Category Archives: Encino

The 10 Best Things I Consumed in 2023

It’s that time once again for my annual list of the 10 best things I consumed and posted about during the past year. I hope one or more make your to do list in 2024. Happy New Year!
Uni Toast with Avocado Crema, Onion Aoli, Jang-a-jji Cucumbers and Smoked Trout Roe from Tokki

10. Uni Toast from Tokki in Koreatown. One of my favorite newer restaurants is this modern Korean tapas spot in the heart of K-Town. I’ve loved everything I’ve tried on the menu, especially their thoughtful spin on Uni Toast.

Chicken Shawarma Plate with Tahini, Red Cabbage, White Cabbage, Israeli Salad and Pickles from Tel Aviv Grill

9. Chicken Shawarma Plate from Tel Aviv Grill in Encino, North Hollywood and Woodland Hills. This is my favorite Middle Eastern place in the City and their shaved-to-order Chicken Shawarma is metzuyan (excellent)! Pick out your sides when your order is ready and don’t forget the phenomenal fresh baked pita bread, crispy french fries and fried eggplant.

Soon Tofu (aka Soon Dubu) with Beef Dumplings from Seoul House of Tofu

8. Soon Tofu from Seoul House of Tofu in West LA. This is my regular go-to; my ride or die; the dish I eat the most when I dine out. I order this Korean tofu stew medium spicy with beef dumplings, but it can be customized many different ways and ordered as a combo with Hot Stone Bibimbap, Galbi or Bulgogi. It’s a good choice in any weather, but nothing beats it on a cold or rainy night.

Trio of Shellfish including Baked Mussel, Clam and Shiitake Scallop from Sushi Sasabune

7. Trio of Shellfish from Sushi Sasabune in Brentwood. This has been one of my favorite sushi bars for decades and, along with its sister restaurants in Beverly Hills and Glendale, serves one of the best omakase in town. Your adventure starts off with this glorious trio of clam, baked mussel and shiitake scallop.

Duck Leg Bread Pudding at Pasjoli

6. Duck Leg Bread Pudding at Pasjoli in Santa Monica. I love a savory bread pudding and this one at Chef Dave Beran’s elevated French Bistro is incredible. However, you’re going to need to splurge and get (via pre-order) his signature pressed duck meal for 2 in order to get the bread pudding. But it’s worth it.

Pizza with Lamb Sausage, Asiago, Confit Tomato, Rapini and Pecorino from Gjelina

5. Pizza with Lamb Sausage, Asiago, Confit Tomato, Rapini and Pecorino from Gjelina in Venice. This Abbot Kinney mainstay bakes some of the tastiest pizzas in town, and this meaty pie is my favorite of them all. That’s amore!

Babka Pie from Winston Pies

4. Babka Pie from Winston Pies in Brentwood, West Hollywood, Santa Monica and Marina del Rey. Custard pie meets chocolate babka and the result is to die for. Unfortunately, it’s only available around the Jewish High Holidays which occur in September and/or October. Here’s hoping they add it to their permanent rotation.

Dirty Chicken from Citrin

3. Dirty Chicken from Citrin in Santa Monica. This amazing signature dish of Chef Josiah Citrin is juicy baked Jidori Chicken coated in Panko, Preserved Lemon and Confit Garlic. Formerly only available at fine dining establishment Citrin, you can now also get it at their new fast casual joint, Augie’s on Main.

Black Sesame Bingsoo at Sul & Beans

2. Black Sesame Bingsoo at Sul & Beans in Koreatown. This Korean dessert of shaved creamy ice, red beans and house-made chewy rice cakes is all the rage in K-Town these days. My favorite of the 14 flavor combos offered at Sul & Beans is the Black Sesame one. It’s sweet and savory perfection.

Queso Relleno with Edam Cheese, Ground Pork, Olives and Capers at Chichen Itza Restaurant

1. Queso Relleno at Chichen Itza Restaurant in Downtown LA. This is my favorite Mexican restaurant in town and it specializes in Yucatan cuisine. They make their own corn tortillas and are famous for their Habañero hot sauce. The insanely wonderful Queso Relleno is my favorite dish there and the best thing that I consumed and wrote about in 2023!

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Filed under Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Downtown, Encino, Glendale, Koreatown, Marina del Rey, North Hollywood, Santa Monica, Venice, West Hollywood, Woodland Hills

Bread Winners 2016

Bread Winners
Amazing signature bread served warm to your table soon after you are seated and order.  Is there any greater welcome gift that a restaurant can bestow upon a hungry patron?  Great bread is often the reason for choosing a restaurant (or if you’re watching your carb intake, a reason to avoid a restaurant where you simply can’t control yourself).  Here’s my new list of the top 10 winners in the category of best signature bread in LA:

Garlic Cheese Bread from The Smoke House

Garlic Cheese Bread from The Smokehouse

1. Garlic Cheese Bread at The Smokehouse (442 W. Lakeside Drive, Burbank).  This is hands down the best garlic bread you will ever eat.  It’s salty, cheesy, garlicky awesomeness.  Enjoy it with dinner and martinis at The Smokehouse, the iconic dimly-lit, red boothed throw-back which has sat for the past 70 years across the street from the Warner Bros. lot.

Pizza Bread from Zane's

Foccacia Bread from Zane’s

2.  Foccacia Bread at Zane’s (1150 Hermosa Avenue, Hermosa Beach). A well kept secret of South Bay food lovers, Zane’s is my favorite restaurant in Hermosa Beach. Their herb-crusted focaccia is hot-out-of-the-oven, complimentary, and incredibly delicious. It’s served with a trio of dipping sauces: olive tapenade, hummus, and roasted red peppers.

Biscuits from John O'Groats

Biscuits from John O’Groats

3. Biscuits at John O’Groats in West LA (10516 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles). Hot, buttery, mouth-wateringly good biscuits are a key component of a hearty Southern-style breakfast. John O’Groats makes the best biscuits in town. You could spread on some additional butter and some sugary jam, but they’re also amazing when just eaten plain.

Grilled Pita at The Great Greek

Grilled Pita at The Great Greek

4.  Grilled Pita Bread at The Great Greek (13362 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks).  This is not the free (and good) bread they give you when you arrive at The Great Greek.  You have to actually order the amazing grilled pita bread here and it would be a Greek tragedy to not do so.  The pita is exclusively flown in from Chicago. Eat it with fresh whipped Hummus, tangy Tzatziki, or my favorite — Tarama, Greek caviar dip.

The Popovers at Neiman Marcus

Pop over to Neiman Marcus for a popover

5.  Popovers at Neiman Marcus (9700 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills in their Mariposa restaurant; also 6550 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Canoga Park in their NM Cafe).  Who doesn’t like popovers?  The ones at Neiman’s are consistently perfect. Light, cripsy and flaky on the outside, soft and buttery on the inside.  Served with strawberry butter!

Za'atar Bread from Urban Garden

Za’atar Bread from Urban Garden

6. Za’atar Bread at Urban Garden (7563 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles). This tiny Lebanese restaurant near The Grove is a hidden gem that serves some of the best shawarma in the city. But my favorite thing here is the flat bread which is baked to order on iron domes and topped with olive oil and za’atar spice.

Cracker Bread at Angelini Osteria

Cracker Bread at Angelini Osteria

7. Cracker Bread at Angelini Osteria (7313 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles). I frequent this place, partly because of their famous Lasagne Verde and partly because of their cracker bread sprinkled with olive oil and rosemary. These divine crispy rectangles sit atop a complimentary bread basket, and I always have to ask for more.

Sourdough and Cheese Rolls at The Water Grill

Sourdough and Asiago Cheese Rolls at The Water Grill

8. Sourdough and Asiago Cheese Rolls at The Water Grill (544 S. Grand Ave, Los Angeles and 1401 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica). These rolls are served warm and come in two varieties: one which is plain sourdough and one stuffed with a bit of melted asiago cheese. Both are crave-worthy and the perfect start to a yummy seafood feast.

Laffa Bread from Izhak Hagadol

Laffa Bread from Izhak Hagadol

9. Laffa Bread at Itzik Hagadol (17201 Ventura Blvd, Encino). The giant, puffy laffas at this popular Israeli restaurant are served piping hot and topped with a blend of Middle Eastern herbs, sesame seeds and spices. They’re best enjoyed by tearing off one little piece at a time and using it to pick up bits of babaganoush, red cabbage salad, or one of the other 18 dips and appetizer salads served here.

Rye Bread from Brent's Deli

Rye Bread from Brent’s Deli

10. Rye Bread at Brent’s Deli (19565 Parthenia St, Northridge and 2799 Townsgate Road, Westlake Village). You can tell a good Jewish delicatessen by the quality of the rye bread and pickles they give you when you arrive. Brent’s fresh baked rye has a soft, chewy and caraway seed-filled inside, as well as a crisp, crackly crust on the outside. The rye tells us that Brent’s is the best deli in LA and its bakers are mavens (experts) in bread-making.

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Filed under Beverly Hills, Burbank, Canoga Park, Downtown, Encino, Hermosa Beach, Mid-City, Northridge, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Westlake Village

Cheesesteak Challenge

Although I grew up in California, I was born in Philadelphia. Other things that originated in Philadelphia include the Declaration of Independence, the Post Office, the Stock Exchange and Hall & Oates. But Philadelphia’s greatest contribution may just be the cheesesteak. Seasoned and thinly sliced beef, cheese (Provolone, American or Whiz), onions and occasionally peppers or mushrooms, all grilled to perfection and served on a warm soft roll… Who doesn’t like a good cheesesteak?

While the best are found in Philly, there are some very tasty cheesesteaks here in LA and I’ve been on a mission for the past couple months to find the best ones this city has to offer. Although I evaluated bread, meat and cheese, there was another essential element that was key to making the grade here. Philadelphia is the City of Brotherly Love and any great cheesesteak establishment must make you feel at home and provide super friendly and warm service; it’s the Philadelphia way. Of the twenty or so cheesesteak eateries that I visited on my quest, here are my top five favorites:

Figueroa Philly Cheese Steak

1. Figueroa Philly Cheese Steak (3844 S. Figueroa in Downtown) This newcomer has the best service and awesome cheesesteaks. The Amoroso rolls and marinated rib eye are imported from Philadelphia. Their one non-traditional, California-esque twist is that one of your cheese options is nacho jalapeno. I loved it!

The Shack in Santa Monica

2. The Shack (2518 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica) Only the Santa Monica location, which is owned by a Philadelphian, of this venerable LA burger joint serves cheesesteaks. The meat is perfectly seasoned and served on Amoroso rolls. They are really, really good.

Philly West Bar & Grill

3. Philly West Bar & Grill (1870 Westwood Blvd in Westwood) These are Allentown-style cheesesteaks and are made with a bit of marinara sauce. The bread is incredibly delicious. Instead of Amoroso rolls shipped frozen from Philadelphia, they use fresh baked French rolls from a local bakery. A great place to watch Phillies or Eagles games.

Philly's Best

4. Philly’s Best (17200 Ventura Blvd. in Encino, 1421 W. Olive St. in Burbank and other locations) This successful chain knows what they’re doing. They use Amoroso rolls from Philly and are one of the few places that offer Cheese Whiz. They also have Philadelphia-style Hoagies, Wise potato chips and Tastykakes.

Soda Pop's

5. Soda Pop’s (349 N. La Cienega in Mid-City) The owner is from Boston and refers to his cheesesteaks as “Steak Bombs,” but don’t hold that against him. These are really good cheesesteaks served with housemade potato chips. Plus 100 different specialty sodas like Blueberry Birch Beer and Pumpkin Pie Soda.

Molecular Gastronomy Cheesesteak at The Bazaar

Special Mention: Philly Cheesesteak at The Bazaar (465 La Cienega, Mid-City) It wouldn’t be fair to compare this molecular gastronomy version with the others, but it should be noted that this specialty of Jose Andres is insanely good. Crispy air-filled bread filled with aged Cheddar sauce and topped with Kobe beef.

I love Tastykakes!

Tastykakes! Several cheesesteak places sell Tastykakes, delicious snack cakes which are incredibly popular in Philadelphia. Philly’s Best has the largest variety. My favorites are Butterscotch Krimpets, Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes and Koffee Kake Cupcakes.

I will be discussing cheesesteaks on KABC Talk Radio 790 this Sunday night at 8:00 on Dining with Dills. If you enjoy Consuming LA, please subscribe, like me on Facebook and/or follow me on twitter at the top right of this page. And please forward to your friends!

Philly's Best on Urbanspoon
Philly West Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon
Figueroa Philly Cheese Steak on Urbanspoon
Philly's Best on Urbanspoon
Philly's Best on Urbanspoon


Filed under Burbank, Downtown, Encino, Mid-City, Santa Monica, Westwood