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NY Hound coming to Santa Monica for a wedding in March.

  • c

I'm only in for two nights and both evenings are spoken for, this leaves me a Saturday lunch and possibly a Sunday Brunch to fill. I'd love to have a sushi lunch on Saturday, but the only things I can find within reasonable public transit range that are open on a Saturday are Hide and Sasabune. What is the story with Sasabune? Why does everyone hate on it so much? Should I just forget about sushi on a Saturday in LA and go to Tacos Por Favor or Santouka Ramen instead?

For the Sunday brunch, I'd love to do some really good Pho. Nong La seems to have some decent buzz and I get a distinctly "meh" vibe from LA hounds when it comes to Pho 99 and Le Saigon. Is it worth having pho in Santa Monica or should I just go to Fig and have steak and eggs?

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  1. Where are you from? Might help w/ recs.

    Never been to Tacos Por Favor, but I think Tacos Puntas Cabras is great. I think Santouka is past it's prime and would recommend Tsujita instead.

    Le Saigon isn't "bad," but the pho was totally insipid and boring the one time I went several yrs ago. Don't know anything about Nong La or Pho 99, but I'd say it's probably better to skip pho. If you don't mind the price, Lukshon in Culver City has great asian fusion. Not sure how accessible it is by public transport, though.

    Sunday brunch at Huckleberry (potentially a very long line), Milo and Olive, or Flores.

    4 Replies
      1. re: ilysla

        Hmm. Punta Cabras is a fish taco joint. Grilled or fried? Tsujita looks really good. Lukshon seems too far and Huckleberry seems pretty interesting. Thanks!

        1. re: corgi

          They deep fry the seafood in an incredibly light and crispy batter.

      2. I 2nd the idea of tsujita over santouka. as well as tacos punta cabras over tacos por favor. there's honestly nothing wrong with sasabune or hide. but nothing super special either. both good (not great) options. and there is a sasabune in nyc now right?

        1. <<Why does everyone hate on it so much?>>
          my problem with sasabune is:
          their fish is to other fish
          like beef treated with powdered tenderizer is to beef:
          mushy and flavorless

          lemme know if i'm not being clear.

          6 Replies
          1. re: westsidegal

            OK, that's clear. :) Is Hide any better?

            1. re: corgi

              Hide is good, but I think cash only. Tacos Puntas Cabras is very good. Fish, shrimp or scallops and homemade tortillas. And sometimes interesting specials. Bring your own beer. And I like Nong La; used to live nearby and it was a go-to spot for convenient Vietnamese. You can also double team it with soup dumplings next door at ROC Star, but understand that they may not compare to what you'd get in the SGV.

              1. re: Wayno

                I think the OP can get good XLB pretty easily in NYC? I'd skip ROC.

                I think TPC might be really interesting for someone from NYC. From what I understand, Mexican cuisine isn't very good over there?

                I assume OP can also get good sushi, do I'd probably skip that altogether.

                1. re: ilysla

                  NYC now also has excellent sushi and pretty good XLB, but my suspicion is that LA is still stronger. Our Vietnamese and Mexican cannot compare. I understand that my time constraints don't really give me a crack at best of breed places so I'm just looking for some yummy and the barest idea of what's on offer these days.

                  1. re: corgi

                    If yummy, convenient, and appealing to multiple palettes is the main priority, then I think Fundamental or Huckleberry/Milo and Olive might be the best bets. A bit on the pricey side for what they are (although worth it for the quality), very accessible food, a fairly wide variety.

                    And the crowd at these places can be so cartoonishly "LA" that you'll also have a chance to get splattered by some of the local color....

                2. re: Wayno

                  Yeah, I still like ROC but then again no one around here really does.

            2. I think if you're wanting sushi, check out Shunji on Pico. I wouldn't really make Santouka a destination. I've found them to be inconsistent lately.

              13 Replies
              1. re: Butter Fight

                Yeah it seems pretty clear that Tsujita beats Santouka. Shunji is not open for lunch on weekends, alas.

                1. re: corgi

                  I like santouka better. The special pork salt ramen is my favorite.

                  1. re: jessejames

                    Kindly disagree. Santouka is good. Tsujita is great.

                    1. re: wienermobile

                      agree to disagree...
                      tsujita's noodles are just not toothy enough for me, broth not hot enough or simply enough, and pork slightly dried out...i still like it, especially the hot mustard green condiment (too bad they don't have that across the street).

                      for me, the special salt broth, firmer noodles and slightly gelatinous special pork are all better at santouka with a better balance...

                      i frequent them both.

                      why do these fucking ramen mavens insist on cash only???!!!

                      1. re: jessejames

                        I just had the special pork miso ramen at Santouka last weekend and it was great, as usual. I will admit that if they offered the "soft" hard boiled egg that would make it a perfect bowl for me.

                        1. re: jessejames

                          You can't order the noodles "ha-gotai" at Tsujita?

                            1. re: jessejames

                              That's how they pay in Nippon. Authentic.

                              1. re: jessejames

                                ... the mouth of the "Chewbacca"?

                                1. re: jessejames

                                  >> just to find some yummy to eat, it doesn't have to be something I can't get in NY <<

                                  Try the biryani at Zam Zam, then.

                                  1. re: jessejames

                                    I don't judge anyone else, but for me . . .

                                    Couldn't agree more, JJ. I find Tsujita truly disgusting. The broth is the Japanese equivalent of a bowl of demi glacé. It's too concentrated and cloying. We're eventually going to reach a point in which we're just going to be asked to stick a boullion cube under our tongues while chugging a cup of rendered lard and slurping raw noodles.

                                    There. I just blew the tiny bit of food cred I might have had. Santouka 4eva!

                                    1. re: cacio e pepe

                                      Try the tsukemen. The dipping one. That's what makes Tsujita outstanding. I'm also not keen on their ramen.

                                      1. re: Porthos

                                        I have and I agree. That's where I started on the menu. I prefer ramen to tsukemen and that's why I don't seem to make it out to Tsujita as much as other dedicated ramen houses. It's not really fair to compare the two. It's just a personal preference of mine. But while we're on the topic, everything I find that doesn't work regarding the Tsujita ramen broth is exactly what makes for a good tsukemen experience.

                          1. If you're limited to lunch for sushi, I would opt for Tsujita for lunch over Santouka (There's a Santouka in New Jersey) instead. Skip pho on the Westside.; the ramen is so much better.

                            Next time for sushi, I would pick Shunji, Mori or Kiriko here on the Westside.

                            Tacos Puntas Cabras is closed Sundays, so keep that in mind.

                            The brunch options for Huckleberry or Milo & Olive are good choices. Excellent baked goods.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Ogawak

                              Huge lines on weekends if you try Huckleberry or M&O.

                            2. We haven't been in a while but I believe Sasabune still pre-slices a majority of their fish which is a no-no for some purists. Chefs there also follow the Nozawa style of warm rice which is an issue for some folks. The space is huge though which generally means less of a wait and a more comfortable seating. Hide is tiny in comparison and a Sat lunch is probably going to be crowded. Out of the two, if you're just looking for good sushi without the ambiance or atmosphere, I would recommend Hide and plan to arrive 15 mins before they open. Sit at the bar, bring cash.

                              I would forget about Pho in Santa Monica.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: prawn

                                "The space is huge though which generally means less of a wait and a more comfortable seating."

                                Not any longer. They moved to a much smaller space about 3/4's of a mile east of their old location - still on Wilshire - right where Armacost tees into Wilshire on the N side of the street.

                                1. re: Servorg

                                  Wow, that completely fell under our radar. We might give the new location a shot if we're in the area - the old location really didn't resonate with us, too cavernous despite the elbow room.

                                  1. re: Servorg

                                    And there's one on Olympic near Doheny in Beverly Hills.

                                  2. re: prawn

                                    Interesting. It turns out that Sasabune is out also. They're not open for lunch on weekends either. The place that is open is "Sasabune Express"

                                  3. You have Sasabune in NYC and Santouka in the Mitsuwa across the river in Jersey. No need to have those here.

                                    New York has a great ramen scene. The tsukemen (dipping ramen) at Tsujita is what you want. Make sure you order it with egg. The ramen itself I'm actually not too big a fan of. Perfect for your Saturday lunch. Then hop across to Annex for the ramen or their tsukemen so you can compare the difference in the broth. The thickness and chewiness of the tsukemen is really outstanding.

                                    You can actually skip sushi here in LA if you have sushi at Yasuda or 15 East.

                                    Grab some Persian food at Shamshiri grill on Sunday. Ghormeh sabzi and the koobidehs are my favorites there.

                                    45 Replies
                                    1. re: Porthos

                                      Definitely agree with everyone on getting tsukemen from Tsujita. It was one of my top 10 food experiences of all time.

                                      1. re: yizhang

                                        id go to tacos por favor or another mexican place instead...something u definitely can't get in NYC...

                                        1. re: jessejames

                                          Contrary to popular belief, there is good Mexican in NYC. You just have to wander into Spanish Harlem or Queens. The Mexican population is the fastest growing population in NYC these days.
                                          "New York City's immigrant population hit a new high of slightly more than three million in 2011, propelled by sharp spikes in Mexican and Chinese-born residents in the past decade"

                                          "Although the city's largest immigrant group still hails from the Dominican Republic, that population increased only 3% since 2000. By contrast, the city's Mexican-born population grew by 52% and its Chinese-born population increased by 33.9%"


                                          1. re: Porthos

                                            good to know -- i have yet to have anything other than overpriced mierda de perro in NYC.

                                            1. re: jessejames

                                              Well, if that's what you're ordering, no wonder you don't like Mexican food in NYC!

                                            2. re: Porthos

                                              So, yeah there's a lot of pretty good, by-the-book and authentic Mexican in NYC these days but there's not that much of it which is really delicious...

                                              1. re: corgi

                                                Gilbert's el indio is delicious and in Santa Monica area...want a smothered carnitas burrito, or one with chile relleno inside? all cash, sit down.

                                        2. re: Porthos

                                          My primary mission is just to find some yummy to eat, it doesn't have to be something I can't get in NY. The tsukemen definitely sounds interesting but the truth is that I am a bigger fan of pho than ramen which is sad when you consider how much excellent ramen we have around town and the dearth of truly excellent pho.

                                          As for sushi, I've had my share of excellent top-shelf omakase but one of the things I find remarkable about sushi on the west coast is that generally your more modestly priced mid-tier places are still pretty damn good.

                                          Shamshiri is interesting to me. The only place that I had REALLY good Persian food is at Mohsen in London. The funny thing about Persian food to me is that when it's delicious it's SUPER delicious, but if it's only good then I'm like an order of magnitude less excited about it. Is Shamshiri delicious?

                                          1. re: corgi

                                            "...but if it's only good then I'm like an order of magnitude less excited about it. Is Shamshiri delicious?"

                                            Like beauty, deliciousness is in (well, not they eye in this case) the mouth of the "bechewer". Only you can answer that particular question for yourself. The financial risk isn't so great at Shamshiri (just like most Persian places) and the reward may be great. Try it and see. I know I'd like to hear your take on the food.

                                            Another close by place (not Persian) to Shamshiri that we like is Fundamental LA http://fundamental-la.com/ - in case you are still considering your options?

                                            1. re: Servorg

                                              "The buds of the betaster?" Shamshiri is definitely in contention now. I do have quite some time to mull this over and it is possible that I will need to rent a car which of course would extend my range quite a bit.

                                              I am also travelling with some nonhound friends (one an <ugh> vegetarian), so it'd be nice to offer them some choice. Of course if they become too difficult, I'll just cut them loose and go off on my own.

                                              1. re: corgi

                                                If you don't like "betaster" I could always go with "b-eater" or, if you will, "beater" - but that brings into play its more common definition, which may well muddy the waters to a greater extent...(g)

                                                1. re: corgi

                                                  Try to be a good CH and not UGH veggies, just as
                                                  I refrain from MEH!@ antibiotic laden meat or ecoli drenched chicks.

                                                  1. re: VenusCafe

                                                    The UGH is about the additional constraints that dining with a restricted diet individual involves. This is true for any kind of restricted diet. A person who ate nothing but steak would get pretty much the same UGH from me.

                                                    1. re: VenusCafe

                                                      Also, a quick glance at your profile suggests that you're what I would call a veggiquarium, :)

                                                      1. re: corgi

                                                        An amphibian. I left the Crescents long ago ;-)

                                                  2. re: Servorg

                                                    But all the way from NYC for fundamental ?

                                                    He should hit up Attari, you definitely can't get those Persian sandwiches in NY.

                                                  3. re: corgi

                                                    Pho options that side of town are mediocre. Don't know if they're any better than the versions you lament about in NYC.

                                                    Shamshiri is delicious in my book. Like I said, get the ghormeh sabzi, maybe even add adas polo for the rice.

                                                    Too bad you don't have a Friday lunch available for sushi. Then you can have your pick. Saturday lunch limits you.

                                                    If you're hankering for Mexican, go for it. Mexican food is a LA forte but not necessarily westside forte. Surprised no one has recommended Monte Alban for the mole. I don't like mole in general but if you do that would be your spot. More of a birria guy myself. Not aware of any Westside place serving birria.

                                                    1. re: Porthos

                                                      "Not aware of any Westside place serving birria."

                                                      One option is Don Chuy's http://www.donchuysmexican.com/ in Mar Vista. I eat there for breakfast once in a while and like their food but don't know about their goat.

                                                      ADD: Another thing to be aware of is that the term "birria" can also mean lamb or mutton and not just goat. So if looking for goat specifically it's always best to ask if type of birria is not spelled out on the menu you are looking at.

                                                      1. re: Servorg

                                                        I wouldn't mind if it's lamb or mutton. The consomme that comes with it is delicious and part of the package that I enjoy when referring to "birria".

                                                        1. re: Porthos

                                                          It's just that some folks are looking for goat, as that is a much rarer beast (g) hereabouts than lamb...

                                                        2. re: Servorg

                                                          They serve birria on the weekends at Tacos Por Favor

                                                          1. re: Servorg

                                                            What was the name of the great birria joint that was reviewed in the LA Times a few years ago, possibly a decade ago, and then reviewed but not named in a NY Times article from a few months ago ??????????????


                                                          2. re: Porthos

                                                            Monte Alban is on my radar, but I too, am not that big on mole.

                                                            Pho mediocrity: Even Nong La? It seems relatively new and their website certainly expresses a commitment to quality. A few hounds have said good things, but there isn't an awful lot of buzz about it.

                                                            1. re: corgi

                                                              I do like Nong La. It's a nice neighborhood place but it's not a destination... but the ramen next door and across the street is another story….

                                                              1. re: corgi

                                                                For instance, this pho round-up puts Nong La at #9 in LA, that sounds pretty darn good to me! http://www.laweekly.com/squidink/arch...

                                                                1. re: corgi

                                                                  you can get the birria at Monte Alban and it's pretty damn good though maybe it won't reach the tremendous heights of a Boyle Heights birria.

                                                                  You should check out El Parian too.

                                                                  1. re: kevin

                                                                    I've had the birria at MA and it was excellent.

                                                                  2. re: corgi

                                                                    I liked Nong La except for the fact that their noodles are too soft. I know are made in-house, which might be part of the "problem"--that they're too fresh. ;-) I just like my rice noodles more al dente.

                                                                    Look into Phorage. It may not pass for "authentic", but the oxtail pho is decent for Westside.

                                                                  3. re: Porthos

                                                                    Monte Alban offers a nice barbacoa de chivo.

                                                                      1. re: New Trial

                                                                        shoot, my bad.

                                                                        as a point of clarification is "barbacoa de chico" roughly the same as "birria" ?????


                                                                        1. re: kevin

                                                                          No, the first means "roasted young boy" and the second is a Mexican stew made with lamb or goat meat

                                                                            1. re: kevin

                                                                              With that correction, the two dishes are similar--regional variations some would say.

                                                                              1. re: New Trial

                                                                                Cool. That's what I kind of thought.

                                                                    1. re: corgi

                                                                      It sounds like you are familiar with Persian cuisine, in that case I would skip Shamshiri Grill and choose Javan or Shaherzad. Javan does the more traditional stuff much better than Shamshiri, e.g., fesenjan, bademjan, etc.

                                                                      Shamshiri was once a very authentic Persian restaurant in the 80s and mid 90s but they have continually diluted the menu over the years with more and more non-Persian dishes like falafel, shawarma, hummus and Caesar salads

                                                                      1. re: Ernie

                                                                        It's important to note Ernie is in the minority on this one.

                                                                        Look through this thread on Persian in Westwood:


                                                                        1. re: Porthos

                                                                          It is also important to note that some of the supporters of Shamshiri in that thread are not entirely clear what are Persian vs. non-Persian dishes

                                                                          1. re: Porthos

                                                                            Y'know it's interesting. I'd read that thread already and there's a back-and-forthy, yeah-but, six of one half dozen of the other feel about that thread. I've read a lot of Chowhound posts and when a place really ROCKS, you can tell by the thread. For example, here's the Mohsen thread for comparison. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/2639...

                                                                          2. re: Ernie

                                                                            I'm with Ernie on this. Javan is the place. Best Tahdig, etc.

                                                                          3. re: corgi

                                                                            I've pitched this place before and I'll do it again... good, moderately priced sushi with some creative options and a fun atmosphere. right on Main street in Santa Monica.

                                                                            Tsukiji Sushi Sen


                                                                            1. re: Beachowolfe

                                                                              Interesting. They're open on Saturdays for lunch too. I just looked at the menu on their website. What does it mean when they have two prices separated by a slash? Sushi price/Sashimi price? http://www.eatsushisen.com/menu/

                                                                              1. re: corgi

                                                                                If you look at the header for the sushi/sashimi section it says 2 pieces of sushi (the lower price) or 4 pieces of sashimi (the higher price).