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When foodie friends say they are trying a place and invite me to join them for dinner, I almost always say “Yes!”. After an afternoon at LACMA, we were literally at the door of Son of a Gun waiting for them to open. Since there were four of us and only three of us love oysters, we settled on half a dozen to start. I could easily have eaten all of them and another dozen (my record is 3 dozen in one sitting). They were the freshest, most well opened ones I’ve eaten since I’ve been back in the US. The grated horseradish and a squeeze of lemon were all I sparingly added to my pair.

We decided to order a variety of dishes so we could taste a bit of everything; first out of the kitchen was the lemonfish poke with black radish escabeche, citrus, and crispy sunchoke for $18. The plates are small, so we each had about one bite. The ingredients were good quality but the flavors underwhelmed.

When we were warned by our server that the lobster roll was small we didn’t expect it to be this tiny for $11. Yes those are potato chips to give you an idea of the size, and once again we each had a bite of the two we ordered. We all enjoyed the buttered brioche more than the seafood dressed in a nondescript bit of lemon aioli that tasted of neither lemon nor garlic.

We tried the hamachi with galbi vinaigrette, radish, and radish sprout for $18 that was like the poke with the use of fresh quality fish but it did not wow any of us with the flavors.

Our favorite dish of the evening was the half pound of chilled peel and eat shrimp for $22 that did not need the side of lime mustard sauce.

We doggedly kept ordering, next was the yellowfin tuna, tortilla, leche de tigre, and avocado for $23. It arrived like this, and yes the size was about 2 tablespoonfuls.

Underneath the drape of tuna was a small mound of avocado mixed with crisp tortilla strips. I wish I could say that it was something other than a poor plating attempt to justify the price tag.

We tried some cooked dishes like the shrimp toast for $13 that was again a very small bite with more toast than shrimp.

We didn’t want to give up, so we ordered the trout almondine on asparagus rice with lemon brown butter and dill for $25. It was the heartiest dish we ordered and like most of the other plates, lacking any zest.

Everything we ordered was prepared with quality ingredients and the prices reflected that, but we were sorely disappointed by some of the very boring flavors and nearly all of the dishes. The blatant overcharging for miniscule amounts of seafood or fish while using bread, toast, or avocado to make the portions seem bigger was so distasteful to me that I will not be returning for anything other than the oysters, which is a sad conclusion to an evening where four of us spent more than $250.

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Los Angeles is more than 10 times more spread out than Paris, so my friends are also 10 times more spread out here than in France 😦

One of my lunches was in Orange County at Panini Cafe, a small chain that has branches throughout Southern California, serving Mediterranean inspired plates, with a few Southern California standards like the tuna melt I ordered. I liked the lack of mayonnaise in the tuna salad, but as you can see from the picture, the cheese was not melted.

My friend and I split the sandwich and this eggplant stuffed with rice and ground beef. It was a very generous portion and redolent with earthy spices that gave it comfort food appeal. In true Californian style, we took half our meal with us in doggie bags, so the mid teen $ prices are a bargain for the fresh flavors and portions.

Another day another lunch, or in this case, brunch in South Pasadena at Mike & Anne’s. We started with a Bloody Mary, that was as potent as the $15 price tag.

For this meal, we both chose the salad Niçoise with seared rare ahi. The ingredients were farm fresh, but we had to asked for extra dressing to make the salad pop.

For the third lunch with yet another friend, we went to Cafe del Rey in Marina Del Rey. We arrived around 2pm when most people had finished lunch and got an unobstructed view of the marina from our booth. Unfortunately we waited for 30 minutes before anyone came by our table. I went to the host stand to ask for a server and they realized at that point that no one had been assigned to serve our table. When our waitress arrived she apologized profusely even though it was not her fault.

My friend chose the poached salmon kale salad and loved the mix of golden raisins, almonds, and chickpeas for $22.

I chose the quiche, made with applewood smoked bacon, spinach, and Gruyère, served with a side of arugula for $15. The quiche was very good, but I found the thick crust a bit underdone in the middle.

To walk off our late lunch, we strolled Abbot Kinney and had macchiatos at Intelligentsia where I added a bit of chocolate to end our day on a sweet note 🙂

Red Herring is the kind of local place that makes everyone wish they lived in the neighborhood. I’ve already become addicted to their brunch so there will surely be more posts about other meals in the near future. Whether you wish to eat indulgently or lightly, they have an option that will delight you. Every bit of fruit in their greek yogurt and fruit granola cup for $8 is juicy, ripe, and tastes as good as it looks.

If you want to indulge in a classic brunch plate of bagels and smoked salmon, they use bagels from their neighbor Belle’s Bagels, and those tomatoes are some of the best ripe heirlooms I’ve had the pleasure of eating in a long time, spinkled with just a few flakes of sea salt.

If you are in the mood for something classic with a twist, the two eggs with hash browns and mushroom confit for $13 elevates diner fare to something beyond anything you will ever find in a chain restaurant.

For those who want a combination of something good and something bad, their Breakfast Caesar for $13 with kale, romaine, bacon, poached egg, and tomatoes allows you to enjoy thick crisp bacon while munching away on kale.

Whether you sit upstairs or on the ground level, the friendly staff, stylish decor, and deft expertise in the kitchen, will make you want to return. I will be back 🙂

My friends live all over the world, so when anyone who lives more than an hour away by car, train, or plane, comes to Los Angeles, I do my best to see them for a meal, a drink, or both 🙂

Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne of AOC are also responsible for one of my favorite restaurants, Tavern, where I have been enjoying meals ever since they opened, and the famous Lucques. I would not hesitate to go eat at any place where these two talented women are at the helm. As I waited for my friend, I had a glass of the sparkling brut rosé for $12 and enjoyed the cool interior air-conditioning on a 90F+ day.

One of the specials that day was a perfectly seared fish served with an addictively crisp skin, arugula, grapes, and fennel. My recommendation for anyone eating at any of their restaurants is to ALWAYS order the fish special because it never disappoints, and always restores my faith in restaurants having the ability to train and retain excellent chefs who know how to treat fresh fish with a light but expert touch.

We also ordered the flaked albacore salad with raw bok choy, mizuna, and lemongrass for $24. We slightly preferred the first dish, but we would have had no hesitation ordering this dish again.

Since my friend had lived in France, our dessert choice was of course a selection of cheeses. Served with walnuts, dried apricots, and of course bread, it was a fitting way to enjoy the end of a meal.

As we segued to our final course, we switched to wine,

and moved to the patio as the sunset 🙂

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