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When an Italian immigrant in Los Angeles says that an Italian restaurant is good, that carries more weight for me than someone who has either never been to Italy and/or someone who has never had an Italian home made meal. Having both been to Italy (different regions) several times, and had the wonderful fortune of knowing Italians who have cooked for me in their home, I am picky, so I was nicely surprised that Avenue Italy in Palos Verdes served up some delightful bites.

I judge restaurants by their bread; if it is great, it is a portend of more great flavors to come, but if it is bad, my suspicions and doubts begin to taint my opinion of food coming out afterwards. Thankfully the focaccia was a great preview of things to come, with an olive oil and herb side that was addictive.

We decided to order the Insalata di Barbabietole from the regular menu for $15 with baby spring greens, roasted beets, candied walnuts, dried cranberries, feta, and a lovely balsamic vinaigrette.

Their calamari for $18 was perfectly executed, with a light crisp exterior and tender calamari accompanied by a lightly spicy tomato sauce that was so good we could have eaten it by the spoonful!

Even though we only really ordered two appetizers, we were too full to order anything else, so we know what that means….#ReturningSoon 🙂

I used to literally live around the corner, so Yabu was always one of my go to places for lunch and dinner since it was walking distance and served very good Japanese food. Now that I live driving distance away, it is still on my restaurant rotation albeit not as much of a regular stop as it used to be. I realized it’s been nearly a year since I last ate dinner there, so one afternoon, I went with a friend who had never eaten there for lunch.

I chose my usual chirashi set that includes sashimi, sushi rice, and your choice of soba or udon (hot or cold) for $17. I had not eaten breakfast, so I devoured everything you see below:) The fish was fresh and the hot udon was springy in a light flavorful broth. The portion was perfect for a good balance of protein and carbohydrates with the added bites of pickle.

I wanted more pickles, so ordered the assorted pickles side for $8 to finish my sushi rice from the chirashi. Everything on the pickle plate was perfect, and I highly recommend the side if you love pickled vegetables.

My friend wanted something lighter and ordered the Seaweed salad that includes three kinds of seaweed and mixed greens for $10. It was a big bowl of greens and any vegans or vegetarians would enjoy this green feast.

It’s always heartening to find old favorites still around providing the service and quality that made them an old favorite. I may have to put this back on my revolving lunch rotation no matter the driving distance 🙂

Having eaten Filipino food at the homes of Filipino friends, I was wary of finding the same great flavors at any restaurant. Good thing that in Los Angeles, there are enough Filipino’s who eat out to warrant several places serving when you have a craving but don’t have an invitation to a friend’s house;)

Sari Sari Store in the Grand Central Market not only serves food, but groceries for those who want to bring some Filipino flavors home.

Their lechon kawali for $15 with pickled onions and a fried egg may be one of the best bowls I’ve eaten outside of a Filipino home. I should have ordered two, but now I have a reason to go back for more like the chicken and rice arroz caldo, or the BBQ ribs. They also offer a vegetable bowl (because this is Los Angeles and not everyone eats meat), traditional sweets and a happy hour menu, so choices abound whether you are new to Filipino cuisine or you just miss your Auntie’s cooking.

If you live in the South Bay, Silog in Torrance is the place to go. It’s a bit hard to find in a strip mall, but they do have a neon sign now with their name over the door. The prices are incredibly reasonable for the quality and quantity of food, so it’s well worth the hunt. Lunch is around $10 and includes a nice spinach salad with fresh mango and tomato.

The tapa, or ribeye marinated in lime and garlic over garlic rice, is served with a perfectly done runny egg that you break over the top.

Add a few spoons of vinegar (they usually serve vinegar with the dish, but ask for it if they don’t) and mash up the whole thing before you take a bite. It’s the perfect blend of rich, tangy, garlicky, meaty goodness.

Having had two dishes at two different places that feed my cravings, time to go back and try more at the same places and seek out some new ones. Anyone have any suggestions close to Santa Monica?

With holiday visitors flying in and out of LAX, Kanpai has two locations on major streets that are great alternatives to taking the 405 Freeway going south towards the airport. I went to the one on Lincoln for a late night light bite after picking up an East Coast transplant. They serve everything from sushi to ramen, with choices ranging from a $30 tempura set to a $170+omakase. I am sure that your appetite and your wallet will find something to please both.

The shitake mushrooms for $8.80were beautifully presented and lightly handled with a special soy.

Baked eggplant for $7.50 with ginger, green onion, and bonito flakes, which looked like a banana until we realized they had peeled it!

Every component of the basic chicken teriyaki dinner with steamed broccoli and potato salad for $28 was fresh, lightly cooked, and flavorful.

Miso black cod for $28 was a beautiful tender rendition, and a thick filet, so even though it was pricey for the portion, the quality of the fish was fair for the price point.

Both locations are open until 1am so whether you want something light, healthy, or just a good old fashioned Japanese place with pages of options, Kanpai is a great option on either Lincoln or Sepulveda.

Fast Casual restaurants have many variations that can either surprise me with pleasure or disappoint me with mediocrity. I’m happy to say that Urban Plates has pleasantly surprised me more than a few times both in visits to a location and with delivery.

It has been chilly for Southern California this past week with temperatures dipping into the 50’s and 40’s, and yes I know I am spoiled by the temperate climate here:) Soup was the number one thing I wanted, and I was hopeful when I saw their tomato soup had a drizzle of pesto. It was more of a tomato sauce than soup, with the overpowering flavor of fresh basil. I would either add some heat to this from their condiment bar, or get it as a side cup accompaniment next next.

Their grass fed steak salad was excellent, from the medium rare steak, to the crunchy roasted cashews, contrasting with the fresh flavors of jicama and mint with mango pineapple salsa in a jalapeno lime dressing for $14.50 this was a hearty salad, but for an even heartier meal, you can add another side of protein.

Because it had been awhile since I had eaten mashed potatoes and it was a chilly day, the comfort of a side of mashed organic potatoes with gravy was a welcome side dish.

Having had a good experience dining in, I was happy to find their salads also traveled well ordering from one of the delivery services. The wild line caught ahi salad niçoise had fantastic tuna, green beans, organic egg, organic tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, marinated olives, and a mustard champagne vinaigrette. All the ingredients were fresh, and the dressing was ok, but I found the individual components bland and lacking any seasoning or flavor on their own. The dressing helped perk it up a bit, but I ended up eating this with salt and pepper instead of the dressing.

The delivery BBQ chicken salad for $13.50 included grilled cage-free chicken, corn, black beans, grilled onions, avocado, organic cheese blend, crispy wonton strips, red bell pepper, with a chipotle lime dressing. The BBQ sauce was a bit too sweet, and like the tune niçoise, the individual ingredient were fresh but boring on their own.

The Moroccan chicken braise for $10.50 was a warm comforting hearty bowl of free range chicken, slow cooked with squash, onions, preserved lemons, olives, turmeric, paprika, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, parsley and cilantro. This is also offered as a side, and one of my favorite meals at Urban Plates.

The Asian chicken salad for $13.50 was a wonderful medley of grilled cage free chicken, organic carrots, green onions, oranges, spicy roasted peanuts, red bell peppers, wonton strips, in a spicy peanut dressing. I found the dressing much too thick, sweet and cloying, but used sparsely it was fine. Overall, the ingredients were wonderful, but if you are looking for a fresh light salad, have the dressing on the side or choose another dressing.

I prefer to eat at the location, especially with their very professional personable staff, but getting a delivery on a chilly or rainy day from a solid option for fresh ingredients can be priceless.

I’ve eaten at many of the famous landmark restaurants in Los Angeles, including Musso & FrankPig & WhistleDinah’s, and of course The Pantry, but I had never been to Pann‘s until recently. It is a famous setting for many movie scenes, but more importantly (to me) it serves wonderful diner classics perfectly and everyone is treated like a member of the family, whether it is your first time or your 100th visit.

I was invited by a family who has know the owners for years, but they treated every customer walking in as a long lost friend, and many of the customers were greeted by name with hugs. If you new to town or flying in or out of LAX, stop by Pann’s for some warmth and comfort food.

When I saw chicken wings and waffle on the menu, my only dilemma was how many wings to get 😉 I opted for 2 wings with my waffle for $13.45. The chicken had a crunchy scald while the meat remained moist, and the waffle was crisp and light. Heartier appetites might want to up the fried chicken to a breast and wing for $16.15 or even have a fried pork chop with their waffle for $16.95.

For those who want an old fashioned southern style breakfast, sausage patties with eggs, grits, and a biscuit for $12.95 will stick to your ribs and warm your memories. We asked for a side of gravy for the grits which made it an even heartier meal.

This fluffy biscuit is definitely recommend over toast as a side, but choose your preference…

I came back on another day wanting something a little healthier so opted for 2 wings with a side of spinach. The spinach was simply steamed but very fresh and utterly delicious even without the whipped butter on the side.

For a brunch, the scrambled eggs with hash browns, a hamburger patty, and buttered toast for $12.95 is a good combination.

They have options like blackened catfish, collard greens, and turkey burgers, if you want something a little lighter, but when you are looking for old fashioned homestyle comfort food, this place serves it with a smile and fresh ingredients that show the care they put into the preparation.

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 🙂

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.

Seeing photos from friends who were in Santorini made me miss Greek food, so I searched for a place that didn’t require hours of travel (which in Los Angeles could mean going anywhere more than a few blocks away in traffic). Ela Greek Eats was a reasonable distance away and even if there is terrible traffic, you have the option of delivery via Caviar.

This very modest eatery has beautifully simple decor with marble tables, large windows, and a decent amount of parking for a small mini mall at a busy intersection. Many people where getting their orders to go, but I opted to sit and enjoy the hot fresh food there since I snagged one of the primo parking places at lunch time.

When I saw Moussaka for $14 on the menu, it was an automatic choice, and this eggplant, zucchini, and beef classic was redolent in warm spices and savory flavors. Their version was one of the best I’ve eaten outside of Greece, and I highly recommend it, especially if you’ve never tried moussaka before. The portion is very large, so either share it or take your leftovers home for later:)

I’ve never tried chicken exohiko before, for $14, filo is stuffed with celery, mushrooms, chicken, and feta, creating an almost chicken pot pie filling in a crispy wrapping. If you don’t know what to order and don’t like beef or lamb, order this dish! This is a hearty portion, enough for a large appetite or for leftovers to take home.

 

There was a special cod dish for $17 the day I went. It had a light lemon flavor over beautiful slightly mashed potatoes that I would order again if it is offered as a special. I was very impressed by the freshness of the fish and the light handed cooking of this dish in a fast casual place!

Soutzoukakia, or the lamb meatballs with orzo for $14, is a delicious way to enjoy lamb with comfort food flavors.

The side dishes are worth ordering for $5, whether you choose the cauliflower with capers and anchovy (tastes much better than it may sound),

or the fabulous gigantes beans cooked with celery and carrots in a tomato dill sauce.

The baked falafel gyro for $10 with tzatziki, fresh greens, tomatoes, and red onions was just about the perfect Californian version, using farmer’s market fresh ingredients, and classic preparation, and it is a perfect choice for vegetarians.

All the ingredients are marvelously fresh, well prepared, and brightly seasoned without overpowering any dish. Everything is served in compostable containers and they use compostable utensils and cups, so if you can’t finish a meal, you simply take it home in the same container (with a lid).

The portions are large and the prices are very reasonable, so eat in or order in some Greek food from Ela unless your yearning to make the 30 hour flight to Greece is stronger than your desire to drive in Los Angeles traffic 🙂

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