Shiki: Lunch Omakase (Los Angeles, December 2017)


On our last two trips to Los Angeles we’ve done a big, expensive sushi omakase at Mori. On this trip we decided not to spend most of our sushi money on one meal and instead spread it around a bit more. Accordingly, we hit up Osawa a couple of days after we arrived; the plan after that was to go back for Kiriko’s lunch omakase and then see if we could find an acceptable budget place somewhere between Koreatown and downtown. The latter plan came to a bad end—more on this in a couple of weeks—and as it happens, we didn’t end up going to Kiriko either. Instead, we ended up at Shiki in Beverly Hills. I’d read accounts of their lunch omakase that sounded quite appealing and we decided we’d give a new place a go. And we were very glad we did. In the process I also ended up with my first and probably last ever bit of restaurant breaking news: the return of one of Los Angeles’ sushi legends to the sushi bar.  Continue reading

101 Noodle Express (Los Angeles, December 2017)


It is a tradition for us—as it is for many others—to eat lunch on Christmas at a Chinese restaurant. When we’re in Minnesota on Christmas this always means lunch at Grand Szechuan. In Los Angeles, however, we have a wide range of excellent options to choose from. I’d originally thought to go to Sea Harbour for dim sum this Christmas—especially after being thwarted the previous weekend by various of the missus’ elderly aunts and uncles (we ended up at Oo-Kook instead); but then I recalled again the massive crowds we’d seen while driving past it to Chang’s Garden on Christmas a few years ago. And so we punted our Sea Harbour meal to a regular weekday and ended up instead at 101 Noodle Express in Alhambra. Thankfully, there was only a short wait. Continue reading

Oo-Kook (Los Angeles, December 2017)


As I’ve said in reports from previous trips, we don’t really plan Korean meals in L.A. We’re based in Koreatown when there and when the missus’ extended family decides to get together to go out to eat it’s usually to a Korean place, and always one of their choice. This lunch was actually supposed to be dim sum at Sea Harbour. I’d been trying to get a group >8 together so we could make a reservation and it backfired on me. We ended up being a group of 10 but mostly elders and they rebelled and said, why go to the San Gabriel Valley to eat Chinese food when we can go eat galbi-tang right here in Koreatown? If I’ve learned anything in 48 years, I’ve learned to not argue with large numbers of your partner’s older relatives with whom you don’t have a language in common. And so it was that we ended up at Oo-Kook.  Continue reading

Chichen Itza (Los Angeles, December 2017)


Chichen Itza, located in the Mercado La Paloma building in the Figueroa Corridor, right by USC and the Exposition Park museums, is one of the most celebrated Mexican restaurants in the city. This despite the fact that it’s not a restaurant per se but a counter in a food hall within a community center. It specializes in the food of the Yucatán (it is named for the Mayan city site there), which even in Los Angeles is not very widely available. A mainstay on Jonathan Gold’s annual lists of the best restaurants in the greater L.A. area, it doesn’t lack for publicity. As always with cuisines of which there are not very many exemplars available, it is hard to know to what extent enthusiasm is driven by relative uniqueness. As someone who has not been to the Yucatán (or any other part of Mexico), I can’t really evaluate this. I can tell you though that we liked the food a lot, even though it was not as revelatory as the talk had perhaps led me to expect it would be. Continue reading

Osawa (Los Angeles, December 2017)


As I’ve said a number of times before, sushi is the one thing we no longer eat in Minnesota. Rather than be disappointed (at not insignificant cost) over and over again, we save our sushi dollars and get our fill on our annual trips to Los Angeles. On the last few trips this has involved a blow out dinner at Mori (see here and here). On this trip, however, going out to dinner sans the brats turned out to be a no-no and so we’ve had to pass on Mori (they stopped opening for lunch a couple of years ago). We decided instead to turn the cost of an omakase at Mori into a few more meals at mid-tier places. This is where Osawa comes in.  Continue reading

Aburiya Raku (Los Angeles, December 2017)


One of our favourite meals on our last trip to Los Angeles was at Kinjiro in Little Tokyo. We’d planned to return on this trip as well but prices at Kinjiro have shot up dramatically since our last visit (see the comments on that review) and that dimmed our fervour. Instead, we opted to get our non-sushi heavy Japanese fix at Aburiya Raku in West Hollywood. This branch of the famed Las Vegas izakaya opened a couple of years ago and has received very strong reviews from Los Angeles foodies. Unlike Kinjiro, they’re also open for lunch. And when I saw pictures of their lunch bento box, I was sold. It turns out that you can also order things from their regular menu at lunch, and as these figure lots of grilled meat dishes, we took our boys along. And they may have liked their meal even more than we did. The younger brat keeps asking when we’re going back to “the awesome restaurant”. So there you have it: Aburiya Raku is approved by Jonathan Gold and our six year old. Here’s why.  Continue reading

Chengdu Taste III (Los Angeles, December 2017)


I’ve previously written up two meals at Chengdu Taste, the celebrated and absolutely essential Sichuan star of the San Gabriel Valley. Though I call it essential—and it is—it has somehow been two and a half years since our last visit. This is partly because it has been one and a half years since our last visit, and partly because on our last two trips we’ve docked instead at Szechuan Impression—essential in their own right. We were resolute, however, that we would return to Chengdu Taste on this trip. Annd we were there for lunch on Tuesday, less than a day after arrival. They are now a mini-empire—with three locations in the SGV and one in Las Vegas—but the original in Alhambra (which is where we always go) is no less busy for it. We got there just after noon and were given one of two empty tables. When we left at about 1.15 there were a lot of people waiting inside the door. On a Tuesday. For lunch. But the food tells you why: our third lunch was as good as our first (and that was just about a year after they’d opened). There’s been no resting on laurels here.  Continue reading

Mori Sushi (Los Angeles, July 2016)

Mori Sushi
Our first visit to Mori was almost a year ago—it was our very last meal out in 2015 and it was one of the best meals we ate all that year. It was not cheap—the most we’d spent on a sushi-centered meal so far. It was, however, an excellent meal—by far the best sushi we’d ever eaten and we knew we wanted to go back on our next trip in the summer (yes, it has taken me five months to finally finish writing up all our meals from our L.A trip in the summer). We’d planned to go back for lunch and eat slightly cheaper: we’d been told on our last visit that at lunch the omakase ran about $80 and served up 15 pieces of fish; that seemed like the sweet spot between our appetites and our wallets. Alas, right before we got to L.A. Mori stopped serving lunch. I thought briefly about going somewhere else for our anniversary meal but the missus suggested that we just bite the bullet and go back to Mori and just eat one less meal of sushi elsewhere in the trip. And so we did. It was very good again but the experience fell a bit short of our first visit. Continue reading

Ham Ji Park (Los Angeles)

Ham Ji Park: Gamjatang
I have two more London restaurant write-ups yet to come but I also have two restaurant meals from our trip to Los Angeles in July that I’ve planned to get to for a while. Here, therefore, is one of those: a quick lunch at Ham Ji Park on 6th Street in Koreatown.

Ham Ji Park has been around since they opened their first location on Pico in Arlington Heights in the late 1980s early 1990s. This 6th Street location is the second to open. As this one is in Koreatown proper, and much closer to our usual base of operations in L.A, we’ve never actually been to the original and so I can’t really compare the two—I’m told this location is more than a little shinier than the original. I can tell you though that if you eat here you will be happy. Continue reading

Dim Sum at Elite, Again (Los Angeles, July 2016)

Elite: Sticky Rice
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

Luv2Eat Thai Bistro, Take 2 (Los Angeles, July 2016)

Phuket Style Fish Curry Kanomjean
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

Matsumoto/Hirozen (Los Angeles, July 2016)

Hirozen: Tasmanian Ocean Trout
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

Szechuan Impression, Take 2 (Los Angeles, July 2016)

Szechuan Impression: Farm Chicken in Chilli Oil
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 (Los Angeles, July 2016)

porchetta-melt2
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