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Seeing photos from friends who were in Santorini made me miss Greek food, so I searched for a place that didn’t require hours of travel (which in Los Angeles could mean going anywhere more than a few blocks away in traffic). Ela Greek Eats was a reasonable distance away and even if there is terrible traffic, you have the option of delivery via Caviar.

This very modest eatery has beautifully simple decor with marble tables, large windows, and a decent amount of parking for a small mini mall at a busy intersection. Many people where getting their orders to go, but I opted to sit and enjoy the hot fresh food there since I snagged one of the primo parking places at lunch time.

When I saw Moussaka for $14 on the menu, it was an automatic choice, and this eggplant, zucchini, and beef classic was redolent in warm spices and savory flavors. Their version was one of the best I’ve eaten outside of Greece, and I highly recommend it, especially if you’ve never tried moussaka before. The portion is very large, so either share it or take your leftovers home for later:)

I’ve never tried chicken exohiko before, for $14, filo is stuffed with celery, mushrooms, chicken, and feta, creating an almost chicken pot pie filling in a crispy wrapping. If you don’t know what to order and don’t like beef or lamb, order this dish! This is a hearty portion, enough for a large appetite or for leftovers to take home.

 

There was a special cod dish for $17 the day I went. It had a light lemon flavor over beautiful slightly mashed potatoes that I would order again if it is offered as a special. I was very impressed by the freshness of the fish and the light handed cooking of this dish in a fast casual place!

Soutzoukakia, or the lamb meatballs with orzo for $14, is a delicious way to enjoy lamb with comfort food flavors.

The side dishes are worth ordering for $5, whether you choose the cauliflower with capers and anchovy (tastes much better than it may sound),

or the fabulous gigantes beans cooked with celery and carrots in a tomato dill sauce.

The baked falafel gyro for $10 with tzatziki, fresh greens, tomatoes, and red onions was just about the perfect Californian version, using farmer’s market fresh ingredients, and classic preparation, and it is a perfect choice for vegetarians.

All the ingredients are marvelously fresh, well prepared, and brightly seasoned without overpowering any dish. Everything is served in compostable containers and they use compostable utensils and cups, so if you can’t finish a meal, you simply take it home in the same container (with a lid).

The portions are large and the prices are very reasonable, so eat in or order in some Greek food from Ela unless your yearning to make the 30 hour flight to Greece is stronger than your desire to drive in Los Angeles traffic 🙂

Thanks to Yelp for the Elite invitation to try one of the poke bowls at Ali’i Fish Co in El Segundo gratis. Once I went in and tasted their poke, I went back with friends to taste some of their other choices. Their blackboard shows the extensive choices you have whether you stick to Hawaiian classics or want something a bit more Californian. If you prefer chicken to fish, they have options for that as well, and they have vegan options using tofu, so you may eat here with your non pescatarian friends.

 

They will give you samples if you are undecided about which poke flavor you want, but for me the classic onion lomi was an easy choice. I added seaweed for an extra $1, and was pleased with the flavors and freshness.

A non poke lover ordered the Huli Chicken for $11 that came with a choice of brown or white rice, as well as a salad. The char on the chicken was perfect, and it was so flavorful and moist that I stole a few bites.

For a return trip I ordered the blackened ahi salad for $15 that came with sides of soy and ponzu, but the fish was great with just a squeeze of lemon, and was such a large portion that I could have easily saved half for another meal, but I ate the whole thing 🙂

Whether you opt for the patio or inside, the service is friendly, the food is fresh and well prepared, and the prices are reasonable, so if you are passing by on your way to or from LAX, this is a great place to grab non airport food. They have a tiny lot that gets filled quickly, so park in the large lot across the street or on the street if you are going during popular meal times; for a new spot they are already on the local radar.

Some places have wonderful views and terrible food, some places have wonderful food and no view. There is a story told of a few places have that unique combination of both wonderful views and wonderful food. Like a unicorn, the existence of the ultimate view and food combination is a mythical fairy tale that I wish to believe is true, so I keep looking for it…

Elephante was rumored to be one of those places. So on one of the many sunny warm Sundays in Southern California, I went with my neighbors, two of whom had been there before and told me that they enjoyed it.

We were one of the few tables with a child, and because we had reservations, we got one of the premiere view tables on the patio overlooking the Pacific. The vibe on a Sunday early afternoon was definitely a see and be seen. Younger crowd (at my age that translates to 20-30’s) all dressed and groomed to the hilt, and everyone had roving eyes to see who had just arrived and who was to be the center of attention. It was a telling sign of the clientele that the private elevator to the top had a security guard who had just kicked out a young woman with a fake ID because he said she had the same name and birthday as the ID of another woman in her group! Ahhh to be that eager to be part of the “in crowd” and to be that careless in trying to pass off a fake ID!

Our view was spectacular!

One of our group is vegetarian, so our choices veered towards the meatless. The brussel sprouts with a mountain of pecorino for $13 was a fresh but not perky salad. The dressing was lemon and white balsamic, but we could taste neither.

 

The fried calamari for $14 with balsamic aioli was perfectly fried and tender, and we appreciated that the tentacles were included in the serving.

The whipped eggplant for $12 had a pleasant smooth texture, but gave none of us any desire to order it again aside from the warm soft puff of bread that came with it to be torn apart for dipping.

 

The mushroom wood-fired pizzas for $20 each were decent with a nice assortment of cremini, maitake, and oyster mushrooms, lemon cream and parmigiano reggiano were decent but not noteworthy.

This is a good choice for a few bites but do not expect the be awed;

that is why there is a view 🙂

Many people have tried Chinese Hot Pot, but it’s usually a communal pot where everyone dips whatever they wish into the common broth and then everyone personalizes their dipping sauces to their taste. Hai Di Lao gives everyone an opportunity to choose their own personal broth in heated stations at the table, ranging from mushroom, to miso spicy, to spicy. There are many ways to customize each soup base ranging from level of spice to kind of spice, and in some cases adding double umami to the mushroom base.

Their location in Arcadia is in the Santa Anita Mall and has lines on par with Din Tai Fung, so either go very early or very late. The ordering system is nearly completely automated, so you will be ordering from an iPad (with pictures) at the table, as servers bring you any drinks, extras, or perform the special custom noodle dance for you! There are aprons/bibs for everyone and they are meant to be so soft and cute that you will want to buy one…like hotel robes that are extra fluffy 🙂 They sell several of their items both online and in the restaurant, so if you want to try making your own at home you can.

This is a high end, high quality ingredient place, so expect to pay around $50 per person. The value is good for the choices, which range from wild Mexican Shrimp to kurobuta pork on the protein side, to yam noodles and assorted exotic mushrooms.

My choice of spicy soup base (I chose MEDIUM) was so spicy I had to have it changed out the mushroom. The smart waiter saw me suffering and said, “This is your first time here?” I learned after the fact that most people never order this hot pot base and only a few use it as an extra soup base. Even after rinsing off my meat in the mushroom base later, I was still tearing up from the spice 😦

One of my friends ordered the miso spicy soup which was what I would do if I wanted spice. It was hot enough for a spie lover, but still edible.

The meat was incredible! The quality was evident in every bite; we got both the pork and New Zealand Lamb

This is the full spread for 3 of us, including from the top, the assorted vegetables, egg noodles, rice cakes, New Zealand lamb, exotic mushroom assortment, Mexican Wild Shrimp, and the kurobuta pork in the center.

We also had 2 glasses of decent wine, a non alcoholic drink, and we gorged on the sauce and dessert bar, which featured everything from macaroni salad and rambutan fruit, to mini fried sesame balls.

It was a very fun evening out, with a noodle man pulling acrobatic noodles for nearby tables (you may order him for your table), then a dragon parade and magician giving the restaurant a festive show for young and old alike. For a celebration, this is a fun place with high quality food and presentations than most hot pot places. I would not come here alone or for a quiet meal, but definitely will be back with a group for more fun and food (and we will order the noodle man)!

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