What’s new in Agoura Hills/Oak Park
With so many openings/closings in the area the past few months, I figure an update’s in order.
Starting at top of Kanan and heading south:
ZEN GARDEN – Sort of hit and miss; stick to separate “Bejing Specialties” menu. Had pretty excellent glass noodle and pork dish the other day, simple with light brown gravy, ginger and scallion. Ordering “normal” (Americanized) Chinese is a mistake and will get you a lot of zucchini, Hoisin sauce and rubbery chicken. Still trying to find maybe five dishes they do really, really well.
BRUEGGER’S BAGELS – Closed around Christmas; nearest bagel store now in Westlake Village (Westlake Blvd.).
VINCITORE – new Italian (replaced long-time hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant). Had takeout just last night (“homemade” gnocchi bolognaise and chicken piccata), and found it to be completely mediocre. Meat sauce tasted as if it had sat around for long time (dark/dull in color), and very rosemary-heavy. Gnocchi tough/chewy and not homemade (can’t they just go to Ralph’s and get the shrink-wrapped stuff?). Chicken fine, served with over-done veggies and a side of nondescript pasta. Prices very high for quality, but they’re sending out coupons to ease the pain. Completely ‘meh’.
MARAL CUISINE – Replaced Char Fasl about a year ago but essentially identical; mediocre Persian food and too much of it.
ANGEL CAFE – Closed around Christmas. Reportedly awful for years.
SZECHUAN PLACE – Still great (see prior reviews). Opened a new branch in Newbury Park just before Christmas.
BIKES & COFFEE – Had to mention this one just since it’s such an improbable concept, and they pull a good espresso (SLO roast beans). Watch bikes getting repaired as you sip. Never crowded. Can you see where this is going?
TIFA – Closed, then reopened many months later at Whizzin’s Center. May have expanded their gelato/coffee/chocolate offerings, and is just an excellent place to have in the area.
BOAR DOUGH – Thus far, just an empty space (and similarly-empty website: http://www.boardoughtastingroom.com/). Wine bar. Could be interesting. Replaces Johnnie Rockets/Agoura Hills Diner, both ghastly.
BLUE TABLE – Still excellent; added a wine & cheese bar in adjoining space with expanded offerings. Haven’t tried but looks promising.
TAVERN 101 – Replaced the awful Willy’s BBQ and Grill. Haven’t tried.
NIROJ/EXOTIC THAI/WOOD RANCH/ GREEN ONION/GRISSINI/ITALIA DELI/LADYFACE/LEILA’S – All fine to very good (search older posts)
Still need to try Café 14!
Wait... HOW does this thread include (virtually) no mention of NIROJ CUISINE?! I've been all over SoCal looking for the best non-Persian Middle Eastern restaurant, and it just happens to be located just behind the 76 Gas / Car Wash at Reyes Adobe & the 101. It is a family-owned and operated Kurdish restaurant where everything is made with love.
Also, CAFE 14 is good to very good unpretentious / not precious American food in a casual/elegant atmosphere.
FINS in Westlake is very casual straightforward un-original fresh fish. By virtue of being the only place in the area for a wide selection of simple fresh fish dishes (all under $30, and in a casual setting) I give it high marks.
RUSTICO on Kanan and TUSCANY IL RISTORANTE in Westlake Village are run by the same people, have slightly different menus, are of the same quality. Tuscany is a bit more upscale. The food quality is the same at both and Rusticoso is less expensive, so it gets my nod.
LEILA'S is trying to be great, but is just good, also a bit inconsistent. Just a little too much $$$ for the food quality.
THE GRILL ON THE ALLEY is the best restaurant in the area (not including T.O.) but it is very expensive. Very very expensive. Still, simply prepared, very high quality food. The pork chop and dover sole / John Dory are of particular note. So is the bone-in ribeye... but it is $54.
MASTRO'S in Thousand Oaks is the best restaurant in the area and (perhaps short of CUT) the best steakhouse in L.A. Nightclubby. Get a second mortgage.
EXOTIC THAI and WOODRANCH are great staples.
I live in Thousand Oaks and am not impressed with most places around here. Due to that I don't go out very often but these are a few.
I despise WITH A PASSION, The Grill on the Alley - horrible food and terrible service. 3 times and then never again.
Lure Fish House - Food not that good - fish was burnt. Nice staff though.
Paul Martins American Grill - Very, very loud (actually the majority of places are like that now) and food very boring and tasteless.
Napa Tavern: Horrible! Mini Burgers - dry and tasteless. One I tasted the appetizer I tried to bet on the safe side - Pizza - would have gotten a better one at TJ's. Staff rude - OH asked if they had a certain wine - waiter says "no..." then walks away - no alternative, no ideas... just "no".
This is going to sound weird but new for me - I ate at Chick fil a - OMG - staff are wonderful. Ate a breakfast thingy but it was really good.
Still to try but hesitant since I'm such a fussy pants:
Cafe 14, Unami Burger and Stonehaus
"...since I'm such a fussy pants..."
_ _ _ _ _
I think many of us are fussy pants-es out here. We want better and we know better, but most offerings in the Conejo are mediocre at best. Something even happens to an "ok" outpost when it moves out this way. I'm thinking of Lotteria and Lemonade, specifically, and there are others.
When the choice is going out in the neighborhood or eating at home, the latter wins. We keep trying and we continue to be disappointed.
Have you been to the Cheesecake Factory in Thousand Oaks mall lately?
OMG - talk about patronizing. I took my friend there for her birthday lunch (I had heard about this mushroom soup - which is wonderful by the way, and I hate mushrooms) and the waitress spoke to us like we were 5 yrs old. It was ridiculous!
Wanted to add that another friend ate at STACKED - said it was not bad for a burger joint.
Thanks for the fine report, can't talk...eating! I agree with your takes.
We've lived in "these here parts" for 25+ years and it's pretty lacking in taste. Oh, yes, there are lots of restaurants, but most of them are barely mediocre.
We tried Tavern 101...the bbq sauces are tasty, but the food is just fair.
Yamato was good way back in time, but we recently discovered that they are having "bug" problems. I won't be going back.
One of our current favorite places -- stretching your geography of Agoura Hills/Oak Park -- is Nori, next to Lassens on Thousand Oaks Boulevard at Skyline. A very dear Korean couple own it and they produce some really delicious Japanese food: rolls, bowls and various combos. They are extremely busy at lunchtime, but you can always get in for a later dinner...it's a casual place. Also, if you have special requests, they are graciously accommodating.