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Aug 5, 2014 01:20 AM

Guidance needed for week-long LA visit


I'm going to be visiting LA with my husband this September. I've been doing some research (on this site and others, as well as published guides) into the LA restaurant scene, and have discovered that there are so many great-sounding options that I'm now more confused than ever. So now I'm hoping that Chowhound's local experts might be able to give me a steer...

We're not necessarily looking for fine dining restaurants - we're more into good cooking, great ingredients and a buzzy atmosphere. That's not to say we're averse to spending money - the one restaurant we've already booked is n/naka, having read nothing but glowing reviews about the place.

I'm not hugely interested in exploring, for instance, the perfect French bistro or great classic Italian food - we've got lots of those restaurants in London. What we're after are great LA restaurants, those doing their own eclectic thing.

So far my shortlist includes Trois Mec (if I can get a table), Animal, Ink, Fifty Seven, Maude, Red Medecine, Gjelina, Lucques, AOC and Hinoki and the Bird.

We're going to be based in W Hollywood, but are happy to travel a bit, if necessary (apart from anything else, we're going to be touristing all over town).

We're going to be getting our fix of Mexican food on our trip down to LA, so that's not a priority (although I know there are some great Mexican places in LA too...)

Can anyone help me whittle down my shortlist? Is there anything that should be on the list that I've missed?

Thanks, in advance, for any advice and suggestions...


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  1. You probably should add one Korean and one Chinese meal to your list (Parks BBQ is a good bet) and one San Gabriel Valley Chinese (Sea Harbour wouldn't be a bad choice at all - for either dim sum or dinner, both are quite excellent).

    When you said you were going to get your Mexican fix you probably meant to say perhaps San Diego instead of LA again?

    15 Replies
    1. re: Servorg

      Thanks. Korean is a good idea - we don't see much of it in the UK. Chinese, on the other hand, is widely available here in London...

      1. re: NatashaH

        I imagine the Chinese you get in London is very, VERY different from the Chinese available in the UK.... I refused to eat Chinese food when I was in London last yr (to which the posters on the London board agreed), but my impression from a trip (> 10 yrs ago) was that London's Chinese food is heavily influenced by HK (and possibly by an HK from several decades ago) and, truth be told, probably by what the Chinese population in London thinks Westerners will tolerate. That isn't the case in San Gabriel Valley. We have several *cities* filled w/ Chinese; you're not going to find that even in London, I think.

        I've been to Lucques, AOC, Gjelina, and Animal and think they're all very good. I'd definitely do AOC. Gjelina is very popular here on the board (I liked it but was not blown away).

        Are you sure you don't want to do Mexican here in LA? We have lots of great stuff.....

        Walking along Sawtelle for Japanese might be fun. I like Tsujita for ramen, but the wait is generally really, REALLY long.

        What is Thai like in London?

        1. re: paranoidgarliclover

          Chinese food USED to be very Cantonese-based, but in recent years we've had an explosion of interest in dishes from other regions. We're particularly good at Szechuanese food, partly because we have a great food writer and consultant (Fuchsia Dunlop) who's based here, but has spent time living and training in Szechuan province. We've also got terrific dim sum restaurants. Shame I didn't see your post, as I might have been able to give you a steer...

          Anyway, most of our Thai food is same old same old, but there are some exceptions. We used to have a David Thompson restaurant (his first outside Australia) but that closed a couple of years ago. Some of the chefs who worked with him, though, have set up by themselves and are starting to make waves. Particularly notable is the Begging Bowl, which is located in an up-and-coming suburb of south London...

          1. re: NatashaH

            That's okay. The purpose of the visit was more sight-seeing than eating. I have to admit I'm constantly in awe of the visitors who post on this board who have clearly done *so* much reading and searching! The few times I've tried it, I get overwhelmed very quickly and then give up! ;)

            Do agree w/ Ciao Bob that the current itinerary is a bit, er, homogenous. And do think that Haeldaur made some very nice recommendations.

            Hope you enjoy your visit!

        2. re: NatashaH

          Then Roy Choi's POT is well-worth a visit.

          1. re: Ciao Bob

            I'd go to Park's BBQ over POT. While POT would be a fine choice, I think Park's is more of a Korean experience while still being somewhat gentrified. Also I think at any given time I would just rather have the food at Park's.

            1. re: thefatknightrises

              POT seems to run more towards the type of place the OP seems interested in AND it has excellent creative and old-school food in a hip, fun environment.

              If the OP wants Korean BBQ, Park's is great. Park's was my go-to spot for K-BBQ for years but now that everyone (and their cardiologist) know about about it, it has lost its glow for me - I think it has been "whited" and I know I can do better elsewhere if I want beef. Anyway, I prefer Ham Ji Park for pork neck and potato soup and pork ribs when I want a meat fest in Ktown.

              1. re: Ciao Bob

                whited? what a load of crap. la is as multicultural as it gets in the USA and this spot reflects that.

                1. re: jessejames

                  seems accurate though, when you go to park's it's very multicutural compared to other more uhm...ethnic...k-town spots where you can't even find an english speaker.

                  1. re: ns1

                    what's wrong with that? multicultural is a different term. what's wrong with diverse people enjoying Korean bbq? you think parks says, oh, look we're getting popular outside the neighborhood, let's make the beef shittier? you think white folks should just stick to expensive ham and wonder bread? should we be apartheid foodwise and is that somehow preferable by some? sounds like it, except for them, who they consider chameleons unlike everyone else

                    1. re: jessejames

                      i never said anything was wrong with it

                        1. re: ns1

                          Nor did I.
                          As I clearly wrote Park's "has lost its glow FOR ME." Nothing is wrong with that - lot's of places do, for one reason or another. I would guess McDonald's was once the most unique thing for miles and miles around San Bernardino, if not in all of SoCal. Parkdonald's may be that one day for Korean BBQ. By "whited" I meant no offense to anyone. Perhaps I should have used different terminology...but, Discovered and Overrun by Non-Koreans from Huntington Beach to Simi Valley is cumbersome. Most times, (again) for me, going to K-Town is meant to be a meal AND a Korean adventure rather than a place just to get a great Korean meal. As K-town gentrifies (rapidly) that experience is getting harder to find, so I shy away from places like Park's for reasons other than a darn good BBQ joint (as well as excellent Beef Tartare with Asian Pears, and fine cold noodles).

                      1. re: ns1

                        Just goes to show that good food has a rainbow effect...every color likes it.

          2. Your list is very solid - if a little Johnny-One-Note. By that I mean these are the current LA Food-iverse headline-grabbing chefs and restaurants in town; for sure they each have their own spin but, on the whole, do tend to do things that are not all that different from each other (Farm-to-Table with Asian, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences). Which, I guess, makes sense since you are trying to whittle it down. Before whittling though I think you may want to consider adding Bestia to your thoughts as well as Providence.

            Agree that n/naka is unique (though I prefer Shunji's to mix the Kitchen Kreations with the best sushi and sashimi).

            For me, I would take Trois Mec - Red Medicine - Gjelina over AOC - Hinoki - Luques - ink - Maude. Do not know 57.

            Would skip animal - it's been copied all over the world and isn't, IMHO, what it was since foie gras got banned here.

            Hope that helps.

            6 Replies
            1. re: Ciao Bob

              funny i agree on the one note point but different picks for me. I would say red medicine and gjenlina are foodie bullshit and super annoying in their own unique ways, haven't been to ink, but think trois mec, animal and aoc are solid, with luques being pretty good.

              completely agree with other posters here to try Korean, thai, Mexican Chinese etc.

              1. re: jessejames

                +1 on all these and CiaoBob's sentiments. To me, an itinerary like the original one is why a lot of people travel here and don't think much of the food scene. There are restaurants like these popping up all over the country and none of them comment on much about what is going on that is unique to LA.

                1. re: jessejames

                  <foodie bullshit>

                  What a great term.

                    1. re: jessejames

                      jessejames: you and i are practically reverse indicators for each other.
                      on monday i took a group to gjelina and they all loved it.

                      n.b., though
                      gjelina, imho, what really shines at gjelina are their vegetable dishes.
                      we ordered 6 vegetable dishes for 4 people in addition to "normal" main dishes.

                      if you appreciations really don't encompass VEGETABLES, this may not be the best restaurant for you.

                      also, i was happy that we did much of our drinking before going there as their wine-by-the-glass list is just "ok" to my palate.

                      also, re: reservations there.
                      if you don't have a reservation, you can generally walk in at 2:30 on a weekday and get seats at the communal table. be aware, though, that between about 3 and 5:30 only an abbreviated pizza and charcuterie menu is available.

                  1. As someone who lived in London, and now lives in LA, I think I can help. Essentially, I understand your post to be looking for unique culinary experiences you don't have in London, but you're not interested in hole-in-the-wall diving. Here are some musts.

                    1. Night + Market (West Hollywood). There is no thai in London like this. It is going to be extremely unique in flavor profile to you, and it's one of LA's best restaurants. It's also near where you're staying. Must-orders include the Startled Pig, Shrimp Paste Fried Rice, Isaan Sausage, Khao Soi (if it is on the menu), Larb Gai, and drunken noodles with short ribs.

                    2. Chi Spacca. You can get meat in London, but it's really not like this. Go and split the bistecca, the foccacia de reccio, charcuterie, and a salad.

                    3. AOC or Gjelina. These are both quintessential LA experiences. Neither is the best food you've ever had, but they're beautiful places to eat, with beautiful people, and the food is quite good at both. As an out-of-towner, I'd say go Gjelina.

                    4. Mexican Taco Tour. Ok, this is the most adventurous thing I'd suggest for someone traveling from overseas who isn't interested in plumbing holes in the wall. In coming to LA from Europe of all places, you want to experience the Mexican food. My suggestion is to make a morning of it and do it in one fell swoop. Start at Ricky's Fish Tacos at 11 a.m. and get 1 baja fish taco. Drive to Guisado's on Sunset, have 1 cochinita pibil taco (don't get higher than a 3 on the spicy scale or it will probably ruin your day), drive to Mariscos Jalisco and have 1 or 2 tacos dorados (shrimp tacos), and perhaps a poseidon ceviche.

                    5. For Peruvian, I think you'd like PICCA. Tasty food, definitely a buzzy atmosphere.

                    6. For Korean, I would recommend Soban. Make sure to get the spicy short ribs and the raw soy sauce crab. This is pricy for Korean, but the cooking is excellent. Also, while you may have some korean BBQ places in London, I'm pretty confident you have nothing like this.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Haeldaur

                      Thanks, all, for the feedback - I really appreciate it, especially the steer that I was going a bit one-note. Some of the suggestions you've all made sound terrific, and I will definitely explore them further. I'm looking forward to my trip to LA (the first for about 30 years!) even more now...

                      1. re: NatashaH

                        Well Natasha, we're excited that you will be visiting our city and look forward to hearing your reviews during your trip or after you get home.

                      2. re: Haeldaur

                        Great post. I second big time adding Night + Market.

                        Also agree with adding Korean food somewhere.

                        Also agree with Gjelina over AOC even though AOC will be temptingly close.

                        Also consider adding Shunji or Mori for a sushi experience and Tsujita (original branch during lunch) for their tsukemen. Make sure you get it with their egg.

                      3. Your list is pretty great. Ink is exceptional, Red Medicine's desserts are mind blowing you could even stop by just for dessert, Animal is a great choice as well.

                        To get the LA experience, you should definitely get Tacos and Korean BBQ in there. If you like Buzz, Roy Choi (Legit famous, he's on Top Chef as a mentor/judge, was in the end credits of the film Chef) has a new Korean/modern gourmet interpretation place called POT in Koreatown. The lobby bar is also a big scene there. To go more traditional, Park's or Soot Bull Jeep or I have bookmarked from Eater LA Kang Hodong Baekjeong.

                        I think Tar and Roses is superior to AOC or Luqcues, if you want another california/small plates option.

                        I'm also obsessed with the burger at Plan Check and pretty sure you are not going to eat a burger that delicious in London.

                        Where are you getting your mexican before LA? Becuase LA has much better Mexican food than most american cities. And tacos are such a part of LA culture! You could also have great fun visiting a place like Central Market downtown which is a foodie market/food court scene.

                        Dumplings perhaps at Din Tai Fung?

                        1. Hey you want some Pastrami for lunch? Langer's
                          Or how about some Fish Tacos? Ricky's Fish Tacos

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: wienermobile

                            2 ubiquitous recs that should be on every visitor's list.

                            1. re: wienermobile

                              Langer's is a great call, and definitely something I never tried anything close to when I lived in London. That being said, fair warning to OP, it is in a real shitty area.

                                1. re: Haeldaur

                                  in the grand scheme of things, that exact corner isn't that shitty.

                                    1. re: jessejames

                                      i miss pinatas.

                                      fake ids won't help me now….



                                      i wonder if they sell fake badges ??????? those could seriously come in handy…. just joking'.

                                    2. re: ns1

                                      Very true. And even if, got to try it once if you are an adventurous eater.

                                    3. re: Haeldaur

                                      I have been going to Langer's for over 40 years and I have never been murdered yet. They close at 4pm and are closed sundays.

                                      1. re: Haeldaur

                                        Not real shitty in terms of your safety. Shitty in terms of the ambiance - it ain't Beverly Hills. Its in a working class Mexican immigrant area. It's fine during the day.

                                      2. re: wienermobile

                                        I'd love a comparison between Langer's pastrami and some London salt beef!