L.A. Eats!

LA picstichMy visit to L.A. was, as expected, full of culinary delights. What follows is a list of some staples and favorites we went to. Due to my oft’ aggressive appetite, some are represented in photograph and some not.

Mother Dough—This casual joint serves tasty thin crust pizzas with a heavenly tomato sauce, go for the Margherita if nothing else. The beer selection is great and the vibe is relaxed and friendly.

Marisco’s Jalisco For a life-changing bite, eat the shrimp taco from Marisco’s Jalisco: IMG_4091 [An excerpt from a column I wrote:] This deep fried wondertaco (yes, I said it) brimmed with sweet, fresh crescents of rosy shrimp while its exterior was draped with epaulettes of ripe California avocado and anointed with two salsas: one a piquant onion-flecked salsa fresca and the second a spicy reduced chile-based concoction. With their contrasting effects, the various elements seduced and entranced the palate: succulent shrimp contrasted the salty, grainy corn tortilla; buttery avocado tempered acidic spicy salsa (making my mouth home to the most simple yet artful guacamole.) I arrived in Los Angeles with a taco craving, and Jalisco Marisco satisfied it immediately and eternally.

Loteria – The location nestled in the sprawling Grove Farmers market makes terrific carne deshabrada and chicken mole tacos. Here’s the tasty shrimp taco (not transcendental like Marisco’s, but good nonetheless):TacoFinish it off with a chocolate covered banana from nearby Bennett’s Ice Cream.

 Chun Ki Wa IMG_4092For excellent and well-priced Korean barbecue, this place is a go-to. While the traditional Galbi was very tasty, the satandouts for me were the Bulgogi on the barbecue, thin slivers of superbly seasoned meat caramelized to perfection and the decadent crispy fat ends from each short rib. Also, the very thin anchovy banchan which look like little sparkly snakes, are excellent. Make sure to order extra rice cakes for wrapping the crispy barbecued meat in!IMG_4093 Nem Nuong Ninh HoaIMG_4113Located off the beaten track in Rosemead, this Vietnamese restaurant serves a delicacy known as “banh beo”, small saucers filled with gelatinous rice cake and topped with ground shrimp, scallions, a crisp crouton, and a light but pungent sauce. These are unlike anything I’ve ever had. Due to their similarities in texture, flavor and appearance, we likened them to oysters and proceeded to eat at least a dozen each!IMG_4116They also serve these terrific rolls “nem nuong” with special sausage and a crispy shrimp stick: IMG_4112inside:

IMG_4115Our visit began inauspiciously: after a long car ride with empty bellies we were informed that the restaurant had endured a power outage and couldn’t serve us. Soon, though, we were let back in for a completely mind bending meal. Kudos to famed L.A. food critic Jonathan Gold for popularizing this place (and many others).

Chang’s Garden – Two words: beef roll. IMG_4122Tender beef, vegetables and Hoisin sauce wrapped in a crispy fried pancake make this Arcadia-based Shanghainese restaurant worth the trip. Everything else we ate at this simply decorated spot was really delicious too, especially the smoked and fresh pork warm pot which also had an adorable little bean curd twist:IMG_4123 Long Jin shrimp: IMG_4121Birdseye: (note the cute little red hot pot!)IMG_4125Eveleigh – The gorgeous dining room and breathtaking view make this a must-see L.A. stop. We had a nice brunch (the food doesn’t make you re-think your existence), but it’s a delightful experience especially if you order the avocado toast and a cocktail while you breathe in the Pacific air.

Mixto – This taco joint doesn’t scream authentic L.A. (you can order soy chorizo), but it’s satisfying, tasty and quite cheap.

Broome St. General Store – My brother very accurately  described Broome St as “if Brooklyn was cooked in a pan into the ultimate Hipster reduction”. Artisanal coffees, snacks and cutesy gifts are the order of the day at this Silverlake coffeeshop. The coffee is very good and the outdoor seating is quite lovely.

Intelligentsia – This Chicago-originated coffee chain has a beautiful outpost in L.A’s Silverlake neighborhood on a very cute stretch of Sunset. The mesa-style building has great outdoor seating, good coffee, and sweet and savory pastries.

Cheese Store of Silverlake – Right next to Intelligentsia, this cheese shop sells a bounty of the stinky stuff, in addition to meats, breads, cookbooks and condiments. They also make sandwiches, and the one I had with ham and cheese on a pretzel roll made for a (slightly) improved cross-country flight.

Forage – I’ve mentioned (raved about) this place before.  Gorgeous mounds of prepared salads and proteins entrance you from behind the counter the minute you walk in. You can put together plates with proteins and sides or order from a small-ish menu. The food is foraged and high quality and the desserts are also very good. If you get there just a bit before noon you’ll miss the onslaught of the lunch rush. Some snaps from a fab lunch there last week:DSC_0068German Chocolate Cake: DSC_0074Now, if only I could make this bi-coastal thing work…DSC_0051 DSC_0065

L.A. Here I Come!

DSC_0089Later this week, I’ll be heading to Los Angeles to visit my brother and am looking forward to sunny frolicking and (perhaps) some outdoorsy adventures.  Of course, though, we all know I’m happiest stuffing my face with fantastic food and delicious drink. L.A. offers exemplary options for both and in preparation for my upcoming trip, I thought I’d do a little jaunt down the memory lane and round up of some of my La La Land foodie favorites from times past. Disclaimer: some of these photos aren’t my favorite, but I think they adequately capture the urgency I felt having to wait to dig into these tasty bites!

Susan Feniger’s Street My love for this place is boundless, from it’s casual vibe, indoor/outdoor seating and unique take on international tapas. I dream about the Indonesian Kaya Toast (a coconut jam sandwich which is then dipped in a fried egg and soy-white pepper sauce. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever tried before, with the sweet aromatic sandwich acting as the perfect vehicle for egg yolk and umami sauce consumption. If you’re in L.A. go get it right now. IMG_1433Sliders at StreetDSC_0106My soulmate, the Kaya Toast

Although I’ve only been once, I had a really standout meal at Cho Sun Galbee a few years back and still think of their excellent selection of banchan (the small snacks that precede the entrée in a Korean meal), tender butter-glazed barbecued beef and dumplings, the filling utterly tender and flavorful and the outer skin very delicate. The restaurant features an elegant outdoor seating area, and while it’s definitely a bit pricey, I remember it being very high quality. DSC_0109BanchanDSC_0111Delightful DumplingsDSC_0113Pre-grill. Yes, that’s butter. DSC_0116Sizzle City

Animal has basically become an L.A. staple at this point, and it’s easy to see why. The meat-centric food is truly great and thoughtfully conceived and executed. While my arteries don’t appreciate it, I try to sneak in a visit when I go. Keep in mind, this trip was quite a while ago, so many of the dishes pictured are likely adapted or no longer served. But what’s wrong with some mild to serious food porn? IMG_1436Hamachi Tostada–refreshing and Vietnamese-inspired

IMG_1440Salt and Pepper Boston Sweet Shrimp with Remoulade — how it should always tasteIMG_1442Sweetbreads, Pickled Crosnes, Spicy Sweet and Sour — This was one of the first sweetbread dishes I really enjoyed, and the texture was so unusual and exciting. It was both substantial and refreshing.IMG_1443Marrow Bone, Chimichurri, Caramelized Onions — Just imagine…IMG_1447Madame Artery Obliterator a.k.a Foie Gras Biscuit, Maple Sausage Gravy — Reading back on my past notes on this dish I see that I wrote “like pancakes and bacon ON CRACK”. Let’s leave it at that.

Nothing about this picture does justice to the Thai-phoon (see what I did there?) of flavor that is Jitlada. However, Thai food isn’t always pretty, but when it’s good it’s spicier than J-Lo and more sultry than Rihanna. The braised fish (pictured below) is terrific, as is most everything I’ve tried there. They also serve sticky rice with mango which might be one of my top 5 desserts ever. Scratch that, it is.

IMG_1472My brother’s old house had a key lime tree in the backyard, and few greater pleasures exist than making (eating) fresh key lime ice cream.DSC_0047 DSC_0052DSC_0075“what about sandwiching it between gingersnaps?” we wondered…

DSC_0059Sorry, NYC, hippie salads are just better out WestIMG_0749Pizzeria Mozza remains my #1 crust of recent memory. As you can see, the toppings aren’t bad either

Other L.A. Favorites not pictured include:
The Oaks Gourmet The upscale sandwich store done LA (ie, right near a strip mall and with lots of menu items featuring avocado)

Joans on Third Yet another fancy lunch spot, is the trend that apparent? Lunch is my favorite meal and L.A.’s delightful climate and relaxed atmosphere only enhances the mid-day repast. The brisket grilled cheese is sensational.

Sushi Zo Although I’ve only been there once, it was my first omakase experience, and everybody remembers their first time. Or not. But the unbelievably fresh and perfectly prepared fish inspired mid-chew eyeclosing and I’ll never forget it. If I win the lottery perhaps I’ll be able to return.

Zankou Chicken While I’m usually not big on chains, this family-owned L.A.-area classic delivers everytime. I have fond memories of fighting (quite literally) over the last bite with my brothers and father. The chicken is moist and the garlic sauce, oh the garlic sauce…Creamy and tangy and, according to the website “healthy”. Not sure about the last adjective, but thinking about it is making me crave already!

Forage LA  Casual prepared food is made from foraged ingredients at this great spot. Apparently “Urban Microfarming” can produce some pretty high quality stuff.

I’m missing a few other favorites, but these are the random and delicious places that immediately came to mind. This time I’m looking forward to lots of tacos and some more of L.A.’s great Korean food. In addition to lots of everything else. Re-reading my notes from a trip to L.A. in 2010, I came across this line which I’ll use in closing:

“Los Angeles, you’ve inspired me to pursue a career in food. Thanks for that,