The Cheesiest Place in the Valley


Artisan Cheese Gallery is my favorite cheese shop/restaurant in the city. I go there often for lunch, not only because I love the food, but because it’s fun to do a pre-lunch tasting of exotic, unusual and rare cheeses. The people who work there are really nice, unpretentious and passionate about dairy. They possess an encyclopedic knowledge of cheese and will provide you with tastes of various high-end cheeses while informing you that one is made on a farm in Vermont, where it is washed with cider and aged in whiskey barrels, while another is produced in small batches in a remote village in Southern Belgium by a secret order of monks who raise miniature cows. It’s educational and great fun! You can buy cheese to take home, but my favorite thing to do is have them prepare a lunch-sized cheese (or cheese and meat) platter of my favorites from the tasting, along with candied nuts, an assortment of dried fruits and a basket of fresh bread.

If you’re not in the mood for a cheese platter, the sandwiches and salads at Artisan Cheese Gallery are some of the best in the city and each feature one of the store’s excellent cheeses. My favorite sandwich is the Duck Confit, made with fig jam and a Swiss cow’s milk cheese called Le Marechal, and served on ciabatta bread. I also love the Spanish Turkey Sandwich, made with turkey breast, a sheep and goat’s milk cheese from Spain called Campo de Montelban, chopped Marcona almonds, roasted sweet red peppers, and aioli, also on ciabatta bread. As for salads, you can’t go wrong with the Aged Gouda Salad with sliced apples, salted Marcona almonds and an incredibly good honey balsamic dressing. There’s a great assortment of wines, craft beers and artisan sodas to enjoy with your meal, and if you want to end on a sweet note, there are giant gourmet soft chocolate chips cookies, red velvet sandwich cookies and other tasty treats.

Artisan Cheese Gallery is located at 12023 Ventura Blvd. in Studio City. Every so often, they have a wine and cheese (or beer and cheese!) tasting evening. These events are incredibly fun and sell out quickly.

The Classic Grilled Cheese Sandwich


Duck Confit Sandwich


Spanish Turkey Sandwich


Aged Gouda Salad


Cheese Tasting


One of my favorite places in the Valley!



Artisan Cheese Gallery on Urbanspoon

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Clam, You’re Good Lookin’


I was first introduced to the awesomeness of fried Ipswich “whole belly” clams as a student in Boston. Prior to this initiation, my experience with fried clams was limited to the fried clam strips I often ordered as a kid at Howard Johnson’s. Fresh fried Ipswich clams are an acquired taste and totally different from the strips, which are often frozen before being fried and are missing the best part — the plump succulent belly. A good basket of fried Ipswich clams will have sweet, briny and juicy clams, which have been dipped in a delicious seasoned batter and fried to perfection until crispy and golden. When accompanied with wedges of fresh lemon and a good tartar sauce, there is nothing better in the World. Unfortunately, they’re extremely difficult to find in LA. Here are four local places I’ve found where you can actually get the elusive shellfish treat:

Blue Plate Oysterette

Blue Plate Oysterette (1355 Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica) This is a cool looking place and reminds me of some of my favorite oyster bars in New England. I was excited to see they had fried Ipswich clams on their menu, but I was ultimately disappointed with the dish. It was a very small portion for $18 and I didn’t like the taste of the batter they used or the fact that they fried their clams along with lemon slices.

The Hungry Cat Fried Clam Roll

The Hungry Cat (1535 N. Vine St. in Hollywood and 100 W. Channel Road in Santa Monica) Although their menu changes daily, The Hungry Cat has a Clam Roll made with fried Ipswich clams which seems to be offered most days. For $20, you get a toasted traditional split top roll filled with fried clams and cole slaw, along with a side of really excellent fries. It’s a pretty good sandwich, but I prefer my clams straight up.

Sonny McLean’s Irish Pub

Sonny McLean’s Irish Pub (2615 Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica) This Boston-themed Irish Sports Bar totally surprised me by having the best fried clams in the city. The clams are so amazing and reminiscient of the clams you get in Boston that I wanted to jump up and shout “I PAHKED MY CAH IN HAHVAHD YAHD”! Plus at $14, their generous-sized appetizer of clams, which is pictured at the top of this post and served with tartar sauce, lemon and really delicious coleslaw, is the best deal in town. Since it’s a Boston-themed pub, I suggest enjoying these clams with a Samuel Adams Boston Lager.

Roll ‘n Lobster Truck Fried Clams

Roll ‘n Lobster Truck www.rollnlobster.com If you don’t live near one of the few LA restaurants serving fried Ipswich clams, you can wait for the clams to be brought to your part of town. Roll ‘n Lobster is the newest LA food truck specializing in lobster rolls (I believe there are at least four of them now), and the only one that serves fried Ipswich clams. For $18, you can get a clam basket with fries. Although it’s not a huge portion and a little on the oily side, I found the clams here exceptionally plump and juicy.

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Sonny McLean's Irish Pub & on Urbanspoon
Blue Plate Oysterette on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Food Trucks, Hollywood, Santa Monica

Let’s Spoon


Fat Spoon is my favorite restaurant in Little Tokyo. Sitting right next door to the perennially packed Daikokuya Ramen, it’s a fun and inexpensive little cafe specializing in Japanese curry and pasta dishes. Japanese curry is one of the most popular foods in Japan and is quite different from other types of curry. It’s thicker and sweeter than its Indian cousin and usually milder as well, although it can be made spicy upon request. Fat Spoon offers a wide variety of curry dishes served atop rice or noodles, including ones with shredded Jidori chicken, pork cutlets, seasonal vegetables and seafood. My favorite curry dish there is the Hamburger Curry, which I recommend getting in the Hawaiian “Loco Moco” style with a fried egg on top.

But Fat Spoon’s menu is not just limited to curry dishes. Their appetizer of Mini Kobe Beef Corn Dogs is a must-have. They also offer several salads and pasta dishes. In fact, Fat Spoon’s most acclaimed dish is not one of their curries, but rather their Uni Pasta, an incredibly delicious bowl of spaghetti with an uni (sea urchin) and mushroom cream sauce. They also have a great Pasta Carbonara with pancetta, egg yolk and parmesan cheese, as well as a tasty Tarako Pasta with salted cod roe, cream, dried seaweed and chopped green onions. For dessert, I highly recommend the Baked Sweet Potato which has been transformed into an edible bowl holding a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with caramel sauce. It’s truly outstanding! After your meal, you can burn off some of the carbs walking and shopping the streets of Little Tokyo, one of the coolest neighborhoods in the city.

Fat Spoon is located at 329 E. First Street, Los Angeles (Downtown, in Little Tokyo). UPDATE: I was shocked to find out that Fat Spoon has closed, especially since the food was so good and it was always crowded when I was there. The owner says it might reopen, perhaps on the Westside. Fingers crossed!

Mini Kobe Beef Corn Dogs with Curry Ketchup


Hamburger Curry Loco Moco Style


Uni Pasta


Chicken Curry with Brown Rice


Baked Sweet Potato with Vanilla Ice Cream


Custard Pudding



Fat Spoon on Urbanspoon

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It’s Hip to Dip


Ikemen is the coolest little ramen joint in the city. With the motto “No Ramen, No Life,” this funky, diminutive Japanese eatery plays mid-century jazz, has a staff that wears red and black fedoras, and serves amazing and innovative food. Ikemen, which literally means “very handsome man” is the creation of Shigetoshi Nakamura, a well-known ramen master in Japan.

The speciality of the house is Tsukemen, which Nakamura calls “Dip Ramen.” Tsukemen is the hottest food trend to hit LA in the past year and is essentially a bowl of hot, super-rich, concentrated broth (which Nakamura refers to as “Tonkotsu Au Jus”) and a plate of lukewarm, thick and chewy noodles, as well as slices of roast pork or grilled chicken. You eat the noodles a couple strands at a time after dipping them in the broth with your chopsticks. After you’ve polished off your noodles, you can ask your server to add a little hot water to the remaining broth so that it is converted into more of a soup than a sauce. Ikemen serves several different versions of its Dip Ramen, including the Zebra Dip with green onions and stripes of garlic oil, the Ghost Buster Dip with cream, mushrooms, truffle oil and marshmallows, and my favorite, the Italian-inspired Johnny Dip with tomatoes and basil.

Ikemen also serves excellent traditional ramen in many varieties, including a vegetarian one and a “Special Premium Tonkatsu Ramen,” of which only ten servings are prepared each day. In addition, the menu features a fun and eclectic mix of appetizers. My favorites are the Dragon Balls (fried octopus “takoyaki”), sliders served on bao buns, French fries with truffle oil and parmesan cheese and mini black pork sausages. Unfortunately, for now, they don’t serve alcohol. I suggest that after dinner at Ikemen, you head over to nearby Rocket Video and rent one of director Seijun Suzuki’s ultra-hip 1960′s Japanese Mafia films such as Tokyo Drifter or Branded to Kill. It will be the perfect complement to your uber-cool meal.

Ikemen is located at 1655 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles (in Hollywood). It’s a cash-only establishment. UPDATE: Ikemen has opened a second location Downtown in Little Tokyo at 123 Astronaut E S Onizuka St. (Weller Court Shopping Center), Los Angeles. Same great dishes as Hollywood and a really cool interior.

Dragon Balls (Fried Octopus Takoyaki)

Dragon Balls (Fried Octopus Takoyaki)


Black Pork Wieners

Black Pork Wieners


Hollywood Fries with Parmesan and Truffle Oil

Hollywood Fries with Parmesan and Truffle Oil


Chasu Slider

Chasu Slider


Premium Tonkotsu Ramen with Onsen Tamago

Premium Tonkotsu Ramen with Onsen Tamago


The coolest little ramen joint in the city

The coolest little ramen joint in the city



IKEMEN Dip Ramen on Urbanspoon

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Who Salted My Caramel?


Maybe it’s just a trend, but it seems as if in the past few years, most caramel desserts have become “salted caramel” desserts. Not that I’m complaining. I love the combination of salty and sweet. Salt enhances the rich, buttery flavor of caramel and takes it to a whole new level. Lately, I just can’t get enough of this delectable flavor. Here (in no particular order) are my ten favorite salted caramel desserts in Los Angeles:

Salted Caramel Cutie Pie from Simplethings Sandwich and Pie Shop

1. Salted Caramel Cutie Pie from Simplethings Sandwich and Pie Shop (8310 W. 3rd St, Los Angeles) This is my favorite of the dozen different miniature pies baked at Simplethings. It’s the perfect tiny dessert and I can eat a whole one in three bite. They’re available Wednesday through Saturday each week.

Salted Caramel Cupcake from Lark Cake Shop

2. Salted Caramel Cupcake from Lark Cake Shop (3337 W Sunset Blvd in Silverlake) Salted Caramel Cupcakes can be found at several bakeries in Los Angeles but this one is my favorite. It’s a moist white cake topped with an incredibly delicious not-too-sweet salted caramel frosting.

Salted Caramel Ice Cream from Sweet Rose Creamery

3. Salted Caramel Ice Cream from Sweet Rose Creamery (225 26th Street, Santa Monica) Sweet Rose Creamery in the Brentwood Country Mart makes some of the best small batch, artisanal ice cream in the city and Salted Caramel is my favorite flavor here. For maximum enjoyment, have them sprinkle sea salt on top.

Salted Caramel Ice Cream Sandwich from Carmela Ice Cream

4. Salted Caramel Ice Cream Sandwich from Carmela Ice Cream (2495 E. Washington Blvd, Pasadena) Carmela Ice Cream also makes amazing Salted Caramel Ice Cream; it’s one of their signature flavors. It’s especially good sandwiched between two dark chocolate cookies with sea salt sprinkled on top.

Salted Caramel Bar from Huckleberry Cafe and Bakery

5. Salted Caramel Bar from Huckleberry Cafe and Bakery (1014 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica) Dense and chewy with a delicious buttery crust, this is one of the best things on the menu at Huckleberry. It’s half candy, half pastry and the perfect companion to a latte or cappuccino.

Salted Caramel Macaron from ‘Lette Macarons

6. Salted Caramel Macaron from ‘Lette Macarons (9466 Charleville Blvd in Beverly Hills, 122 N. Larchmont Blvd in LA and 14 S. Fair Oaks Ave in Pasadena) French macarons are the “it” dessert right now and ‘Lette makes amazing ones including this delicate, sweet and slightly salty beauty. C’est Magnifique!

Salted Caramel Brownie from Sweetsalt Food Shop

7. Salted Caramel Brownie from Sweetsalt Food Shop (10218 Riverside Dr, Toluca Lake) With a name like “Sweetsalt,” you pretty much need to have a good salted caramel dessert and this brownie lives up to the expectation. It’s fudgy and chewy, and baked with large dollop of salted caramel.

Caramels with Maldon Sea Salt and Toasted Cashews from Sunny Spot

8. Caramels with Maldon Sea Salt and Toasted Cashews from Sunny Spot (822 Washington Blvd in Venice) You gotta love a dessert consisting simply of yummy hunks of buttery candy sprinkled with chopped cashew nuts and maldon salt. It’s the perfect decadent way to end a meal at Roy Choi’s awesome Caribbean-inspired eatery.

Salted Caramel Cookie from Olive & Thyme

9. Salted Caramel Cookie from Olive & Thyme (4013 Riverside Dr, Toluca Lake) The perfect marriage of chocolate and caramel. Thick and creamy salted caramel sauce sandwiched between two delicate dark chocolate wafers, one of which has a large hole to prominently feature the salted caramel goodness.

Salted Caramel Pot de Creme from Stella Rossa Pizza Bar

10. Salted Caramel Pot de Creme from Stella Rossa Pizza Bar (2000 Main Street, Santa Monica) While Gjelina, Bottega Louie and Mozza have their Butterscotch Budinos, Stella Rossa‘s pudding is a Salted Caramel Pot de Creme. It’s outstanding and a must-have even if you think you’re too full for dessert.

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!

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Filed under Beverly Hills, Larchmont, Mid-City, Pasadena, Santa Monica, Silverlake, Toluca Lake, Venice

I’ll Take The Fifth


While New York is a pizza city, LA is all about the burgers. Whether it’s In-N-Out, Father’s Office, Golden State, The Apple Pan or one of hundreds of other places, everyone has their favorite burger joint in this city. My favorite is Umami Burger. Named after the Japanese term for a pleasant savory taste believed to be the fifth basic taste (in addition to salty, sweet, sour and bitter), Umami Burger opened their flagship restaurant (pictured above) this week in The Grove, which is the twelfth location of the ubiquitous chain.

Having been a frequent customer at the original restaurant, I am not at all surprised by Umami Burger’s success. The food is across-the-board excellent and the basic hamburger has been elevated here to something extraordinary. The burgers are made from specially seasoned meat blends grilled rare (unless requested otherwise) and served with cheese and other toppings on signature Portuguese-style buns sweetened with milk and honey. My favorites are the spicy Hatch Burger (beef with four types of green chilies and house cheese) and the decadent Truffle Burger (beef with house-made truffle cheese and truffle glaze). There are also pork, turkey, veggie, and occasionally seafood burgers, with each location offering different specialty burgers such as the Carnitas Burger in Hollywood and the Baja Burger (tempura fried cod, crushed avocado, cabbage slaw, fire roasted salsa and chipotle lime aioli) in Hermosa Beach.

All the burgers are on the smaller size so I often order two or split an extra one with a friend. There is a restaurant policy of no substitutions, although you can delete toppings upon request. Umami Burger has amazing sides such as sweet potato fries and tempura onion rings, plus there are secret menu items including truffle cheese fries and cheesy tater tots. Most locations serve beer and wine, and some have a full bar. For dessert, there are ice cream sandwiches and delicious treats from Cake Monkey Bakery such as Cherry Almond Pie and a Peanut Butter & Marshmallow Cakewich.

The new flagship Umami Burger is located in The Grove at 189 The Grove Dr., Los Angeles (Mid-City). The original location is at 850 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles (Mid-City). There are other locations in Hermosa Beach, Studio City, Santa Monica, Los Feliz, Hollywood and Thousand Oaks. UPDATE: SGVers rejoice! Umami Burger is now in Pasadena at 49 E. Colorado Blvd. Their specialty burger is the Le Cordon Bleu Burger, named after Pasadena’s famous culinary school.

The Hatch Burger

The Hatch Burger


The Umami Burger

The Umami Burger


The Grove Truffle Burger

The Grove Truffle Burger


Truffled Poutine Burger

Truffled Poutine Burger


Truffle Cheese Fries from the secret menu

Truffle Cheese Fries from the secret menu


Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet Potato Fries


Cake Monkey Cherry Almond Pie

Cake Monkey Cherry Almond Pie


Umami Valli

Umami Valli



Umami Burger on Urbanspoon
Umami Burger on Urbanspoon
Umami Burger on Urbanspoon
Umami Burger on Urbanspoon
Umami Burger on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Hermosa Beach, Hollywood, Los Feliz, Mid-City, Pasadena, Santa Monica, Studio City, Thousand Oaks

The Food Was Still Moving On My Plate

Here’s a video of the wriggling “live” octopus I consumed in Koreatown. The octopus is not giving up without a fight, its little suction cups clamping on to the plate, making it difficult to pickup with my chopsticks. Sesame oil has been poured over its cut pieces and this appears to anger the octopus and causes it to squirm even more. Finally getting a piece into my mouth, I find it chewy but fresh — extremely fresh. I think to myself: I am a culinary thrill seeker, a badass food adventurer!

This “live” octopus dish (aka Sannakji) was the highlight of a live seafood dinner I enjoyed with eight intrepid friends at Chung Hae Jin a couple weeks ago. The dinner also featured live abalone, sea snails and a lot of raw fish. There were a couple cooked dishes including Hong Hap Tang (mussel soup) and tempura, and of course a lot of soju (which is similar to vodka) and Korean beer. Aside from the octopus, my favorite dish was raw lobster, which tasted very similar to the raw sweet shrimp they have at higher end sushi bars. But, sad to say, on the whole, I didn’t love the food at Chung Hae Jin. I’ve had much better sashimi elsewhere and despite my love of Korean food and anything unusual, I didn’t care for many of the dishes. Also, the service was exceptionally bad. Nevertheless, it was a fun dinner because of the exotic nature of the meal and the wiggling, wriggling food.

Chung Hae Jin is located at 3470 W. 6th Street, Los Angeles (in Koreatown).

NOTE TO MY READERS CONCERNED ABOUT THE OCTOPUS: Although widely referred to as “live” octopus, it was actually dead when served to us. It moves because its nerves remain active after death.

See warning at bottom: eat at your own risk!


Raw Lobster


Sea Snails


Live Abalone


Sashimi Salad


Hand Rolls


Sashimi Boat


Appetizing?


Should I be worried that they only have a “B”?

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Filed under Koreatown

The Olympics for Foodies


I love a good food festival and I’m happy to report that Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival is back after a very successful inaugural year last year. It will take place from August 9-12 at locations all across the city. If you’re not familiar with Los Angeles Food & Wine, it’s pretty much the Olympics for foodies, although it’s not a competition and everyone is a winner. I went to four of their events last year and had an amazing time and ate a lot of incredible food. Top chefs from all over the country, including Hubert Keller, Susur Lee, Michael Mina, Michelle Bernstein, Michael Chiarello, Graham Elliot and Kerry Heffernan, as well as many of the best chefs in Los Angeles, are participating this year.

Events range from grand tastings to special dinners at some of LA’s top restaurants to cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs such as Richard Blais and Michael and Bryan Voltaggio. There are around 40 events in all and include a decadent champagne and caviar tasting night at the Montage, an Asian night market hosted by Andrew Zimmern from the Travel Channel show “Bizarre Foods,” and an Italian food and wine celebration at LA Live hosted by Giada De Laurentiis. A portion of Los Angeles Food & Wine’s proceeds go to benefit a great cause, St. Vincent Meals on Wheels. Some events are already sold out. For more information and to buy tickets, click here.

UPDATE: Los Angeles Food & Wine did not disappoint this year! I attended a couple events and had an amazing time. Highlights included meeting chefs Michael Chiarello, Susur Lee and Floyd Cardoz, as well as seeing some of my local favorites including Ricardo Zarate, Antonia Lafaso and Susan Feniger, and of course trying each of their dishes. My favorite savory dish was a Lobster Pig in a Blanket from new Downtown restaurant Towne. My favorite dessert was a Nutella Banana Panini with Bacon, Toffee and Espresso Nibs from Chef Hedy Goldsmith of Michael’s Genuine Food ‘n Drink in Miami. It was so good!

Wine-wise, the highlight was a wine tasting led by Delta Airlines Sommelier Andrea Robinson (who knew Delta had their own Sommelier?!), who introduced eight California wines which are part of the new Delta Winemaker Series. These specially selected wines, including a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara-based Inception Wines and a Viognier from Miner Family Winery, will be available on flights between JFK and LAX, as well as JFK and SFO.

Delta Sommelier Andrea Robinson hosted a wine tasting.


Wines from the Delta Winemaker Series

Brilliant Chef Susar Lee from Toronto preparing Chinese Duck Sausage Pies


Chefs Michael Chiarello and Fabio Viviani


Picca and Mo-Chica’s Chef Ricardo Zarate and partner Stephane Bombet


Chef Susan Feniger from Street


Chef Floyd Cardoz made pork & beans!


Chef Antonia Lafaso from Black Market Liquor Bar

Pig in a Blanket from Towne

Nutella Banana Paninis with Bacon, Toffee and Espresso Nibs


Alcoholic Frozen Push-ups from Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas

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Three Iconic LA Eateries Revisited


Every city has its landmark diners and food stands, perenially popular places that have survived the test of time and become local institutions. Growing up and going to college in Los Angeles, I would frequent many of this city’s landmark eateries back in the day, often late at night with my fraternity brothers. Feeling nostalgic last week, I decided to revisit three such restaurants, two of which I had not been to in over 25 years. I was curious to see whether these iconic eateries would live up to my memories.

My first stop was Pink’s Hot Dogs. Pink’s was founded by Paul and Betty Pink, who started selling hot dogs from a pushcart in 1939 and upgraded to their current brick and mortar location in 1946. As evidenced by the perpetually long lines, Pink’s is the most popular hot dog stand in the city. They specialize in chili dogs and also offer numerous hot dog creations named after celebrities such as Ozzy Osbourne and Martha Stewart. A lesser known fact is that they have incredibly delicious slices of coconut and marble layer cakes. I have great memories of midnight “hot dog runs” to Pink’s, but rarely go there anymore. However, my opinion of Pink’s has not changed. Pink’s hot dogs aren’t the best in Los Angeles, but they’re still very good and Pink’s is a fun place to go.

My next stop was Tito’s Tacos, LA’s most famous taco stand. Tito’s Tacos opened in 1959 and is known for their inexpensive hard shell tacos and close proximity to the airport. I hadn’t been to Tito’s since I was at UCLA. I’m not sure whether the restaurant has gone downhill since then or my palette has become more sophisticated, but I was incredibly disappointed when I recently visited Tito’s. I certainly didn’t remember very dry and flavorless shredded beef, rubbery cheese and watery salsa and guacamole (which should more appropriately be referred to as “avocado sauce”). There are probably 100 better taquerias in LA. I guess some memories are better left alone.

My final stop was The Apple Pan. Around since 1947, The Apple Pan is a diner famous for their burgers and pies. All seating is at a long U-shaped counter which surrounds the cooking area. The servers are grumpy old men who provide uber efficient, no-nonsense service. There is usually a wait. Eating at The Apple Pan again after a quarter of a century, I was still impressed with their Hickory Burger. It’s not UmamiBurger, but really tasty nonetheless. I was less enamored of my apple pie, which had a burnt crust. But all in all, The Apple Pan was a fun experience — a real blast from the past — and I’ll probably not wait another 25 years to go back.

Pink’s Hot Dogs is located at 709 N. La Brea, Los Angeles (Mid-City). Tito’s Tacos is located at 11222 Washington Place in Culver City. The Apple Pan is located at 10801 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles (in West LA). 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!

Pink’s Hot Dogs


Pink’s Chili Dog with Cheese


Pink’s Layer Cake


Tito’s Tacos


Tito’s Taco with Cheese and Chili Beans


Tito’s Chips and Salsa


The Apple Pan


The Apple Pan’s Hickory Burger and Fries


The Apple Pan’s Apple Pie

Pink's Hot Dogs on Urbanspoon
Tito's Tacos on Urbanspoon
The Apple Pan on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Culver City, Mid-City, West LA

Saam I Aam


Located in a clandestine room behind an unmarked door at the rear of The Bazaar in the SLS Hotel, Saam offers one of the best and most exciting dining experiences in the city. Here, super-star chef José Andrés has crafted a tasting menu of approximately 22 small plates of whimsy and gastronomical delight, almost all of which do not appear on the menu at The Bazaar. With so many courses, the meal takes around 3 1/2 hours to complete. Service is top-notch; among the best I’ve ever experienced. Of course Saam is not inexpensive. The cost is $120 per person plus tax, tip, optional wine pairing ($100) and optional shaved truffles ($35-$50 per course). But as with The French Laundry, this is not just a meal. It’s an evening of entertainment; a special and unique experience.

Chef Andrés, who trained at the legendary El Bulli in Barcelona, is incredibly creative and utilizes molecular gastronomy and other playful techniques to surprise and wow his diners. There are scallops masquerading as carrots, spherified mozzerella balls which instantly liquify in your mouth, a Vietnamese Bahn Mi sandwich which has been elevated both literally and figuratively, and a Spanish street food favorite that has been turned inside-out. It’s all really delicious too. One of the high points of the meal is “Dragon’s Breath Popcorn,” a puffed corn cake that is immersed in liquid nitrogen at your table, causing smoke to come out of your nose and mouth when you eat it. The desserts are excellent also, especially the frozen Apricot Timbale with Amaretto, and there is a gift of chocolates to take home.

Saam is located in the SLS Hotel at 465 S. La Cienega, Los Aneles (Mid-City near Beverly Hills and West Hollywood). 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!

Apple Meringue with Blue Cheese

 

Spicy Handroll

 

Seabeans in Tempura

 

Oyster and Jambon

 

Jose’s Combination

 

Brussels Sprouts

 

Patatas Bravas

 

Chicken Skin & Cigala

 

Not Your Everyday Caprese

 

Crispy Nigiri

 

Uni & Eel

Chipirones

 

Banh Mi

 

Carrot or Scallop

 

Mirugai

 

Mushroom & Duck Liver

 

Dessert Desert

Japanese Baby Peaches

Dragon’s Breath Popcorn

 

Apricot Timbale with Amaretto

 

Sexy Little Sweets

 

Cotton Candy Cocktails

 

Gifts to take home!

 

Located in a clandestine room behind Bazaar


SAAM at The Bazaar on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Beverly Hills, Mid-City, West Hollywood

Wait For It


Not content with cupcake supremacy, Sprinkles has now branched into ice cream. Sprinkles Ice Cream opened recently in Bevely Hills next door to Sprinkles Cupcakes and the awesome Sprinkles Cupcake ATM, a vending machine where you can buy cupcakes at any time day or night. I’m a huge fan of Sprinkles Cupcakes so I was very excited to see what pastry chef/owner Candace Nelson does with ice cream. As with their cupcake shop, the cornerstone of Sprinkles Ice Cream is red velvet. They have red velvet ice cream, red velvet cones, red velvet crumb topping and you can get a scoop of ice cream sandwiched between two halves of a red velvet cupcake. I thought the red velvet ice cream, which is essentially vanilla ice cream with red velvet crumbs mixed in, was pretty good but not amazing.

In addition to red velvet, there are eleven daily rotating flavors, as well as six different kinds of homemade cookies. I liked some of the ice cream flavors such as dark chocolate and salted caramel, but found other flavors to be disappointing. As a peanut butter fanatic, I had to try Sprinkles’ peanut butter cup ice cream, as well as their peanut butter pretzel chip cookie. Sad to say, I was not impressed with either. I did, however, absolutely love their gooey double chocolate cookie. It should also be mentioned that all of these treats are quite expensive. A single scoop costs $3.50 and a double scoop is $5.75. Toppings and cones are an extra dollar each and an ice cream sandwich will set you back $6.50 if it’s on cupcake “muffin tops” or a whopping $8.50 if it’s on cookies. There is a super miniature ice cream cone that you can get for $1.75, but it’s not much more than a taste and you can eat it in about two bites.

The most interesting (and annoying) thing about Sprinkles is their long lines. It’s not so much the number of people in line, but that the lines are incredibly slow-moving. You would think that the long lines would hurt business because many people would not want to wait, but I suspect the lines have the opposite effect. I’m pretty certain that Sprinkles intentionally tries to keep its lines long to reinforce their reputation of being highly in demand and to attract passersby, most of whom appear to be tourists eager to try something that is so seemingly sought-after in posh Beverly Hills. The store is completely understaffed and it seems as if each employee is required for some reason to disappear into a backroom for a period of time either while preparing each order and/or between waiting on each customer. It’s rather genius. But for me, while I’m willing to wait in line for a short while for Sprinkles Cupcakes, Sprinkles Ice Cream is just not worth it.

Sprinkles Ice Cream is located at 9631 S. Santa Monica Blvd. in Beverly Hills. 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!

Vanilla bean ice cream with red velvet crumbs


Ice cream sandwich with peanut butter cup ice cream and vanilla cupcake tops


Salty caramel ice cream


Peanut butter pretzel chip cookie


Scooping ice cream on a red velvet cone


Be prepared to wait.


Cones and toppings



Sprinkles Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

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Rolling in Dough


Lowbrow food and drinks of the past are all being refined and transfomed these days into high-end gourmet fare.  Beer, for example, which was once thought of as the beverage of the blue collar working class, has been transformed into a wide variety of artisan craft microbrews and offered in virtually all restaurants serving high-end, cutting-edge cuisine.  And with beer’s ascendence,  it was only a matter of time before its prior proletarian partner, the pretzel, went gourmet.  

Incredibly delicious artisan pretzels can be found at Coffee Tomo, a cute little coffee house that opened last year in Little Osaka, just off of Sawtelle in West LA.  Coffee Tomo’s pretzels are fresh, warm soft pretzels stuffed with a variety of things.  My favorite pretzel is stuffed with sweet potato puree and cheese.  It’s sweet and salty and incredibly delicious.  I also like the pretzel filled with beef and cheese (pictured above).  

To accompany your pretzels, Coffee Tomo has really excellent “hand dripped” coffee, cappuccino and other coffee drinks, as well as tea. The other specialty at Coffee Tomo is the Honey Butter Bread.  Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, it’s similar to a Belgian waffle and is drizzed with caramel sauce and topped with whipped cream.  It’s dangerously good!

Coffee Tomo is located at 11309 Mississippi Ave, Los Angeles (in West Los Angeles).

Honey Butter Bread


Sweet Potato and Cheese Pretzel (outside)


Sweet Potato and Cheese Pretzel (inside)


Cheese Tomo


Crowded on the weekends.



Coffee Tomo on Urbanspoon

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Filed under West LA

End of the World Party


As you may have heard, the last day of the 5,125-year-long Mayan calendar is December 21st of this year. Is the world going to end on that day? Probably not. Is it a good reason for an end of the world party? You bet! And I know exactly where to get the food. Chichen Itza Restaurant, named after the ancient Mayan city, specializes in Mexican cuisine from the Yucatan region (where the Mayans lived) and is one of my favorite restaurants in the city. It’s located in the awesome Mercado La Paloma Community Marketplace, a cool and funky warehouse-like space/food court where you can get inexpensive gourmet grub, view an art show and buy a dress for a quinceanara. Mercado La Paloma was also the home of my favorite Peruvian restaurant, Mo-Chica, until it moved to swankier digs a few weeks ago.

I’ve had almost everything on the menu at Chichen Itza and I love every dish there. The Kibis are an amazing way to start your meal. Introduced to the Yucatan by Lebanese immigrants more than a century ago, they are ground beef and cracked wheat patties which have been seasoned with mint and spices, fried golden brown and served with Yucatecan pickled red onions. I also recommend the Sikil-Pac, a dip made with roasted tomatoes, pumpkin seeds & chives, and served with tortilla chips. The Tacos de Chicharron, made with crispy fried pork cracklings, pico de gallo and diced avocados are really unusual and a must-have. But my favorite dishes of all are the Queso Relleno, which is edam cheese stuffed with ground pork, olives and capers and served with a white sauce, and the Cochonita Pibil, a very popular Yucatecan specialty of braised pork which has been wrapped and cooked in a banana leaf with achiote marinade. To drink, get an Agua de Chaya, a sweet beverage made with a leafy green vegetable known as “tree spinach.” I know that a green vegetable drink might not sound appealing but trust me on this one. Like everything else at Chichen Itza, it’s really good!

Chichen Itza is located at 3655 S. Grand Ave in Los Angeles (South LA near USC).

Kibis


Sikil-Pac


Tacos de Chicharron


Queso Relleno


Cochonita Pibil


Poc Chuc (thin slices of pork loin, cooked over mesquite charcoal, marinated with sour orange juice served with roasted red onion, roasted tomato sauce, avocado, black bean puree and corn tortillas)


Platanos con Crema


Queso Napolitano


Agua de Chaya



Chichen Itza on Urbanspoon

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Thai Me Up


Some like it hot and I, for one, love spicy food, the kind that makes my mouth burn a little, my heart race and my forehead perspire. My favorite Thai restaurant in LA, Jitlada, does not disappoint when it comes to turning up the heat. Jitlada specializes in exotic Southern Thai food, not the typical Pad Thai Noodles and Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce that you find in most American Thai restaurants (although you can get these dishes at Jitlada if you so desire). I recommend focusing on the Southern Thai portion of the extensive menu. There you will find extrordinary treasures; complex and unusual dishes, many of which pack a punch with their level of spiciness.

Any visit to Jitlada should start with the Crying Tiger Pork appetizer; juicy pieces of deliciously salty and sweet pork with a very spicy sauce served on the side. I also love the Crispy Morning Glory Salad (pictured above), an amazing salad of deep fried Chinese watercress, shrimp, red cabbage, onions and cilantro with a spicy citrus dressing. Be careful if you order the Papaya Salad; it is one of the spiciest things I’ve ever had there.

My favorite dish at Jitlada is the Soft Shell Crab Noodles; broad noodles with an amazing Thai sauce and battered and fried pieces of soft shell crab. If you want to go more exotic, try the Basil Frog Legs or the Green Curry Dragon Eggs, which are fish balls stuffed with duck egg yolks in a green curry sauce; very unique and delicious. To wash it all down, you could get a Thai Iced Tea, but I recommend a Mango Smoothie and because this is Jitlada, you can even order the smoothie spicy (I always do).

A word of warning about Jitlada: the service can often be very slow. But this is a small price to pay for such incredible Southern Thai Food. As is any suffering in the bathroom after your spicy meal.

Jitlada is located at 5233 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles (in Hollywood).

Spicy Mango Smoothies


Crying Tiger Pork


Fried Chicken


Soft Shell Crab Noodles


Green Curry Dragon Eggs


Basil Frog Legs


It's not fancy but it's awesome!



Jitlada Thai on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Hollywood

Popcorn Bacon


If dining out was a sport, then eating at Black Hogg would be referred to as “Extreme Gastropubbing.” Debuting a few months ago in Silverlake, but awaiting its liquor license, Black Hogg is not for timid (or healthy) eaters. Their signature dish is “Popcorn Bacon” (pictured above), small chunks of bacon which have been battered and deep fried just like Popcorn Shrimp. It’s good (how could it not be?), but undeniably hardcore.

Other small plates include Fried Olives with Honey Goat Cheese, Roasted Marrow Bones with Breakfast Radishes, Longaniza Sausage Hash with Fried Egg, Ale-Battered Cod with Ruffle Chips, and Spicy Chicken Liver on Toast with Chicken Cracklin’. On a recent visit, my favorite dish was the Pork Belly Tacos with Fuji Apple Slaw and Jalapeno Relish. It’s very spicy and insanely good. I also really liked the Brussels Sprouts with Anchovy Citronette and Gremolata, although maybe I just felt good about eating a vegetable dish among all the rich indulgences.

The deep fried fun continues with dessert, where you can order Chai Spiced Churros with Warm Walnut Oil Ganache. Crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside, these are possibly the best churros I have ever tasted. The other dessert on the menu combines three of my favorite things (tres leches, rhubarb and bread pudding), but it was disappointing. The restaurant space itself is surprising. With this kind of fare and the Silverlake location, I was expecting dark and ornate, but the room is actually light with mostly modern decor.

Final verdict on Black Hogg: it’s quite good and very fun, but you might want to get your cholesterol checked first. Black Hogg is located at 2852 W. Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles (in Silverlake).

Spicy Chicken Liver on Toast with Chicken Cracklin'


Pork Belly Tacos with Fuji Apple Slaw and Jalapeno Relish


Mary's Brick Chicken, Brussels Sprouts, Anchovy Citronette


Chai Spiced Churros with Warm Walnut Oil Ganache


Three Milks & Rhubarb Bread Pudding with Fresh Cream and Hazelnuts


Surprisingly bright and modern interior



Black Hogg on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Silverlake

Welcome to the Gun Show


Son of a Gun is one of the hottest joints in town. Launched last year by chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, Son of a Gun is the seafood version of their amazing meat-centric restaurant Animal. Like Animal, Son of a Gun is situated in a small, cozy space and serves pricy little plates of creative genius. The atmosphere is casual and fun. The walls are strewn with nautical tchotchkes and the bar turns out luscious libations such as Tiki-Cones (alcoholic snow cones) and Dark & Stormies made with housemade ginger beer. Dinner reservations at Son of a Gun are difficult to get on short notice, but walk-ins are accommodated at a very long communal table in the center of the restaurant.

The menu, which changes daily, features around 35 different small plates, almost all of which are meant for sharing. Surprisingly, one of the most popular items at this seafood eatery is a fried chicken sandwich. It’s incredibly delicious and is prepared with an unruly mass of spicy bread & butter pickle slaw and “Rooster” aioli. Other sandwiches that are definite must-haves are the Lobster Roll with Celery and Lemon Aioli and the Shrimp Toast Sandwich with Herbs and Sriracha Mayo. I also highly recommend Benton’s Country Ham Hush Puppies with Honey Butter, which looks at first glance like falafel balls with hummus. If you want something healthier and equally delicious, get the Amberjack Crudo with Galbi Vinaigrette and Pink Lady, as well as the Raw Gloucester Scallop with Yuzo Kosho Viniagrette and Wood Sorrel. The desserts are less impressive, but each time I get to that point at Son of a Gun, I’m usually too stuffed to care.

Son of a Gun is located at 8370 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles (Mid-City).

Lobster Roll with Celery and Lemon Aioli


Fried Chicken Sandwich with Spicy B&B Pickle Slaw and Rooster Aioli


Shrimp Toast Sandwich with Herbs and Sriracha Mayo


Benton's Country Ham Hush Puppies with Honey Butter


Octopus Confit Salad with Mirepoix and Chili

Raw Gloucester Scallop with Yuzu Kosho Vinaigrette and Wood Sorrel


Amberjack Crudo with Galbi Vinaigrette and Pink Lady


Monkfish in Pho Fumet with Herbs, Lime and Bok Choy


Frozen Lime Yogurt with Graham Crumble and Toasted Meringue


The big communal table



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!
Son of a Gun Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Mid-City

Cuban Pastry Crisis

Porto’s Bakery and Cafe is a loud and lively LA institution selling pastries and awesome Cuban comfort food to Angelenos for decades. All three of its locations (Glendale, Burbank and Downey) have counter service only and the lines are usually long, but move fast. With so many delicious offerings, the only real crisis at Porto’s is deciding what to order. Here are my seven favorites:

Potato Ball

1. Potato Balls. Also known as Papas Rellenas, these are balls of mashed potatoes which have been filled with seasoned ground beef and deep fried; kind of a spherical mini Shepherd’s Pie. This is my favorite thing at Porto’s and an absolute must-have.



Rellenito

2. Rellenitos. These are small pieces of sweet plantains filled with black beans and coated with sugar. I love plantains and these little concoctions are not too sweet and perfect for an appetizer.

Chorizo Pie




3. Chorizo Pies. Another favorite of mine are these Spanish-style empanadas with a flaky, buttery pastry dough crust and stuffed with spicy ground pork sausage. What’s not to love?

Medianoche (Midnight Sandwich)





4. Hot-Pressed Sandwiches. There are fifteen sandwich choices, but my favorites are the hot-pressed Cubano (Cuban Sandwich) with slow roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, butter, mayo/mustard and pickles on Cuban Bread, and the Medianoche (Midnight Sandwich) which is the same as the Cubano except on a sweet roll.

Mariquitas (Plantain Chips)

5. Mariquitas (Plantain Chips). Crispy, salty and slightly sweet, these are perhaps the best chips ever. They come with all of the sandwiches or you can get a separate order with a side of Cuban garlic sauce.

Individual Tres Leches Cake




6. Tres Leches Cake. I’m actually not a huge fan of the kind of creamy, fancy pastries sold at Porto’s, although most people love these desserts. I do however love Porto’s traditional Tres Leches Cake. Soaked in three kinds of milk and topped with meringue, this yellow sponge cake is moist and delicious.

Malta

7. Malta Soda. Malta is an acquired taste. Sometimes known as “Children’s Beer,” it’s a carbonated non-alcoholic malt soda which is essentially unfermented dark beer. It’s sweet and tastes like molasses. Other beverages at Porto’s include horchata, mango smoothies, mamey shakes and coffee drinks such as cafe con leche and dulce de leche latte.

Always a line, but worth the wait






Porto’s Bakery & Cafe is located at 3614 W. Magnolia Blvd in Burbank, 315 N. Brand Blvd in Glendale and 8233 Firestone Blvd in Downey.





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!
Porto's Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon
Porto's Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon
Porto's Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Burbank, Downey, Glendale

Killer Views, Disappointing Chews


I was a fan of Wolfgang Puck and his restaurants, Spago and Chinois on Main, in the ’80s when they were at the forefront of innovate upscale cuisine. However, with everything that is going on food-wise these days, I think of Puck’s cuisine as dated and not particularly interesting or exciting. Nevertheless, I was curious and hopeful about WP24, Puck’s fancy modern Chinese restaurant that opened last year on the 24th floor of the Ritz Carlton in LA Live, and decided to take my wife there for our anniversary. The views at night from WP24, which are of the illuminated skyscrapers of Downtown, are perhaps the best of any restaurant in the city. But while I loved the spectacular views, I cannot say the same of the restaurant as a whole. WP24 unfortunately reminded me of many of the upscale restaurants I’ve eaten at in Las Vegas hotels — incredibly overpriced, conservative and food that is generally OK, but nothing to write home about.

While WP24 formerly offered both an a la carte menu, as well as 6 and 9 course tasting menus (which I would have preferred), the menu now consists of only a 3 or 4 course prix fixe dinner with several choices for each course and some optional side dishes. With drinks (cocktails are a pricey $16 a pop), you’re looking at a cost of around $150-$225 per person, a lot for Chinese food! Most of the appetizers are dim sum and we ordered an assortment of 5 different dumplings plus an additional order of Steamed Scallop and Shrimp Sui Mai. The Dim Sum was all very delicious except for the Sui Mai which tasted fishy and not fresh at all. As an entree, my wife got the Maine Black Cod Broiled with Chinese Ginseng Honey with Roasted Black Sesame Vinaigrette and Chili-Orange Noodles. The noodles were way too sweet but otherwise the dish was OK. I ordered WP24′s signature dish, the “Angry Lobster,” with Spicy Szechuan Chilies, Fried Garlic, Scallions and Black Dust. I love spicy, but found the sauce way too overpowering for something as delicious as lobster and it upset my usually iron-clad stomach later that night.

The desserts by pastry chef Sally Camacho (who was a finalist on Top Chef Just Desserts last season) were the most creative part of the meal, but, in terms of taste, did not blow me away. At the end of the dinner, I felt as if I should be taking the elevator down to the casino to play blackjack and craps. If I was actually in Vegas maybe I could have won a little money to offset the price of dinner.

WP24 is located at 900 W. Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles (Downtown). 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!

Amuse Bouche: Curried Seafood Turnover


Tasting of Dim Sum


Steamed Scallop-Shrimp Sui Mai with Blue Crab Ginger Sauce and Chives


"Angry" Two-Pound Maine Lobster


Maine Black Cod Broiled with Chinese Ginseng Honey, Roasted Black Sesame Vinaigrette and Chili-Orange Noodle Salad


Apple Umai (Roasted Market Apple, Star Anise Donuts, Caramel Hojicha Ice Cream)

Rhubarb Yuzu (Mango, Yuzu Ice, Red Rock Dust and Rhubarb Compote)


Killer Views



WP24 Restaurant & Lounge (The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles) on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Downtown

Magnificent Mediterranean


I love small plates and I love sharing. This is no doubt due to my desire to always hedge my bets, diversify my portfolio and not miss out on trying anything interesting-sounding or potentially good. My wife, on the other hand, does not like to share; she prefers to order only one thing and eat it all by herself. It’s for this reason that I haven’t taken her with me to Mezze, a restaurant whose name is the Arabic term for a selection of small plates which are meant to be shared. The cuisine at Mezze can best be described as Contemporary Mediterranean or Middle Eastern Fusion, somewhat upscale and incredibly delicious. The decor at Mezze, which occupies the old Sona space on La Cienega, perfectly matches the food; warm and exotic yet modern and chic. It’s a great place to go for a special occasion or just a nice evening out with friends.

The best way to start your meal at Mezze is with a libation. Specialty cocktails include the Abdullah Palmer (gin, cachaca, black lime and Moroccan mint tea) and the George Dickel Pickle (whiskey, mustard seed, lemon, celery and serrano pepper), and there is a good wine list including wines from Israel, Lebanon and Morocco. While you’re enjoying your drink, you can select which flatbreads to order as appetizers. I recommend the Zatar with Olive Oil and the Marquez Sausage with Tomato Jam and Aleppo Pepper (it’s like a Middle Eastern pizza). In terms of small (and large) plates, Braised Moroccan Chicken Wings with Picholine Olives and Golden Raisins are excellent, as is the Lamb Shoulder with Smoked Oats and Dukkah Spice (pictured above). The Brussels Sprouts with Soft Boiled Egg and Soujouk are an absolute must-have. For dessert, make sure to get the Lebne Cheesecake with Persimmons, Ginger & Hazelnuts.

Mezze is located at 401 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles (Mid-City).

UPDATE: Mezze is now closed, but hopefully just temporarily. The massive construction next door has hurt their business significantly. They say they are looking to relocate soon.

Zatar with Olive Oil


Flatbread with Merguez Sausage, Tomato Jam & Aleppo Pepper


Braised Moroccan Chicken Wings with Picholine Olives and Golden Raisins


Brussels Sprouts with Soft Boiled Egg and Soujouk


Lebne Cheesecake with Persimmons, Ginger & Hazelnuts


You can view the kitchen through a giant window



Mezze on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Mid-City, West Hollywood

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

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