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Chan Dara was my favorite restaurant in Los Angeles, but sadly the location in West Los Angeles is now gone, and after hearing wonderful things about Jitlada, I took the metro and found my new favorite Thai restaurant.

On my first visit, I ordered the softshell crab with rice noodles and somehow I managed to finish this enormous plate. I kept eating just one more bite until there were no bites left to take home 🙂

They serve BEST oxtail curry I’ve ever eaten in my life! The curry was so fragrant, complex, and layered, that I wanted to drink it after eating the meat and vegetables. The meat was falling off the bone tender, and the vegetables were still a bit crunchy, so the combination was truly perfect.

The portion of rice was enough to soak up most of the curry, but seriously, I could have drunk the curry without anything else! The mild heat version is good for those who want to experience the flavors without pain, but I like the medium level for a bit of sweat and burn 🙂

The glass noodles with pork belly may be deceivingly  simple, but the chunks of pork, the raw vegetables, and the flavor of the noodles, make this a great choice to order as a mild dish accompaniment for a spicy curry or just as a dish for pork lovers.

The menu is so extensive, I will just *have* to go back a few more times and sample more:)

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I don’t know many people who are vegans, but many of my friends don’t eat meat, or in some cases fish, so finding a good vegan place allows for more choices for them than trying to pick out an item or two from a menu that is geared towards omnivores.

Sage has several locations; the one I went to in Culver City has an enormous tree growing in the middle of the outdoor patio, naturally providing shade and atmosphere to the wooden tables.

The menu has many options for drinks, from smoothies to mixed drinks. For a boozy brunch, you can even order bottomless mimosas for $25.

I opted for a glass of wine.

Since I met my friend for brunch, I chose the tempeh sausage florentine for $15 with three biscuits topped with tempeh sausage, heirloom tomato, spinach, avocado, and hollandaise sauce with roasted potatoes. I enjoyed everything except the doughy bland biscuits.

One one visit the man sitting next to us offered us one of his jackfruit “crab cakes” saying it was his favorite thing on the menu and the portion was too big for him to finish. We took one and tried it, but neither one of us enjoyed it enough to order it.

My friend ordered the hot wings for $14. Tempura fried cauliflower with a buffalo sauce that was the most addictive thing on the menu! It was a large portion, easily enough for a meal or for two to share. If you only order one thing here, order this! The ranch and crudités that come on the side make for a nice fresh contrast to the spicy “wings”.

On another trip, the wings came with more sauce and were even more delicious.

The fried brussel sprouts with lime and salt were also a great item to share for $11 and if you order the cauliflower wings, this is the perfect compliment for a full meal.

Whether you want to try some non meat based dishes, or simply want to enjoy some tasty plant based variations of menu classics, Sage is a great place to start a year of healthy meals:)

My name is Elaine and I am addicted to Armenian food. I wish to remain a very happy addict, so no interventions please 🙂

Monta Factory is a SIX seat place in East Pasadena that will serve you their creations hot or frozen to go so you can make it at home. Think of it like ordering a pizza hot to eat soon or there, but also having the option of taking a frozen one to make yourself at home later. Monta are tiny dumplings made by hand that is a very labor intensive food. Unless you have a grandmother or great grandmother who is dexterous enough and who loves you enough to make a batch for you, your best hope for a taste of this wonderful food is to go to Monta Factory. They are the only place anywhere outside of someone’s home where you can eat these. They tell me people travel from out of state to buy several trays, pack them in ice, then drive or fly home.

The marvelous family here are so warm and welcoming that whether it is your first visit or thousandth, they will treat you with a gentle disposition and broad smile 🙂

The family here makes everything from scratch daily, so they may be the hardest workers in the city. I can’t even imagine the repetitive, laborious, and exacting labor of love this requires every morning as they hand make each tiny piece for the day. I love their spicy version as well as their regular version. As long as you have an oven or toaster oven, any leftovers can easily be reheated in 10 minutes.

I took a large frozen tray for a picnic to go and took a picture of the directions to make sure I followed them correctly:)

This is how they turned out with the yogurt garlic cream poured over the entire tray. An Armenian friend said he was going to get a tray to take home to his elderly parents because it was something he had not eaten in decades.

They only sell a few things on their menu, the Monti (or Monte), that everyone knows about, but also the best Wild Salmon Sandwich I’ve ever eaten. It is made with a special tahini sauce, that was so good I went back twice in one week for it, and the serving was such a generous portion that I ended up with two meals!

I heard a customer order the salmon over salad, so that is what I tried on another day. Depending on how hungry or carb conscious you are, their salmon over a salad is an equally delicious alternative.

Be sure you get a slice of their freshly made (daily) su beoreg. This is a cheesy crispy slice of indulgence that will make you crave another one of the soft interior with a crackling top as soon as you finish your last piece.

Now that I live 37 miles away, I will be making the trip with an ice pack and an insulated sac for a tray or two of their frozen Monte, a few salmon sandwiches, and some slices of the su beoreg so that I will never be more than a few minutes from great Armenian food #addicted 🙂

Tao Thai in Upland is tucked away next to a huge Sprouts Farmers Market, so if you don’t want to shop while hungry, stop in to this tiny place for a quality meal at very affordable prices. You can accent your noodle, rice, soup, salad, or curry with the protein of your choice, including tofu. They give you free crispy egg rolls with a nice veggie filling, but the wrapper was too thick for my taste. I asked for spicy with my rice noodle and shrimp and was very happy with the flavors and heat on my plate. For less than $15 with tax and tip, the quality and quantity were noteworthy.

On a subsequent visit, I chose the chinese broccoli with shrimp, and again chose spicy for my level of heat. The sauce was slightly sweet which balanced out some of the heat from the SEVEN dried peppers at the bottom of the serving dish!

You can always add more spices and condiments from their trays 🙂

Pho Golden Star in Chino serves one of the best bowls of pho I’ve eaten in years. This is their first year, so if you check in on Yelp, they have added a bonus tea and egg roll if you order is over $9, but the bowls are so good and filling, I had no room for either. There is easy parking in the large lot, and the clean, well lit space fills quickly during regular meal times with take out orders and diners, so I’m sure this place has already become a regular spots for locals.

I ordered the brisket, steak, and tendon and spiced it up a bit with some of the tableside chilis. It was hearty and rich without being fatty. I added all the extras on the plate of accompaniments and ended up with a marvelous mix of textures and aromas.

I tried their oxtail soup because I rarely see oxtails on any menu, and after asking the server if I should get the combination or the oxtail, the server immediately said, “Oxtail”. Out came one of the best bowls of broth I’ve tasted in a long time, with tender falling off the bone oxtail, and an unbeatable price of around $10. This bowl is calling me to make the 30+ mile drive again, so next time I may get one order to go 🙂

There is a small altar tucked into the corner of the counter; I may create my own in gratitude for the skills of the woman in the kitchen of this place who made me love pho 🙂

Coffee roasters usually serve better coffee than those who buy their beans already roasted; that is why I love The Conservatory in Culver City, and Jameson Brown, in Pasadena. Demitasse is now my go to spot on Wilshire mid-city, or Little Tokyo.

They stock some vegetarian friendly meals like rice stuffed grape leaves, quinoa salads, and flakey with butter pastries, so if you want a snack with your free wifi, you’ve got sweet and savory choices to either eat on the patio or take to go. I enjoyed the ham and cheese bite I chose to go with my cappuccino; it was tasty and filling enough to tide me over until dinner several hours later.

The menu at Mercado is based on the Mexican roots of chef José, so we started with the tacos pescado for $15, skillet seared white fish, Mexican slaw, avocado salsa, and chile de arbol aioli. Fresh clean flavors, but we found the homemade tortillas disappointing. The pickled vegetables were a welcome surprise, adding zest to the plate.

The enchiladas for $19 made with Mary’s free range chicken, Oaxacan mole, Mexican rice, queso fresco, crema fresca, red onions, and sesame seeds was beautifully presented, but we found it lacked enough character or depth of flavor to warrant ordering it again.

Our server said the carnitas for $25 are a crowd favorite and one bite of this tender Salmon Creek pork with guacamole, Yxta salsa brava and cauliflower with escabeche made me want another, and another, and another…This is a HUGE serving that could easily have served two, or you could take half of it home for another meal.

With a wide selection of drinks and tequila, and a happy hour M-F from 5-7pm, I’m planning to return to try more.

One of my friends was given a stay at the Kimpton Hotel Wilshire, so I went to hang out with her and have lunch on the roof by the pool. The reception / lobby waiting area has a minimalist modern design that was softened with flowers and cushy pillows on the couch.

When my friend arrived, they were having their happy hour in the lounge area on the second floor, so we grabbed some fruit and wine gratis.

The room had nice touches throughout, and in keeping with conserving energy and water, there was a note saying that they only change linens every 3 days unless requested to do it more often.

The bathroom was quite spacious and included a long deep tub that could comfortably accommodate a 6′ tall person. Also in keeping with environmentally sound practice, their soap and shampoo dispensers were not one use disposable containers, but larger refillable ones.

As with most modern hotels, there were spare USB and electrical charging ports under the TV.

Since this is Los Angeles, there was a yoga mat in the closet, leopard robes, and healthy snacks in the minibar.

It was an overcast day, but we checked and the pool was warm enough to go into if we had been wearing bathing suits instead of dresses:)

Yes, we are stereotypical Southern California ladies who lunch by the pool, so what else would we order besides the house salad?  One with shrimp, and one with rare ahi tuna, both under $20, served with candied pecans, fresh fruit, avocado, and bits of chevre; beef was an option, as was chicken, if those are your preferred proteins.

Since we were eating salads, we *needed* something hot with our meal, so we also shared a side of fries 🙂

By the afternoon, the skies had cleared and we got a blue sky view as dessert.

I’ve lived in the Los Angeles area on and off for several decades, so I remember when Chinois opened in 1983. It was nearly impossible to get a reservation, and everyone who was lucky enough to get a seat raved about the food. I have fond memories of the Shanghai lobster with curry sauce, and I know some people who worked with Wolfgang Puck and they were so grateful to be part of the food revolution he created in Los Angeles.

Sustaining quality for over 30 years is a Herculean task, but it should be noted that Hercules is a mythical man. As talented, smart, and good hearted as Wolfgang Puck is, he is human, and with such a global brand and so many operations, it is impossible to maintain excellence on all levels at all times.

On a recent visit to Chinois with two friends who also enjoyed the place in its heyday, we were sorely disappointed. With only two tables of three occupied during the entire lunch service, we thought that it was a bit odd, but we looked forward to having a semi private dining experience. We all had our favorites (still on the menu) so we split everything, starting with the famous Chinese chicken salad. A very generous portion, but it was surprisingly bland. There was no zing from rice wine vinegar nor any other flavor that stood out.

The catalyst for coming was one friend who craved the warm curried oysters with cucumber sauce and salmon pearls. Normally the portion is 4 but because there were 3 of us we opted for 2 more so we could each eat 2 apiece. The beautiful presentation was mouthwatering, but the oysters were lukewarm, barely crisp and as much as I like oysters, this was not tempting enough for me to eat more than one. Sadly the bed of plain watercress was my favorite part of this dish because at least it had a peppery flavor.

I chose the whole catfish with ginger and ponzu, looking forward to a skillful preparation. The large fish was deep fried for so long and on such a high heat that it was dry, and unfortunately the ponzu sauce could not save the flesh. At least it was crispy unlike the oysters.

As you can see from the picture, the head was so overdone, there was not any way to tell where the eyes had been.

I appreciated sharing nostalgic memories with friends, but sometimes it is better not to try to relive experiences. We will continue to eat at Puck’s other restaurants, but we won’t be returning to this one. Service was professional and my friends made sure they knew it was a birthday celebration, so the meal ended on a sweet note as I made a wish 🙂

A dear foodie friend (hmmm I think all my friends are foodies) invited me to eat lobster with her for my birthday, saying we could take as many hours as we wanted savoring all the nooks and crannies (we ended up eating for 3 hours). She suggested Boston Lobster because she had eaten lobster at another restaurant where the chef used to work and enjoyed it. Knowing that if we went later than 5 pm there would be a long wait, we got there at 4:30 pm and found easy parking, lunch time specials still in effect, and a choice of seating:)

Because the lunch specials were still in effect, we ordered two to compliment our lobster, both were under $8, included a hot and sour soup, and white rice. The soup needed some vinegar but it was tasty and chock full of goodies like bamboo shoots, tofu, and wood ear mushrooms.

We chose the lunch special garlic pea sprouts for our vegetable side dish. It was a generous serving with lots of garlic and lots of stems.

Another lunch menu special were the clams with black bean sauce. We found the sauce a bit runny and the black bean flavor was not very prevalent. If you like your black bean sauce flavor mild, you would enjoy this dish.

We came for the lobster, and it looked like every other table came for the same. Although most lobsters weight around 4-5 lbs ($19 per pound) and there were only two of us, we still managed to eat most of it. We chose their house special preparation, which was also how every other table chose to have their lobsters. The lobster was fantastic, perfectly cooked and obviously freshly pulled from the tank. Next time I would choose my usual preference of ginger and scallion preparation, because after attacking a pound of this beast, the richness of the specialty preparation slowed me down. On a very positive note, we washed it all down with a bottle of very nice Pinot Grigio (they provided an ice bucket for our wine after we asked for one), and changed our plates about 4 times during our feast.

Our waiter came by after about 2 hours and said that we knew how to live, drinking wine and savoring lobster; I couldn’t agree more!

Thank-you Georgia for a fantastic meal 🙂

Chang’an‘s casually chic space will soothe the frazzled nerves of anyone who abhors the frenetic atmosphere in many Chinese restaurants. Smooth jazz, attentive service, and a decent wine list befitting their perch atop the Hilton Plaza. If you time your visit to coincide with their daily Happy Hour, you can enjoy some of their specials at discounted prices, including their cold sake for $10 instead of $15 per 400 ml.

Their Kumamoto oysters were $3 during Happy Hour instead of $3.80, and I got the last 4! If you allow the chef to choose your oysters, they are only $1.50 each during happy hour.

Every table seemed to have the lamb skewers, so we ordered two at $4 each during happy hour, not realizing how big they were; we could have easily split one skewer. They were so heavily cumin flavored that we would not order these again, but for sheer quantity of meat and tenderness, they are a bargain.

My friend ordered steamed scallops at $4 each and enjoyed the delicate touch on the scallop atop the glass noodles.

I went for the steamed oysters at $3 each; they were identically prepared and the addition of the glass noodles made each one a heartier appetizer.

We needed a vegetable dish to round out our meal, so we got the broccoli, beef tendon, bacon, and shrimp stir fry for $12. This was probably our favorite dish because it combined all the textures and flavors of land, sea, and garden.

To end our evening we had the Chinese sausage fried rice for $11 that was served with shrimp chips! The rice had distinctly sweet and silky sausage bits throughout and is a good choice for those who are meat and rice lovers. We ended up taking half of it in a doggie bag because as usual our eyes were bigger than our stomachs.

Another benefit of eating here is that they source their products from organic vendors, and they include a service charge with every bill to help with the pay disparity between the back of the house kitchen staff and the front of the house waitstaff.

As I’ve written in a previous post, my friends live various distances from me in the greater Los Angeles area, so a visit requires advance planning to avoid peak traffic congestion and special events, like a game at the Coliseum, or a concert at Staples Center. Spending time with my friends is always worth the trip, and sometimes I get the added bonus of a meal with a view. We had an early dinner at 22nd Street Landing Seafood Grill and the handy paper place mats showed exactly where we were 🙂

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Fresh fish dinners run in the $30 range with soup or salad, steamed vegetables and a side. I chose a lobster bisque that had pieces of lobster but tasted more like an underseasoned creamy potato soup than a bisque.

We all chose Halibut but with different sides, my choice was coleslaw, my friends chose mashed and baked potatoes respectively. The portions of fish were all very thin, and unfortunately, overcooked. I wish the appearance of a large surface area was less important to both diners and restaurant management in the US:( None of our plates were seasoned at all, but they offer cajun or blackened options on the grilled fish, so next time that might be an option, but with the thin filets, that would not have helped the doneness. Thankfully every table had salt and ground pepper, so at the very least we could add basic seasoning.

 The view and the company were spectacular 🙂

After dinner, we had beer for dessert at Brouwerij West (pronounced brewery). This immense space hosts musical guests, food trucks, and families (including dogs on leashes), with indoor and outdoor tables.

The Taproom offers full pours or tastes of their brews as well as cans to go and they encourage you to bring in food from outside, so you can actually picnic at their picnic tables. Brouwerij has a bit of something for everyone, and if you can’t decide, you can just get a few tastes and create a flight:)

Yes, these are all beers: the Picnic Lightning IPA, two tastes of the Starfish IPA and the Belgian Sans Souci, and the fruity Dog Ate My Homework, made with blackberry juice. My friend liked this brew so much that she took a four pack of cans home!

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