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Sep 1, 2013 07:27 AM

If you were in LA for one day and had never been, what is the ONE restaurant you would go to?

It's going to be our first time. We want to eat well, interesting flavors, nowhere where the portions are tiny for what you pay (i.e. Jose Bazaar.... we went in Miami and were not overly impressed).

Thanks so much :)

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  1. Animal, if you enjoy meat & offal
    Nobu Malibu, if you enjoy sushi and want to eat at the beach
    Park's BBQ for a Korean BBQ feast near the heart of downtown

    26 Replies
    1. re: Dirtywextraolives

      Good list. I'd just add Gjeina for some farm to table California cusine & Langer's deli if you want the best pastrami on earth for lunch.

        1. re: wienermobile

          I know that I'm in the minority here, but there's no way that I can ever support a restaurant that refuses to make ANY modification to the food it serves. Certainly asking for salad dressing on the side, or leaving a bacon garnish off a dish, are imho reasonable requests which can and should be honored. To me, chefs/restaurants doing this, such as Gjelina, are arrogant and show utter disrespect for their customers and will not get my money.

          1. re: josephnl

            I could not agree more. I am in the service industry as well and this just is not an acceptable way to treat your customers. It shocks me that people continue to frequent Gjelina.
            Agreed their food is good but there are so many other restaurants in L A with very good food whose management and servers have an attitude that is at least decent.
            I am super easy and it takes a lot to prompt me to write about poor service but the servers' attitudes at Gjelina are obnoxious and insulting.

            1. re: flowergirl

              the servers at gjelina were not obnoxious and insulting to me.

              i don't find the way gjelina treats its customers (by not allowing substitutions) unacceptable or indecent at all.
              they sell food prepared a certain way. it's my choice whether or not to buy it.

              1. re: flowergirl

                I've only been to Gjelina three times, but the service has always been fine. No attitude. Never obnoxious. Wasn't insulting. But then again I went in knowing about their policy of not making ANY changes to the food.

                So I didn't get my knickers in a twist, or argue with my server about the policy, or call over the manager to harangue them. I ordered my food and drink,. Enjoyed my food and drink and dining companion and then drove home. No muss. No fuss.

                But the latest game in Los Angeles seems to be "Offense & How to Take It." Maybe the new Parker (Barker?) Brothers board game? So if that's what one is looking for, then it's easy enough to play.

                1. re: flowergirl

                  I've been going to Gjelina since it opened. I've never had a problem with any of the food or the servers, who always seem to be attentive and knowledgeable. Plus there's so much on the menu to choose from, I can't imagine not being able to find something appealing. Their vegetarian dishes are always outstanding and incredibly flavorful. Now would I take a picky diner there? Probably not, but I wouldn't take them to Fathers Office, either.

                  1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                    i AM a very picky diner, yet Gjelina is on my regular rotation as is Lukshon (another restaurant with a "no modification" policy).

                    also, i have NEVER been treated rudely at Gjelina in the many, many, times i've been there (too many times to count at this point).

                    it's the food that makes them exceptional.
                    i think their food is worth planning an entire afternooon around getting there and getting parked at a certain time, even though that's something i'm loath to do . .

                    1. re: westsidegal

                      Would they refuse to leave a bacon garnish off a soup for someone who doesn't eat pork? This happened to a friend of mine elsewhere, and I've been led to believe that Gjelina's and Lukshon's "no modification" policy would result in this. Are they really that strict? I've read that an OC restaurant refused a slice of lemon to someone who wanted it for his beer. I'm sorry, but this sort of behavior is childish and supremely arrogant. With so many dining choices, I prefer giving my hard earned bucks to good chefs who are not such arrogant prima donnas, and who will make reasonable compromises to satisfy their customers.

                      1. re: josephnl

                        since i understand and accept and support their policy completely, i would never order a soup with bacon garnish at gjelina so i can't answer your question.

                        when i go to gjelina, my mindset is that i'm ordering menu items. i am not hiring a personal chef.

                        i can cook a dish "my way" when i cook at home or can order it "my way" if i go to a million OTHER restaurants that have a different policy.

                        the whole point of going to a restaurant like gjelina is to have the food prepared THEIR WAY.

                        1. re: westsidegal

                          Exactly! Agree completely with you, westsidegal

                          1. re: westsidegal

                            Although I respect your opinion wsg and agree with you on many things, this is one area where I must strongly disagree. If the simple omission of an offensive garnish or something similar will not significantly change the overall integrity of a dish, I consider it both arrogant and, from a strictly business perspective, stupid not too comply. I don't care how busy any restaurant is, pleasing as many customers as possible, is smart and a core principle of Business 101.

                            1. re: westsidegal

                              Fictitious scenario which ran through my mind as I read this:

                              "Monsieur Van Gogh, I'm commissioning this painting, and I say you're using too much yellow. Use less yellow. Oh, and about those thick brush strokes. I like my paintings with thinner strokes. Could you do that? Thanks a mil."

                              When the painting is done: "Hey! How come this doesn't look like your other works?! Hey, what are you gonna do with that razor?!"

                              1. re: J.L.

                                that reminds of the scene in "Amadeus" where the king tells Mozart his music has "too many notes."

                            2. re: josephnl

                              The point is those that don't like the policy shouldn't go and spend money there. Those that don't mind it will go.

                              If the business fails then it's because the policy was unreasonable and offended too many customers.

                              If the business continues to do well despite a few personal boycotts, well, the harsh truth is they didn't need that business.

                              1. re: Porthos

                                This is probably the best point on the matter thus far.

                              2. re: josephnl

                                I ate at Lukshon last night and we had a non-meat eater in our group. They were able to leave meat out of some of the dishes so apparently things can be modified to some extent or maybe ingredients just subtracted. But don't bother asking for a black napkin! That they will not substitute.

                                1. re: josephnl

                                  I think it is more because taking off an element of the dish would completely throw off the balance of the dish. They would much rather have someone not taste it at all than eat an incomplete version of a composed dish.

                                  It would be like buying the mona lisa and drawing all over it. It is sort of disrespectful to the chef.

                                  1. re: josephnl

                                    Then go somewhere else. Some dishe are prepared with a certain and specific vision. Some aren't an a-la-carte like a sandwich, I'll take ham, leave off the cheese and and mayo. Chef's prepare dishes to be had in a certain way. If you don't want it, order something else or go somewhere else.

                              3. re: flowergirl

                                And not to pile on or anything, but SEVERAL places these days have a no substitutions/omission/modification policy, so it's not like it's unheard of.

                                1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                  **Mr Taster's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Chowhound, other Chowhound posters, CNET, CBS, or any of its corporate affiliates.**

                                  In places where food traditions are strong, people bind their identities, in part, with the food. Think New Yorkers and pizza. There's a "right way" to make pizza, and then there's everyone else's way. Within that "right way" there are various levels of excellence, but if you're adding provel cheese and cutting your pie into "party squares", for example, you're going to witness the ire and stank eye of many a New Yorker. Think of other regional foods that people identify strongly with-- BBQ comes to mind.

                                  When I visit my in-laws in Taiwan, they don't ask for substitutions or modifications when we dine out. They know and understand what the food is supposed to be, and they purchase it with full knowledge and realistic expectations. Nobody's asking for chicken xiaolongbao (unless there's some trendy place in Taipei specializing in it, and then people would go for that specific purpose).

                                  Look, I'm not saying that Taiwanese people would never ask for modifications under any circumstances. What I am saying is that Taiwanese expectations of food are different, there is less a feeling of "I get it my way" entitlement, and there's a deeper understanding and more realistic expectation of what the food should be like. Americans have a much more id-driven interpretation of food that's more loosey-goosey, and that's what causes problems.

                                  In case you couldn't tell, I'm one of those people that likes to try food the way it's meant to be tasted, which to my mind means without modifications. If I don't like it, so be it. I won't order it again.

                                  Just my 2 NTD.

                                  Mr Taster

                                  1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                    Folks, the debate about whether no-sub policies are acceptable is a big one, and someone's question about where to eat when they visit isn't the best place to have it. Can we ask that if people want to continue this debate, you start a new thread on General Topics, rather than continuing it here?


                                    1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                      Sorry...I made my last post before reading this. My apologies.

                                      1. re: josephnl

                                        Big fan of Gjelina here -- would have recommended them. I am a VERY picky eater. But i understand Gjelina's policy and their menu of mostly small dishes is very extensive, so not only do i find enough to eat but I always leave regretting I couldn't try more.

                                        They are a very popular and always full restaurant. No, they can't promise a table on the patio four weeks in advance. But I have never detected an "attitude" or felt any slights from the staff. They are busy, traffic and parking can be problematic, I tend to get there early and there is no comfortable place to stand or wait -- I know that going in. Their food is excellent, but it is not a pampering fine-dining experience such as, for example, Melisse.

                                        Go. But be informed and forewarned.

                                        1. re: nosh

                                          nosh: just so you know, i've been extremely lucky and haven't had to wait at all when i arrive there at 2:30PM on weekday afternoons, and at 5:30PM monday through thursday.
                                          MUCH more civilized at those times than at any others.

                                2. re: josephnl

                                  +I, and ive heard all the justifications but seriosly these fascist chefs can keep their precious "creations." I think i can find great restaurants where if i cant "tolerate" the fresno chiles..leave em, the fuck off!

                            3. Patina...if you want elegant, with stunning design and wonderful food...and the opportunity to see the amazing Walt Disney Concert Hall, an architectural treasure.

                                1. re: latindancer

                                  Huh, is it still open?
                                  Was bankrupt about a year ago.
                                  Has not been relevant in nearly 20 years.
                                  Decor is a one-of-a-kind, but so is all the bad architecture in Barcelona, but would you really go there strictly for that?
                                  Hope not.
                                  And to Sam D - no to Providence either.
                                  Dreadful experience - decent fish, with Awful presence.

                                  1. re: carter

                                    <but would you really go there strictly for that?>

                                    Yes, for Barcelona, one of the most beautiful cities in the world...
                                    Yes, for the Black Cod at Chinois (it's still open thankfully). It's absolutely one of the top ten favorite dishes of mine. Roasted Black cod and miso, paired, are equivalent to nirvana to my palate. Nobody does it in LA like Puck in my opinion.
                                    Certainly subjective on my part but isn't it nice we get to voice our opinions on CH?

                                    1. re: latindancer

                                      Roasted Black cod and miso, paired, are equivalent to nirvana to my palate. Nobody does it in LA like Puck in my opinion.
                                      You mean the dish invented by Nobu Matsuhisa?

                                      1. re: Porthos

                                        He certainly popularized it, but that has been a Japanese tradition years before Nobu.

                                        1. re: Porthos

                                          <invented by Nobu Matsuhisa?>

                                          I've been eating/preparing Black cod with miso for over 35 years...
                                          He invented it??

                                          1. re: latindancer

                                            The prep has been done in Japan for many years with other fish (Saba) and eggplant, but as I understand it he was the first to pair it with black cod. At least first in LA and the US.

                                            Here are 2 sources. The first credits him for the pairing. The second link mentions that sablefish is not native to the waters around Japan and is ironic it is now considered a "classic" Japanese dish. The author in the second link is Japanese.



                                            1. re: Porthos

                                              <he was the first to pair it with black cod>

                                              I will certainly be discussing and checking with old friends/fish mongers, Japanese and otherwise, to verify this very interesting 'fact'.

                                              1. re: latindancer

                                                Here is a link to an interview with Nobu himself in Dubai. According to him he started it about 20 years ago. So you have him beat by a good 15 years apparently! ;-)


                                              2. re: Porthos

                                                Had it at Ray's boathouse in 1980's and have made it with sake kasu, even better thanmiso for 35 years.

                                                You and me Shunji beginning of new year ?

                                            2. re: Porthos

                                              let's say leo fender and les paul "invented" the solid body electric guitar.

                                              i'd rather hear peter green and richard thompson play one.

                                              the inventor is not necessarily the master.

                                              1. re: linus

                                                Fine and dandy when talking about guitars but we're talking miso black cod here. Have you tried either Matsuhisa's or Puck's version? Which do you prefer?

                                                1. re: Porthos

                                                  have you tried either of them? which do you prefer?

                                                  maybe you can clue me in as to how who invented miso black cod has anything to do with the poster liking someone's version?

                                                  if they said they liked their champagne, would you ask if they meant the drink invented by dom perignon in 1670?

                                        2. re: latindancer

                                          Chinois is still a great restaurant. Bold flavors. Absolutely delicious. Great service in the Puck tradition. Yes, the decor goes back to the '80s and some may call it garish. At prime times it can be loud. But if you share a bunch of smaller dishes (stir-fried lamb in radicchio cups; crispy rock shrimp and/or fried spring rolls; share the szechwan filet or the catfish with ponzu as a main) it is amazingly delicious and not horribly expensive. I will always be a fan since the way they treated me and my guest on my first visit in 1987(?) and they remain a favorite today.

                                            1. re: nosh

                                              I couldn't answer this - small portions is an issue? The idea that you get a LOT of small portions - which add up to a big meal - is great idea. It's an orgy of food. The diversity is great.

                                              What didn't you like about Bazaar? The portions were small but the food was good? Or the portions were small and the food was bad? (isn't that a Woody Allen joke?) Was the food unexciting and you were left hungry? How about food is exciting, many portions and you're full? Clarify and you will find Nirvana. If they don't have a tasting menu.

                                              1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                                Did you mean to reply to nosh? Because I don't see anything in his post that even mentions Bazaar, or that he thinks that small plates are an issue, for that matter.

                                                1. re: Servorg

                                                  No - the post has a heading and then the formal post reads...

                                                  "It's going to be our first time. We want to eat well, interesting flavors, nowhere where the portions are tiny for what you pay (i.e. Jose Bazaar.... we went in Miami and were not overly impressed)."

                                                  I'm assuming he means The Bazaar at the SLS in Miami. Which is a Jose Andres restaurant.

                                                2. re: foodiemahoodie

                                                  Woody Allen's joke reversed the order.."the food was terrible! yeah, and such small portions"

                                                  1. re: lapizzamaven

                                                    so if there were large portions of terrible food, then that would make it quite good ????

                                              1. The Bel Air Hotel if you want truly elegant and beautiful. One of the most beautiful hotels anywhere.

                                                Cafe del Rey in Marina del Rey for Califonia cuisine and view of the Marina. My go to place for my out of town guests.