We skipped dim sum on our trip to L.A. last winter—this because we were going to be in Hong Kong a month later and it didn’t seem particularly urgent to eat dim sum in L.A. Now, of course, after five months in Minnesota, the opportunity of eating dim sum that is better than just acceptable was hard to pass up. I have to admit, however, that I was a little bit nervous: years of eating dim sum in the San Gabriel Valley has made it hard for me to get excited about dim sum in Minnesota (the best of which would be about third-tier in the SGV); would eating excellent dim sum in Hong Kong do the same to the SGV? Our meal at Lei Garden had been an order of magnitude better than any we’d ever eaten at Sea Harbour or Elite—would either of these places still do it for us? It was to one of these that we wanted to go, of course: they’re still the consensus top picks in the SGV. The fact that we were going to be eating on July 4 all but ruled Sea Harbour out. The waits can be 1-2 hours on regular weekends. Elite can be as crowded but for whatever reason we’ve always had luck getting in there, and so that’s where we decided to take our chances. How did it turn out? Read on. Continue reading
Our meal in January at Luv2Eat, the Thai restaurant in Hollywood that is currently the favourite of a large subset of the Angeleno foodie set, was so good that it (like Szechuan Impression and Mori) was one of the places we wanted to come back to for sure on this recent trip as well. We wanted to try more of their menu and see how deep their list of hits runs. Well, the meal certainly did not disappoint—everything was very good indeed—but we didn’t find it quite as excellent as our first meal six months ago. Part of this is probably due to the fact that our expectations were very high after that meal and it wasn’t possible for us to be surprised a second time; part of it has to do with the fact that a couple of our dishes were served somewhat toned down. At any rate, I’d still recommend Luv2Eat to anyone looking for excellent Thai food in Los Angeles, but perhaps not quite as breathlessly as I did in January. Continue reading
I will not annoy my Minnesota readers again by repeating my views on the quality of sushi in the Twin Cities metro area. Suffice it to say, we save our sushi dollars and eat sushi when we’re in Los Angeles. While we splurge on one high-end sushi meal on each trip (it was Mori again on this trip—review coming in a few weeks) we also eat a lunch or two at mid-range places. On this trip we decided to go back to Hirozen in Beverly Hills, a place I used to eat at every once in a while more than 12 years ago, when I lived in Los Angeles. Well, time doesn’t stand still. The name has changed (it’s Matsumoto now; everything else about the restaurant remains the same—Matsumoto is the old chef’s name) and I didn’t like it quite as much as I did back in the day. Is that because they’ve changed, or is it because then I hadn’t had any sushi that was better? Tough to say, but I suspect it’s the latter. Continue reading
We ate at Szechuan Impression on our trip to Los Angeles last winter and at the end of my review I noted that I expected we’d be back on our trip in the summer. Well, this came true almost immediately upon our arrival in Los Angeles. We got in on the evening of July 1; we ate lunch at Szechuan Impression on July 2. Joining us for lunch were Sku and his family, with whom we eat on every trip, and with whom we love eating (as they are one of very few families whose attitude to eating out is exactly like ours, that is to say, excessive). Since our last trip Szechuan Impression has opened a second branch but we made a return to the original in Alhambra. I am glad to say that expansion has not had any negative effects on the kitchen: our meal was as good as the previous, and that one was one of the best Sichuan meals we’d ever had (and better than the Michelin starred one we ate in Hong Kong a few weeks later). Continue reading
Gjusta, which opened in Venice in October 2014, is one of the hottest restaurants in Los Angeles but it’s not exactly a restaurant (and its name isn’t on its exterior). What is it then? Some combination of a deli, a bakery, a salad bar and a cafe. In addition to faux-anonymity, it offers that unique contemporary American mix of high prices and lack of comfort: gourmet food from bespoke ingredients with prices to match, but in a space that takes pains to present a non-polished, even rustic appearance.There is limited counter seating inside and a bunch of mismatched tables and chairs are strewn around a roughly covered patio that is connected to the parking lot. Service is minimal. You order and pay at the counter and if you’re sitting outside, as we were, someone will bring you your food but you shouldn’t expect them to check in on you after; if you want water, or cutlery, you get up and go inside and get it yourself. Continue reading
Kinjiro has received so much praise from foodies and professionals alike that part of me wondered if it could indeed be as good as people said it was. But just a few courses into our dinner this past Tuesday I was all Lili von Shtupp: “Oh it’s twue, it’s twue! It’s twue, it’s twue!” Yes, people, Kinjiro more than lived up to the hype. It was one of the very best meals we’ve had this year and it is now at the top of my list of restaurants I will recommend to friends who ask me where to eat in L.A. In fact, I am inclined to say that if you are passing through Los Angeles and only have time for one dinner, this is where you should go. But if you’re not from L.A, or even if you are but don’t follow the food scene very closely, you may be wondering what Kinjiro is. Read on. Continue reading
Here is the last of my meal reports from our recent trip to Los Angeles. I began those trip reports with an account of a very expensive omakase dinner at Mori and so it’s appropriate that the last one be of a quick lunch closer to the opposite end of the sushi continuum in Los Angeles: at Sushi Go 55, an unassuming restaurant in a mall in Little Tokyo that serves largely people who work in nearby businesses and for which no one (well, no one who is not on Yelp or Tripadvisor) has ever made any strong claims. We were going to be in the area and needed a quick place for lunch and given how poor the sushi scene in the Twin Cities is, were more than willing to roll the dice on an affordable fourth or fifth tier place in L.A. And wouldn’t you know it, the meal was, on the whole, superior to all my sushi outings in the Twin Cities, and far cheaper.
Though I am currently in Delhi I still have a couple of Los Angeles meal reports in hand and so I’m going to sandwich them around another Delhi report this week before turning to Delhi and then Hong Kong reports in the next couple of weeks. First up is a brief writeup of two meals at Lacha Somtum, eaten a few months apart. The first one was eaten last summer but by the time I got around to starting to write it up it was so far in the rear-view mirror that I decided to wait till the next trip to eat there again and post on more of the menu. That time is now. There were just the two of us at the first meal (a lunch), and we kept it light on account of needing to board a flight very soon after; at the second meal (a dinner) we were joined by Sku and family and we got a lot more stuff. Both meals were quite good. Continue reading
This is part of my quest to eat at Los Angeles area sushi restaurants whose names resemble those of the dwarves Bilbo Baggins accompanied to the Lonely Mountain: first Mori, now Nori; come back later in the week for Ori! Actually, no: if there is a sushi restaurant in Los Angeles named Ori, we have not eaten there. We only ended up at Nori after our meal at Mori because a) we were in search of a decent place that would be open late for lunch on a Monday and b) was not going to be a major hit on the wallet. Why even bother with cheaper sushi on a Monday when there are so many other excellent cheap eats in Los Angeles? Well, when you live in Minnesota where finding even average sushi is an achievement, and it’s priced like it’s better than that, you don’t need to eat at the upper echelons of the L.A. scene to be happy. It’s also the case that my reviews of sushi in L.A. have hitherto covered better known places and I was curious to see what hidden gems there might be out there. Well, I’m not sure if Nori quite rises to gem level but it was surprisingly good and very good value. Continue reading
As I’ve noted on multiple occasions, Los Angeles almost certainly has the best Thai food in the United States. Las Vegas may have Lotus of Siam and Portland may have Pok Pok, but Los Angeles has Thai Town with its seemingly endless series of holes in the wall on Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards. Yes, LA has seen a couple of trendier places open in the last year or so in Night+Market (and it’s spinoff, Song) and more recently two outposts of Andy Ricker’s burgeoning Pok Pok empire (which have failed to set the town on fire so far), but it’s to old Thai Town you must go to experience the breadth of what LA has to offer. From Jitlada‘s legendary and expansive southern Thai menu to more abbreviated regional proffers at Pailin or Lacha Somtum, from boat noodles at Sapp to Muslim dishes at Kruang Tedd, Thai Town has enough to keep both the specialist and the generalist happy. Continue reading
Szechuan Impression opened in 2014 and almost immediately became the major rival to Chengdu Taste in what could be called the second major wave of Sichuan restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley. The first wave, by my reckoning, crested in the early 2000s with the debut of Chung King in Monterey Park (on Garfield). Chung King carried on for a decade and a half (about three lifetimes in the SGV), moving to new digs in San Gabriel in the process, but by the time they ignominiously folded up last year they had well and truly been eclipsed by the new standard bearer, Chengdu Taste. I will note, however, that the coverage of Chengdu Taste always seemed to me to forget how good Chung King had been in its prime. Still, Chengdu Taste’s newer dishes were a revelation and their greater attention to ambience was also a far cry from the utilitarian aesthetic of Chung King and Yunkun Garden and co. One way to describe Szechuan Impression is to say that it goes further along both of those axes. Continue reading
My first restaurant review of 2015 was of a dinner omakase at Shunji and so it seems fitting that my last restaurant review of the year is of an omakase meal at Mori. Shunji, Mori and perhaps Zo are the three sushi bars that are likely to be near the top of most Los Angeles sushi aficionados’ lists—though some make the case as well for the recently opened Q, and some for the far less classical Kiriko . (I’m not counting Urasawa here both because the base experience there costs several hundred percent more and because it’s known as much, if not more, for its kaiseki dishes as for its sushi per se.) Continue reading
Nozomi is in Torrance, a city in the South Bay area of Los Angeles County, but for the purposes of my reviews Los Angeles more or less refers to all of LA County (the San Gabriel Valley isn’t part of the city of Los Angeles either). Torrance has a very large Japanese population, especially as a percentage of the total population. A large part of this stems from Toyota opening its US headquarters there in the late 1960s, followed by other companies. Nissan moved out in 2006 and, more seismically, Toyota announced plans to move to Texas last year. This has doubtless been a big blow to the many businesses that cater to Japanese executives—a clientele that has also driven the high quality of Japanese food in Los Angeles at large. It remains to be seen what the long-term effect will be, or if there’s now going to be a Japanese food renaissance in Plano, Texas (which is where Toyota is going). Continue reading
I know New Yorkers who get very exercised about the notion that the best Chinese food in the US can be found not in New York but in the San Gabriel Valley outside Los Angeles. Of course, the denial of this fact (which has been true for a long time now) is proclaimed most loudly by people who have never left New York; all New Yorker transplants to Los Angeles I’ve known who venture out to the San Gabriel Valley come to subscribe to it very quickly. Then again New Yorkers are a famously sensitive, vulnerable people and it is understandable that many of them have difficulty dealing with a shift in one of the beliefs that is a cornerstone of their identity.