch places, dinner places, cool places with a view, exceptional bars etc. would be appreciated. I have tickets to the Hollywood Bowl on the 26th so ideas on how to properly pack a picnic basket are very important.
We generally travel to Los Angeles at least once a year from our home in Connecticut. We've lived in Asia, spend time in Europe every year and appreciate most foods.
Thanks in advance for your consideration.
Deb and I have been back a little over two weeks now and I'm just starting to process our visit to Los Angeles. My tardiness in reporting back is partially due to leaving your perfect weather only to return to the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. We're sailors and understand weather happens.
We touched down at LAX from JFK on 10/23, picked up our rental, plotted a course on my iPhone 5 using the controversial Maps app and made it to the Beverly Wilshire in under 30 minutes. I mention this because Los Angeles is a car city and reliable turn-by-turn navigation is a must for a visitor to get around. We hit the hotel too early for our room but just in time for drinks at THE Blvd, the hotel's bar that overlooks the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Rodeo Drive. Vodka gimlet for me, a Sancerre for my wife. Drinks and service were outstanding. We made THE Blvd our cocktail hour headquarters.
Supper our first night was at Osteria Mozza. Prosecco when we sat down, burrata with bacon to start. It was tasty with the marinated escarole and caramelized shallots but let the record show burrata here is nowhere near the equal of burrata at Roscioli in Rome's Campo de' Fiori. Deb enjoyed the orecchiette and I enjoyed my sweetbreads picatta. We washed it all down with a 2007 Barbaresco. Service was outstanding. We like this place and will continue to return.
Next up was Bouchon Bistro. We like the Yountville place and wanted to experience the Beverly Hills outpost. Champagne to help us settle in, roasted bone marrow to start (the new foie gras?). Steak frites for Deb and a poulet roti for me. The poached pears and the Swiss chard helped make this dish memorable. Deb's steak was tender, tasty and huge. The fries were pretty good, too. A Trevallon ('08) to wash it all down. Service was excellent. Bring an appetite.
Shunji: a destination for the glitterati? a hipster's see-and-be-seen place? Nope, simply the best food I encountered this trip that just happens to be in the goofiest setting imaginable. I set the Maps app, drove to my destination and parked nearby in front of an adult book store. We had arrived.
The ridiculously low-rent building is home to chef Shunji Nakao, apparently a veteran of the Los Angeles sushi scene. We sat at the uncrowded bar, ordered the omakase and kicked back with the house sake (served cold). We were not disappointed: the jellyfish put a huge smile on my face; an amazing dish with squid, squid ink and a qual egg was two dishes in one (chef will instruct you how/when to spear the yolk); potato and bleu cheese?; the raw fish was of high quality. A sushi course followed. I thought the rice was very good. All-in-all, we spent two hours at the bar. Chef finished with a Japanese tomato broth. Shunji chided me earlier when I left the marinated/sliced ginger untouched. I gave it a try. It was superb. I need to go back. Chef Shunji and server Yuku run an outstanding shop.
Friday night was the Bob Dylan/Mark Knopfler concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Earlier, I drove Deb to the Farmers Market so she could pick up bread, cheeses, terrines, pickles and olives. I swilled wine and nibbled charcuteries at the M. Marcel cafe while she shopped. The concert was fun from a nostalgia perspective but truth be told, Bob's voice is shot. Deb's picnic basket was superb. I'm glad we went.
Animal was an interesting destination. I wasn't sure what to expect when we pulled up front and ransomed my ride to a way-too-casual gent out front. I shouldn't have worried. Cava to help us settle in, a short chat with our server and we were on our way. We munched on the chicken liver toast, shared the marrow bone, loved the octopus, wolfed down the chicken-fried sweetbreads before moving on to the flat iron steak (sunchoke hash/truffle parmesan fondue). A Barbera d'Alba to wash it all down. Service was friendly and competent.
Scarpetta is Scott Conant's chain of restaurants. Deb and I went to his place in Manhattan when it first opened, returned for the first anniversary dinner and even visited the outpost in Miami when it first opened. The reason for our allegiance is simple: the creamy polenta with truffle mushrooms. The bar crisps are pretty good, too.
We always pair the polenta app with the beef short rib app: they were made to be mixed together. Deb enjoyed the pappardelle and I had the black cod. We were comped with a bowl of the spaghetti pomodoro, a signature dish. A modest red to wash it all down. Service here is excellent.
The Restaurant at Getty Center is pretty special. The room is gorgeous: high ceilings, windows on three sides, views to die for. We began with California sparkling wine, enjoyed the breads and soon moved onto our first courses: a pear salad for me and a roasted apple salad for Deb. Both salads benefited from cheeses (bleu, goat). They were wonderful. From there, we moved on to a squash risotto for Deb (a photo of this dish should be on the cover of a serious food magazine) and a braised beef short rib for me. The short rib was an interesting combo who's foundation was a bedding compound of creamy-rich Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, topped by the (ubiquitous) bone marrow with the slow-cooked short rib on top. There were mushrooms, patty pan squash, balsamic onions and so much more. We washed it all down with a California pinot noir. Service was excellent. Come for the art, stay for the food.
THE Blvd bar at the Beverly Wilshire was my home base. Deb and I would pop in most days around 3 p.m.. Jose (Pepe?) and others treated us like family. We were greeted warmly every day and treated like rock stars. The barkeeps at the Bouchon Bar, Jeff and Venicia, were great to talk to. Sophia, at the bar at Scarpetta, was Beverly Hills chic in a down-to-earth way if that makes any sense. There was a gentleman manning the bar upstairs at the bar at the Bouchon Bistro. His name escapes me. He was a southern gentleman with a fine repertoire of stories. We enjoyed the iconic Keller fired chicken on his watch. Let the record show that the quiche at Bouchon makes for one fine lunch/late night snack.
We enjoyed our stay in Los Angeles. The food was very good, hospitality was outstanding. The Beverly Wilshire could not do enough for us. We enjoyed strolling the gardens at the Huntington, checking out the cars at the Petersen Automotive Museum, poking around the houses along the Venice canals, playing tourist in Santa Monica, visiting the Getty Center and returning to the Getty Villa. We even popped in to the back bar at the Sidewalk Cafe in Venice Beach on Sunday so we could watch the football Giants game (cheap beer, lousy food. been doing this for years).
Thanks for all your kind thoughts and recommendations.
Skip Osteria Mozza, go with the Pizzeria but make a reservation ASAP.
Animal is good for meat lovers, Son of a Gun for fish lovers. Can't go wrong with either. Son of a Gun is one of my new favorites. Their little two-bite lobster roll beats any lobster roll I've ever had.
Tavern in Brentwood is also one of my newly found favorites. I've been for brunch, lunch, and dinner and never had a bad experience. They have an excellent bar and their deconstructed Snickers bar dessert changed my life.
A few of the recommendations I've seen here are simply awful (Dan Tana's?)...if you're looking for exceptional food experiences, those are my 4 recommendations and I guarantee you'll love them all.
Dan Tana's is most certainly not awful...... And very similar to the delicious Italian food my friend Steve is used to in southern CT, where I grew up...... Now perhaps, they don't want to go to a place with similar food where they live, but DT's is an LA institution, with Old Hollywood roots. And everyone I know from the east coast loves to see that kind of stuff when they visit here.
All I can say is, for an exceptional food experience I would never choose Dan Tana's. Some of the worst food and service experiences I've ever had in the world have been at Dan Tana's. Doesn't compare to little Italian places in NYC. Just because it's an institution, it doesn't mean they're doing things right any longer. Dan Tana's is not the "old school Italian" that it's supposed to be. It's bland, greasy American-Italian food and I could name 1,000 restaurants at which I'd rather eat.
Just my opinion.
Steve, good seeing you on the LA boards.
My 2 favorite restaurants right now are Red Medicine and Shunji. I cannot recommend those two highly enough. For a special birthday dinner at Shunji you can call ahead and request certain ingredients such as hairy crab from Hokkaido or hanasaki crab also from Hokkaido. That's what I'll be doing for mom's b-day in a few weeks. But just popping in and going omakase with Shunji is always a surprise and a treat.
Here is my Red Medicine write-up:
Here is JL's beautiful photo essay for Shunji:
On a Friday and Saturday, Mozza 2 Go does a 5 course theme dinner. The pork theme dinner is very good, all else is hit or miss.
You must indulge in LA's current ramen boom and boon. Try Tsujita for their Tsukemen (dipping ramen) and be sure to order their egg which is runny and delicious in the middle. The ramen is served during lunch only and it is cash only.
On one of your driving days, head over to SGV and try Shanghai No 1 Seafood Village. Try the XLB and the delicious pan fried buns (shenjian bao). The shenjian bao are the best versions I've had outside of Yang's in Shanghai. Also order some dishes off the huge and colorful menu (available for both lunch and dinner). The "back alley pork" is pretty authentic and good. The decor is colorful and interesting to say the least.
Regarding your picnic basket. Mozza2go does pre-packaged ones. You could also order roasted chicken, a bunch of antipasti, and panini to go instead of the pizza. That might travel better. They also cure their own salumi which is good, but of course it is no Roscioli.
Your hotel may have the best bar option. There is the more quiet classic bar in the front and the more boisterous Sidebar in the back right in front of Cut. Another option is the Bazaar which is flashy and scene-y in a very LA way. It may be a bit more over the top than what you're looking for though.
Enjoy and I look forward to reading your report.
Thanks everyone for taking the time to come up with so many good suggestions. I recognize most of your handles and may have traded thoughts with more than a few of you over the years. I respect and appreciate your opinions.
Edited to add: the whole picnic basket thing is far from resolved. Korean/Japanese always sounds good. Animal, Red Medicine, Son of a Gun are new to me. Which would you choose? I sat at the Nancy Bar maybe two weeks after she opened Osteria Mozza. We exchanged Post-it notes (she started it, I swear). We may have to return. Saddle Peak Lodge is another old favorite. The dining room at the Getty Center has views/food/. We love it. Our working geography will be roughly Pasadena down to Malibu.
Question: Where would you take your sweetie of 40-plus years (married for 38) for a drink or two? Someplace sophisticated is good. On the other hand, a competent bar always works.
I just remembered you saying your spent time in Seoul, so a trip down to Koreatown would probably be worth it for you. It's just west of downtown LA, and it boasts the most & best Korean restaurants & population in the country.
For BBQ, we all love Park's. Very good quality. There are a few more upscale places like Chosun Galbi, in Beverly Hills, but I have not visited it so don't know firsthand how it compares. There's also a new gastropub called Beer Belly, that gets good reviews on Yelp, not sure how many 'hounds have been, but it sounds like they have decent food and a good selection of craft brews. Probably a younger crowd & not run by Koreans, but is popular for its food nonetheless.
beer belly can be fun, but it's extremely LOUD in there. if your not planning on talking to anybody, then it's fine. when it's crowded you need to yell to the person next to you for them to have a slight chance of hearing you. (it's a very small space with wood walls & ceiling and cement floor)
actually, BB is korean owned but there is a good mix of people there and i would say most of the crowd is much younger than me---mostly 20's/30's. the beer selection is small, but good. the food is hit or miss---mostly fried things (like wings, duck fat fries, grilled cheese sandwich w/ maple syrup) that go well with beer. i went to their sunday brunch once and the food wasn't very good (think stoner breakfast food ---lucky charm or snickers pancakes). They have since started serving some of their regular menu for brunch in addition to their egg dishes.
it's a good place to get craft brew and a snack before a show @ the wiltern if it's not too crowded, otherwise the lines are long.
Yes, this is the place I was referring to, Bann. Opened by the Woo Lae Oak family. It has a NY outpost as well. This is the LA Times review of it, but it's two years old. Can't recommend it myself since I haven't been, don't know anyone who has been, and don't even know if it's still open. But I knew it existed nonetheless.
Bann in Los Angeles (no longer extant in Los Angeles while the NY http://www.bannnewyork.com/ one is still alive as far as I can tell) was also in Korea town (never in Beverly Hills) to the best of my recollection. Another story about its evolution: http://blogs.laweekly.com/squidink/20...
Your are going to a bowl lease event, Just know some of their rules on picnicking are different than regular bowl events:
Not Permissible in the Theatre during Lease Events:
Alcohol and/or controlled substances. You may purchase alcohol inside.
Glass (including drinking glasses) and aluminum cans, regardless of content.
The following are allowable in the Bowl:
Picnic baskets and coolers no larger than 15" by 22" long by 15" high.
Factory sealed non-alcoholic plastic bottles, one liter in size or less.
Re-useable containers (such as Tupperware or sipper bottles) holding food or non-alcoholic beverages.
A place not often mentioned but offering an extraordinary and unique kind of dining experience would be n/naka. I'm not sure where you lived in Asia, but if you're familiar with Japanese cuisine, n/naka serves multi-course meals known as kaiseki. I'm offering this strictly second hand - here's the post by serious eater Hound J.L.
If you have had kaiseki, it might be a good time to reminisce and compare with your memories. If not, I think the experience would be very uncommon here in the US.
Another place I've been dying to try..... n/naka.... Know that it is in Culver City, which is just west of mid city, south if the 10 freeway. There are actually lots of neat places in this neighboring city.
Another place that's supposed to have an incredible view is the new Nobu in Malibu. He used to be in a small shopping center on the inland side; he now has moved directly on the beach. Have not been to this location yet, promises to be stunning.....but we had a wonderful birthday celebration at his former space last year, food is excellent. A bit out of the way, but if you're interested in driving up the coast a bit, it's worth it.
Not meaning to split hairs but n/naka is actually in a neighborhood just north of Culver City - Palms. Venice Blvd approximately delineates Culver City (zips 90230-90232) to the south and Palms to the north (zip 90034). Culver City itself is a confusing city when it comes to boundaries.
I would highly recommend Pizzeria Mozza for getting food to go for the Hollywood Bowl. Their pizza is wonderful, and about as close to you'll come to what you get in southern CT.
Check out the Fairfax district for the original farmers market. Short Order, Nancy Silverton's burger experiment is there, as well as some decent sit down places like Loteria.
Head south down Fairfax to visit Animal, dinner only, make a reservation, some of the best flavor bomb food in the city. Their sister place, Son of a Gun, is their take on seafood, and also supposed to be outstanding. Other places worth trying are Hatfield's, ink, Bazaar & Red Medicine.
In Beverly Hills, I'd recommend Scarpetta for brunch if you are here on a Sunday, best brunch inthe city.
Downtown has a lot to offer: Rivera, WP24, the little Tokyo area.
For a view, the best choice in Santa Monica on the Venice line would be Catch, in the Casa del Mar hotel. Other great spots in SaMo include FIG, in the Fairmount, and Melisse, which is high end.
I have more recs, but will let the other hounds chime in. P.S. my absolute Dave at the moment is in Venice on Abott Kinney place, an artsy neighborhood, called the Tasting Kitchen. Absolutely fab!