Monthly Archives: April 2011

The Pies Have It

Are mini pies the new cupcakes? Simplethings Sandwich and Pie Shop, on hip West 3rd Street, is hoping so. They make 16 different pies in three different sizes, but the most popular are the tiny “Cutie Pies,” which I gobbled down in about three bites each. Choices include such traditional pies as Apple, Key Lime, Missouri Mud and Coconut Cream, as well as more unusual pies such as Salted Caramel, Chocolate Chip Cookie, Banoffe (which is basically caramel and banana) and a Lemon Bar Pie. Much like Sprinkles Cupcakes, there’s a chart that tells you which days of the week they will have your favorite flavors. I thought the pies were pretty good and because they were so miniscule, I didn’t feel guilty for eating a couple of them.

But Simplethings is more than just mini pies. Their menu is essentially a modern, small-portioned take on some classic American comfort foods. The sandwiches include a Thanksgiving Sandwich (roast turkey, cranberry chutney, jalapeno cornbread stuffing and sage gravy on a michetti roll). I am not one to resist anything called a Thanksgiving Sandwich and although I didn’t love the bread, I thought it was pretty good. The Sweet Potato Sandwich (grilled sweet potatos, apples, jammy onions, chevre, and cumin coleslaw on a pretzel roll) was even better and the Pulled Chicken Sandwich (arugula, pickled onion, garlic aioli and chevre on a pretzel roll) was by far the best. They also have salads and five different kinds of savory pot pies including Steak and Lager, BBQ Pulled Pork, Chicken Curry and Portabella Mushroom. You can wash down your reconceived comfort fare with a cool vintage brand soda such as Cheerwine or Stewart’s Orange and Cream.

Simplethings Sandwich and Pie Shop is located at 8310 W 3rd Street in Los Angeles.

Thanksgiving Sandwich

I love places that sell vintage brand bottled sodas.

It's a modern pie shop.

Simplethings Sandwich & Pie Shop on Urbanspoon


Filed under Mid-City

Don Ask Don Tell: Amazing and Affordable Sushi

While a lot of Angelenos are aware of Sugarfish, the expansion effort of legendary Sushi Nazi, Kozurnori Nozawa, less people are familiar with Sushi Don, the outposts of esteemed Westside sushi restaurant, Sasabune. But those in the know come to Sushi Don to eat some of the highest quality sushi in LA at surprisingly low prices. Sushi Don serves many of the same melt-in-your-mouth sashimi, nigiri and rolls as Sasabune, but at a fraction of the price.  The Spicy Tuna on Crispy Rice at Sushi Don is the best I’ve ever had; better than that at Katsu-ya.  Once you’ve had it, it is something you will crave all of the time.  And the Albacore Special (fresh slices of albacore in ponzu sauce) is perfection. Then there’s the Blue Crab Hand Rolls.  They are perfectly prepared with the freshest blue crab and warm rice and wrapped in crisp seaweed. My mouth is watering just thinking about them. Sushi Don also serves their own homemade soy sauce! 

There is no table service. You order at a counter and you can either take out or they will bring your sushi to you at one of the tables. The nice thing about this is that you can get in and out very quickly if you want. I go to the Valley Village location of Sushi Don (at 4816 Laurel Canyon Blvd, Valley Village; close to Studio City and North Hollywood), but I understand that there is now a second location in Pacific Palisades (at 970 Monument Street, Los Angeles).

Spicy Tuna on Crispy Rice

Blue Crab Hand Roll

Not fancy; just good

Sushi Don on Urbanspoon


Filed under North Hollywood, Pacific Palisades, Studio City, Valley Village

Macarons, Not the Manischewitz Kind

For a very long time, I thought that macaroons were cookies made of shredded coconut that you ate only on Passover after the matzo ball soup and brisket. Although also made without wheat flour, the French macaron (the second “o” in “macaroon” is dropped) is an entirely different animal. ‘Lette Macarons, a cute little bakery in Beverly Hills (and a brand new location Downtown in Little Tokyo), sells only one thing to eat: French macarons, and they are pure perfection. Made primarily from almonds, sugar and egg whites and filled with ganache, buttercream, jam or caramel, these soft and chewy confections are works of art. As far as baked goods go, they are also great works of labor. According to ‘Lette’s baker, these little treats take 24 hours and 37 steps to make. ‘Lette sells over a dozen different classic and seasonal varieties including Sweet Wedding Almond, Raspberry, Rose, Madagascar Vanilla, Lemon, Earl Grey Tea and Caribbean Chocolate. My favorites are Salted Caramel and Peanut Butter and Jelly. A box with a colorful assortment makes a great gift for any occasion. Maybe I will shake things up and bring a box of these French beauties to our family Seder!

‘Lette Macarons is located at 9466 Charleville Boulevard (at Beverly Drive) in Beverly Hills and 333 S Alameda Street (Little Tokyo Shopping Center) in Los Angeles.

UPDATE: ‘Lette Macarons has a new location in Pasadena at 14 S. Fairoaks Ave. (see map below).

Peanut Butter & Jelly Macaron

A nice gift!

New Downtown location in Little Tokyo

'Lette Macarons on Urbanspoon
'Lette Macarons on Urbanspoon
'Lette Macarons on Urbanspoon


Filed under Beverly Hills, Downtown, Pasadena

Gastropub Greatness

Gastropubs (bars that serves high quality fresh and seasonal cuisine) are popping up all over LA.  The best Gastropub, and one of my favorite restaurants in the City overall, is Lazy Ox Canteen.  It’s located downtown in Little Tokyo and if you don’t live there, it’s definitely worth the drive.  The atmosphere is dark, boisterous and urban.  Minimal and cozy at the same time.  The bar is stocked with great craft beers and esoteric wines.  The food, which is mostly small plates, is across-the-board excellent and some dishes I would say are perfection.

Like most Gastropubs, Lazy Ox Canteen has a nice selection of gourmet fried foods.  The Pig Ear “Chicharon” (sliced and fried pig ears) with Radish Salad and Yuzu Aioli is a must-have.  The Crispy Surf Clams with Caper and Pickle Aioli, which is seasoned to perfection, is also a dish you want to make sure to order.  The many non-fried items on the menu are equally delicious and inventive.  If available, definitely order the Poblano Soup with Grapes & Crispy Pork Belly and either the Dashi Marinated Yellowtail with Avocado, Hash Brown & Tonburi or Yellowtail Crudo with Szechuan, Mint & Celeriac.  I also love the Caramelized Cauliflower with Pine Nuts, Chile Flake & Mint.  The menu (much of which are blackboard specials) changes often so there is always something new to try.  Don’t forget to order their excellent Rice Pudding for dessert.

Lazy Ox Canteen is located at 241 South San Pedro Street in Los Angeles (Downtown/Little Tokyo). UPDATE: Lazy Ox Canteen has unfortunately closed. It will be missed.

Pig Ear "Chicharon"

Yellow Tail Crudo with Szechuan, Mint & Celeriac

They play great music too!

Lazy Ox Canteen on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Downtown

Killer Ramen!

The best ramen in LA is served in food courts in Mar Vista and Torrance. Seriously. Of course, they are probably the nicest food courts in all of LA. Santouka Ramen is a Japan-based chain with its two LA branches each located in a Mitsuwa Marketplace, a large indoor space with Japanese supermarket, multiple food court restaurants, gourmet coffee and dessert counter, Japanese bookstore, video store and a store called “Trendy” selling Japanese tsotchkes.

The ramen at Santouka is stellar. You have your choice of four kinds of broth (salt, soy sauce, miso or spicy miso) and your choice of chasu (regular pork) or toroniku (special pork). Toroniku is braised pork from the cheek of a pig; the equivalent of toro to regular tuna in a sushi bar. My favorite ramen is the spicy miso with toroniku. The savory broth is perfectly seasoned, the noodles are firm and delicious and the toroniku, which is served on the side with vegetables for you to add to your soup, is so tender and yummy. I could eat a bowl of this ramen every day! Where to find it: Mitsuwa Marketplace, 3760 South Centinela Avenue in Los Angeles (Mar Vista; just south of Santa Monica) and 21515 South Western Avenue in Torrance.

Santouka Ramen

The toroniku (special pork) and vegetables are served on the side

Hard to believe such amazing food can be found in a food court!

Santouka Ramen on Urbanspoon
Santouka Ramen on Urbanspoon


Filed under Mar Vista, Torrance