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The time between 2-5pm is usually when when restaurant employees eat or when the lunch shift goes home, but before the dinner shift begins, so finding a good place to eat during these hours can be a challenge.

Thankfully, Cube Cafe is open all day and serves up a varied menu from small bites to full plates until 11:30pm. I met some friends for a 3:30pm meal and was surprised to find the restaurant was half full in the middle of the afternoon! I guess we weren’t the only ones who eat at “odd” times.

Still or sparkling triple filtered water is offered gratis to all tables, and it tasted as clean and fresh as any bottled water. They offer teas, coffees, and wines, and house made limonata and aranciata (lemon and orange sparkling sodas). We were offered a taster plate to start with Nicasio cheese and candied pecans that was an unusual combination of pungent cheese with sweet crunch that worked perfectly together.

I chose the Charred Baby Romaine with olive oil croutons, shaved red cow parmesan, cherry tomatoes, anchovy vinaigrette for $10 that had enough anchovy to make me happy. This was a nice light bite for anyone who wants something green and fresh with some flavor.

I also had the Braised Baby Octopus, served with charred radicchio, cipollini onion marmelata for $8. I loved the accompaniments and the baby octopus was tender, my only note would be that some of the octopus was not as tender as other pieces, but overall the flavors were well balanced.

Kerry ordered the Margherita pizza and was shocked that it was so big (about 18″ x 12″). Made with buffalo mozzarella, basil for $13, this passed Kerry’s pizza taste test (she is a Margherita expert) and she loved the thin crust.

Marian chose the Italian tuna paninni with basil pesto, market tomato, and an argula salad as her included side for $12. She was thrilled with the basil pesto accent to the rich tuna,

Brendan chose the Piedmontese burger for $15 with blue cheese, charred shallots, heirloom tomato, arugula. He is a burger aficionado, so his thumbs up was a good sign. He became addicted to the home made ketchup and was dipping every scrap he could into it (including bits of Kerry’s pizza crust).

Finding a good place that is open all afternoon and late into the night is more difficult than it may seem here in Los Angeles, but finding Cube Cafe proves that there are food treasures if you look for them.

Cube Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Whenever an Italian suggests that I join them at an Italian restaurant, odds are good that I will be happy with my meal. Campagnola makes my kind of happy meal. Service is superbly European, the wine list has good labels, with bottles that are under $65, and the ambiance is both comfortable enough for a casual meal and upscale enough for a date.
The tapenade was a great indication of the great things to come. You see only part of the serving below because I completely forgot to take a photograph before devouring several bites of the wonderful olives in olive oil and red peppers. You can taste the olive oil in a tapenade and it is evident that they have used very good quality oil to compliment the firm bite of the earthy olives.

Whenever I see spinach sauteed with garlic I have to order it and this fresh green version for only $5 was addictive.

Since I missed my steak tartare fix this week, I ordered the beef carpaccio, thinly sliced raw beef topped with arugola, capers, and shaved parmesan in a lemon dressing for $12.25. This was one of the best versions I have ever eaten in my life! Again the quality of the ingredients, in this case the beef, elevated the dish to ethereal heights.

Robin (the Italian) ordered the Pollo alla Scamorza, a sauteed chicken breast topped with spinach oil, garlic, cherry tomatoes and smoked mozzarella cheese served with mashed potatoes and sauteed spinach for $17.95. I tasted the dish so I can report that not only was the chicken tender, juicy, and well seasoned, but even the potatoes were perfectly done with tender centers and crisp exteriors.

I had no room for dessert, but Robin said the Tartufo was only the size of a “lepton” and I tasted the exquisite chocolate and hazelnut ice cream confection, not once, but twice.

If you are in the mood for some Northern Italian food, you can’t go wrong at Campagnola (even if you’re not Italian).

Campagnola on Urbanspoon

The week-end pleasures of a movie and dinner are not easily obtained when in a mall. Aside from places like Westside Tavern, there are very few restaurants in malls where you would chose to go if you were not already there for a movie or a store.

Mika & I went to an afternoon movie, so we wanted something in the late afternoon and did not want to settle for the big corporate chains, so we tried Townhouse Kitchen+Bar in the Sherman Oaks Galleria. This place is especially worthy of a try during their TWO happy hours when drinks and appetizers are $5 (about half off regular menu prices) between 4-6pm weekdays and from 11pm-1am. They have rotating specials, like $3 Blue Moon Beer, and every Tuesday burgers are $5. It’s a place that is comfortable enough to welcome you in jeans yet nicely appointed enough to take a first date.

Service was top notch from the hostess to our waiter Greg and our small plates were so beautifully presented that our eyes feasted before our stomachs did. I had a glass of MacMurray Pinot Noir for $11 which was served in a stemless glass and when I commented to Greg how much I appreciated the way it was served, he said he was glad because some people prefer stemware. For restaurants and drinkers, stemless are much more practical and I don’t see why anyone would complain about a practical choice!

The first appetizer of Tequila Shrimp ($11.99) had a nice mango salsa and spicy bite. The shrimp were not spectacular, a bit undercooked and obviously not seared, but the spices and salsa helped made up for it.

We chose the grilled asparagus side which was charred and lightly salted with coarse grains.

And the beet lollipops covered in pistachios and served with a blue cheese dipping sauce that was so mild even Mika liked it (she hates blue cheese).

The Kurabota pork belly sliders were well seasoned, but a bit dry and they need either more pickles or some sort of spread on the wonderful buns to make them spectacular; we improvised by adding some of the mango salsa from the tequila shrimp which worked well. They were served with thinly sliced buttermilk battered onion rings and ketchup.

Our table looked like a party buffet!

It’s nice to have an alternative in a convenient location which serves good food and offers specials to night owls and day birds alike. Perhaps this Townhouse in the Valley would be a good place to spend next week-end during carmageddon when the 405 shuts down.

Townhouse on Urbanspoon

Tahiti may not be the first place you think of if you are planning a last minute trip, but with Caramageddon fast approaching, planning a trip away from L.A. may be the perfect reward for surviving traffic this week-end.

Air Tahiti Nui is offering limited tickets for only $698 Round Trip from LAX, the sale will end either July 19th or when the last ticket is sold. Travel must start between August 1-18th and you must return by September 8th from Tahiti. Tickets are nonrefundable and you must book through their website using code HOT63 (you may call 877-824-4846 to make a reservation but there will be a $15 surcharge). They have hotels starting at $150 per night, so make August in Tahiti your Los Angeles antidote!

My friend Robin has periodic cravings for Indian food and doesn’t have an eating partner who enjoys dining on this exotic cuisine, so I joined her at Taj Palace. It’s fun to go eat with a regular patron because the owners and servers greet new guests as extended family.

Since Robin knew the menu so well,she suggested that we started with vegetable samosas, stuffed with spiced boiled peas and potatoes for $3.50. They were delightfully crisp on the outside and comfortingly tender and hearty on the inside.

For our entrees we chose the Dal, lentils cooked in garlic and spices for $7.95 (lower left) which became addictive; I kept using my garlic naan to soak up the dish and then refilling my plate.

The vegetable Korma, potatoes and vegetables cooked in a creamy curry sauce with cashews for $8.95 (lower right), was my least favorite of the dishes. It was too sweet for me and the main vegetable was the potato so it was more of a potato in curry sauce than a mixed vegetables dish.

The lamb curry for $9.95 (upper) was my favorite dish of the evening, with a spicy sauce (not overwhelmingly hot) that complimented the tender rich pieces of lamb perfectly. If I was to order only one dish here it would be this one.

We had the Garlic Naan $2.95 and it was as good as it looks. It has plenty of garlic taste and a very nice bite with a contrast of crisp bottom and soft upper.

This wonderful little dish was presented at the end of the meal and when Robin put some of the “confetti” in her mouth I was surprised that it was edible! It was licorice and absolutely delicious!

The service here was superb (and not just because I was with a regular, the other patrons also had smiles on their faces) and the value of what you get here is amazing, so this is a place that should be on your radar if you like Indian food, are on your way to LAX, or simply want to experience great service with good food.

Taj India Palace on Urbanspoon

After my Cosmopolitan adventures in Sin City, I had dinner with some friends who live nearby at Sushi Tower in Summerlin. The big draw here is a specialty roll called the Tommy Lee which is a very suggestive roll built to resemble the infamous rock star’s private parts. Warning: The third picture in this post contains very graphic ADULT Food Porn!

I am always wary of sushi places in strip malls, but always interested when locals go to a place off the beaten path (pun intended) for a specific item.

Along with the usual assortment of sushi and sashimi, they offer teppanaki grills and unusual rolls, so there is something here for everyone. We started with seared albacore topping shaved radishes and sprouts in a “yum yum” sauce; the dish is named the “screaming orgasm”. It was a decent variation of a seared albacore and quite generously portioned.

This is the famous Tommy Lee roll ($17.50), made with tuna slices wrapped around chopped up fried softshell crab, drizzled with a mayonnaise sauce, and adorned with a seaweed garnish. (It was a good 10″ long and 3″ wide for those of you who are wondering about the actual measurements.) As much fun as it was to order and watch people eat, it was tastier than I had imagined. The rich filling made it too much to eat more than a few bites, but this is a nice conversation piece for a party and although some men might not want to take the first bite, everyone will enjoy at least saying they had Tommy Lee.

I wanted to try their regular sushi, so I ordered the Spanish mackerel and it was fabulous, fresh, well cut, and firm.

The next order of a spicy shrimp special with jalapenos & onions, arrived on a huge plate nearly as long as the table. The deep fried shrimp was topped with grilled onions and a few slices of jalapenos, then drizzled with a mayonnaise sauce. This was ok, but I didn’t care for the large onion pieces, nor the mayonnaise dressing on top of the already rich fried shrimp.

This lighter cucumber roll of tuna, yellowtail, crab, salmon & avocado was much more to my taste, with light flavors that were complimentary both to the eyes and palate.

We finished with a Monkey Roll, a combination of BANANAS with tuna. Yes, it sounds absolutely disgusting, and no it was not. The fried banana underneath the tuna gave each bite a crunchy slightly sweet contrast to the savory tuna topping that somehow worked. If you are brave enough to try it, you will probably like it.

So would I go back? Maybe. This is a fun place to go with a group of friends and the food is decent. Would it be my first choice, no, but you could do much worse in many places that are twice as expensive in Las Vegas.

Sushi Tower & Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

For my last meal in the Cosmopolitan, I had lunch at Estiatorio Milos. This was the one restaurant in the hotel run by a chef whose cooking I had never tasted before since both Jaleo’s Jose Andreas and Comme Ca’s David Myers have restaurants in Los Angeles. They offer a three course lunch for $20.11 and although several items can be substituted for an additional fee, the menu is quite extensive.
Although my experience with the service in both Jaleo and Comme Ca were exemplary, I could sense the staff here was not exactly a well oiled machine as soon as I walked in and saw no less than 10 people waiting to be taken to their seats, all of whom had made reservations (as I had also). With a hostess staff of three, it should not have taken more than a few minutes to seat everyone. When I was shown to my seat 15 minutes after my reservation time by one of the hostesses, I was thrilled with my seat by the window overlooking the strip. 
Unfortunately as soon as I sat down my pants were soaked. The misters had soaked the seat and I jumped up as soon as I sat down. The hostess apparently did not realize the extent of my statement “I am soaked” until she saw my pants. After apologizing profusely, she seated me inside the patio but with no view of the strip; I had to ask her for extra napkins for my seat so I could sit down without soaking my new seat. She sent the manager over who offered his apologies and he offered to dry clean my pants, but since I had already checked out, I told him that was not possible with my clothes already packed. He took 15% off my bill as an apology which would have been fine IF they had not changed the seat cushion and then seated ANOTHER party at the table with a view. To have at least offered me the table again first would have been a nice gesture.
Thankfully the food was a star here, and the waitstaff and bus staff were also both extremely competent and gracious, so I would definitely recommend this restaurant, but with a caveat to be aware that the hostess staff is not yet proficient at their jobs.
The thick grilled bread was a nice way to start the meal, served with a dipping bowl of wonderful extra virgin olive oil.

I chose to supplement the $20.11 menu with grilled octopus for $10 and was so glad I did when I took a bite of the succulent tender bits. This may be the best grilled octopus I have ever eaten, including all my meals in Greece. This appetizer portion was HUGE and would have easily been a meal in and of itself, but since this was my first meal, I enjoyed the portion and made room for my entree.

Although I won my gamble yesterday at Comme Ca by ordering my steak tartine rare, I lost when I ordered my lamb chop medium rare; it came well done and I had to send it back after I cut into it. They succeeded on their second try with a juicy, flavorful chop and gorgeous garlic mashed potatoes. The steamed asparagus were perfectly done and I could have eaten another plate if I had not eaten the octopus.

Since the fresh fruit was the lightest dessert option, that was my choice for my third course. All the fruit was fresh, ripe, juicy, and sweet; a perfect ending to what began as an uncomfortably wet adventure.

Estiatorio Milos (Cosmopolitan) on Urbanspoon

Having eaten at Comme Ca in West Hollywood, I wanted to try the Comme Ca in Las Vegas version in the Cosmopolitan since the view here literally gives you a bird’s eye view of the Strip. Especially tempting during lunch when they offer a Prix Fixe three course special for $28.

This was the view from my table on the terrace.

Even though it was about 100 degrees at noon, the patio was comfortable with fans that circulated the air in the completely shaded seating area. Like everything else in the hotel, even the ceilings are works of art.

With a nice glass of rose for $8.75 and a view of the Eiffel Tower, I began my lunch with freshly baked bread wrapped in a “French newspaper”.

Only in Las Vegas could you get news for two years in the future…

I started my meal with a Provence Salad, which would have been a meal in itself, but since this was my first meal of the day, I easily finished the crisp greens with hearts of palm, tomatoes, marinated carrots, radishes, and spring greens. The simple vinaigrette salad added a nice zing. I found a few sprigs of cilantro in the greens and wondered if that was intentional or a mistake, but in either case I did not like the additional ingredient.

I chose the steak tartine for my main course and asked for it rare; in Las Vegas asking for anything done rare is a gamble, but I won this time with a truly rare steak, excellent fries, and an arugula and blue cheese salad. The garlic aioli dip for the fries was excellent, but I didn’t need it, nor the the wonderfully thick cut grilled bread underneath the steak. I was already full before dessert arrived.

Once I saw the beautiful presentation of profiteroles with spun sugar on top I had to at least taste each one; the fillings of vanilla, pistachio, and coconut were all equally rich and creamy, and I was sad that I had no room for more than one bite of each flavor.

My server Sabrina was as stunning as the view, with a sixth sense of knowing when to come by with my next course and a generous smile. The trip here from Los Angeles is only one hour, so come here eat French food with a view of the Eiffel Tower, any time you have an hour or two to spare.

Comme Ça (Cosmopolitan) on Urbanspoon

Since I had the bell desk bring up my bag, I decided to order some room service since I still had five hours before my dinner reservation at Jaleo. The shrimp and crab leg appetizer looked too good to pass up, and it seemed filling enough to get me to dinner time.

The presentation was beautiful and like everything else in the hotel, the service was impeccable.

The Shrimp and crab leg were HUGE and a fair value for the price of $17 (but note that by the time you add the taxes, room service & tip it was $31). The tiny Tabasco bottles were so cute I had to open one and empty it into the cocktail sauce which I also doctored with a few squeezes of lemon juice.

I loved Bazaar in Los Angeles, so my first official meal in the Cosmopolitan had to be at Jaleo, Jose Andreas’ Las Vegas tapas restaurant. The vibrant colors and open areas make this a perfect party setting.

The “outdoor” seating has a game table with “saddle” seats, and the bar has a huge mural.

I sat underneath the giant paper mache bull against the far wall.

The table next to me ordered the croquetas de pollo (chicken) for $6.50, which were delivered in a shoe!

My croquetas of Jamon Serrano for $8, served in mini metal shopping cart, were five hearty bites of ham and cheese, made with one of the best hams in the world.

I wanted some vegetable, so I ordered the Escalivada Catalana, made with roasted red peppers, eggplant and sweet onions with Sherry dressing for $7. It was such an easy way to eat my vegetables that I could have eaten four more plates to fulfill my daily requirement.

Jose Andreas’ sense of humor is apparent in the menu, as the first list of tapas are preceded with “You’re here, so start eating” and a selection of toasted slices of rustic bread rubbed with fresh tomatoes, with assorted topping from Serrano ham to anchovies. I chose the Spanish anchovies for $8.50, which were more perfect on the tomato bread than I could have imagined.

I wasn’t sure I still had any room for one more small plate, so I asked my fantastic server Danielle if the gazpacho was very filling. She said it was only 5 ounces and she thought I could handle it, so who was I to argue?

I was thrilled with the gazpacho which is the classic chilled Spanish soup made with tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, bread and sharpened with Sherry vinegar for $7. It arrived like this:

The server then poured the soup into the bowl, and it looked like this:

The gazpacho was by far the best I have ever eaten, including the ones I ate in Madrid!
 the flavors were fresh, vibrant, and clean.

Too bad it all had to come to an end as my stomach said “Basta”! Next trip I will make sure to come back here with more people so we can order the paella which serves 2-4; who wants to join me?

Jaleo by José Andres (Cosmopolitan) on Urbanspoon

There are THREE pools at the Comopolitan, the biggest and most popular one is the Boulevard Pool which literally faces Las Vegas Boulevard. This pool features house music with a moderate amount of families, so you can choose if this “middle of the road pool” is your style. There are plenty of chairs both in and out of the pool; one very nice feature at this pool and the Bamboo Pool is there are chairs IN THE POOL that allow you to lie or sit in 10″ of water along the perimeter of the pool, and of course you also have the option of renting a cabana. There is also a shaded area with two pool tables, a lounge area, and a cafe adjacent to this pool. If you can stand the 100+ degree heat of the summer, you can also play tennis on the tennis court.

The Bamboo Pool was my favorite place to hang outside. It was quiet, with Brazilian, French & instrumental music, had only one child in the pool, and also offered two refreshing “showers” where you could press a button for a “spritz” inside the pool. There was a small cafe/bar area at this pool, and the outdoor massage areas are adjacent to this pool.

The first day I was outside, the winds were so strong I had trouble holding my magazine open, even though there are high clear glass wind breaker walls. The gusts were so strong they blew my coverup away! I told security and went to my room wrapped in a towel. As I was calling the “Beck & Call” button on my room phone to ask if anyone had found it, the woman said, security had just found my coverup and they were on their way to deliver it to my room! I wish my life had a “Beck & Call” button!

I went upstairs to the Day Club/Nightclub Marquee Pool but literally turned around and came back to the Bamboo Pool as my tolerance for loud thumping techo beats was far below my desire to lounge in the very cool club area.

The lobby columns are all four sided screens which feature changing art, one of the most beautiful was this one of flowers and sea creatures. I saw virtual “bookcases”, black & white scrolls, shadowy figures moving behind screens, and colorful mosaics at different times and on different days.

The showcase of the hotel is the Chandelier Bar. In the center of the hotel, it is three floors high, and you can have a drink INSIDE any of the three levels! There is either a stair or glass elevator to the second level of the chandelier which is floor level 1.5, so do NOT take the escalators or you will go right past it.

I loved the lounge areas inside the second and third floors.

This is one part of the second level.

Another thing I loved about the hotel was the unusual and unique touches everywhere, from a common area outside the restaurants that features a pool table, to automatic dispensers.

There were two small “art” dispensers, but on the third Chandelier level there was also this U-Tique.

Some of the items for sale included, flats, an eye mask, eye lashes, and various adult game kits. You definitely can’t say this hotel is not fun!

There are several bars on the main casino floor, one of which is Bond. You can barely see them in this photo, but there are live dancers in the glass “cages” that face the Boulevard. Although I’m sure they will serve you your martini however you would like it, the name of this bar may be based more on the chains that hang in the sitting area…..

Being a casino, of course they have all the table games and slot machines, but being the Cosmopolitan, their slot machines were a bit different than ones in other casinos. You could literally win “Big” on this machine!

There is artwork from fabulous artists all over the hotel; some of which is hidden in the hallways between conference areas or on different levels as you walk from the elevator to the shops or restaurants. One hallway featured chocolate dipped eye glasses and stilettos.

Along the same hallway were two shoe sculptures that nearly touched the ceiling.

I found some nice puppies to hang out with, but they were too big for me to take home!

My latest Las Vegas food finds in the next four posts!

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