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Going to a show at the Pantages, there is always the question of where to eat either before or after the show. Wood & Vine is my favorite pre-show stop for several reasons: it is literally across the street, so even if you are wearing heels, it’s a very easy walk; they are used to patrons eating before the curtain rises so they will tell you if you don’t have time to eat, or what can be ordered and ingested without worry about missing the show; the food is fresh, skillfully prepared, and actually has flair which gives me great joy in discovering; there is a very nice outdoor patio in the back that allows you to dine al fresco; they have a decent wine selection with bottles from around the globe; their prices are reasonable considering the quality ingredients and location in the heart of Hollywood; they add a 20% service charge to the check so that the back of the house (the people who actually prepare your food) get to participate in the American tipping system.

The classic Caesar for $10 has nicely charred romaine and lots of real parmesan.

Pasta and faux meat balls was done well enough that my eating companion didn’t even realize there was no meat on the plate!

Asian chicken salad for $12 was a refreshing take on the well known dish, using very good vegetables and a nice tangy dressing.

The jambalaya was probably my favorite dish here. For $24, it is loaded with andouille sausage, shrimp, mussels, chicken, peppers, and orzo. The flavor has lots of kick but isn’t fiery hot, just very full of umami.

For those with a sweet tooth, the banana cream caramel for $12 will satisfy you 🙂

Empanadas are the hot pockets of Latin America, and their origin seems to be rooted in Galicia, but there are many similar foods food worldwide, including the samosa, piroski, and the pasty.

Hand held street food can be a meal on the run, nostalgic, comforting, and nourishing, depending on what you are eating and where you are eating it, so no matter which version you consider the best, the basics of using fresh ingredients handled with care, and made with skill, still result in the pleasure of eating well:) I’ve not yet had the pleasure of eating empanadas outside of Los Angeles, so this blog post is written solely from the point of a foreigner eating a foreign food.

My taste buds smiled as soon as I smelled the chicken empanadas I ordered to go from Kachi Deli Cafe. They offer a wide variety of typical lunch dishes, ranging from salads to sandwiches and smoothies, but I wanted something easy to transport and eat on the road driving away from DTLA. At only $2.50 each, I was impressed by both the size and flavor of the flaky pastry and the plump and very savory filling. It did not need the side sauce at all, and I devoured one before I remembered to take a picture of the other one:)

 

After eating the empanada from kachi, I wanted another one closer to home, so I went to Empanada Place. I had eaten their years ago at a party and remembered them as impressive pockets of flavor. They are still impressive, both for the variety offered, and the skills with which they are made. They cost a bit more than Kachi, at around $4 each but every flavor is delicious, and they have options for vegetarians as well as meat eaters.

 

 

You can’t go wrong with either place if you would like to get a preview taste of empanadas before traveling to Argentina for one 🙂

Finding places that serve fresh properly prepared fish is like catching a prize; the light touch required to preserve the best flavors and textures must match with seasonings that compliment without overpowering the freshness of the fish. Thankfully there are a few places around Los Angeles that do a good job.

Today’s post focuses on three, Sonny’s Bistro in San Pedro, Coni Seafood in Mar Vista, and Smitty’s Fish in Culver City.

Sonny’s Bistro offers an incredible crunchy ahi salad for lunch for $14 using organic greens and topped with a generous serving of seared Ahi.

One of my favorite fish is sand dabs, and they have them on their dinner menu for $24 with vegetables done in the old school style of capers and butter sauce.

Old school fish place Smitty’s Fish and Chicken fries everything. All you have to do is choose what fish you prefer and if you want french fries, greens, and if you want to use one of the bottles of hot sauce on your meal. I chose the red snapper which came with tartar sauce (which I did not use), and

my friend got the mix of fried shrimp and fish, also served with tartar sauce and some more greens. Thankfully they did not overcook with the fry, but I found everything under seasoned. You get a good meal for under $20 in a fast food clean brightly lit atmosphere and brusque service if you can eat in, but if you live close by, I would recommend you take it home to enjoy in a more relaxed setting, perhaps with a nice glass of wine.

I’ve driven by Coni Seafood more times than I can count, but I’d never stopped by for their food until recently. Their service is fantastic, and their portions are so copious, I suggest you bring friends or be prepared to take some food home. Their ceviche may be ordered with raw or cooked seafood, so up to you how your prefer it. Their ceviche marinero has the addition of mango to the usual cucumber, tomato and onion. The serving is easily enough for four to share as an appetizer or 2 to share as a meal, so order accordingly!

The smoked marlin tacos can be a hearty meal for one or an appetizer for three. If you have never eaten marlin before (I had not) this is a very hearty smoked fish, like smoked trout or smoked tuna. As you can see their tortillas are grilled flour and absolutely fresh!

If you only order one thing here, order the snook. It takes 30 minutes, and usually weighs around 2 lbs, so plenty to share or take home. It is insanely delicious with just a few bones, so be careful when eating it! It’s served with some very salty caramelized onions, fresh flour tortillas, and fresh cucumbers.

It’s the priciest thing on the menu at around $35, but as you can see, it is great value and flavor for the price, so don’t hesitate to go for it! For those who have never eaten snook, do not try to eat the skin of the fish, just scoop out the flesh and you can make your own fabulous fish tacos with the tortillas.

It’s great to have several good options for fish besides the ubiquitous farmed salmon as the only fish option on so many menus!

I’ve never been to Indonesia, so Simpang Asia in Los Angeles was my journey  there by palate rather than by plane.

Fried calamari for $10.50 are an easy choice for a starter, especially for a group who has never ventured into Indonesian cuisine. Nicely fried and not greasy, it was a good way to start the journey abroad.

Uduk Jakarta for $14.95 is Indonesian version fried chicken with crispy tofu, coconut rice, Simpang Sambal, and vegetables (that is raw cabbage in the picture). There was a crispy sprinkling of fried garlic and an addictive crunchy topping on the fried chicken that made it addictive.

When this dish arrived, we had to ask our waiter what it was…it is the dumplings we ordered! Cut up and smothered in a sauce atop cut up cabbage, this was not at all what we anticipated. It was my least favorite dish of the evening; a bit bland and soft, with nothing that made my taste buds say, “Hmmm”.

Rice noodles are always a favorite, and if you are already familiar with Thai or Chinese dishes that use rice noodles, try the Indonesian version Kwetiaw Goreng for $11.95 with bean sprouts, Chinese greens and egg. The flavors are similar but vary just enough to let you know it is neither Thai nor Chinese, just simply delicious.

Nasi Bungkus is sampler of many flavors wrapped up in a gift wrap of a banana leaf. For $15.50, you get chicken curry, coconut beef steak, sambal egg, vegetable curry and rice wrapped in a banana leaf. It’s easily enough for 2 people and the fragrant aromas when you unwrap your gift will be a present in and of itself!

Salted fish fried rice $12.50 was the surprise hit of the evening! I wanted it but thought that no one else at the table would be interested, so I was hesitant to even suggest it. Of course my food loving friends said, “Let’s get it!” and everyone loved it so much we nearly ordered a second order! It had just enough of the comforting salty flavor in the rice that it was not overbearing, so it was a perfect compliment to the the more fragrant dishes on the menu.

They offer delivery, so if you are not coming in with a large group to share many dishes as I did, you can do the sharing at home (or not). The service is very efficient and friendly, and although the place is in a mini mall at a very busy corner intersection, they do offer valet parking. Simpang definitely whet my appetite for more Indonesian cuisine.

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