My Safe Space

Nettle & Ricotta Gnudi with Asparagus, Bacon and Parmesan Cheese
While over-indulged college students these days are looking for “safe spaces” to avoid “micro-aggressions” and “triggers,” I’m just looking for a good place to eat. This is particularly hard in very touristy parts of the city where restaurants don’t have to cultivate repeat business from locals and need to merely have a good location to draw in out of town visitors. So I was surprised to find a new place in the uber-touristy Third Street Promenade/Downtown Santa Monica area that actually has really great food.

The Independence is a gastro-pub with a cool modern interior, creative cocktails and an eclectic menu of small plates. Some of my favorites dishes are the Ricotta Gnudi with Asparagus, Bacon and Parmesan Cheese (pictured above), the Purple and White Cauliflower with Romanesco, Thai Chili and Preserved Lemon and the Grilled Octopus with Smoked Beans, Grapes, Celery and Pickled Chili. If you’re a burger fan, their French Onion Soup-inspired Angus Burger with French Onions, Gruyere and Herb Aioli on an Onion Bun does not disappoint. For dessert, I recommend the Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce. Eating it puts me in my own personal and blissful safe space.

The Independence is located at 205 Broadway in Santa Monica.

Blue Crab and Shrimp Ceviche with Smoked Tomato Water, Cucumber and Avocado

Blue Crab and Shrimp Ceviche with Smoked Tomato Water, Cucumber and Avocado

Purple and White Cauliflower with Romanesco, Thai Chili and Preserved Lemon

Purple and White Cauliflower with Romanesco, Thai Chili and Preserved Lemon

Shaved Salad with Fennel, Endive, Almonds, Pear, Manchego and Pancetta

Shaved Salad with Fennel, Endive, Almonds, Pear, Manchego and Pancetta

Grilled Octopus with Smoked Beans, Grapes, Celery and Pickled Chili

Grilled Octopus with Smoked Beans, Grapes, Celery and Pickled Chili

Angus Burger with French Onions, Gruyere and Herb Aioli on an Onion Bun

Angus Burger with French Onions, Gruyere and Herb Aioli on an Onion Bun

Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce

Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce

Cool and casual

Cool and casual

A very long bar

A very long bar

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Filed under Santa Monica

Forget Your Troubles

Boiled Gyoza
With all the atrocities going on in the world today, sometimes you just want to consume comfort food and, specifically, a heavy does of consoling carbs. Beni Tora on Sawtelle has nine different kinds of gyoza, which equates to a whole lot of carb-y comfort or at least a food coma that will dull the pain for a short while. You can get these Japanese dumplings boiled, fried, filled with pork, shrimp or vegetables, and even a la gratin.

Another way to feel better is by way of a really good, reassuring bowl of fried rice. They have that too at Beni Tora, along with very tasty and soothing Dan Dan Men soup noodles. And if you’re worried that this Japanese carbfest will set your diet back for weeks, then I recommend an order of Beni Tora’s delicious Spicy Tofu, which will provide a complete healthy and protein-laden offset for all those fattening carbs. The math works.

Beni Tora is located at 2002 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles (in Satwelle Japantown/West Los Angeles).

Spicy Tofu

Spicy Tofu

Dan Dan Men

Dan Dan Men

Fried Rice

Fried Rice

Vegetable Stone Bowl Rice

Vegetable Stone Bowl Rice

Another great option when dining on Sawtelle

“Ben Tora” means “Red Tiger” in Japanese

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Filed under West LA

Consuming Portland

FullSizeRender

My daughter Chloe and I recently spent a long weekend in Portland, Oregon. It was the first time there for both of us. Chloe wanted to see Portland because her favorite television show is “Portlandia.” I went for the food.

In the past several years, Portland, just like LA, has been touted as one of the top food cities in the country. After completing a rigorous schedule of seemingly non-stop eating over the three days of our trip, I was not disappointed. I found Portland’s reputation as a foodie haven to be well deserved and I look forward to my next visit to this awesome city.

If you’re thinking about planning your own food trip to Portland, here are the places that I recommend visiting:

Maple Blazer Blunt, Portland Cream, Old Dirty Bastard and the Marshall Mathers Doughnuts from Voodoo Doughnuts

Maple Blazer Blunt, Portland Cream, Old Dirty Bastard and Marshall Mathers Doughnuts from Voodoo Doughnuts

Voodoo Doughnuts It’s undoubtedly the most popular food destination in Portland, with long lines usually outside its door. The kitschy and over-the-top decor and doughnut varieties are great fun, with the added bonus that the doughnuts are actually really good.

Bread with Fresh Sheep Cheese, Tomatoes and Basil from Ava Gene's

Bread with Fresh Sheep Cheese, Tomatoes and Basil from Ava Gene’s

Ava Gene’s This rustic Italian restaurant is owned by the founder of Stumptown Coffee Roasters and has quickly become one of most venerated spots in town. Although we had fantastic meat dishes here, the stars of the menu were their spectacular vegetable dishes.

Charcuterie Plate (including Steak Tartare, Quail Egg Toast, Foie Gras Bon Bon, and Beef Tongue Pastrami) from Beast

Charcuterie Plate (including Steak Tartare, Quail Egg Toast, Foie Gras Bon Bon, and Beef Tongue Pastrami) from Beast

Beast We were lucky to get into this tiny restaurant that has two seatings a night and serves everyone in the house the same extraordinary meat-centric tasting menu at the same time. The experience was intimate and magical. The food was divine.

Korean Pork Shoulder Sandwich with House Kimchi, Chili Mayo, Cilantro and Lime from Lardo

Korean Pork Shoulder Sandwich with House Kimchi, Chili Mayo, Cilantro and Lime from Lardo

Lardo This gourmet sandwich shop was our first stop in Portland; we went directly there from the airport. Even better than the sandwiches were their hand-cut and crispy “Dirty Fries,” which are topped with chunks of pork, marinated peppers, fried herbs and parmesan.

Blue Star Donuts

Blue Star Donuts

Blue Star Donuts This is the refined adult version of Voodoo Doughnuts. It sells small batch donuts made with the best ingredients in such varieties as Blueberry Bourbon Basil and Valrhona Chocolate Crunch. I was happy to learn that an LA location is opening on Abbot Kinney in Venice soon.

A Biscuit and a Brownie from Pine State Biscuits

A Biscuit and a Brownie from Pine State Biscuits

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Pine State Biscuits It’s the hippest, coolest restaurant chain in PDX. It specializes in biscuit sandwiches and other biscuit concoctions and is perfect for breakfast or an afternoon snack. We went there twice.

A Trio of Hot Buttered Buns (with Pimento Cheese, Dungeness Crab, and Hot Chicken) from The Woodsman Tavern

A Trio of Hot Buttered Buns (with Pimento Cheese, Dungeness Crab, and Hot Chicken) from The Woodsman Tavern

The Woodsman Tavern A great place for Portland hipster watching, as well as consuming some super-tasty gastropub fare. We did some major carbo-loading here.

Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings from Pok Pok

Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings from Pok Pok

Pok Pok We had our favorite meal in Portland here. My daughter said it was the best meal of her life. Pok Pok has an extensive menu of insanely amazing creative Thai cuisine. The Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings are other-worldly. Lucky for us, they are opening an LA branch in the next few weeks.

Green Fennel & Maple and Carrot Carrot Cake Ice Creams from Salt & Straw Ice Cream

Green Fennel & Maple and Carrot Carrot Cake Ice Creams from Salt & Straw Ice Cream

Salt & Straw Ice Cream This shop had some of the best artisan ice cream I’ve ever tasted and was well worth the 45 minute line we had to wait in. Their regular flavor are excellent, but their special seasonal vegetable flavors like Carrot Carrot Cake and Green Fennel & Maple were even better.

Portlandia!

Portlandia!

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Filed under Outside Los Angeles

Carnivorous Consumption

Beef Tartare with Smoked Oysters, Cornichons, Shallot & Belcampo Yolk
Belcampo Meat Co. is one of my favorite stalls at Grand Central Market downtown. It’s an upscale butcher shop (part of a Northern California chain) that also serves some of the best burgers in the City. So I was really excited when I heard they were opening another location in Santa Monica that included a full-blown restaurant.

The new Santa Monica eatery has the feel of private club dedicated to hardcore connoisseurs of exotic game. Located behind the butcher shop, the windowless, dimly-lit dining room is sleek and art deco-esque with “animal hide” art hanging on the walls. A large illuminated bar is manned by gregarious hipsters who craft unique and tasty cocktails such as a House Bloody Mary with clarified tomato juice, bacon pepper vodka, celery ice cubes and candied bacon garnish, and a BBQ Old Fashioned garnished with housemade beef jerky.

But while Belcampo’s ambiance and menu signal an exotic food adventure, it has unfortunately been a disappointing one for me each time I’ve gone. I absolutely hated the fishy-tasting Beef Tartare made with smoked oysters. The bland Lamb Tartare was a little better, but I wouldn’t recommend that either. Other disappointments included the Grilled Beef Heart, a dish I’ve enjoyed before at other restaurants but missed the mark here, and a very gamey plate of Mutton Chops. My recommendation if you visit the restaurant is to sit at the bar and order the super tasty Cheeseburger with Beef Tallow Fries. Sometimes simplest is best.

Belcampo Meat Co. is located at 1026 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica. Its original Los Angeles location is still Downtown in Grand Central Market. A third location serving mainly burgers and hot dogs recently opened at 8053 W. 3rd Street, Los Angeles (Mid-City).

Lamb Tartare with Turmeric Oil, Spiced Yogurt & Papadum

Lamb Tartare with Turmeric Oil, Spiced Yogurt & Papadum

Pork Ribs with Apricot & Hot Mustard Sauce, with Jicama Slaw

Pork Ribs with Apricot & Hot Mustard Sauce, with Jicama Slaw

Grilled Beef Heart with Roasted Fennel & Peppers, Mizuna and Salsa Verde

Grilled Beef Heart with Roasted Fennel & Peppers, Mizuna and Salsa Verde

Meatballs with Pickled Fresno Chiles & Vietnamese Coriander

Meatballs with Pickled Fresno Chiles & Vietnamese Coriander

Mutton Chops with English Peas, Pomegranate and Mint Chutney

Mutton Chops with English Peas, Pomegranate and Mint Chutney

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with House Chorizo, Tequila & Apple Cider Vinegar

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with House Chorizo, Tequila & Apple Cider Vinegar

Belcampo Cheeseburger (this one is from the stall in Grand Central Market)

Belcampo Cheeseburger (this one is from the stall in Grand Central Market)

Banana Cream Pie

Banana Cream Pie

Butcher shop upfront

Butcher shop upfront

Knife covers!

Knife covers!

Not a fan of the decor

Not a fan of the decor

Although the bar is cool...

Although the bar is cool…

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Filed under Santa Monica

Son of a Birch

Hamachi with Grapefruit, Horseradish and Olive Oil

I’ve often heard that when God closes a door, he opens a window. I’ve recently found this to be true, except instead of God, it’s Chef Brendan Collins, and the door he closed was at Waterloo & City, his now-defunct modern British gastropub in Culver City. The opened window is Birch, Collin’s impressive new foodie haven of shared plates and creative cocktails. Nestled among the wood paneled bars and velvet-roped lounges of Hollywood, Birch and its stellar cuisine are welcome additions to a neighborhood where appearances are everything and, especially in the case of restaurants, form usually dominates at the expense of substance.

The menu is eclectic and seasonally driven. Of the dishes I’ve tried, my favorites are the Sweetbreads with Potato Gnocchi, Cauliflower and Preserved Lemon, the Hamachi with Grapefruit, Horseradish and Olive Oil (pictured above) and the Red Wine Foie Gros Risotto, which is so amazing it overshadows the Roast Baby Chicken that it accompanies. I also recommend the Rabbit Baklava with Bing Cherries, White Beans, Pistachios and Carrots. For dessert, the way to go is the hot Skillet Toffee Pudding with Burnt Sugar and Ice Cream “Defo Share.” Everyone loves a Hollywood ending and this one does not disappoint.

Birch is located at 1634 N Cahuenga Blvd, Los Angeles (in Hollywood).

Za'atar Flatbread with Persian Yoghurt

Za’atar Flatbread with Persian Yoghurt

Rabbit Baklava with Bing Cherries, White Beans, Pistachios and Carrots

Rabbit Baklava with Bing Cherries, White Beans, Pistachios and Carrots

Sweetbreads, Potato Gnocchi, Cauliflower and Preserved Lemon

Sweetbreads, Potato Gnocchi, Cauliflower and Preserved Lemon

Salmon

Grilled Salmon Wrapped in Birch Wood

Roast Baby Chicken with Red Wine Foie Gras Risotto and Bitter Greens

Roast Baby Chicken with Red Wine Foie Gras Risotto and Bitter Greens

Skillet Toffee Pudding with Burnt Sugar and Ice Cream "Defo Share"

Skillet Toffee Pudding with Burnt Sugar and Ice Cream “Defo Share”

An eclectic menu

An eclectic menu

In the heart of Hollywood

In the heart of Hollywood

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Filed under Hollywood

Brownie is the New Black

S'mores Brownie
Sometimes a cupcake just won’t cut it. You want something richer, denser, chewier. Macarons are too bougie. Pie slices are too proletarian. Filling this unfortunate baked dessert void is Beverly Hills Brownie Company, purveyor of elevated versions of a childhood favorite.

Beverly Hills Brownie Company serves 28 varieties of brownies and blondies, although not all of them of them are offered each day. Flavors include Classic Buttercream, Pumpkin Chocolate Chip, Mocha Latte, Poppyseed Blondie, Vanilla Salted Caramel Blondie, Peanut Brittle (made with dark chocolate, chunky peanut butter and peanut brittle from See’s Candies) and S’mores (a blondie made with graham crackers, toasted marshmallow and Hershey’s milk chocolate).

Prices vary between $3.75 to $4.25 per brownie (similar to that of Sprinkles Cupcakes) with discounts when you order a dozen. There are also mini-sized brownies for those who only want to dip their toe in chocolatey decadence and, for the ultimate hedonistic splurge, brownie ice cream sandwiches. UPDATE: THEY MADE GREAT BROWNIES, BUT NOW THEY ARE CLOSED.

Beverly Hills Brownie Company is located at 315 N. Beverly Dr, Beverly Hills.

Vanilla Salted Caramel Blondie

Vanilla Salted Caramel Blondie

Peanut Brittle Brownie

Peanut Brittle Brownie

28 Varieties!

28 Varieties!

In the heart of Beverly Hills

In the heart of Beverly Hills

Beverly Hills Brownie Company is located at 315 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills.

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Filed under Beverly Hills

The Secret Patio

Skirt Steak with Oregano Chimichurri and Sea Urchin Butter
Summertime in LA and the livin’ is easy. Hot new dining spots are jumpin’ and the frequency of al fresco dining is high.

One of the coolest restaurants to open lately is Maré, where walking in is half the fun. You enter through a fast food grilled cheese shop owned by Maré’s chef, Eric Greenspan. Walk to the rear of the shop and continue along a hallway and up a few stairs through what appears to be an employee-only back area with rows of bulk goods, hanging uniforms and cleaning supplies. At last you you will reach a wooden door with a mysterious red symbol of a sailboat on it. On the other side of the door is paradise; a small outdoor waiting area with a foosball table and, beyond that, a beautiful clandestine dining patio where candles flicker and festive strings of lights hang from above.

After you are seated, plates of olives, peppers and kumquats are brought to your butcher paper-covered table, along with lemons and large seeded baguettes to enjoy with a fruit muddled cocktail or glass of wine. The feast has begun. The short menu consists of rustic Mediterranean-ish cuisine served on wooden platters. The best thing, by far, is the savory and sweet Branzino with Fig Pomegranate Sauce; it’s truly exceptional.

Also worth getting are the bowls of mussels, clams or shrimp with your choice of broth including Leek and White Wine, Spicy Sausage Romesco, and Vadouvan Curry and Green Apple. These shellfish dishes are served with bowls of spaghetti, poached eggs and instructions to create a second tasty dish by pouring the leftover broth onto the pasta and cracking the egg on top. The other featured entree, the Skirt Steak with Oregano Chimichurri and Sea Urchin Butter, is OK but sounds better than it tastes. I would avoid the Salt Roasted Potatoes, which were undercooked and had to be sent back at my recent dinner there. For dessert, go for the Blood Orange “Trifolo” with Semolina Cake and a tart Fruit Compote, which comes layered in a glass jar. It’s the best dessert I’ve had so far this summer.

Maré is located at 7465 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles (in Mid-City).

Seeded Baguette, Peppers, Olives, Kumquats and Lemon

Seeded Baguette, Peppers, Olives, Kumquats and Lemon

Crudité of Vegetables with Almond Romesco and House Ranch

Crudité of Vegetables with Almond Romesco and House Ranch

Arugula Salad with Red Onion, Cherry Tomatoes, Dates and Capers

Arugula Salad with Red Onion, Cherry Tomatoes, Dates and Capers

Pastilla of Duck Confit with Apricots, Pistachios and Spinach

Pastilla of Duck Confit with Apricots, Pistachios and Spinach

Mussels in Beef Broth with Sweet Corn, Pickled Onions and Oxtail

Mussels in Beef Broth with Sweet Corn, Pickled Onions and Oxtail

Part 2 of the mussels dish:  pour the broth on top of past and add an egg

Part 2 of the mussels dish: pour the broth on top of pasta and add an egg

Manila Clams in a Leek and White Wine Broth

Manila Clams in a Leek and White Wine Broth

Branzino with Fig Pomegranate Sauce

Branzino with Fig Pomegranate Sauce

Salt Roasted Potatoes with Bold Aioli

Salt Roasted Potatoes with Bold Aioli

Roasted Broccolini with Chili and Garlic Chips

Roasted Broccolini with Chili and Garlic Chips

Chili Chocolate Crepe with Nutella and Coffee Whipped Cream

Chili Chocolate Crepe with Nutella and Coffee Whipped Cream

Blood Orange "Trifolo" with Semolina Cake and Fruit Compote

Blood Orange “Trifolo” with Semolina Cake and Fruit Compote

Enter through Eric Greenspan's Grilled Cheese Shop

Enter through Eric Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese Shop

Continue through the restaurant's supply closet

Continue through the restaurant’s back supply area

The door to the secret patio

The door to the secret patio

Foosball while you wait

Fooseball while you wait

The end of your journey:  a beautiful restaurant patio

The end of your journey: a beautiful clandestine dining patio

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Filed under Fairfax, Mid-City, West Hollywood

The 10 Best Burger Joints in Los Angeles

Cassell's Hamburgers
If there’s one food that we excel at in Los Angeles, it’s hamburgers. There are no shortage of excellent eateries in this city at which to celebrate the holy marriage of grilled meat patty and bun, preferably with a thick slice of melted cheese, a whole mess of sautéed onions and a couple strips of bacon in between. It has been a life-long mission of mine to identify the very best of these local burger establishments. Here are my top ten favorites:

"The Burger" from Golden State with Harris Ranch Beef, Fiscalini Farms Cheddar,  Applewood Smoked Bacon, Arugula and Ketchup

“The Burger” from Golden State with Harris Ranch Beef, Fiscalini Farms Cheddar, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Arugula and Ketchup

10. The Golden State (426 N. Fairfax, Los Angeles) This little gem lies in the middle of all the hip hop shops and Jewish bakeries on Fairfax. All ingredients in their awesome burgers and other menu items are locally sourced from California including high-end Harris Ranch beef and award-winning Fiscalini cheddar.

Piku "Fig" Burger from Pono Burger with Housemade Drunken Caramelized Fig Jam, Organic Beef Patty, Fermier Brie Cheese, Niman Ranch Bacon and Crushed Hazelnuts

Piku “Fig” Burger from Pono Burger with Housemade Drunken Caramelized Fig Jam, Organic Beef Patty, Fermier Brie Cheese, Niman Ranch Bacon and Crushed Hazelnuts

9. Pono Burger (829 Broadway, Santa Monica) The funky looking metal structure that houses this joint (it looks like a mini airplane hanger) will draw you in. The Hawaiian-style burgers, sweet potato fries and salted caramel shakes will keep you coming back.

Chef Katsu's Original California Roll Hamburger with Snow Crab Salad, Avocado, Sushi Ginger, Boston Lettuce, Tomato, Nori, and Wasabi-Shoyu-Mayonnaise

Chef Katsu’s Original California Roll Hamburger with Snow Crab Salad, Avocado, Sushi Ginger, Boston Lettuce, Tomato, Nori, and Wasabi-Shoyu-Mayonnaise

8. 26 Beach Restaurant (3100 W. Washington Blvd in Venice) There are several places that have an extensive menu of over-the-top themed burgers such as a Peanut Butter & Jelly Burger. 26 Beach is the best of that lot. They are especially known for their “Sushi Burgers” including a California Roll Burger, and Spicy Tuna Burger and a Mori Eel Burger.

Cheese Burger from Pie 'n Burger with Homemade Thousand Island Dressing, Pickles and Lettuce

Cheese Burger from Pie ‘n Burger with Homemade Thousand Island Dressing, Pickles and Lettuce

7. Pie ‘n Burger (913 E. California Blvd, Pasadena) This old school diner with a long winding counter is a mandatory stop for me when I go to the Rose Bowl or am otherwise in Pasadena. As you can glean from the restaurant’s name, you’re missing out if you don’t order both a hamburger and a slice of one of their amazing pies.

Griddled Cheese Burger from Ledlow with American and Cheddar Cheeses, Red Onion, Dill Pickle, Dijon and Garlic Aioli

Griddled Cheeseburger from Ledlow with American and Cheddar Cheeses, Red Onion, Dill Pickle, Dijon and Garlic Aioli

6. Ledlow (400 S. Main St in Downtown) The newest restaurant of local superstar chef Josef Centeno (Baco Mercat, Bar Ama, Orsa & Winston), Ledlow is more than just a burger joint. However, their Griddled Cheeseburger seems to be the speciality of the house and has quickly drawn much-deserved acclaim from LA foodies.

Double Double from In-N-Out Burger

Double Double from In-N-Out Burger

5. In-N-Out (all over Los Angeles) Yes, it’s a fast food chain, but don’t hold that against it. At $3.60, the Double Double is the best deal in town and is better than most of the pricey burgers at nice restaurants. I like to add toppings from their secret menu, including chilies, grilled onions and pickles.

Hickory Burger from The Apple Pan

Hickory Burger from The Apple Pan

4. The Apple Pan (10801 W. Pico Blvd in Westwood) This 68-year-old diner is an LA landmark. All seating is at a U-shaped counter, where you’re served by uber-efficient grumpy old men. It’s super fun, especially late at night, and their Hickory Burgers are awesome.

Cheeseburger from Belcampo with Dry Aged Grass Fed Beef with Cheddar and Caramelized Onions

Cheeseburger from Belcampo with Dry Aged Grass Fed Beef with Cheddar and Caramelized Onions

3. Belcampo Meat Co (317 S Broadway in Downtown; also 1026 Wilshire Blvd in Santa Monica) It’s perhaps more of a gourmet butcher shop than a burger joint, but the cheeseburgers sold at this stall in Grand Central Market are phenomenal. They’re made with a special Wagyu-Angus meat blend and are served on fresh sesame seed buns. Belcampo just opened a fancier restaurant in Santa Monica where you can also get a burger, but I’m partial to the ones served downtown.

The Hatch Burger from Umami Burger with Roasted Hatch Chilies, House Cali Cheese and Roasted Garlic Aioli

The Hatch Burger from Umami Burger with Roasted Hatch Chilies, House Cali Cheese and Roasted Garlic Aioli

2. Umami Burger (multiple locations) In a short period of time, this revolutionary burger restaurant has expanded into a ubiquitous chain throughout Los Angeles and has been widely emulated. Their burgers are made from specially seasoned meat blends and their Portuguese-style buns are sweetened with milk and honey. It’s a toss up for me as to which of their burgers is the best: the decedent truffle burger or the spicy hatch burger made with four types of green chilies.

Cheese Burger from Cassell's Hamburgers with House Ground Prime Beef Patty and Cheddar Cheese on a Parker House Bun.

Cheeseburger from Cassell’s Hamburgers with House Ground Prime Beef Patty and Cheddar Cheese on a Parker House Bun.

1. Cassell’s Hamburgers (3600 W 6th St in Koreatown) This is my new favorite burger joint in LA. First established in 1948, this restaurant recently reopened in a cool retro space in the historic Hotel Normandie. Now under new ownership, their burgers have some similarities to the ones which made Cassell’s an LA institution, but are significantly improved. They are now the perfect combination of gourmet excellence and classic style.

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Filed under Burbank, Canoga Park, Downtown, Fairfax, Glendale, Hermosa Beach, Hollywood, Inglewood, Koreatown, Los Feliz, Marina del Rey, Mid-City, North Hollywood, Northridge, Panorama City, Pasadena, Porter Ranch, Redondo Beach, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Toluca Lake, Tujunga, Van Nuys, Venice, West LA, Westlake Village, Westwood, Woodland Hills

Love Me Some Poké, Mon

Mango Albacore Poké with Ponzu-lime Sauce, Macadamia Nuts and Ginger
Swimsuit season is just around the corner. Time for spinning, pilates, cross-fit and the sad reality that getting in shape is going to involve some serious restraint in feasting for the next month or two. Fortunately, LA’s hottest food trend is a great way to eat healthy and ultimately shed some LB’s.

Hawaiian poké joints are all the rage right now in Los Angeles. For those unfamiliar with this Polynesian delicacy, poké is a raw salad usually made with fish. My favorite new poké place is Sweetfin Poké, which opened in Santa Monica a few weeks ago. It’s a fast food concept specializing in bowls of super fresh, cubed and sauced ahi, albacore, snapper and salmon prepared by Top Chef alum Dakota Weiss.

You can choose from one of Sweetfin Poké’s signature bowls or have them build you a custom version from an extensive list of ingredients. My favorite signature bowls are the Spicy Tuna Bowl with Creamy Togarashi Sauce, Hijiki and Avocado, and the Mango Albacore Bowl with Ponzu-Lime Sauce, Macadamia Nuts and Ginger. Each concoction is served on top of your choice of Jasmine Rice, Citrus-Kale Salad, or my favorite — super-low carb Kelp Noodles and Cucumber Slaw.

I recommend enjoying these Hawaiian delicacies with one of the restaurant’s housemade unsweetened infused ice teas or coconut waters in flavors such as Banana Date, Orange Mint, Guava and Coconut Basil with Lemongrass. Their crispy taro chips are not going to aid in slimming your waistline, but are delicious nonetheless.

Sweetfin Poké is located at 829 Broadway in Santa Monica.

Classic Tuna Poké with Classic Sauce, White and Green Onions and Red Chile over Citrus-Kale Salad

Classic Tuna Poké with
Classic Sauce, White and Green Onions and Red Chile over Citrus-Kale Salad


Spicy Tuna Poké with Creamy Togarashi Sauce, Hijiki, Avocado and Chile Marinated Oranges

Spicy Tuna Poké with Creamy Togarashi Sauce, Hijiki, Avocado and Chile Marinated Oranges


Red Snapper Poké with Yuzu Koshu, Chopped Serrano's, Fresh Ginger, Mango, Napa Cabbage and Chili Marinated Oranges

Red Snapper Poké with Yuzu Koshu, Chopped Serrano’s, Fresh Ginger, Mango, Napa Cabbage and Chili Marinated Oranges


Taro Chips

Taro Chips


Orange Mint and Guava Ice Teas

Orange Mint and Guava Ice Teas


In Santa Monica on Broadwayd

In Santa Monica


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Filed under Santa Monica

Checking All The Boxes

Chocolate Pie with Rye Crust, Peanut Crumble and Vanilla-Malted Ice Cream
Odys + Penelope, the most recent undertaking of the owners/chefs of the late Hatfield’s, checks every box of a new trendy LA restaurant:

1. A name which is actually two names connected by a “+” or a “&” such as Faith & Flower, Barrel & Ashes, Pine & Crane; who do we blame for starting this trend?
2. A space with an interesting lineage; O+P’s building originally housed a printing press; hence the restaurant being named after characters from Homer’s The Odyssey
3. A modern industrial chic interior which includes a communal table; O+P’s look is uber cool with exposed brick, a steel high beam ceiling and a concrete floor; the communal table is made from reclaimed wood
4. Creative craft cocktails; chipotle infused tequilla, anyone?
5. Small plates and/or bigger platters, all of which are intended for sharing
6. A themed twist on an otherwise eclectic menu; O+P’s specialty is Brazilian charrasco dishes
7. A commitment to local and sustainable ingredients
8. Some sort of unorthodox practice in connection with gratuity or additional amounts on your bill; here it’s a mandatory 18% service charge
9. Brussels sprouts
10. Kale

What distinguishes Odys + Penelope from many other new hot spots is that the food, for the most part, is really good and some dishes are exceptional. Pre-summer diets be damned, I highly recommend the Fried Wild Mushrooms with Persian Garlic Sauce. And although it looks like the odd man out on the menu, the House Made Pappardelle with Pork Belly Bolognese and Fried Sage is not to be missed. I also love the Marinated Niman Ranch Skirt Steak with Carrot Ginger Purre, Chilies, Cilantro and Radish. If you don’t order the Chocolate Pie with Rye Crust, Peanut Crumble and Vanilla-Malted Ice Cream (pictured above), you’re massively missing out.

Odys + Penelope is located at 127 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles.

Hot Skillet Focaccia, Dandelion Greens and Ricotta

Hot Skillet Focaccia, Dandelion Greens and Ricotta


Raw Hamachi Salad, Chickpea, Avocado, Cucumber, Preserved Lemon and Blood Orange

Raw Hamachi Salad, Chickpea, Avocado, Cucumber, Preserved Lemon and Blood Orange


Fried Wild Mushrooms with Persian Garlic Sauce

Fried Wild Mushrooms with Persian Garlic Sauce


House Made Pappardelle with Pork Belly Bolognese and Fried Sage

House Made Pappardelle with Pork Belly Bolognese and Fried Sage


Smoked Lamb Lettuce Wraps

Smoked Lamb Lettuce Wraps


Dry Aged Churrasco Sirloin Cap with Crispy Onions and Horseradish Cream

Dry Aged Churrasco Sirloin Cap with Crispy Onions and Horseradish Cream


Marinated Niman Ranch Skirt Steak, Carrot Ginger Puree, Chilies, Cilantro and Radish

Marinated Niman Ranch Skirt Steak, Carrot Ginger Puree, Chilies, Cilantro and Radish


Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Roasted Almond, Caper and Dried Apricot
Warm Sticky Toffee Pudding with Roasted Apple, Candied Pecan and Lime Ice Cream

Warm StickyToffee Pudding with Roasted Apple, Candied Pecan and Lime Ice Cream


A Beautiful Space

A Beautiful Space



Odys and Penelope on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Mid-City

And Then There’s Maude

Sturgeon with Tea, Tomburri and Dandelion

Maude is the pretty new girl at the ball that everyone wants to dance with. An ultra-ambitious endeavor by celebrity chef Curtis Stone, Maude serves solely a nine course fixed price tasting menu inspired by one seasonal ingredient which changes every month. This past January I dined with my wife and friends on a Pomegranate-centric menu. Other past monthly themes have included rhubarb, artichoke, morels, parsnips, berries and truffles.

The restaurant is beautiful, cozy and intimate. The whole place seats only 25 diners, and some of the courses are served directly by Curtis Stone himself. Reservations are extremely difficult to get and can require a lot of repeat dialing.

As for the food, while I thought it was good, the Pomegranate menu did not blow me away. Maybe my expectations were too high given the praise heaped on Maude by several friends and fellow bloggers. It’s not surprising, though, that a nine course menu which completely changes each month might not always be uniformly amazing.

The price each month varies based on the seasonal central ingredient, but ranges between $90-$125 with the exception of the truffle menu, which costs a whopping $250. This excludes wine, tax and a madatory 18% “service charge,” which they inform you is for the kitchen staff as well as your server, and you’re encouraged to leave a separate “tip” as well for your server. This is a new trend which I’m not a fan of. It’s confusing, makes you feel cheap for leaving 18-20% all-in, and is not the best way to end a nice evening of upscale dining.

Maude is located at 212 S. Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills.

Carrot Salad with Sunchoke, Blood Orange and Leeks

Carrot Salad with Sunchoke, Blood Orange and Leeks

Salmon Crudo with Rye, Radish and Celery

Salmon Crudo with Rye, Radish and Celery

Duck Terrine with Braised Red Cabbage and Frisee

Duck Terrine with Braised Red Cabbage and Frisee

Duck Raviolo with Winter Greens, Celeriac and Valoute

Duck Raviolo with Winter Greens, Celeriac and Valoute

Lamp Rump with Turnip, Cous Cous and Chard

Lamp Rump with Turnip, Cous Cous and Chard

Chocolate with Burnt Orange, Tarragon and Hazelnut

Chocolate with Burnt Orange, Tarragon and Hazelnut

Cookies

Cookies

Intimate and romantic

Intimate and romantic


Maude on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Beverly Hills

It’s Zo Good

Black Sea Bass Sushi with Kelp
In the competitive world of LA Sushidom, Sushi Zo is a titan. How good is Sushi Zo? It’s Breaking Bad good. It’s Chris Paul and Blake Griffin good. Or in terms my wife can understand, it’s Saks Fifth Avenue Friends and Family Sale good.

The original location resides in a Cheviot Hills shopping center and has been a mecca for sushi lovers for the past eight years. But if you’re willing to shell out some serious shekels, the newer location Downtown in the Old Bank District is the one to really get excited about. Its menu is strictly omakase (chef’s choice) and consists of 20 or so expertly curated and prepared bite-sized slices of the best raw fish you’ve ever consumed, along with a few other amazing Japanese delicacies including Sushi Zo’s famous Squid Noodles with Uni and Truffle Salt. It simply does not get better than this.

Sushi Zo is located at 9824 National Blvd, Los Angeles (in Cheviot Hills) and 334 S. Main St, Los Angeles (Downtown).

Kumamoto Oysters

Kumamoto Oysters


Amberjack

Amberjack Sashimi


Sea Bass

Sea Bass Sashimi


Bluefin Tuna Sashimi

Bluefin Tuna Sashimi


Octopus

Octopus Sashimi


Halibut Sushi

Halibut Sushi


Scallop Sushi

Scallop Sushi


Wild Caught Yellow Tail Belly

Wild Caught Yellow Tail Belly Sushi


Medium Toro

Medium Toro Sushi


Amberjack Sushi

Amberjack Sushi


Pompano Sushi

Pompano Sushi


Ankimo

Ankimo (Monk Fish Liver)


Japanese Barracuda Sushi

Japanese Barracuda Sushi


Chawanmushi (Egg Custard Dish)

Chawanmushi (Egg Custard Dish)


Red Snapper Sushi

Red Snapper Sushi


Squid Noodles with Uni and Truffle Salt

Squid Noodles with Uni and Truffle Salt


Salmon Roe

Salmon Roe


Uni (Sea Urchin) Sushi

Uni (Sea Urchin) Sushi


Giant Clam Sushi

Giant Clam Sushi


Cod Sperm Sac Sushi

Cod Sperm Sac Sushi


Sea Eel Sushi

Sea Eel Sushi


Sea Bass Soup

Sea Bass Soup


Tamago (Omelette)

Tamago (Omelette)


Sushi Masters

Sushi Masters




Sushi Zo on Urbanspoon
Zo on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Cheviot Hills, Downtown

A Nutty Place in the Valley

Smiles
One of my favorite tv shows growing up was The Brady Bunch. Not only was it the perfect depiction of 1970’s suburban idealism, but it taught me “caveat emptor” and not to play ball in the house. If you want to check out the actual home used as the Brady house exterior, it’s located at 11222 Dilling Street in Studio City. While you’re in Studio City, I suggest you complete your Brady Bunch expedition by heading over to Spread PB for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the quintessential suburban after-school snack.

Spread PB is a new restaurant devoted entirely to peanut butter, which they make themselves in numerous varieties including regular, nutty, dark chocolate, maple bacon, coconut, cinnamon raisin and banana chunky. Their extensive menu features childhood favorites such as “Ants on a Log” (celery sticks with peanut butter topped with raisins or chocolate chips) and “Smiles” (apple slices layered with peanut butter and mini marshmallows; pictured above) and creative concoctions such as “Banana Sushi” and greek yogurt peanut butter smoothies.

The main attractions, however, are the sandwiches. You can build your own with your choice of peanut butter, bread and a long list of toppings, or select from a list of house specialities. My favorites are the Chicken Curry Sandwich with green curry peanut butter and “The P’s Please” sandwich with peanut butter, pickles and potato chips. Both are surprisingly good; perhaps even better than the ones Carol and Alice used to make for Greg, Marcia, Peter, Jan, Bobby and Cindy.

SpreadPB is located at 12215, Ventura Blvd, Suite 104 in Studio City. UPDATE: Spread PB is permanently closed. I also heard that NYC’s Peanut Butter & Co. is closing. It’s sad timed for peanut butter.

The P's Please (Peanut Butter, Pickles and Potato Chips) on Cinnamon Raisin Bread

The P’s Please (Peanut Butter, Pickles and Potato Chips) on Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Chicken Curry Sandwich with Green Curry Peanut Butter

Chicken Curry Sandwich with Green Curry Peanut Butter

Dogwich (Banana, Peanut Butter, Jelly and Chocolate Chips on a Hot Dog Bun)

Dogwich (Banana, Peanut Butter, Jelly and Chocolate Chips on a Hot Dog Bun)

Banana Sushi

Banana Sushi

Berry Berry Nuts and Bananas (Blueberry Bread, Peanut Butter, Strawberries, Blueberries and Bananas)

Berry Berry Nuts and Bananas (Blueberry Bread, Peanut Butter, Strawberries, Blueberries and Bananas)

Ants on a Log (Celery Sticks with Peanut Butter and Raisins or Chocolate Chips)

Ants on a Log (Celery Sticks with Peanut Butter and Raisins or Chocolate Chips)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies

The Peanut Gallery

The Peanut Gallery

The Brady House in Studio City

The Brady Bunch House in Studio City


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Filed under Studio City

I Came, Orsa, I Conquered.

Uni Risotto

There’s a state of consciousness that I refer to as “aesthetic bliss.” It’s when one or more of your senses is completely enraptured as a result of a highbrow pursuit. It’s the feeling you get while listening to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, taking in the Bolshoi Ballet’s Swan Lake at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, or viewing a Kandinsky exhibit at LACMA. The food version of this is Orsa & Winston, the dining experience from local superstar chef Josef Centeno.

Centeno is the creative talent behind awesome hipster eateries Bäco Mercat and Bar Ama, as well as the former chef of Lazy Ox Canteen. With Orsa & Winston, Centeno now has a more sophisticated environment to show off his mad skills. The menu has you select from either a five or eight course seasonal tasting menu (or with a 72 hour advance reservation, you can truly indulge and opt for the “Super-Omakase” of more than 20 courses). All come with optional wine pairings, as well as optional supplemental dishes. Each tasting menu is a procession of beautiful, delectable and perfectly executed small plates to experience and savor.

Needless to say, such aesthetic bliss is not inexpensive. But for a special occasion or when you just want to treat yourself to an evening of exceptional food and wine, Orsa & Winston is worth the splurge.

Orsa & Winston is located at 122 W. 4th Street, Los Angeles (Downtown).

Buttermilk and Summer Corn Soup

Buttermilk and Summer Corn Soup


Smoked Sockeye Salmon Crudo

Smoked Sockeye Salmon Crudo


"Breakfast in a Shell" (Coddled Egg, Maple Syrup, Pancetta, Semolina and Balsamic Whipped Cream)

“Breakfast in a Shell” (Coddled Egg, Maple Syrup, Pancetta, Semolina and Balsamic Whipped Cream)


Milk Bread Focaccia

Milk Bread Focaccia with Parsley, Parmigiano and Speck


Braised Lamb Belly with Cranberry Beans, Hericot Vert and Nectarine Bustarda

Braised Lamb Belly with Cranberry Beans, Hericot Vert and Nectarine Bustarda


Melon Granita topped with Huckleberry and Lavender Mint

Melon Granita topped with Huckleberry and Lavender Mint


Chocolate Caramel Crostada with Candied Banana, served with Banana Rum Ice Cream and Peanut Toffee

Chocolate Caramel Crostada with Candied Banana, served with Banana Rum Ice Cream and Peanut Toffee


Shortbread Cookies

Shortbread Cookies


Modern and minimalist decor

Modern and minimalist decor


On a cool street downtown

In the Old Bank District downtown



Orsa & Winston on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Downtown

The 10 Best Things I Consumed in 2014

The Best of 2014
2014 was a rough year. Escalated conflict in the Middle East, missing jetliners, and an Ebola outbreak; the hits just kept on coming. So it’s not surprising that my annual list this year of the ten best things I consumed and wrote about in the past year include mostly comfort foods. Let’s hope for greener pastures in 2015. In the meantime, here are some things to help you feel a little better:

Aussie Pie Tiger Stack
10. Tiger Stack with Chicken and Tarragon Pie from Aussie Pie Kitchen. Foodwise, there are few things in this world more comforting than meat pies. Stack a chicken tarragon one on a mound of garlic mashed potatoes and top it with bacon-laced mushy minty peas and a ladleful of thyme gravy, and let the emotional healing begin!

Fresh Peach Stuffed Donut from The Donut Man
9. Fresh Peach Stuffed Donut from The Donut Man. This year I went in search of the best donut shops in LA. The research, as you can imagine, was gruelling. The winner was The Donut Man, a shack located on historic Route 66 in Glendora, whose specialty is an amazing seasonal donut stuffed with either fresh strawberries or peaches.

Mother Moo Creamery
8. Classic Butterscotch Ice Cream with Butterscotch Sauce from Mother Moo Creamery. This year I also set out to find the best artisan ice cream shops in LA. My top pick was Mother Moo Creamery in Sierra Madre. After sampling all of their flavors (my dedication to this blog knows no bounds!), my favorite was an insanely good Butterscotch Ice Cream, which was made even better when topped with a rich housemade butterscotch topping.

Brioche Toast, Cranberry Bourbon Jam and Nut Butter
7. Brioche Toast, Cranberry Bourbon Jam and Nut Butter from Sqirl. Things that are simple but perfectly executed can often be magical. Case in point: the brioche toast with housemade jam and nut butter at hipster breakfast haven Sqirl is pure perfection.

Pancotto
6. Pancotto from The Factory Kitchen. Everything I’ve eaten at The Factory Kitchen has been so good, it’s hard to single out just one dish for this list. But if I had to pick one it would be this unusual homage to a peasant bread soup with duck egg, red potato vellutata, sauteed greeens, semolina bread crostone and speck.

BBQ Spot Prawns
5. BBQ Spot Prawns from Pot. LA superstar chef Roy Choi’s restaurants in the new Line Hotel in K-town are probably the hippest and most happening eateries in the city right now. My favorite dish there: these crispy BBQ Spot Prawns which I got to pick out myself before they were grilled and served on a bed of sizzling onions.

Uni Pasta
4. Uni Pasta from EMC Seafood. Creamy uni pasta is one of those go-to dishes that I always order when I see it on a menu. The version at EMC Seafood is one of the best I’ve ever had.

Peanut Butter Ganache, Roasted Grape Ice Cream, Griddled Pound Cake and Chocolate Feuilletine
3. Peanut Butter Ganache, Roasted Grape Ice Cream, Griddled Pound Cake and Chocolate Feuilletine from Saint Martha. If you read this blog regularly, you know how obsessed I am with peanut butter. Saint Martha, one of my favorite new restaurants, has one of the best peanut butter desserts ever.

Salt and Vinegar Popcorn
2. Salt and Vinegar Popcorn from The Church Key. This specially seasoned popcorn is so addictive, it should be regulated by the Federal government.

Kazu Nori
1. Crab Hand Roll from KazuNori. I am completely obsessed with this hand roll. I refer to it as “The Precious.” It is my favorite thing that I consumed and wrote about this year.

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Filed under Downtown, Glendora, Koreatown, Santa Monica, Sierra Madre, West Hollywood

Saints Be Praised

St Martha
Until recently, the popularity of bone marrow in modern high end cuisine has confounded me. I know it’s an ingredient adored by celebrated chefs and sophisticated diners, but I’m not a fan of its usually gelatinous texture. Also it has been hard for me to get past the fact that restaurants are charging good money for something my poor Eastern European ancestors scraped and sucked out of bones because they couldn’t afford any of the better parts of the cow.

My feelings on bone marrow, however, have changed recently due to some amazing Bone Marrow Beignets that I ate at an incredible new LA restaurant called Saint Martha, where they were served with Steak and Oyster Tartare, along with a Champagne Sabayon that is playfully presented to look like a fried egg. Nick Erven, the über talented chef at Saint Martha, excels at reinterpreting and refining low brow and comfort foods, which also include an excellent brisket and an insanely good fried chicken served with steelcut oats, carrots, pickled dates and Moorish spices. Even Saint Martha’s standout dessert is an upscale version of a classic PB&J, but assembled with peanut butter ganache, roasted grape ice cream and griddled pound cake.

In keeping with the high/low theme, this intimate and cutting-edge restaurant, which is named after the patron saint of cooks and servants, is ensconced in a lackluster Koreatown strip mall. Despite the K-Town location, Saint Martha would be best described as New American and features an extensive and adventurous wine list. It has quickly become one of my favorite new spots in the city.

Saint Martha is located at 740 S. Western Ave, Los Angeles (in Koreatown). UPDATE: SAINT MARTHA IS CLOSED. WHAT A TRAGEDY. HOPEFULLY IT IS JUST TEMPORARY.

Octopus with Koshihikari Rice, Sauce Nero, Lardo and Espelette

Octopus with Koshihikari Rice, Sauce Nero, Lardo and Espelette

Steak and Oyster Tartare with Champagne Sabayon and Bone Marrow Beignets

Steak and Oyster Tartare with Champagne Sabayon and Bone Marrow Beignets

Crab "Okonomiyaki"

Crab “Okonomiyaki”

Chicken Liver Mousse with Mushroom, Hazelnut Praline, Pickled Blueberries and Toast

Chicken Liver Mousse with Mushroom, Hazelnut Praline, Pickled Blueberries and Toast

Crispy Chicken Thigh with Steelcut Oats, Carrots, Pickled Dates and Moorish Spices

Crispy Chicken Thigh with Steelcut Oats, Carrots, Pickled Dates and Moorish Spices

Pecan Smoked Brisket with Chili-Hoisin, Lettuce and Shaved Root Vegetables

Pecan Smoked Brisket with Chili-Hoisin, Lettuce and Shaved Root Vegetables

Peanut Butter Ganache, Roasted Grape Ice Cream, Griddled Pound Cake and Chocolate Feuilletine

Peanut Butter Ganache, Roasted Grape Ice Cream, Griddled Pound Cake and Chocolate Feuilletine

One of my new favorite places

One of my favorite new places in the city

Saint Martha

Saint Martha


Saint Martha Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Koreatown

The Pies Have It

Aussie Pie Tiger Stack
People Magazine just named Australian actor and superhero portrayer Chris Hemsworth “Sexiest Man Alive,” but I’m more interested in another sexy Australian import. The hot and seductive meat pies at Aussie Pie Kitchen in Santa Monica are my latest obsession. Each has a buttery and flaky crust that melts in your mouth and encases a juicy and perfectly seasoned filling. My favorites are the Chicken + Tarragon, the Lamb + Rosemary, the Steak + Shiraz, and the unique “Surfer’s Pie” with Green Curry Chicken and Coconut Milk.

For the full experience, I recommend ordering a “Tiger Stack.” The pie of your choice will be perched on a pile of Garlic Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes and topped with a scoop of bacon-laced Mushy Minty Peas and a ladleful of Creamy Thyme Gravy. This decadent concoction is best enjoyed with a sweet and spicy Bundaberg Ginger Beer and followed by one of Aussie Pie Kitchen’s high-end coffee drinks. Their “Flat White,” an Australian specialty which is similar to a Latte, but stronger, is not only delicious but will keep you awake after carbo-loading with the pies and mashed potatoes.

Aussie Pie Kitchen is located at 2510 Main Street in Santa Monica.

G'Day Meat Pies!

G’Day Meat Pies!

Ground Beef and Shiraz Pie

Ground Beef and Shiraz Pie

Sufferin' Succotash!

Sufferin’ Succotash!

Stacked!

Stacking options

Lamb and Rosemary Pie

Lamb and Rosemary Pie

Brekkie Roll

Brekkie Roll

Awesome Coffee

White Flat


Aussie Pie Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Santa Monica

Key Party

The Church Key
The Church Key is a restaurant full of surprises. While there’s a menu with diverse offerings from Potato Pierogies to Jidori Chicken “Tikka Masala,” a good part of your meal is likely to come from “dim sum” carts that cruise around the restaurant. Each cart has a variety of whimsical and unexpected small plate offerings such as Baja fish tacos, bahn mi sandwiches, falafel balls and even sushi. If you’re lucky, one of the carts will have Church Key’s “Cheetos,” which are fried chicharron-style pig ears dusted with cheese powder and seved with whipped avocado mousse. They’re amazingly good.

At some point in your meal, a woman will appear dresssed as a 1960’s airline stewardess with a Pan Am beverage cart. Don’t worry; she works there. She’ll offer you the chance to purchase “Otter Pop”-type cocktails, which she’ll prepare for you on the spot with liquid nitrogen. I suggest you accept.

But the biggest surprise at Church Key is despite all the theatrics and high-concept fun, the food is for the most part really good. The Tapioca Crusted Tai Snapper with Broccoli Rabe, Sushi Rice Cake and White Soy Vinaigrette is phenomenal. I also recommend the Cured Beef Bresaola with Plum Mostarda, House Pickles and Grilled Sourdough. The Salt and Vinegar Popcorn is like crack and free of charge. For dessert, go for the Brioche Donuts with Brown Butter Glaze and Cinnamon Caramel. You deserve it.

The Church Key is located at 8730 Sunset Blvd in West Hollywood.

Salt and Vinegar Popcorn

Salt and Vinegar Popcorn

Pig Ear Cheetos

Pig Ear Cheetos

Smoked Pork Ribs

Smoked Pork Ribs

Baja Fish Tacos

Baja Fish Tacos

Cheese Roll

Bacon and Cheese Roll

BBQ Pork Bun

BBQ Pork Bun

Osoky's Potato Pierogies with Peach Butter, Aged Gouda, Creme Fraiche and Chives

Osoky’s Potato Pierogies with Peach Butter, Aged Gouda, Creme Fraiche and Chives

Heirloom Tomato, Melon and Peach Salad with Sheeps Milk Gouda, Pickled Peach Vinaigrette and Watercress

Heirloom Tomato, Melon and Peach Salad with Sheeps Milk Gouda, Pickled Peach Vinaigrette and Watercress

Cured Beef Bresaola with Plum Mostarda, House Pickles and Grilled Sourdough

Cured Beef Bresaola with Plum Mostarda, House Pickles and Grilled Sourdough

Tapioca Crusted Tai Snapper with Broccoli Rabe, Sushi Rice Cake and White Soy Vinaigrette

Tapioca Crusted Tai Snapper with Broccoli Rabe, Sushi Rice Cake and White Soy Vinaigrette

Jidori Chicken "Tikka Masala" with Dehydrated Mango, Cilantro Raita and Basmati Rice

Jidori Chicken “Tikka Masala” with Dehydrated Mango, Cilantro Raita and Basmati Rice

Brioche Donuts with Brown Butter Glaze and Cinnamon Caramel

Brioche Donuts with Brown Butter Glaze and Cinnamon Caramel

Banana Toffee Pudding with Banana Cake, Toffee Caramel and Banana Creme Brûlée Foam

Banana Toffee Pudding with Banana Cake, Toffee Caramel and Banana Creme Brûlée Foam

Cocktails!

The Cocktails have names like “Nice Melons,” “Purple Finger Pirate” and “The Family Jewels”

The dim sum carts are full of surprises.

The dim sum carts are full of surprises.

Anyone for Liquid Nitrogen "Otter Pops" from a Pan Am beverage cart?

Anyone for Liquid Nitrogen “Otter Pops” from a Pan Am beverage cart?

A handy card to let the dim sum cart pushers know you're done

A handy card to let the dim sum cart pushers know you’re done

It's a party here.

There’s a party going on right here.

Church Key on Urbanspoon

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Filed under West Hollywood

This is How I Roll

Kazu Nori
I have been completely and unabashedly obsessed with Chef Kazunori Nozawa’s blue crab handroll (which I will hereafter refer to as “the Precious”) since I first discovered it 20 years ago at the legendary Sushi Nozawa in Studio City. Made with crispy melt-in-your-mouth seaweed, warm rice, and a generous dollop of super fresh blue crab mixed with tasty housemade mayonnaise, the Precious was the fireworks finale that always ended the mind-blowing omakase meals that Nozawa was famous for.

While Chef Nozawa retired a couple years ago and closed his famous restaurant, the Precious miraculously lived on at a new chain of unconventional sushi bars called Sugarfish, which is owned by Nozawa and his son. But the journey of the Precious does not end there. Nozawa and son have now debuted KazuNori, a temple of sorts devoted almost exclusively to Nozawa’s classic hand rolls.

Located in one of the most hipstery parts of Downtown, KazuNori is a cozy and casual joint; a bustling U-shaped 24-seat bar, within which sushi masters prepare Nozawa’s rolled delights for instant and euphoric consumption. I recommend ordering a combo of three, four or five hand rolls. The scallop, toro, yellowtail and lobster ones are spectacular, but of course nothing beats the Precious.

KazuNori is located at 421 S Main St, Los Angeles (Downtown).

Halibut Sashimi

The Halibut Sashimi


Toro Hand Roll

The Toro Hand Roll


The Locale

The Downtown Locale


The Instructions

The Instructions


The Bar

The Bar


The Making of the Hand Rolls

The Making and Consuming of the Hand Rolls



Kazunori on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Downtown

Labor Day Weekend for Foodies

The Taste LA Times
Who doesn’t love a food festival? If you’re in LA this Labor Day Weekend, there’s a great one happening on the Paramount Pictures lot. It’s put on by The Los Angeles Times and features over 125 of LA’s top restaurants spread out over five different events. Some of my favorite places participating include The Gorbals, Hinoki and the Bird, Jitlada, Fishing with Dynamite, Loteria Grill, Chichén Itzá, Stella Barra Pizzeria and Plan Check Kitchen + Bar. Wine, Beer and Spirits will be plentiful.

You can get more information and buy tickets here.

Maple Bacon Cinnamon Roll baked by LA Times Test Kitchen chef Noelle Carter

Maple Bacon Cinnamon Roll baked by LA Times Test Kitchen chef Noelle Carter will be featured at the Sunday brunch event.

Mexican French Toast from Loteria Grill chef Jimmy Shaw

Mexican Sweet Roll “Concha” French Toast from Loteria Grill chef Jimmy Shaw will also be served at the Sunday brunch.

Smokey Fried Chicken from Plan Check Kitchen + Bar

Smokey Fried Chicken from Plan Check Kitchen + Bar

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Filed under Uncategorized