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Grand Central Market has evolved into a food mecca, with far too many great options to try all in one day, but a friend and I tried to eat our way through the market anyway 🙂

We started off at Belcampo with their $14 lamb burger, made with garam masala aioli, tamarind chutney, mint, cilantro, and red onion on a wonderfully soft bun. I love that all their meats are grass fed and that they have complete control of every aspect of their operation from raising the animals to processing and butchering them. Yes, the prices here are higher than your local chain grocery store, but I prefer to buy less from places with practices I want to promote, than feed the corporate machinery.

We split the medium rare burger and loved the textures and flavors. If we had not planned to try other places in the market, we would have eaten one of these each!

We also shared a plate of the sweet potato fries, seasoned with celery salt, and they were so crisp, salty, and sweet that we fought over the last fries!

Ramen Hood was our next course. It was the only vegan ramen I’ve ever tried, with sunflower seed broth, king oyster mushroom, bean sprouts, scallions, and chili threads, we added a vegan egg for $2 more making the total bowl $12. It was much better than we imagined, with full flavors and the “egg” not only looked like an egg, but the texture was very close to one. A satisfying bowl, but next time I think I would try the spicy version that I saw my neighbors eating at the counter simply because I think some added heat might enhance the flavors even more.

We were pretty full but wanted to try a small bite at Madcapra, made with locally sourced organic ingredients, so we got just the green falafels for $3.50. They were dry and bland on their own, but once we added the dipping sauces, they were good.

Sticky Rice serves organic locally sourced Thai comfort food, like this rice noodle plate with beef that was so big I had to take half of it home! The assortment of condiments was a very nice way to add heat and zing to any dish on their menu.

We ended our eating spree with a walk to the now closed Fabrique for some lattes; I chose the lavender, which was smooth and creamy

and my friend had the rainbow latte, a beautiful ending to a great day of food:)

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Like many people who never see things that are famous in the place where they live, until this year, I had never seen the Rose Parade live, nor gone to the Bradbury building. The first floor is open to the public, so next time you go the Grand Central market, walk across the street and take a look 🙂

The elevators still work!

 

 Even on a cloudy day, the skylights brighten up the center courtyard.

 

So many places to eat in Grand Central Market, so I stopped by La Tostadaria for a light and filling snack; they only take cash unless you buy more than $10 worth of food, so my octopus tostada just put me over the barrier.

As octopus tostadas go, this was the best I’ve ever eaten, with tender marinated octopus and fresh crunchy vegetables on top of a beautifully fresh tortilla. It was marked with two peppers indicating it was spicy, and halfway through eating I started blowing my nose and thanking my stars that I did not add any more of the habernero sauce that was available at the counter! I would gladly order this again, but with a cool fire dousing drink to go along with it….I must remember that here in LA a warning for spicy means business!

Little Sister in DTLA is across from Bottega Louie on 7th Street, but unless you are looking for it, you will miss the discreet signage and miss the mouthwatering flavors hidden inside this small space. My mouth has been dancing in joy ever since I found this place and I look forward to every meal there just as I look forward to every trip 🙂

I asked my server her favorite dish and I ordered it; grilled prawns, cabbage mix, mango, cucumber, onion, cashews in a lemongrass cilantro dressing. It’s a much bigger serving that it seems and it could easily have been my lunch with the complex and layered flavors and textures.

The pork, shrimp, and crab dumplings with a spicy black vinegar dressing, chive, spinach, and peanuts was so  tender and savory especially with the extra sauce on the side that I didn’t want to share any with my dining companions.

 The sauce could be a  savory cocktail 🙂

The rice paper pho banh cuon beef and beef tendon, herbs, lettuce, pickled onion was a melody of textures and flavors that combined like an accomplished band, bringing in elements of silky rice paper, with sweet spice and chewy tendon.

My least favorite was the spicy lemongrass chicken with garlic and dried chilies which had depth but not to my taste for the combination of spices.

Very little on the menu is over $15 and they have sandwiches, rice and noodle dishes, as well as congee for those who want more starch. It will take awhile to eat my way through their menu, but it’s a challenge I would like to accept!

Los Angeles has so many food options, it would take several lifetimes to cover all the choices, changes, and cuisines, but it’s fun trying 🙂 Today’s post is on some places where I only ate one meal, but I will be returning to all three.

King’s Gastro Pub is in an alley behind Old Town in Pasadena. I walked by one day and made a mental note to come by because it has a casual dog friendly patio, live music some nights, and once a month they do a pig roast! I’m not a beer connoisseur, but if you are, they have 24 on tap, as well as a full bar, so this place should be on your radar. I came for brunch one warm Winter day; it was around 78 F in January and people were in shorts and sandals! The patio filled up quickly as we got one of the last tables for our brunch. This is a family friendly place during the day because not only were dogs on the patio, but also lots of kids, and they even have high chairs!

We decided to share an order of fish and chips. The fish was a marvelous beer battered cod and so crisp and tasty we didn’t need any sauce other than a squeeze of the lemons. The fries were addictive and we ate every single one.

We shared a very brightly Californian salad of goat cheese, carrots, spring greens, walnuts, and red onions (covered by very greasy but fresh naan which we didn’t enjoy that much). This salad could have easily been a light meal by itself. Both the fish and chips and salad were under $15 each and well worth it.

Redbird is in Vibiana, the first city’s first Catholic Cathedral, now a full service event venue. The chef/owner, Neal Fraser, has always been one of my favorites since his days at Grace (which was one of my favorite restaurants until it closed in 2010). The DineLA $25 menu was a great excuse to experience what he’s been working on lately in a stately location.

I chose the starter of chicken pot pie with hearts, thigh, thyme, hen of the woods mushrooms. It arrived in a tiny saucepan that was both functional (oven to table in one receptacle) and fun.

Underneath the flaky top was a rich filling of complex and rich root vegetables with chicken pieces that was so rich it could have been a meal in and of itself. The filling was a bit salty, so you will want to dip the top into it.

The gorgeous Wyoming Golden Trout, with sultanas, oregon hazelnuts, quinoa, spinach and brown butter was an enormous, perfectly done filet, with crispy skin, tender flesh, and interesting sides. I loved the contrasting textures of the crunchy hazelnuts, the grainy quinoa, and the soft spinach. I have no idea how I managed to eat this entire serving after the chicken pot pie, but it was so good, I couldn’t stop. I just took my time and small bites 🙂

The last stop on today’s blog post is at Blue Plate Oysterette in Santa Monica.  Taking advantage of DineLA once again, I went for a $25 lunch. When I took a bite of the Ahi tuna tartare with lemon and olive oil on a herb pistou crostini, I smiled in delight. The  crunchy toast and the herb pistou added depth of flavor to the fresh fish with a brilliant twist on the ubiquitous appetizer.

Their famous lobster roll, offered dressed or undressed (I chose naked) on either brioche or butter lettuce (so it can be gluten-free for those who care), served with a large side of fries. The lobster was moist, warm, and already had plenty of butter, so the melted butter on the side was completely unnecessary. What can you add to lobster to make it any better? Nothing 🙂

My go to method of getting to DTLA is via Metro, especially during peak traffic hours and any day it rains in Los Angeles. Another perk of traveling by train is that I don’t have to think about whether I can drink since I don’t have to drive, so as I was waiting for a friend at Water Grill, I had a nice and spicy Bloody Mary. At $15 it was both strong and tasty enough to merit the price.

The lunch crowd was a bit sparse since it was chilly and rainy, but it did fill up a bit more as it got later.

The light fixtures at the bar carried the nautical theme with a fishing rod base.

When my friend arrived, we decided to split an appetizer as well as have the DineLA $25 menu, which included an appetizer and entrée. The Wild Tahitian Big Eye Tuna crudo with red beet jam, horseradish cream, mizuna, red beet chips and olive oil $15 which we shared had perfect tuna, but neither of us liked the horseradish cream which had neither bite nor flavor, but we did enjoy the beet chips for the contrasting texture.

We both chose the New England Clam Chowder with manila clams and Applewood smoked bacon as our appetizer. It was not the thick creamy chowder we were expecting and had a tart component which neither of us appreciated, but we enjoyed the soup enough to eat most of our very copious servings.

We loved all three kinds of freshly baked bread with butter and without. My favorite was the maldon salt, but the cheese and olive breads were great too.

We ordered the wild spanish grilled octopus $19 with tomato, feta and nicoise olives and when we tried to cut it it was so tough we each took one bite and sent it back. It’s difficult to ship any food overseas and maintain its integrity, and octopus is also fragile in that it is perishable. They saw how charred it was and when we said it was too tough to cut with our knives, they immediately offered to redo or replace our order. We decided to go with the crudo to completely avoid any risk of overcooking.

My friend chose the Wild Costa Rican Mahi Mahi caponata with Sherry gastrique and maldon salt and enjoyed it although the thinner parts of the filet were slightly overcooked; it’s a fine line between under and over cooking any piece of fish which is cut unevenly. Since we both cook, we know the challenge well and found it was still a nicely done piece of fish.

I ordered the salad nicoise with wild Australian Albacore with white anchovy and haricot verts and found this deconstructed presentation as unusual as the choice to serve the Albacore over beans. The ingredients were all good, but I had to add seasoning to my plate to perk it up a bit.

The atmosphere and service were impeccable; this is a perfect setting for a business meeting or if you want a good drink at a stylish bar. Portions are large, and the fish is very fresh, so if you stick to the oysters or raw/rare choices you can’t go wrong.

In the heart of downtown Los Angeles there is a hidden peaceful oasis; the Kyoto Garden in the DoubleTree Hotel in Little Tokyo is a tranquil, green, and gorgeous place to take a stroll and a deep breath. Enjoy the pictures, and if you are anywhere nearby, go enjoy the experience in person 🙂

Los Angeles may be the City of Angels, but traffic is a nightmare; the freeways are constantly clogged in every direction, for every possible reason, ranging from rain to a game. Using the Metro as often as possible is my way of lessening both my carbon footprint and preserving my sanity.  I’ve used the Metro nearly every time I’ve gone downtown and it’s been the most efficient and least stressful method (and no I’m not being paid by them in any way to say this)!

The Miyako Inn is only one block from the Little Tokyo metro stop and in the heart of Little Tokyo. I had of course come to visit this neighborhood and have eaten here before, but it’s a much better experience to stay overnight rather than drive 30-60 minutes (depending on traffic) to get home. To top off the treat of not needing my car, the room was a gift from a friend who left town in the afternoon and asked if I wanted it for the night. YES!

Because of its location in Little Tokyo, the room is done in a very zen style, with clean lines and neutral tones. If I had chosen to drive instead of take the metro, the parking rates were extremely reasonable for downtown, at only $30 for guests with unlimited in and out access. Free Wifi was also included in the entire hotel to guests and visitors alike.

The bed was super comfortable with the most heavenly pillows and one of the most remarkable features of the room was that the windows OPENED! There was a mini fridge, a safe, slippers, and a coffee / tea maker all included in the room along with an ironing board and iron. As an impressive touch they even had organic green tea as one of the in room complimentary choices. Water was a reasonable (for a hotel) $2 a bottle.

 The toilet was a fun Japanese one

 with bidet controls for temperature, water pressure, and direction 🙂

 I found these inside the nightstand top drawer!

 This view lit up at night,

 but the brightest light was the full moon.

I love Seoul Sausage Company‘s brick and mortar location near Sawtelle, and I found that they have a location in Little Tokyo, so I headed out for happy hour and their famous KFC: Korean Fried Chicken. Crisp, sweet, and slightly spicy with bits of pickled radish, this is great bar food, or you can get a full order of 6 for a meal. If I lived in the area I would probably come by here every night for a bite and a drink 🙂

Being in Little Tokyo meant ramen places were just across the street from the hotel. Daikokuya usually has lines out the door, but since I could the literally see the place from my window, I just peeked out until the line was shorter 🙂 I got the miso ramen, and although the noodles were great and the broth was flavorful, it did not have the complexity of the broth at Tsujita.

I couldn’t leave without sushi, so the next day I went to the famous Sushi Gen 30 minutes before they opened and waited in the line that was already a block long. It looked like every table ordered the sashimi deluxe lunch, but it was a massive plate of food and there was no way I could have eaten it all, so I opted for the chirashi which came with miso soup.

This bowl of chirashi was the freshest and biggest I’ve ever enjoyed. It may look like a regular bowl, but underneath the fish you see is ANOTHER layer and the bits that look like bites are actually much larger  than they seem. I would gladly wait an hour or more for this and many people did. Those who arrived when they opened and after noon may not have been able to get seated before they closed between lunch and dinner service. They are famous for a reason; I’ve never paid such a reasonable price (under $20) for such high quality sashimi anywhere in the world.

When chef Molly asked me if I wanted to meet her at a Korean BBQ place, the only correct answer was “Yes”! Manna may be located in in Little Tokyo, but it is quintessentially Korean BBQ with the American twist of all you can eat for $25. Aside from Brazilian Churrascarias, I don’t frequent “unlimited food” places, mostly because the food is usually not anything I would eat even small quantities of, much less eat enough to warrant a limitless supply.

Manna offers Angus and KOBE beef and KOBE pork selections for $25, along with all the side dishes, a hot and cold buffet, and a relatively smoke free space (smoke from the grills not from tobacco). For $18 you can get a smaller selection of meats without the Kobe choices. Aside from the SIX birthdays loudly announced over the loudspeaker throughout our meal, it was a very pleasant experience. If you go alone, they do have a set menu, but it is much more fun to share with a group of friends. If you can round up just one other person, the unlimited deal prevails (if you prefer shabu shabu they offer that as an unlimited option also but it was 90 degrees at night and definitely BBQ weather).

They have validated free parking (park on the 4th floor to cross the footbridge) and they also have waitstaff (conveniently summoned with buzzers on the table) who will bring you kimchee, steamed rice, and whatever meats you wish. I ate about three plates of the kimchee by myself! All the other accompaniments are at a self service hot & cold buffet.

Some of the other small plates:

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Salad was also brought to the table in a large bowl and had a light dressing.

Condiments are all on the table, and Chef Molly made me a great sesame oil and seasoned salt dip.

This is a steamed egg bowl that you can order (no extra cost).

The self service buffet tables were full of classic choices.

If you wanted “sushi” or rice noodles, they were available at the buffet bar as well.

For starch there was fried rice and potatoes, as well as the rice paper wrappers and rice bowls that are served with your orders.

Fried tempura looked the least appetizing of all the food at the buffet.

We got about six orders of marinated kalbi beef and two of marinated chicken (they will replace the grills and replenish the meat as many times as you wish).

Pork belly can be grilled to crisp bacon.

The marinated Kalbi was definitely my favorite, but the beef tongue was good too (with some seasoned salt). It amazed me that I kept up with Molly in the amount of food eaten (she weighs a little more than I do, but is at least 8 inches taller)! I know most people would love to have the problem of putting ON weight, but she literally loses weight overnight, even eating like this nonstop!

All told I think we ordered a total of 12 meat orders for 6 people with multiple trips to the banchan buffet bar for sides, so I can’t think of a better place to take meat loving friends for value; even with three huge beers for the table, our bill including tax and tip was $33 per person. My chef friends always know the best places to eat and Molly’s suggestion of Manna was no exception!

Manna Korean BBQ on Urbanspoon

Sometimes it takes Dine LA to get me to finally go try a place my friends have been raving about for years. Nearly every food lover I know in Los Angeles has been trying to get me to Lazy Ox Canteen and I am very happy to report that not only did I finally go, but I loved it 🙂 It’s always nice when expectations of good things are met by good things!

Dine LA has a special $20 three course lunch here that is well worth the sojourn to Little Tokyo downtown. Since my chosen entree alone would have been $20 on the regular menu, I opted for the special even though I am not a big dessert eater, I figured my friend could eat my dessert along with hers (she did).

It was a challenge to decide which of the starters to order, so we each got one of the vegetables so we could taste both. She ordered the roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon, apple and lemon. After one taste, she said “This is how my Mom used to make it”! It had a wonderful smoky roasted bacon flavor without being greasy and will surely convert non Brussels sprouts lovers (especially those who love bacon).

I ordered the bowl of greens with Tuscan kale, spinach and baby broccoli. The oyster mushrooms and preserved lemon in the dish added a depth of flavor and varying texture that made this dish remarkable. I will definitely reorder this dish the next time I come here.

After asking our waitress whether she preferred the fried chicken or the pulled short rib sandwich, my friend went with the recommendation of the pulled short rib. It was her favorite short rib sandwich of all time. With a hint of all spice in the meat, tomato confit, and a side of Keenebec fries, this was a meltingly tender and richly flavored plate of comfort food for a cold day (even though it was 79 F today in Los Angeles, my friend still enjoyed every bite:)

I ordered the Artic Char with garlic chips, buerre blanc, rapini and a fingerling potato. The fish was done very well, i.e., not over nor under cooked, but it wasn’t spectacular like the fish I recently had at Church & State. The rich sauce was just a bit too heavy without adding enough ommph to the fish, though I loved the garlic chips and the rapini.

The butterscotch pudding with peanut butter cookie was light enough for those who want a creamy dessert but don’t have the room for a heavy sweet at the end of a meal. I tasted both the pudding & the cookie and if I were chose a dessert, I would choose this one.

The rice pudding with caramel and pinenut crumb was much more filling and much richer in texture and taste. If you are a fan of rice pudding or want something denser at the end of your repast, this would be the dessert for you.

Considering the plethora of places I have yet to try in Los Angeles (not to mention the world:), I’m glad to have checked out the Lazy Ox and found my expectations for inventive well executed food met with expertise. The Lazy Ox may be a bit out of the way, but once you taste their food, you won’t be lazy about coming to eat here.

Lazy Ox Canteen on Urbanspoon

Baco Mercat is located on Skid Row. Literally. The Office for Skid Row housing is one block away. If I haven’t scared you with this information on their location, you are willing to brave downtown traffic, and you are willing to pay for parking, then put this place in your GPS.

As everyone who knows me or reads this blog already knows, I love great bread. I will go miles out of my way to buy it and eat it. Bäco was originally a sandwich made with crispy pork belly and beef carnitas, and is the name of the bread they make and serve here. The bread was so popular that it became the basis for this place which specializes in sandwiches made with it and a crispy variation called Coca which serves as a kind of flatbread for toppings.

I wanted more than simply a sandwich so I ordered the caramelized cauliflower with garlic, tomatoes, sour cream, and green onions for $8. Although I’m not a cauliflower lover, I liked this vegetable side so much I took what I could not finish home with me!

I had the pescado Bäco with crispy shrimp, sirancha, and cole slaw for $11. Although the picture may make it look a bit too creamy, it was not. It was a perfectly dressed, slightly spicy slaw, with two large lightly breaded butterflied shrimp, all encased in the famous bäco bread. I could easily eat this once a week!

I had to come back for the beef tongue schnitzel bäco, with harissa, smoked aioli, and home made pickles for $10 because they had sold out of it by 1pm. Selling out of a tongue schnitzel sandwich is a great sign! I came back the same week around noon to be sure it would still be available and I was thrilled with my choice.

The hearty portion was succulent, tender (a sign of properly prepared tongue), and the accompanying pickles, arugula, aioli, and harissa made this unusual combination a standout. Just as I will travel for food, I will get down here by noon to get this bäco!

The picadillo coca at the next table looked so good that my friend ordered it. With house ground beef, tomatillo, cheddar, and crème fraiche on a crispy version of the bäco, she was so impressed, she also ordered the chocolate root beer (made in house) our neighboring table was drinking, and she loved the chocolate root beer so much she took a case home!

Our neighboring table ordered the banana semifreddo with mixed nut brittle and caramel ($8), so of course in keeping with the neighboring table’s menu choices, my dessert eating friend ordered the same thing and was so happy with it, she finished every last spoonful. She declared it the best dessert she’s had in ages, which is a huge compliment from a former pastry chef for Michel Richard!

If you are willing to brave all the elements of downtown Los Angeles, you will be generously rewarded at Bäco Mercat.
Bäco Mercat on Urbanspoon

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