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Apr 1, 2013 09:44 AM

Disappointing Red Medicine, fantastic Son of a Gun, and other eats

Recently visited from NY and ate pretty well overall in LA. Here are some quick notes:

Red Medicine – pretty disappointing given the raves on this board and the relatively high price point compared to our other meals. Went on a weekday evening and place was maybe about 1/3 full the entire time. Service and cocktails were excellent. We opted for the tasting menu and came away feeling that while the presentations were beautiful and there was obviously a great deal of creativity in the dishes, the meal was not very satisfying. Some dishes seemed overly complicated while there were also some execution errors.

Specifically, we very much enjoyed the trout roe dish, were mixed on the leek and Dungeness crab dishes, may have enjoyed the toasted grains and cereal if it were not for the overly salty broth, and thought the mugifuji pork dish (we substituted for the lamb dish) was a complete miss due to the overcooked pork and flavor combinations that were just weird. Desserts were very good. Really liked the birch ice dessert and another one that they brought out for us (I think the coconut bavarois).

Son of a Gun – probably my favorite meals of the trip (ate here twice as it was conveniently located next door to our hotel). Tried 5 or 6 raw dishes and really enjoyed them though there were a couple where it seemed one component slightly overpowered the dishes (yuzu in one, palm sugar in another). The baquetta collar and the linguine and clams were awesome. Fried chicken sandwich was good but nothing special. Service and cocktails were excellent. Wait was about 15-30 minutes both nights around 9, 9:30.

Soot Bull Jeep – great Korean bbq. We grabbed an early dinner here before a game at the Staples Center. Enjoyed the short ribs and shrimp. The panchan were good as well.

Gjelina – great brunch. Wait was about a half hour or so around 1:30pm on a weekend afternoon. Had eggs with prosciutto, a side of bacon, braised artichokes, and sugar snap peas.

Animal – very good dinner. Enjoyed every dish including the tendon chips, bone marrow (maybe could have used a little more salt), burrata, poutine, beef heart, and quail. Only quibble of the meal is we were rushed at the end. Servers kept coming by our table to check on us, and while I understand that they were anxious to close up, I don’t like being rushed since they only offered us a 10pm reservation. We ended up getting some food packed up to go and were out of the restaurant by 11:15 (this was a Sunday night).

Pink’s hot dog – stopped in when we noticed no line when driving by around lunchtime. Nothing special. Grilled mushrooms and onions on one dog were fine. Chili on another dog was pretty bad. Onion rings though were excellent. I much prefer the hot dogs back home at one of the Papayas (Gray’s Papaya, Papaya King, etc) where they are grilled instead of however Pink’s cooks them (steamed or boiled?).

In-n-Out – really not good at all. Went around 4pm one afternoon when we needed some food to tide us over until dinner. I had In-n-Out once before a few years ago and remember it being okay. I ordered a burger animal style and just really disliked it this time around. Shake Shack in NY is so much better for a fast-food style burger.

Monte Alban – just okay. Came here for a late lunch and had cactus salad, mole negro, and carnes monte alban (grilled beef and pork). The chicken in mole negro was overcooked and I’m also starting to realize that I don’t like moles or at least chocolate-based sauces after having it a few times over the years. Also discovered I don’t like cactus. The carnes monte alban was pretty good as were the chips on the table. A few families sitting around us were having soups so perhaps that was the way to go.

Zankou Chicken – the 1/4 dark chicken meal was really bad. Chicken was mushy. Hummus was good though as was the chicken tarna sandwich.

Loteria Grill – had huevos rancheros one morning. Okay, nothing special.

Huckleberry – great salads for lunch.

Clementine – excellent scones and coffee. Corn muffin and banana bread were okay.

Joan’s on Third – great coffee and scones. Other pastries we tried were alright. New York breakfast sandwich was very good but also really heavy (I could only eat half).

Kogi BBQ truck – really good short rib taco. Wish I had room to try more but we just happened to be walking by one of their trucks and weren’t hungry.

Miscellaneous – excellent coffee at Lamill and Intelligentsia, okay coffee at Urth Caffe.

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  1. Thanks for reporting back! Sorry you didn't like RM. Usually ordering a la carte is the way to go so you can pick and choose favorites. Were the brussel sprouts part of the tasting menu? That dish is so rustic and simple but really highlights the chef's skill and range.

    This is the second report of someone not liking In-n-Out. One from SF and one from NYC. I hope people will stop recommending it as a must try in LA for out of towners. I get it's homegrown LA but there are so many better burgers out there and so many better eats in LA.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Porthos

      +1 on the In-N-Out opinion. It's fun, it's retro, etc, but it's NOT a destination for the *food*.

      To the OP, I find the experience one has of Monte Alban depends heavily on what is ordered. I generally find any of the chicken-only dishes to be quite bland since the meat is cooked and then simply dipped into the mole. I also found the yellow mole (despite statements from multiple servers that it's spicy) to be *really* bland. I stick to the burrito, and the queso fundido and the volcan oaxaqueno were pretty tasty the one time I had each.

      I also agree w/ your assessment that Loteria Grill is nothing special, but I seem to be one of the few people of the board w/ that opinion.

      1. re: Porthos

        No, the brussel sprouts were not on the tasting. The menu we had is still posted on the website.

      2. "Shake Shack in NY is so much better for a fast-food style burger."

        Except Shake Shack doesn't carry fast food prices.

        Having said that, I agree. Having said THAT, there will always be a place in my heart for $3 double doubles animal style x toast both kinds of onions.

        1. In-N-Out has never been good.

          But why'd a NYorker go to Monte Alban to eat mole? Even a casual joint like Sabores Oaxaquenos has better mole. Same can be applied to Zankou.

          Loteria's strength is the guisado, not breakfast.

          I can go on and on.

          5 Replies
          1. re: TonyC

            But why'd a NYorker go to Monte Alban to eat mole? Even a casual joint like Sabores Oaxaquenos has better mole.
            Because everyone on the LA boards probably recommended it and said, "you have to get the mole at Monte Alban".

            1. re: Porthos

              so it's my fault? well ain't that the shits.

              1. re: TonyC

                Hmm, don't know where you got the impression that I accused you of being at fault.

                Just explaining why the OP probably went to Monte Alban for mole since you asked: "But why'd a NYorker go to Monte Alban to eat mole?"

                1. re: Porthos

                  I was trying to fit in some Mexican places because I had read that it was a strength of LA.

                  The Monte Alban pick was based on this board. As far as the dishes we chose, they were recommended by our server although I'm pretty sure the moles were mentioned here as well.

                  The Loteria Grill choice was mainly out of convenience (I went to the one in the Farmers market close to our hotel). Though I wouldn't have gone if it wasn't also mentioned here.

                  We attempted to go to a Mexican place in Koreatown (I think we got that rec somewhere else) but without a reservation, it was a 40 minute wait so we headed back to our hotel instead and went to Son of a Gun for a second time.

                  1. re: churros

                    I'm not an expert in mole, but I love the mole @ Monte Alban. In fact, I recently went there with family visiting from NY and they all loved it. (I would also would recommend El Sazon Oaxaqueno on Washington Blvd). However, it appears that the OP doesn't really like mole (at least mole negro) in which case Monte Alban (or other Oaxacan restaurants) are not a good choice for him/her.

          2. Hi... Nice bite-size recap of your meals here in L.A., thanks! I appreciate your candor re: your opinion of In 'n Out, sounds like its' simply not your kind of burger. But comparing that experience with Shake Shack??

            Having never been to SS, I looked up the online menu for NYC, and the double-double at SS seems to go for about $7+, compared to the double double at In 'n Out for about $3. How can such a comparison hold, at more than twice the price? For me In 'n Out is simply the best choice for a fresh burger in the $3 and under range. ( I know some have said that McDonald's or Burger King is as good or better than In 'n Out, but that is very arguably insane a statement, unless one is drunk or high ).

            I would like to try Shake Shake, since the menu looks great, I have no problem inhaling spendy fast food if it is tasty. Kudos to them.

            But around these parts, I'll always go for $3 worth of In n' Out over $3 worth of anything elsewhere a t that price point.

            Thanks again for your entire review; always good to hear the opinions of visitors...

            11 Replies
            1. re: silence9

              The In-n-Out burger was just plain bad and not even worth the cheap price in my opinion. It really wasn't better than a McDonald's burger. To be fair, maybe it was just an off experience since I did have it a few years ago and thought it was fine then (though nothing special).

              Fair point on whether it's fair to compare to Shake Shack. The Shake Shake comparison came to mind given the similar style and the fact that burgers are cooked to order in both places. Also, Shake Shack has become a mini-chain over the past few years. I normally get a single shack burger and it's about $5 including tax.

              Though I wonder if LA prices are just generally lower than NY's. Based on this trip, it seemed that way. And even when the menu prices seem comparable (Red Medicine, Animal), the portions were a bit bigger in LA.

              You should give Shake Shack a try when in New York and in the mood for a burger. I would emphasize though that it is not worth the sometimes very long lines.

              1. re: churros

                Having had a McDonalds burger...yesterday, this is so not true. Honestly anyone who compares InO to McD has to get their taste buds checked out or needs to go to McD and get some perspective.

                It's all good that you didn't like InO (I didn't like NY pizza =P), but to compare it to McD is just ridiculous. I mean the cheese on the cheeseburgers @McD don't even melt at the edges.

                1. re: ns1

                  Agreed. Conceptually McDonald's could make a good burger, but it seems the company has made an economic/marketing decision to make as bland a burger as possible. You can regularly get InO burgers that are not bland.

                  1. re: ns1

                    Well, I try to avoid McDonald's when possible. I have it maybe once a year and mainly in airports or on the road with no other choices.

                    But I'll take your word that In-n-Out is usually better than McDonald's. No need for a taste test for me. I'm just going to avoid both places when possible.

                    1. re: ns1

                      C'mon now. If you didn't have to get your taste buds checked out for not liking NYC pizza, OP shouldn't have to get theirs checked out for not liking In-n-Out. ;-)

                      As much as you like In-n-Out, even you would probably agree it's only best of of the fast food chains (let's say a tier 3 burger) and not tier 2 like a Shake Shack or Harry's deli or even Father's Office, and not anywhere near a tier 1 burger made with dry aged angus kind of thing.

                      1. re: Porthos

                        I love NY style pizza, but the pizza I got in NY sucked ass compared to the NY style pizza I get here. Of course, maybe that's because I'm going to Tier 1 places in LA while I'm going to anything with 4+ *'s on Yelp in NYC.

                        No arguments here at all re: the following, however in my world it's all about QPR - I can afford tier 3 burgers all day, the same is not true for tier 2/tier 1 burgers.

                        "As much as you like In-n-Out, even you would probably agree it's only best of of the fast food chains (let's say a tier 3 burger) and not tier 2 like a Shake Shack or Harry's deli or even Father's Office, and not anywhere near a tier 1 burger made with dry aged angus kind of thing."

                    2. re: churros

                      I'd guess the good Lord is making sure you're served only sub-par In N Out burgers (I've had some myself) to save you from falling too deeply in love ... being a New Yorker and all.

                      1. re: churros

                        I love Shake Shack, and I also really love In N Out.

                        But the two should not be compared to each other. They are different burgers made from different platforms.

                        One thing that Shake Shack has that no one else has (outside of St. Louis) are those damn fucking custards. Just amazing. I will down one of those even when the thermometer drops below 30F in NYC.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          kev? kev is that you in your ipse mask?

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            Speaking of different platforms, lately I'm liking burgers from The Habit. And their fries are superior to InO's.

                          2. re: churros

                            I really like both In n Out and SS, but have never enjoyed the animal-style burger, so I might give it a thumbs down, too, if that's all I tried. To compare it to McD's seems ridiculous, though... I spit out the last burger I tried there years ago. Think it was the "Angus" one.