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Survey of LA Hounds

Was having this conversation last night (about TV, not food) and curious to see what people here think.

The questions:

1. LA restaurants everybody loves but you (either actively dislike or think is overrated.)

2. LA restaurants nobody loves (either actively derides or just doesn't know about) but you.

3. LA restaurants everybody loves that you also love.

4. LA restaurants everybody loves that you've never been to.

My answers:

1. Animal, Lazy Ox. To me they were each a little out of balance flavor-wise, like at both places I felt there was WAY too much of an emphasis on lime juice/vinegar/acid to balance their bolder (saltier/porkier/whatever) flavors, which I found made certain dishes taste sort of uniformly like citrus and salt and that was about it. I liked the idea of each place/each dish more than the actual food in my mouth (but give those chefs huge props for having the hottest joints in town and making the food THEY -- and hoards of others -- really enjoy.) I didn't dislike the restaurants, but also didn't like them enough to ever need to go back.
(My TV answer: Breaking Bad.)

2. Star Falafel, Sherman Oaks. Hole in the wall, amazing falafel and Israeli food. Think it's more under the radar than underrated.
(My TV answer: Amen, Check It Out With Dr. Steve Brule.)

3. Cut, Mezze. I have nothing to say about them that hasn't already been said, other than I agree.
(My TV answer: Mad Men, The Wire.)

4. Bottega Louie, Chego, Jar. Don't worry, they're on the list. Ink however is not. I had one of the most insane/beautiful/delicious/indulgent meals of my life at The Langham in 2010 and for some reason want to preserve the experience (crazy and irrational I know, but it's sort of like not wanting to re-read a book or re-watch a movie or watch the sequel.)
(My TV answer: Homeland.)

The rules:

Bring it, but try not to be TOO rough on people like me who don't love Animal (because really, isn't that punishment enough?) Joking aside, I'm actually more interested in where the subjective meets the objective (ie. what one might actually be wrong about if everyone thinks the opposite/what one insists they're right about if everyone thinks the opposite. Or if/when/how both can be true.)

You don't have to provide a TV answer; it's Chowhound, not TVhound. And speaking of which, since I'm less a Chowhound and more a Chowpup, if this topic's already been covered please let me know and link to the thread so I can read it. Thanks!

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  1. "3. Cut, Mezze. I have nothing to say about them that hasn't already been said, other than I agree."

    If you are under the impression that one of the restaurants in answer to question number 3 above is Cut you obviously haven't reviewed the L.A. board carefully enough...(not that the review needs to be all that careful to find out that Cut has a LOT of detractors on this board). ;-D>

    1. We don't have cable or sat so my TV choices can be somewhat narrow.

      1) Spice Table. Only been for lunch, but was utterly not impressed by the food - the beer was great but not of their doing. I may be somewhat of a harsh critic because I went in with expectations and a little history with SE Asian food. Your TV choice leaves me diametrically opposed to you. Breaking Bad's script is tight and has no equal. The cinematography is head and shoulders above any other show. The actors perfectly portray all the eccentricities and weaknesses of the human condition. Please reassess your view, as even your avatar reeks of blue (meth;)). Hey, that rhymes.

      2) Metro Cafe. Always the reliable friend, Metro never leaves me wanting. Reasonable-sized menu with no-nonsense dishes executed well. The owner is often there to greet, chat and tell jokes. The only fallbacks are the service can be slow during peak times, and the Serbian guys who show up in black jackets must be the thugs from every recent Bond movie. Grimm is one of my few reasons for turning on le boobtube.

      3) Sea Harbour for dim sum or dinner. My first thought was Rivera, but I don't recall many other posters chiming in about the place. Noise level at Rivera can be an issue, with all the hard surfaces - noise level at Sea Harbour has always been manageable considering it seats so many Chinese diners able and willing to chat up a storm. Agree with you on Mad Men - great series that really puts one back in that period. The storyline and cinematography are excellent, and the timeless designs as well as social failings of that time were never more apparent.

      4) Rustic Canyon. We never get into this place. Whenever we've gone, plan to go, or even think about going, the place is maxed out. Are we suffering the consequences of their popularity, or is it all hype? Don't know either way, but we really like all of their other places, regardless of how eating area-dysfunctional they are. The Wire has always intrigued me - have never seen even a clip. My only exposure to the series is when NPR often did articles on the show. This will be my next series to purchase on DVD - we not only don't do cable, we don't do netflix either. Kids and technology today can potentially be like handing a loaded weapon to a fool.

      7 Replies
      1. re: bulavinaka

        According to J. Gold, the Sea Harbour dim sum crew has decamped to King Hua. True?

        1. re: mc michael

          Yeah, they joined forces with the folks from the (former) Triumphal Palace who were also rumored to have left for King Hua to form one big invincible "Voltron Dim Sum" kitchen crew.

          Don't believe everything you read (and certainly not all of it).

          1. re: mc michael

            Love ipse's "Voltron" comment. The ship-jumpers jumped a while back. And while they jumped ship, they might have forgotten the captain who is probably the one who would have led them into the dim sum stratosphere. King Hua opened with much anticipation, but their new ship was a bit waterlogged - at least according to Super Hound and currently MIA poster exilekiss:

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/533771

            They may have been suffering through a new restaurant learning curve among other things, but still - not having your act together in such a competitive environment such as SGV won't gain any sympathy. Not that hype isn't out in the SGV, but all in all, eaters in this part of town definitely vote with their dollars. I visited King Hua for dim sum for the first time last weekend after it had received some positive feedback. I must say that it was very good, but I felt that the execution was not quite as good, and I tasted a couple of shrimp items that were just a tad off - I've never had this issue at Sea Harbour, which I still prefer. I don't know if King Hua's location is an issue as well, but we walked right in and were seated at 1100 - Sea Harbour would have a line in front at least 30-deep. And Sea Harbour is not perfect according to some posters. But I've always enjoyed their offerings, so have all the folks that we've brought with us - every one of them.

            1. re: bulavinaka

              King Hua is always half-empty. Always.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Or is it half full? ;-)

                It really is in a sort of unhappy place, stuck out on that promontory right at the intersection. It's weird - although it looks like parking would be very easy, I've never felt the urge to stop there. And I'm still waiting for enough of a solid review to push me in.

                1. re: Will Owen

                  Five words: "Dim sum followed by Fosselman's." The dim sum was quite good and, as you thought, parking was easy.

            2. re: mc michael

              Was at King Hua over the weekend since the wait at Lunasia was an hour. It was OK, but not as good as recent dim sum visits to Lunasia

          2. Your #4 has two of three initial places that rate controversial to very controversial. Chego seems to be a place that you either like/get, or don't like/get. Among other criticisms, Bottega Louie's detractors would rather pull their own fingernails than go, as just the noise level alone would be louder and more painful. I like Chego but I hate loud places, which Chego can be, and has scared me away from ever trying Bottega Louie.

            31 Replies
            1. re: bulavinaka

              #4 Gjelina never been, everyone tells me to go. (TV: Answer Breaking Bad)

              As for your initial answer to #4 Bottega Louie, I go once a month in the hopes that it will change and actually be worth the prices and I will find something on the menu I like. Every time its a let down! Its my answer to number one. It's the definition of insanity I keep going, trying to figure out why so many people are there each time and I get the same trainwreck meal results. I actively dislike this place and wish they would just close up shop and make room for three new restaurants in the space as its huge. But with so many lemmings happily lapping up the slop there it's doubtful that will happen. Additionally I would add the following joints, Baco Mercat, Umami Burger, and Cattessen yes all of them, and Maestro's (TV Answer to #1, Lost, is that still on the air?)

              Number 2: Le Petit Bistro on La Cienega, "Old Fashion" boring bistro fare, but to me it's done right. It's like hitting the St.Germain in the 1970's Nouvelle cuisine and it's to me comforting to see that on a plate. I mean really "Floating Islands" for dessert??? (TV answer: Not Sure maybe any number of reality abominations on tv)

              Number 3: Park's BBQ great meat! Bouchon and can not leave out an In & Out Double Double from the mix. (TV Answer: Mad Men)

              1. re: bulavinaka

                or, in response to Bulavinka, Chego is somewhere you get and dislike, because of the execution.

                DISLIKES:
                #1: all of the Goin restaurants disappoint me. The people working them feel so phony and corporate and the food is totally inconsistent.
                #2: the sushi roku corp., with all their offshoots. Pathetic.
                Can I add Chinois on Main etc. Spago. Come on, Wolfgang.
                How bad was California food when you entered the scene???
                #3: all the Thai food I've had here. Includes Jitlada and Nakorn or whatever it is called. Never again. I'll wait to go back to a Thai home or Thailand. No comparison.

                I have to stop. This isn't good for me.

                I like places where the chef is really working the kitchen, keeps things quiet, and
                prices are appropriate. For example, Jiraffe comes to mind, although the clients
                get loud there too, and ruin the atmosphere.
                Many of the Japanese places work.

                1. re: epop

                  Most restaurants, like life in general, are at least 50 shades of gray (if you can still type that without being sued for copy write infringement or sexual innuendo?). If I ever end up going through life making a black or white call on most of what I experience it will be past time to hang it all up and move on to some other plane of existence.

                  1. re: Servorg

                    Mozza served me a half-frozen marrow bone.
                    Goin served me an old oyster at Hungry Cat. The crab claws were
                    so old the meat in them had come together into a lump and changed colors.
                    The list goes on and on. There are no shades.

                    Sure, some things can be more or less delicious, but there is no excuse for the corporate junk they're passing off as cooking in this country, at so many places.

                    1. re: epop

                      Goin isn't at Hungry Cat. Get your facts straight, epop. What the hell do you consider "corporate junk?"

                      1. re: maudies5

                        Corporate junk is restaurants largely set up by (often big-time) investors, and the chef isn't the one cooking, or even in the kitchen. Any place too big tends to become this. Restaurant groups.

                        Not my cup of tea.

                        Guess I touched a raw nerve, but we are allowed to have our own opinions.

                        What I wrote applies to Tavern + A.O.C.
                        Perhaps you ought to check your facts:

                        From Fodors -
                        Suzanne Goin is a chef and restaurateur from Los Angeles, California. As a restaurateur, she runs four restaurants in the Los Angeles area: The A.O.C., Lucques, and Tavern, which she runs with partner Caroline Styne, and The Hungry Cat, where she shares duties with her husband, David Lentz.

                        1. re: epop

                          Perhaps you should not rely on Fodors for your information.

                          1. re: epop

                            Yes we get it already. You hate everything here. We get it.

                            1. re: Ernie

                              That's really unkind. I have outlined specific problems in each case and been careful about raising issues. There's plenty of praise here for people who offer fantastic food day in and out, like the folks at Mori.

                              Credit where credit is due.

                              1. re: epop

                                Living life by singling out and dwelling on the negative is no way to live...food wise or otherwise...

                    2. re: epop

                      Not to defend Wolfgang, but things were pretty bleak before he, Ken Frank, Michael McCarty et al came on the scene.

                      1. re: mc michael

                        and Wolfgang moved on to stardom and left his kitchen to whom... So there's no point in being a customer. But people like to say, Oh I love Spago, or Chinois or Cut.
                        For what?
                        Just to agree. I have no idea.
                        The worse they cook, the more I save for travel.

                        1. re: epop

                          I dunno epop, Rome and Paris are filled with tourist traps and mediocre food also. One must also navigate carefully.

                          1. re: Porthos

                            Definitely avoiding much in those places too, Porthos. "Don't believe the hype." Things have changed rapidly.
                            Where are the grandmothers?

                            But Kasen is a definite treat.

                            1. re: epop

                              Grandmothers have passed and their recipies with them. Their children too busy to pick up such lost arts.

                              But there are bright stars in the darkness. For example, Shunji and Chef Kahn in LA, Stephane Jego in Paris. These chefs still labor in the kitchen and cook with honesty and genius. No doubt there are many others.

                              All is not lost.

                            2. re: Porthos

                              You are right. I moved to Rome in 1976 and have watched the demise of good food in "Centro Storico". It followed Venice's and Florence's compromise to tourism. Many of the so called restaurants in places like the Piazza Navona, Campo dei Fiori or Piazza Pantheon are not really even restaurants. Sad but true; a lot of these place do not even have a proper kitchen and their food is nuked for the non discriminating tourist.
                              Try heading out to the more residential areas of the touristy cities and you will still find good traditional food. Head into the country side and you are in heaven.

                              1. re: fhp

                                Tell me about it, fhp! My wife and I had our honeymoon in Northern Italy in 1987, and the very best food we had was in these large trattoria out in the countryside. Very simple food with amazingly fresh ingredients. We were also in large cities (Milan, Florence, Venice and Rome) but fortunately what we ate was also very, very good. But that was 25 years ago.

                            3. re: epop

                              <But people like to say, Oh I love Spago, or Chinois or Cut. For what? Just to agree. I have no idea.>

                              Speaking for this 'people'...I love Chinois. Going along with people, just to do it, isn't my style...never has been. Wolfgang Puck hit the jackpot with this restaurant years ago and he continues with some of the most consistently tasty food in the city. BTW....Puck is often in the kitchen, right out there for everyone to witness, doing what he does best.
                              Travel on....

                            4. re: mc michael

                              Ken Frank , Michael McCarty were, indeed, visionaries. Please do not forget Michael Roberts of Trumps. He was the (IMHO) the greatest visionary. A brilliant chef and a very kind man. Trumps was a great restaurant. R.I.P. Michael Roberts

                            5. re: epop

                              "I like places where the chef is really working the kitchen, keeps things quiet, and
                              prices are appropriate"

                              I think that place is called home.

                              1. re: Ernie

                                and just about anywhere abroad, Ernie.

                                1. re: epop

                                  Maybe you should go to Nickel Diner.

                                  1. re: epop

                                    "I like places where the chef is really working the kitchen, keeps things quiet, and
                                    prices are appropriate"

                                    This describes Chef Laurent Quenioux perfectly. His only fault may be that he cooks too quietly and keeps prices less than what I would consider appropriate.

                                    1. re: Porthos

                                      I would also add Chef Alain Giraud to that list.

                                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                        I would also add Chef Alain Giraud to that list.
                                        ________________________________

                                        I'm not sure Giraud has "price are appropriate" part.

                                      2. re: Porthos

                                        "I like places where the chef is really working the kitchen, keeps things quiet, and
                                        prices are appropriate"
                                        __________________________________

                                        Add Roberto Berrelleza (nee of Babita) to that list.

                                        1. re: Porthos

                                          This also describes Lucques. Suzanne Goin is very hands-on in that kitchen. The food is always delicious.
                                          ""I like places where the chef is really working the kitchen, keeps things quiet, and
                                          prices are appropriate"

                                          This describes Chef Laurent Quenioux perfectly. His only fault may be that he cooks too quietly and keeps prices less than what I would consider appropriate."

                                        2. re: epop

                                          reading this discussion, i'll think i'll let whit stillman speak for me. i think the analogy holds for food and restaurants:

                                          "The US is like an enormous ant farm, A see-through plastic case
                                          enclosing an ant colony. It's a toy sold to children so they can
                                          watch ants build their own society. The US is like an ant farm
                                          for the rest of the world. But, people living in other countries
                                          can't observe the ants. They must rely on journalists
                                          and commentators for a description.
                                          The problem is,
                                          that these people seem to hate ants."

                                          1. re: epop

                                            That is unfortunately naïve. There is horrible food abroad too. Distance does not guarantee good food. Some of the worst food I have ever had was in Rome, Barcelona, Greece and Manhattan

                                        3. re: epop

                                          <This isn't good for me.>

                                          Reading your post isn't so good for me either. You can't find one restaurant in this city that comes close to your liking? If I love a city I usually find food that i also love....it's just the way it works. Like life.

                                          1. re: latindancer

                                            It is far easier (and lazier) to constantly whine about places than to offer solid recommendations and constructive criticism beyond "better made at home"

                                      3. 1. LA restaurants everybody loves but you (either actively dislike or think is overrated.)
                                        __________________________________________

                                        Answer: Langer's and Din Tai Fung.

                                        10 Replies
                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          That's funny, I was gonna put DTF as an answer for my #2.

                                          I'm on a cell phone, so I'll post my full answers later, but very quickly and off the top of my head:

                                          #1: Plan Check
                                          #2: DTF, Versailles, Killer Shrimp
                                          #3: Sea Harbour, Shunji, Kiriko, FIG
                                          #4: Ink, Mezze, Osteria Mozza, The Bazaar, really too many to name...

                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                            Langers is on your list? Those are fighting words, ispedixit!

                                            1. re: granadafan

                                              I've never understood Langer's, much less liked it. Best thing there is probably the egg creme.

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                Me neither. A to the friggin' MEN. Validation, at last..... ;-))

                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                  Where is the "Ignore" button when you need it ;)

                                              2. re: ipsedixit

                                                Langer's pastrami does nothing for you? This must be the "donut hole" in your palate...

                                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                                  I consider Langer's the Chowhound Pied Piper, and I am tone deaf.

                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                    and I consider Langer's The Golden Ticket of Chowhound.

                                                    1. re: wienermobile

                                                      ... and I've never been that big a fan of chocolate.

                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                        Now you REALLY lose credibility ;)

                                                        For OP:

                                                        Everybody loves Zankou Chicken, Yamadaya, Annapurna but me.

                                                        Nobody loves Zam Zam Market, Nkechi, Bawarchi, Flavors of Belize, Banadir, Sri Siam or Prael Thai like I do.

                                                        We all love Langers, Bay Cities, Kiriko, Santouka, DTF, Elite/SH, Pollos a la Brasa, Stella Rossa/M&O, La Espanola, Bludso's, Jitlada, and so do I.

                                                        There's unfortunately a lot of restaurants I meant to try, but never got the chance. Lucques, BLD, Melisse, Hatfield's, Red Med, FIG, Urasawa, Providence, Baco Mercat, Shunji. Probably a hundred others.

                                              3. 1. Father's Office. I just don't get it, and think they have snotty service. Have never been to the Culver City one, and may break down some day. Also got to include Langers here, it just doesn't do much for me, and the #19 is tasty, but waaaay over priced for what it is.

                                                2. Casa Escobar. I know, it's cheesy gringo Mexican, but I really like the family that runs it and they treat us like family. Also, Pink Taco. I know, a chain run by "horrible" people, but we've never had a bad meal there, they pour strong drinks, the room is really interesting, and my kids love sneaking to the restroom to stare at the nudie pics!

                                                3. Animal, Hatfield's, Melisse, tar & roses

                                                4. List is quite long, since I can't get out as often as I like but a few are: Manhattan Beach Post, son of a Gun, Guisados, Bazaar, Mo Chica, n/naka. EDIT : have to add Red Medecine here also....

                                                Fun thread, vegetablelasagne, thanks for letting me play, I love stuff like this!

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                  Hey, thank YOU! Seriously, I want everyone to play. The answers so far have been very interesting and telling. I know it's informal/not very accurate etc. but if the thread keeps going I might start tallying the results.