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I spent last week at COLCOA (City of Lights, City of Angels), otherwise known as the French Film Festival in Los Angeles held at the Director’s Guild in Hollywood. I go almost every year as my version of a staycation, combining the fun of seeing foreign films debuting in the US with Question & Answer dialogues with the directors, writers, and actors. Of the six films I saw, my two favorites were “Haute Cuisine” (Saveurs du Palais) and “What’s in A Name” (Le Prénom). Best of all it’s only a 10 mile drive away and I always try new places to eat when I go.

This year I found The Pikey. It was so good that throughout the week of the film festival, I went back four times! The word “Pikey” is slang for “traveler” as in the kind who are known for taking advantage of people, but in the case of this place, I would gladly volunteer to be used as a gastronomic guinea pig.

Although it looks like an English pub from the outside, the food they serve here definitely has its roots in Los Angeles. Their ingredients are all locally or organically sourced, and all their meat is free range and cruelty free. The interior has a restaurant side and a bar side, but on most days the patio is a perfect spot to sit with the sunbrellas and heat lamps.

Not wishing to compete with 700 people at COLCOA for the free continental breakfast, I parked and walked the four blocks to the Pikey from the DGA building and had brunch. Their Bloody Mary for $8 is made with Vegemite! Yes, you read that correctly, Vegemite! Yes, those are pickled green beans as garnish. Yes, it was delicious!

I needed something more substantial than a $4 Crumpet with honeycomb and clotted cream for my movie marathon, so I ordered the cured Arctic Char with scrambled eggs in Hollandaise and biscuit for $14. This was probably the best brunch plate I have ever eaten.

The eggs were done perfectly, not too runny, not overcooked, the cured Arctic Char was sublime, and the Hollandaise was perfect proportion to the eggs and cured fish. The biscuit was fluffy and flaky (a difficult combination to master), needing nothing on it, and the watercress salad had a fresh lemon dressing that balanced the rich eggs and biscuit. Writing about it now makes me wish it was the week-end now so I can go get this again!

I went back after a show and ordered a dinner of the vegan eggplant, tomato and lentil curry served with Punjabi cornbread for $15, and the redolent spices of the curry made me smile with joy when it arrived on my table. I’m sorry to not have a picture for you, but it was dark and I did not want to disturb the other diners with a flash from my camera.

On another day I came before a movie and had appetizers outside. Even though they are a “pub”, they serve great wines like Muscadet, wonderful scotches, and exotic liqueurs mixed in signature drinks with names like the “Twiggy” the “Guvnor” and the “Coach and Horses” for about $14. I ordered a glass of Entre Deux Mers White Bordeaux (yes, I can be boring at times).

A white Bordeaux just tasted better with the Arctic Char Crudo with Sea Beans and California Citrus for $16. Both were delightful. The fish was amazingly fresh with a light citrus and olive oil dressing and the sea beans were slightly salty vegetables that resemble tiny asparagus. If you love sashimi this dish has your name on it.

Every server and host I had on my four visits was exceptionally friendly and professional, and since I couldn’t decide whether I wanted curried cauliflower or the thrice cooked chips with Worcestershire aioli (both $6), I asked my waitress to decide for me. She wisely chose the chips since she said, “You’ve already been so healthy with the crudo”!

The chips ($6) came with an assortment of sauces in case I did not like the Worcestershire aioli (it was good). They were so great simply plain (see, I  told you I’m boring) that I nearly ate them all (although I did sprinkle some malt vinegar on them just to be traditionally British).

On another afternoon I stopped in for the seared squid with curried chick peas for $13.The squid was absolutely tender and the curried chick peas had a nice smoky flavor. My only complaint about this plate was that there wasn’t more squid!

The key to watching two movies in one day is staying awake for both of them, so I had a latte before I left and was surprised at how well they make their coffee drinks! I would come here for just coffee (it was that good).

Another pleasant surprise was the sweet puff of meringue that came with the bill 🙂

They offer valet parking in the evening, but depending on when you are going, you can find free parking in the back or on one of the side streets off Sunset Boulevard.

Their menu says “Me Likey The Pikey”, and I couldn’t agree more!

The Pikey on Urbanspoon

 

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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

Looking for a place to eat at 11:30 pm on the Westside during a week night is no easy task. There are of course the usual diners and the Brazilian place that over cooks nearly everything on their menu, but my friend Mika was starving and wanted something good. We were willing to try something new before resorting to the old mediocre standbys.

We saw the neon “Open” sign at Asian-Ya as we were driving to the mediocre places and Mika did a U-Turn, saying, “I hope they are good” as she turned into their parking lot. We were willing to chance it and we grew hopeful as we saw half the tables filled with young students, and the posted hours said open until 00:00 (Mika translated and told me it means midnight).

They are a bit of a sake bar, with a menu devoted to flavors ranging from dry to sweet, made from sweet potato, barley, and rice. Prices ranged from $5 to $15 a glass and a “glass” is a ceramic cup that is big enough to hold about 8 oz. For some strange reason when I asked for my sake cold, they put ice IN the sake. I didn’t mind since I had not chosen a $15 sake, but be forewarned if you do want your sake cold and order a premium sake.

Since I was along mainly for company, not because I was hungry, I chose the clams in sake for $7. They were very flavorful and tender. The broth was so delicious that I could have drunk it as a soup.

Mika ordered the Miso Eggplant which had a slightly sweet paste and the toasted sesame seeds added a nice smoky crunch to the soft eggplant.

Mika also chose the shrimp fried rice which was she liked so much she kept eating spoonfuls even after she declared, “I’m full” . It was also a very generous serving, easily enough for two.

Mika’s eyes were bigger than her stomach, so she only finish about half of everything she ordered, including the grilled mackerel, which was done classically and well; not too dry, and not too oily.

The mackerel dish also came with miso soup and the grand total for everything we ate (and all the food that Mika took home) and drank (Mika had a hot tea) was only $36!
It was a steal considering the quality of the food and the wide selection (there are some Korean choices on the menu as well as ramen, curry, and exotic grilled meats like beef tongue and gizzards). Even with these prices, they have a happy hour from 5-7pm with drinks priced below the already reasonable menu prices.

I think we may have found our late night spot on the Westside open and serving with a smile at 00:00:-)

Asian-ya on Urbanspoon

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