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Some places are fun even if the food is not great, just because the service is fun and the ambiance is lively. I have one serious concern regarding Chez Paul but I am writing this to highlight both the wonderful points and to warn about places that may be popular but also not properly adhering to proper temperatures and food handling practices; this particular warning applies to EVERY place.

Chez Paul is a few blocks from Bastille, in a lively neighborhood with not shortage of bars and bistros, so when my friends and I settled on giving this place a try it was because the location offered wonderful streetlife entertainment, old world charm, and the place was packed with a mix of locals and visitors.

Six escargots for under 10 Euros were done perfectly with bubbling butter, parsley, and garlic, and toasted baguette for dipping.

The steak tartare at 18 Euros was obviously machine ground as opposed to knife cut, and this was the dish that gave my friend diarrhea all night long. Having eaten three steak tartares during my 2 weeks, I knew not to order this one when I saw the plates coming out of the kitchen, but my friend was craving the dish so ignored my warning.

ANY machine cut/ground steak tartare is a dangerous bacteria breeding ground because no one cleans the machine after every grind, so you are grinding any meat, that serving may be contaminated with all the other meat that was ground previously. This is especially dangerous on a warm evening when when you have no idea how long or at what temperature the raw meat has been sitting out. I will ONLY eat steak tartare at a place where it is knife cut. PERIOD. Being knife cut doesn’t mean the meat is great, or was stored at a proper temperature, but it considerably lessens the likelihood of cross contamination. This is exactly why ground beef is a major cause of e coli illness, even in the USA where we rarely eat beef tartare.

The scallops with pasta and a tomato sauce were decently done and a very generous portion.

 The duck confit for 19 Euros was my choice and again a copious portion.

The tarte tatin at 8.50 Euros was large enough to share between three of us and ended our evening on a sweet note.

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Madame Shawn is a Thai restaurant that has a branch in Bangkok and four in Paris, so if you are craving something spicy in Paris, I highly recommend that you stop by and savor the flavors that are a rarity in Paris where anything spicier than pepper is met with shocked and frightened looks by the locals 😉

Luckily my friends are not afraid of spice and love to travel by both palate and plane, so we went to the Madame Shawn next door to my favorite Boulangerie Du Pain et des Idées in the 10th. I had discovered Madame Shawn because it was next door to the bakery and I was too hungry to just eat bread for a meal. they offer lunch menus from 14-19 Euros  and their dinners are fantastic!

Their 18 Euro sampler of appetizers will give you a taste of all the variations of taste they offer.

Their #47 with rice noodles and chicken was a delicious version of pad see ew in Los Angeles with vegetables and a citrus spark.

The #321, a spicy vegetarian stir fry with tofu, was a nice piquant plate to add to our assortment for 13 Euros.

Their #306 for 18 Euros was a beautiful coconut presentation with  creamy lemongrass flavored shrimp.

 This is the plated view of that curry 🙂

 Desserts ranged from sorbets and ice cream for 7.50 euros,

 to the best mango and sticky rice I’ve e er tasted for 8.50 euros.

You may not crave Thai food while in Paris, but if you do, you won’t be disappointed by Madame Shawn.

Milestone birthdays should be celebrated, and what better way to celebrate than to enjoy a Michelin star meal in Paris? Especially when the person has never eaten at a Michelin star restaurant and loves food 🙂

Montée is a tiny 15 seat restaurant in the 14th, and before it became a starred place, it was my favorite place to eat in Paris. It is now under the helm of Takayuki Nameura and the evolution of status in the culinary world is very well merited. They offer a lunch or dinner menu that is set by whatever is is in season and / or ignites the chef’s creative fire. Dinner is 10 courses, but they served 2 additional amuse-bouche and because it was a birthday celebration, they also presented us with a birthday plate.

I chose a lovely 2014 Graves that was mid range priced to accompany the meal and we took Le Cab there and back so that we could enjoy the entire bottle 🙂

I neglected to take a picture of the veal/spinach schnitzel, probably because it was one of my favorite courses and I enjoyed it so much I completely forgot about documenting it, but that is a good sign of living in the moment, rather than seeking to preserve it.

Enjoy the feast for your eyes until you can get there to feast your palate on these incredible flavors.

Multi layer amuse bouche

another amuse bouche with candied walnuts, dried shitake, and puff pastry

tomato ice and corn souffle

 blue lobster, cashew, and caviar

 foie gras, banana, and smoke

 cod, potato, and sorrel

 white asparagus, almond, and chives

 flounder and leek

 amazing veal, spinach and schnitzel that I forgot to photograph,

then this apple, cider and saffron dessert

 chocolat

 crisp powdered sugar oreillettes

 fabulous wine

 and a lovely birthday plate 🙂

I’ve never been to Ethiopia, so the food I’ve eaten here in Los Angeles may or may not be authentic to the food served and eaten in that country. I can only describe the flavors and my preferences, so if any Ethiopians read this blog, please comment and let me know what places you enjoy and describe the dishes that you recommend!

Queen of Sheba in Inglewood serves what I guess is very authentic Ethiopian food since both times I’ve gone the place was filled with Ethiopians 🙂 It’s in a very nondescript and worn looking strip mall, so don’t be put off by the outside appearance. The warm welcome and the fragrant flavors inside will more than make up for the first impression.

We tried the In and Out (Geba Wet) for $13.99 with the vegetarian combination $12.99, and although the flavors were wonderful, the beef had many fatty and sinewy bites, so next time perhaps one of the other beef choices would be better.

On another night, we got the lamb tibs $14.99 with the vegetarian combo $12.99, which was definitely our favorite combination with purified butter and onions, the lamb melted into tender shreds as we scooped it up with the bites of the Mesir wot, Yater Alicha, Gomen, cabbage and salad.

Messob is on the stretch of Fairfax known as Little Ethiopia, in a much more appealing section of town, and they also serve wine. Unfortunately their signature dish of doro wat (chicken stew) tasted burnt and bitter, and after all the tasty vegetarian variations at Queen of Sheba, the offerings here were bland and a bit sad. Service was slow since we were seated in the back section by the bathrooms and the poor server was running all over the main dining room and our section by herself. (BTW that round oval in the middle of the doro wat was a hard boiled egg.)

Thankfully Meals by Genet, made famous by the sorely missed Jonathan Gold, is just a block away from Messob, but a world away in terms of flavors, service, and ambiance in the best of ways. You will likely need a reservation so plan ahead or be prepared to wait a long while for one of the few tables.

The vegetarian combo, which included every vegetarian dish, is $22, and the Chicken Tibs were $20. Prices reflected the upgraded ambiance and the option of nice bottles or glasses of wine with your meal, makes this a great date destination. Our waiter was an absolute professional with an entertaining flair that made our meal even more enjoyable.

Depending on your mood, timing, and your location, you may opt for either Queen of Sheba or Meals by Genet, but you can’t go wrong with either!

Good pork is hard to find, and if the preparation is as good as the product, it becomes a reason to partake of porcine pleasure as often as possible. Pikoh does many things well, and their pork tonkatsu with shredded cabbage, caramelized lemon, and Japanese mustard for $16 is one of those things. What’s not to love about a crispy fried tender piece of pork?

That same pork is available with curry, rice, and egg, for $24, enough to satiate those who have hearty appetites.

During happy hour, the had pork ribs which had nice tenderness, but I found them a bit lacking in oomph (how else do you describe something that is good but not great?). I haven’t been back for happy hour, so not sure if it is still on the menu…

One new dish that definitely had oomph and has become one of my favorite dishes there is the kim chee fried rice with pork belly for $16. This version of the classic comfort dish is not only well rounded in textures and flavors, but it delights with every bite.

Having become a regular here, it is nice to see that they keep some classic favorites like the tonkatsu, while adding new ones like the kim chee fried rice to keep giving me choices that are far from boring 🙂

I am an omnivore who likes almost everything except lima beans 🙂  Many of my friends are pescatarians, so finding places that offer delicious fish means more choices for everyone. I’ve heard good things about Urban Plates, so I tried their grilled wild albacore. It was a very generous portion for $13.50 and although all the ingredients were fresh, they were also plainly boiled or unseasoned, and unfortunately the vinaigrette did not perk things up.

After going to another location of King’s Fish House that was very disappointing, it was refreshing to go to the one in Victoria Gardens and find that everything was cooked with deft skills and served with a professional demeanor. The simple codfish and chips (substituted spinach for the chips) for $13.50,

and the grilled ahi with vegetable side and upgraded asparagus side for around $30 were executed perfectly, not overly done, and very generously portioned.

Sonny’s Bistro has a great lunch menu including the crunchy ahi salad for $14 that makes it a bargain for lunch. Because I love sand dabs and rarely find them on any menu, I ordered them here for $22 and devoured the plate along with a side salad that kept me satiated all day.

 

Sometimes all I need is a nice piece of grilled fish for a meal. A friend picked up a bento box for me along with an extra side of mackerel from At Home Kitchen. For only $6.50, this is a great alternative to cooking mackerel at home where you must deal with the smell and splatter.

I can count on one hand the people who are willing to wait for a table at Sushi Gen with me, but the ones who have the patience are rewarded with some of the freshest fish in Los Angeles. I always go for the chirashi at lunch, but if you are more traditional, the sushi deluxe or sashimi are equally good and none of them will serve you any of the crappy salmon that finds its way into most other sushi restaurants, and that alone is worth the wait!

 

Fame and fortune are fleeting in life, especially here in Los Angeles, but a taste of the unctuous fatty brisket from Maple Block Meat Co. will be indelibly seared into your memory, making you salivate for more long after you have left the premises, unlike the name of someone who is well remembered for only 15 minutes.

The fatty brisket is so good that I almost headed out the door one night when they ran out, but as you will see, it was good that I stayed to taste some of their other menu items.

If you go at lunch they offer a $13.50 lunch box special with a sandwich, side and drink that makes it a great deal for any carnivore. The brioche bun is the perfect vehicle for delivery of the juicy tender morsels into your mouth. I chose the greens as a side to help balance out all the meat 🙂 The close up picture shows how the chopped brisket is literally fall apart tender.

Another good choice for lunch box sandwich is the old school smoked sausage. The only issue I had with this wonderful meat was the casing was a bit tough so I ended up scraping the sausage out of the casing and putting it back in the sandwich with the whole grain mustard, creamy cole slaw, and pepper spread, the additional sauce was unnecessary, but I loved the vinegary slaw as a side.

I went in one night just as they ran out of brisket 😦 Rather than trek somewhere else, we ordered half a pound of the smoked prime rib for $18 with a pickle plate for $6, and a large market chopped salad for $11. The prime rib was so good that by the end of the meal we were glad that they were out of brisket so that I was “forced” to try it 🙂 Of course I got the rarest cut they had, but they do offer more well done cuts for those of you who are not blood red raw meat eaters. The pickle plate was abundant enough to take some home, and the chopped salad was nicely dressed in a red wine vinaigrette that helped make the meal easier on the digestion. The salad was so big we took half of it away in a doggy bag, and it held up pretty well as lunch the next day.

I will always be a fan of people who choose quality ingredients and who also possess the skills to render them into bites of heaven:)

My search for a favorite Indian food place has finally yielded two contenders:) Agra Indian Kitchen and Mayura Indian Restaurant. I like to compare the same dishes to compare, just like a wine tasting of the same varietal. I ordered from both for delivery of the same distance through GrubHub.

The mixed tandoori grill from Agra includes chicken, chicken tikka, lamb tikka and sheek kabob for $16.95. A very generous portion that was easily enough for 2 or even three people. The flavors were good and the tandoori chicken was tender, albeit a bit dry.

The dal turka for $11.50 was delightful, redolent of the aromas and flavors which evoke an exotic destination half a world away from L.A. The order came with rice but I ordered garlic naan for $3.50 that was still warm and fragrant when it arrived.

 

Mayura is on Jonathan Gold’s list of favorite places, so it’s got quite a following after receiving the beloved Los Angeles writer’s blessing. The bright green chutney was a mix of mint, coriander, ginger and garlic that was a refreshing accompaniment to both the mixed tandoori grill for $16.95 and the vegetable samosas for $3.95.

I ordered a side of raita for $2.50 of onions, cucumbers and carrots in yogurt, just as as insurance in case any of the other condiments were too spicy (they weren’t).

The dal masala for $10.95 came with basmati rice and was delicious on the garlic naan for $2.95 as a savory spread.

The mixed tandoor grill consisted of tandoor chicken with bone in, boneless tikka, and lamb kabobs over a bed of sliced raw onions. Everything was moist, flavorful, and enough to easily feed two or three!

I only reheated HALF of the order for dinner for two and we could barely finish our food! That is the vegetable samosa in the upper left corner fo the picture (mostly potato), which was in and of itself enough to be a small meal for a light appetite!

I am so very happy to have found two places that serve very good Indian food, but that both DELIVER so that I don’t have to fight late afternoon traffic in Los Angeles to eat well!

Chan Dara was my go to place, walking distance from where I used to live. When I came back to the US, I was saddened to see the restaurant was gone and replaced by new construction, even though changes can sometimes bring great new experiences. 

Pikoh has opened and already become my new favorite spot in West Los Angeles for coffee, breakfast, brunch, and lunch. I will be trying their dinner menu soon and will keep you posted as I eat my way through their new all day menu.

Depending on your barista, you may get your coffee with some beautiful art! They serve some of the best coffee in the area, and drinking it from well made ceramic cups makes it an even more enjoyable experience. My coffee partner usually adds sugar, but drank the latte here with no sweetner because it was so smooth and satisfying.

They offer table service in the evening and during brunch on the week-ends, otherwise you order at the counter and take a number. They have some new additions to their brunch menu, as well as old standards like fried jidori chicken and waffle for $16. The chicken was fabulous, crunchy, moist, and perfect, but sadly the waffle was a bit too thick and underdone. 

Their version of croque monsieur used high quality ingredients, but has since been replaced by some new items.

For those who want to standard Californian breakfast fare, they offer a breakfast burrito for only $8 that you can add bacon or chorizo to for a few dollars more. 

The beef bangers and mash for $16 is a sure fire winner for anyone who loves meat and potatoes in an elevated form. I don’t usually like mashed potatoes, but the kizame mashed potatoes made me a fan.

For a sweet brunch option, their French toast for $15 comes with an algarrobina cream sauce (carob based) and bruléed bananas. This was a bit too sweet for brunch for me, but it would have been a great dessert item.

My favorite choice for brunch is their eggs shakshuka for $14 which comes with four prawns, two eggs, wonderful toasted ciabatta, and a spicy tomato bonito stew that had me using a spoon to scoop up every bite. I could eat this every day!

For those who want more lunch than breakfast, the pork tonkatsu curry for $18 is a solid choice, with enough to fill any hunger. I found the curry sauce a bit too sweet for my taste, but the depth of flavors was fantastic, and the quality of the ingredients was outstanding.

I love this new addition to West LA with the light airy greenhouse decor. Thoughtful touches like foot rests at the booth and bar stools are a small indication of the attention to detail that go hand in hand with the quality ingredients and the deft execution of culinary skills from the kitchen. 

One of the owners, Robert, came over to introduce himself after having seen repeated visits within a few days, a personal touch that all good neighborhood places should emulate: recognize your regulars:)

Several of my friends are in the food or restaurant business, so when one of them suggests a place they love, I listen and will join them for a meal that I know will be (usually) very good on all levels, from chef skill, to products used, to recipes, to service and decor. Baran’s 2239 in Hermosa Beach is the kind of neighborhood gem that every neighborhood wishes inhabited their backyard.

With a tiny parking lot, you best bet is to park a block or two away and give yourself a reason to walk off dinner; or better yet take a car service and enjoy your wine with dinner ($25 corkage for 1st bottle). We brought a bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and a Gainey Pinot Noir for four of us, so we each had two glasses with our meal and enjoyed the lighter wine with the lighter dishes.

We started with the beef tartare, served with shrimp chips and korean spices. It was a hit with the raw meat lovers like myself, but not so much for the non devotees of uncooked red meat.

The quail with white beans, nuts, chives, and citrus was a delightful choice for everyone. The contrasts in textures and flavors worked well together to bring everyone joy in their mouth:)

The Pork Belly made us all applaud and fight for every bite as we sought to eat just one more morsel of porcine goodness.

To balance out some of the protein we also got the grilled broccolini with pomegranate seeds and a nice bean purée.

Since we were all food lovers, we ordered more dishes as we finished one, so the next up were the seared sea scallops, easily the favorite of the evening, and the waiter graciously offered to add one more scallop for our table of four so we could all eat one 🙂

The fried chicken was an interesting take that was different enough for us to enjoy, while comforting enough for all to say “ah!”

We weren’t sure if we wanted to try the jerk extra spicy wings after the guy at the table next to use said he loved spice, but was in pain after one bite. We literally watched his face turn beet red and two of us decided at the end of the night to take the chance. It was searingly spicy, but edible. The disappointment was that the heat lacked complexity or depth of flavor. We felt that if we were going to endure the heat, there should’ve been more spice or oomph. We would probably never order this again, but we were very glad we tried it.

In spite of the disappointing last dish, I loved everything else, especially the cozy local vibe and the obviously very local clientele. I would come back here anytime with a few friends so we could share a few plates. We ate 8 plates in all (we doubled up on one of the ones pictured) and with the corkage fee on 2 bottles it came to around $75 per person, including tax and a 20% tip, a great deal on this level of service, skill, and ingredients.

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