500 Days of Scones

Last year I rejected the hackneyed New Year’s resolution to eat healthier and instead I boldly declared my resolution to eat more pie. That was so 2012. As we begin 2013, I feel we are entering a new era, an era of both frightening uncertainty and cautious optimism (and I’m not just talking about the Lakers). Accordingly, my resolution this year is to eat more scones!

There is something very warming and comforting about a scone, especially when accompanied by a hot drink on a cold day. First introduced to the world by the the Scots in the early 1500′s, the scone is more popular today than ever. There are two basic kinds of scones: the “cream tea scone” and the “drop scone” (aka “griddle scone”). The cream tea scone is light and fluffy and served with clotted cream and jam during a traditional English afternoon tea. I prefer drop scones (aka griddle scones) which resemble biscuits and are crispy and slightly browned on the outside, delicate and flaky on the inside.

My favorite scones in LA come from Rockenwagner Bakery/3 Square Cafe and Bakery, helmed by Austrian-bred master chef and baker Hans Rockenwagner. Rockenwagner’s scones are insanely good and his varieties include Triberry, Ginger, 5-Grain, Chocolate Chip, Blueberry, Bacon & Cheddar and my favorite, White Chocolate Raspberry. I’m also crazy about the Republic of Pies’ Bacon Scone, which is surprisingly sweet rather than savory. Another unique scone is Short Cake’s Campfire Scone, which tastes just like a S’more and is topped with toasted marshmallow. Below is my list of the top eight scones in the city. Happy New Year!

Raspberry White Chocolate Scone

Raspberry White Chocolate Scone from Rockenwagner Bakery/3 Square Bakery and Cafe in Santa Monica, Mar Vista and Venice

Chocolate Pear Scone from Clementine in Westwood

Chocolate Pear Scone from Clementine in Westwood

Bacon Scone from Republic of Pies in North Hollywood

Bacon Scone from Republic of Pies in North Hollywood

Maple Oatmeal Scone from Sweet Butter Kitchen in Sherman Oaks

Maple Oatmeal Scone from Sweet Butter Kitchen in Sherman Oaks

Blueberry and Jam Scone from Bricks and Scone (403 N. Larchmont Blvd, Los Angeles)

Blueberry and Jam Scone from Bricks and Scones in Larchmont

Campfire Scone from Short Cake in The Farmer's Market

Campfire Scone from Short Cake in The Farmer’s Market

Ginger Apricot Scone from Susina Bakery & Cafe (7122 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles)

Ginger Apricot Scone from Susina Bakery & Cafe in Mid-City

Oatmeal Brown Butter Scone from Sycamore Kitchen in Mid-City

Oatmeal Brown Butter Scone from Sycamore Kitchen in Mid-City

3 Square Café + Bakery on Urbanspoon
Susina Bakery on Urbanspoon
Röckenwagner Bakery on Urbanspoon
Sweet Butter Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Fairfax, Larchmont, Mar Vista, Mid-City, North Hollywood, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Venice, Westwood

The 10 Best Things I Consumed in 2012

Best LA Eats
2012 was a banner year food-wise in the City of Angels. Angelenos have never before had so many amazing restaurant options and I have tried to cover many of them on this blog. Of all the dishes that I wrote about in 2012, the following are my ten favorites; the ones that I happily dream about and crave pretty much all the time. Some of them were introduced at exciting and cutting-edge new local eateries this past year, while others are things that I have loved for years. Most are not “healthy choices,” so if you’re planning to make a New Year’s resolution to watch your weight, get to work; you only have a few days left to indulge!

Beef Roll

10. Beef Roll at 101 Noodle Express I’m crazy about this Northeastern Chinese delicacy made of thinly sliced and braised fatty beef with fresh chopped cilantro and sweet bean sauce rolled in a fried doughy Chinese pancake. It’s salty, crispy, beefy and incredibly delicious!

Papa Rellena

9. Papa Rellena at Porto’s Bakery & Cafe This Cuban treat (which I finally wrote about this past year) is essentially a ball of mashed potatoes which has been filled with seasoned ground beef and deep fried; kind of a spherical mini Shepherd’s Pie. Muy delicioso!

Bacon Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuit

8. Bacon Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuit with Maple Butter at MB Post Even if you live in the Valley or the Eastside, these biscuits are reason alone to travel to Manhattan Beach. Served hot out of the oven with soft and sweet maple butter, they are outrageously good.

Maple Custard Pie

7. Maple Custard Pie at The Pie Hole The only dessert to make the list, this is possibly the best pie I have ever had. It is the perfect combination of a sublime buttery not-too-sweet crust and an incredible caramelized custardy filling. I only wish they sold it year round!

Fried Clams

6. Fried Clams at Sonny McLean’s Irish Pub I went on a mission this year to find authentic New England-style battered and fried “whole belly” Ipswich clams (not strips!) and was surprised to find the real deal at this little Boston Irish sports bar in Santa Monica. They’re wicked good!

Cuban Torta

5. Cuban Torta with Pork Terrine, Prosciutto, Provolone, Pickled Jalapeno & Mustard at Sunny Spot Of all the amazing dishes at Chef Roy Choi’s creative Caribbean-themed restaurant, this mouth-watering, non-traditional version of a Cuban sandwich is my favorite.

"Philly Cheesesteak"

“Philly Cheesesteak”

4. “Philly Cheesesteak” at The Bazaar The Bazaar is one of my favorite restaurants in the city and my favorite dish is this playful take on the Philadelphia classic sandwich. It’s made with “air bread” and cheddar cheese, and covered with thin slices of Wagyu beef and finely chopped chives.

Steak Tartare and Mustard Ice Cream

3. Steak Tartare and Mustard Ice Cream at Eat Drink Americano Savory and spicy mustard ice cream may not sound appealing on its own, but once mixed with a delectable steak tartare, the resulting flavor combination is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before and out of this world!

"The Toron" Bäco

2. “The Touron” Bäco at Bäco Mercat Each of Chef Josef Centeno’s original sandwich creations called “Bäcos” are works of culinary genius. However, the best in my opinion is The Touron with oxtail hash, pickle, potato & cheddar cheese on Bäco Mercat’s signature flatbread.

Gougere Sliders

Gougere Sliders

1. Gougere Sliders with Fried Oysters, Tartar Sauce, Applewood Smoked Bacon and Arugula” at Little Bear These little sandwiches on Greyere cheese puffs combine cheese, dough, bacon and fried oysters, so it’s not a total surprise that they are my favorite dish of the year. I love them!

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Filed under Alhambra, Arcadia, Burbank, Culver City, Downey, Downtown, Glendale, Manhattan Beach, Mid-City, Santa Monica, Venice

Snack Attack

Superba Snack Bar is full of surprises, starting with its name since it’s not a snack bar (at least not in the traditional sense) and it’s not on Superba Avenue, but several blocks north, on Rose. It has savory chocolate pasta, as well as cauliflower masquerading as a t-bone steak. Its funky/chic exterior was inspired by French cafes, as well as Jeff Spicoli from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” But the biggest surprise is that this self-described “neighborhood joint” is so good, it has quickly become one of the best new restaurants in the city.

The food is all small plates with an emphasis on creative pastas. I recommend getting the tasting menu, but if you want to a-la-carte-it, I suggest ordering from each of the four sections of the menu: “Cold Cuts” (which are not all cold and include the excellent Superba Smoked Bacon & Membrillo), “Snacks” (the Fried Chicken is a must-have), “From Our Backyards” (vegetables and salads) and “From Our Hands” (pastas such as a surprisingly good Chocolate Papardelle and a delicious Chestnut Agnolotti).

As for vegetables dishes, I finally have an amazing recommendation for the vegetarian and vegan followers of this blog who keep reading every week despite my endless posts about bacon. The aforementioned Cauliflower T-Bone, which is topped with a parsley puree and an orange and olive pistou, looks and tastes like a juicy, well-seasoned steak. It’s one of the best things on the menu and one of the best vegetable dishes I have ever eaten. For dessert, I love the S’mores in a jar with smoked marshmallows and the Chocloate Peanut Butter Lava Cake.

Superba Snack Bar is located at 533 Rose Ave., Los Angeles (in Venice). They don’t take reservations except for parties of six or more ordering the tasting menu.

Pan con Tomato, Olive Oil & Sea Salt

Superba Smoked Bacon & Membrillo

Superba Fried Chicken, Red Wine Glaze, Pickled Chilies & Parmesan

Cauliflower T-bone, Parsley Puree, Orange & Olive Pistou

Chocolate Pappardelle, Oxtail, Cherries, Olives & Ricotta

Chestnut Agnolotti, Black Truffle Puree, Poached Quince & Sage

Pumpkin Pie, Gingersnap Crumble, Burrata Gelato

S’mores, Chocolate Pudding, Graham Cracker, Smoked Marshmallow

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup, Almond Crumble

Superba Snack Bar on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Venice

Best Mall Food Ever

Hanging out at a shopping mall is not my idea of a good time, especially during the holiday season. Parking is a pain, most of the chain stores are uninteresting and the food options are terrible. (I’m looking at you, Sbarro and Panda Express.) But lately I have a reason for frequenting the mall, or at least one mall in particular. I am head over heels in love with the Beef Rolls at 101 Noodle Express in Westfield Culver City.

This food court delicacy hails from the Shandong region in Northeastern China and consists of thinly sliced and braised fatty beef with fresh chopped cilantro and sweet bean sauce rolled in a fried doughy Chinese pancake. Salty, crispy and beefy, this dish checks a lot of boxes for me. It can be found not only at the Culver City Mall, but also at 101 Noodle Express’ two other locations in Arcadia and Alhambra.

While Beef Rolls are the standout dish, there are other great things on the menu. The Hot and Sour Soup is surprisingly good and the Soup Dumplings are definitely worth ordering. They’re not as good as the ones at Din Tai Fung, but they’re pretty damn tasty and the ones in Culver City are the best I’ve had without schlepping to the San Gabriel Valley.

101 Noodle Express is located at 6000 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City (in the Westfield Culver City Mall formerly known as the Fox Hills Mall), as well as 1025 Baldwin Ave. in Arcadia, and 1048 E. Valley Blvd. in Alhambra.

Soup Dumplings

Hot and Sour Soup

Food court excellence!

101 Noodle Express on Urbanspoon
101 Noodle Express on Urbanspoon
101 Noodle Express on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Alhambra, Arcadia, Culver City

The Dynamic Duo

Many newly-formed couples made headlines in 2012: Kim & Kanye, Romney & Ryan, and Honey Boo Boo & TLC to name a few. But, to me, the most noteworthy new pairing of the year was Steak Tartare & Mustard Ice Cream. While raw beef and a scoop of frozen spicy dairy seem the unlikeliest of pairings, once mixed together, they transform into one the most incredible dishes I have ever tasted.

This ingenious coupling is the highlight of the menu at Eat Drink Americano, a cool little gastropub that opened downtown earlier this year. Located in an alley in the hipper-than-hip Downtown Arts District, just outside of Little Tokyo, the restaurant has a very cool industrial chic, steampunk-esque interior. It’s cozy, dark and intimate, with exposed brick walls, a giant graphic mural and a wine bottle chandelier.

The menu is eclectic and some items are much better than others. Besides the Steak Tartare and Mustard Ice Cream, I recommend the Soft Shell Crab Sandwich with wakame seaweed and saffron aioli on an English muffin. Other dishes, such as their “Third Street Salad” and the Classic Ceviche, are nothing to write home about. I love that they have an open kitchen, but they can use more than just two people working in it, as the service can be extremely slow. But if you order correctly, it’s definitely worth the wait.

Eat Drink Americano is located at 923 E. Third Street, Los Angeles (Downtown).

Craft Beer Sampler

Soft Shell Crab Sandwich with wakame seaweed and saffron aioli on an English muffin

Third Street Salad with butter lettuce, corn, black beans, bell pepper, tomato, red onion and a cilantro lime vinaigrette

Classic Ceviche with fresh caught yellowtail, peppers and choclo in a spicy citrus marinade

Exposed brick walls and a wine bottle chandelier

Eat.Drink.Americano on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Downtown

Golden Battered Bliss

The home of my current food obsession is basically a parking lot with a tarp canopy, some cheap plastic tables and folding chairs, a couple deep fryers and a cash register. There’s no sign and the hours are very limited, but when they are open, there is almost always a line of hungry Angelenos, eager to devour a specialty of Ensenada, Mexico. The place is Ricky’s Fish Tacos in Silverlake and the tacos there are insanely good.

The menu consists of only Baja-style fish tacos (made with catfish), shrimp tacos and occasionally lobster tacos, as well as drinks including homemade agua fresca.  For his batter, owner Ricky Piña uses his grandmother’s recipe, which produces the most delicious, golden, crispy coating on the deep fried seafood.  The tacos are served on warm corn tortillas with shredded cabbage and pico de gallo made of fresh tomatos, onions and jalapenos.  To complete these incredible street delicacies, homemade salsas (mild tomatillo, medium tomato/garlic and spicy chipotle) and crema in plastic squeeze bottles are added by the customer to his or her liking. I usually order three and put a different salsa on each.

Ricky’s Fish Tacos is located at 1400 N. Virgil Ave., Los Angeles (in Silverlake).  Parking can be a bitch. UPDATE: Ricky’s was shut down by the Board of Health no doubt because of improper permitting (not a huge surprise). They plan to relocate soon.

Amazing Fish Tacos!

The shrimp and fish are fried right in front of you.

Spinach-Cucumber Agua Fresca

It’s under a tarp canopy in a parking lot.

Ricky's Fish Tacos (Food Stand) on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Silverlake

Totally Bazaar

Serving creative small plates of culinary genius in an ultra-cool setting, The Bazaar is one of the best and most unique upscale restaurants in the city. Helmed by master chef Jose Andres, the restaurant is situated adjacent to the uber-funky and modern lobby of the SLS Hotel, and consists of two contrasting dining areas: Blanca (white) which is sleek and elegant and Rojo (red) which is dark and intimate, like a lively little restaurant in Spain. There is an open kitchen and the whole restaurant exudes a party-like atmosphere.

I suggest starting your meal with one of The Bazaar’s innovative libations such as the Magic Mojito, which is poured into a glass filled with cotton candy, or the Liquid Nitrogen Caipirinha, which is prepared tableside. An order of Sweet Potato Chips with Yogurt, Tamarind and Star Anise (pictured above) and the Pa’amb Tomaquet (Catalan-style Toasted Bread with Manchego Cheese and Tomato) are perfect complements to your cocktails.

Like the restaurant’s interior, the extensive menu at The Bazaar is bifurcated into two distinct sections. Half of your choices are expertly prepared traditional Spanish tapas, and the other half are “modern tapas” which include whimsical dishes, molecular gastronomy and other avant-garde offerings. I recommend ordering with a sense of adventure and getting a mix of dishes from both sides of the menu. On the traditional side, my favorite things are the Jamon Bechemel or Codfish Fritters and the Rossejat (Paella-style Pasta with Shrimp). On the modern side, the “Philly Cheesesteak” made with “air bread,” cheddar and Wagyu beef (or the vegetarian version with mushrooms called the “Hilly Cheesesteak”) is an absolute must-have. I also love the Tortilla de Patatas “New Way,” a deconstructed version of the typical Spanish dish made with potato foam, egg and caramelized onions, as well as the “Not Your Everyday Caprese,” a salad of cherry tomatoes and liquid mozzarella balls which dissolve in your mouth.

For dessert, you are moved (literally) to the Patisserie, which is situated in the rear of the hotel lobby and features a candy/pastry bar that looks like it’s right out of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” As with the savory part of your meal, the idea here is to order and experience an assortment of small bites, which includes tarts, cookies, bonbons and pates de fruits, as well as a few plated desserts. After dinner, it’s fun to explore the lobby’s unusual gift shop with museum-like displays of idiosyncratic art objects.

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

Jamon Bechemel Fritters

Catalan-style Toasted Bread, Manchego Cheese and Tomato

American Sturgeon Caviar Cone

Tortilla de Patatas “New Way” with Potato Foam, Egg 63 and Caramelized Onions

“Not Your Everyday Caprese” with Cherry Tomatoes and Liquid Mozzarella

Local Persimmon and Seaweed Salad with Olive Oil Yogurt and Sesame

Smoked Yellowtail and Crispy Rice with Yogurt, Grapes, Capers and Radish

Ceviche and Avocado Roll with Jicama, Micro Cilantro and Coconut

Sea Urchin with Avocado on Steamed Buns

Ottoman Carrot Fritters with Apricots and Pistachio Sauce

Rossejat (Paella-style Pasta with Shrimp)

Seared Squid with Artichokes and Chicken Escabeche

Seared Scallops with Romesco Sauce

Codfish Fritters with Honey Aioli

Baby Japanese Peaches with Di Stefano Burrata, Hazelnuts and Arugula

“Philly Cheesesteaks” with Air Bread, Cheddar and Wagyu Beef

Cava Sangria, which was prepared tableside

Apples “Carlota” — Bread Pudding with Saffron Sauce

Hot Chocolate Mousse with Pear Sorbet and Salty Hazelnut Praline

Bonbons, Mini-Tablettes and Pates de Fruits


The Bazaar By José Andrés on Urbanspoon


Filed under Beverly Hills, Mid-City, West Hollywood

10 Best Sub Sandwich Shops in LA

Subs, Grinders, Hoagies, Po-Boys, Heroes, Submarines. Whatever you call them, they’re a central part of the national diet, especially for lunch. A long roll filled with deli meats and/or cheese along with toppings such as lettuce, tomatoes or peppers, and condiments such as mustard and olive oil sounds like a simple thing to make, but discerning eaters know that not all deli sandwiches are created equal.

When I started this blog, I declared the Godmother at Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery the best sandwich in LA. While I still believe this is true today, for other varieties such as a Caprese or Pastrami sub, I prefer All About the Bread on Melrose Ave., which was clearly inspired by Bay Cities but has shorter lines. Both places have unbelievably amazing, crispy and chewy artisan bread which is baked fresh every 20 or 30 minutes, use Boar’s Head meats and fashion extraordinary combos of bread, meat and cheese using the freshest and tastiest ingredients. While these two places are my clear favorites, there are several others in this city worth visiting. After an extensive amount of carb-loading research, here are my top ten favorite sub sandwich joints in LA:

All About the Bread

#1 (tie) All About the Bread (7111 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles near West Hollywood) The name pretty much says it all. I’ve loved every sandwich I’ve had here, but my favorite is the Buratta with Sundried Tomatoes, Fresh Basil, Homemade Pesto, Tomatoes and Roasted Peppers. It’s one of the best things ever.

The Godmother from Bay Cities

#1 (tie). Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery (1517 Lincoln Blvd, Santa Monica) The insanely good bread is the secret to their huge success. My favorite sub is The Godmother (Genoa Salami, Mortadella, Capicolla, Ham, Prosciutto and Provolone) with “The Works.” I challenge you to find a better sandwich.

Dan’s Super Subs

#3 Dan’s Super Subs (22446 Ventura Blvd, Woodland Hills) It’s one of the only restaurants that I love in the West Valley. Their delicious bread has sesame seeds and is steamed for each order. Subs are completed with Dan’s signature chopped tomatoes and pickle spears. Not open on Sundays.

The Jose Andres aka “The Spanish Godfather” at Ink Sack

#4 Ink Sack (8360 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles in West Hollywood) Celebrity Chef Michael Voltaggio’s sandwich shop serves creative versions of classic subs. My favorite is The Jose Andres aka “The Spanish Godfather,” which is named after Voltaggio’s mentor and former boss at The Bazaar. It’s made with Serrano Ham, Chorizo and Manchego Cheese.


#5 Storefront (4624 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles in Los Feliz) This Eastside hipster sandwich shop is the new kid on the block and was opened only a few weeks ago by the chefs of Salt’s Cure. I am already impressed with “The Mousa” (pictured above), their Italian deli meat sub which includes picked cayenne peppers.

The No. 3 from Larchmont Village Wine Spirits & Cheese

#6 Larchmont Village Wine Spirits & Cheese (223 N Larchmont Blvd., Los Angeles in Mid-City) This gourmet wine and cheese shop has some of the city’s best Italian sandwiches, which are served on either a crusty baguette or soft ciabatta. They all come with a nice little side of olives and cornichons.

Mike’s Deli

#7 Mike’s Deli 4859 W Slauson Ave, Los Angeles in South LA) There are very few tables and it’s generic and fast food-esque in appearance, but this simple deli makes simply great subs with top-notch ingredients including Boar’s Head meats and cheeses. A second location opened recently in Little Tokyo.

The Spicy Italian Sub from Mario’s

#8 Mario’s Italian Deli & Market (740 E Broadway in Glendale) A Glendale institution, Mario’s is an old-school Italian market with all sorts of imported goodies and a very popular deli. They cut their sub rolls in thirds lengthwise, so that there is a “mezzanine” layer of bread in your sandwich between two layers of filling.

Busy Bee Market

#9 Busy Bee Market (2413 S Walker Ave, San Pedro) If you’re in the South Bay, it’s the place to go. This unassuming deli counter in a small and rundown-looking neighborhood market turns out excellent subs on super-soft bread. But be warned: it’s cash only, take-out only, and they’re closed on Sundays.

“The Sandwich” from Roma Italian Deli & Grocery

#10 Roma Italian Deli & Grocery (918 N. Lake Ave, Pasadena) Enter this little Italian market, go to the counter on your right and ask diminutive elderly Rosario to make you “The Sandwich.” Watch as he prepares it with fresh meats and cheese and no toppings or condiments other than olive oil. Consume and enjoy.

UPDATE: I’m sad to report that Storefront has closed. If you enjoy Consuming LA, subscribe for free at the top right of this page and you’ll get an email once a week when I post. And please forward this to your friends, repost on facebook and retweet!

All About the Bread on Urbanspoon
Busy Bee on Urbanspoon
Larchmont Village Wine, Spirits & Cheese on Urbanspoon
Roma Italian Deli & Grocery on Urbanspoon
Mario's Italian Deli & Market on Urbanspoon
Dan's Super Subs on Urbanspoon
Mike's Deli on Urbanspoon
Mike's Deli #2 on Urbanspoon


Filed under Fairfax, Glendale, Inglewood, Ladera Heights, Larchmont, Los Feliz, Mid-City, Pasadena, San Pedro, Santa Monica, South Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Woodland Hills

Haute Stuff

If you’ve read my Manifesto, you know I believe that Los Angeles is the most exciting food city in the world right now.  But with that said, there’s one thing that’s sorely lacking here.  There is a surprising dearth of fine dining restaurants in this city; places that offer very high end cuisine, a tasting menu, a sommelier, impeccable service and an elegant and romantic atmosphere. One of the few such places that we do have is Melisse. Helmed by master chef Josiah Citrin, Melisse serves gorgeous plates of contemporary French cuisine and offers a world-class wine list. The food is refined and innovative, and the offerings change nightly.

Dinner at Melisse is not just a meal, it’s an experience, and one that typically lasts between 3 1/2 and 4 hours, especially if you get one of the lengthier tasting menus. One of Chef Citrin’s signature dishes is “Egg Caviar,” a cut eggshell with a layer of runny yolk at the bottom, a layer of lemon-chive creme fraiche in the middle and a pile of American Osetra caviar on top. When all mixed together, it is a spectacular taste sensation. Other dishes I love are the unusual Fennel Flan with Orange Gelee, Cashew Foam and Vanilla, the incredible Maine Lobster Bolognese with Fresh Capellini, Truffle Froth & Grated Black Truffle, and the perfectly cooked Filet of Beef and Braised Cheek with Potato Pave and Puree, Mustard Greens, Bearnaise and Red Wine Braising Jus. As you would expect, a meal at Melisse is not inexpensive. So for most of us, this is a special occasion restaurant; the perfect place to celebrate an important birthday, anniversary or job promotion, and live large for a few hours.

Melisse is located at 1104 Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica.

Amuse Bouche: Salmon Skin with Cured Salmon and Salmon Roe

Fennel Flan with Orange Gelee, Cashew Foam and Vanilla

Egg Caviar with Poached Egg, Lemon-Chive Creme Fraiche and American Osetra Caviar

Blue Fin Tuna with Abalone Gelee, Rhubarb, Fennel & Finger Lime

Hot and Cold Foie Gras with Blueberry, Ginger and Hazelnut (off the menu now because of the foie gras ban)

Artichoke Truffle Agnolotti with Charred Leek-Orange Blossom Jus

Maine Lobster Bolognese with Fresh Capellini, Truffle Froth & Grated Black Truffle

Seared Hokkaido Scallop with Salsify, Toasted Barley and Vadouvan

Filet of Beef and Braised Cheek with Potato Pave and Puree, Mustard Greens, Bearnaise and Red Wine Braising Jus

Liberty Duck Breast with Confit of Blood Oranges and Turnips, Spiced Couscous and Sauce Bigarade

Chocolate, Caramel & Strawberry

The dining room is elegant, romantic and understated.

Melisse on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Santa Monica

Devil Got Your Tongue

The Michelada has been my favorite drink of late. Popular throughout Latin America, a Michelada is a beer cocktail with lime juice, assorted sauces, spices and peppers. Diablo, a new gastropub in Silverlake, serves really excellent Micheladas with a twist. The beer of your choice is poured into a tall glass with a heavily salted and spiced rim and is accompanied by a tomato or yuzu popsicle, which you can dip and/or suck on between sips or simply submerge into your beer to melt.

The unusual Micheladas are not the only great thing about Diablo. The food there is exceptionally good. The main focus of the menu is gourmet fusion tacos. While fusion tacos are nothing new in LA and are served by at least half of the gourmet food trucks on the streets of this city, the tacos at Diablo stand out due to their high-end seasonal ingredients and their unique combinations of sweet and savory. My favorite is the Maple Fried Chicken Taco with Purple Kale and Red Rooster Vinaigrette. It’s salty, sweet, crunchy and incredibly good! I also love the Pork Belly Taco with Thai Peanut Salsa and Caramelized Bananas, and the Beef Cheeks Taco with Horseradish Puree, Fromage Blanc and Parsley. Vegetarian and vegan options are numerous and include the “Portabello Asada” and “Hen of the Woods” Tacos.

The layout and decor of Diablo are very similar to that of Wurstkuche. It’s industrial chic with lots of brick, metal and reclaimed wood. You order and pay at a counter in one room and your food is brought to you in a large Biergarden-esque dinng hall with a very long communal table and several smaller tables. In addition to the tacos, I also recommend ordering the Grilled Sweet Corn with Cojita, Lime Mayo and Truffle Oil and the Heirloom Radish Salad with Persian Cucumber, Jicama, Chili, Lime and Apple. For dessert, there are more popsicles. One is Hibiscus-flavored, while another is made with Chocolate, Espresso and Bacon. Speaking of bacon, there’s also a Chocolate, Bacon, Peanut Butter and Marshmallow Cookie served warm out of the oven. If you’re just going there for drinks, I suggest you order the Kurabuta Pork Chicharrones (fried pork rinds) with one of Diablo’s homemade sauces such as the Habanero Gasoline Sauce or the Ghost Chili Aioli. They’re devilishly good and the perfect accompaniment to the Popsicle Micheladas.

Diablo is located at 3129 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles (in Silverlake).

Michelada with Tomato Popsicle (Beer with Lime, Chili, Salt and Tomato Paleta)

Heirloom Radish Salad with Persian Cucumber, Jicama, Chili, Lime and Apple

Grilled Sweet Corn with Cojita, Lime Mayo and Truffle Oil

Pork Belly Taco with Thai Peanut Salsa and Caramelized Bananas

Beef Cheeks Taco with Horseradish Puree, Fromage Blanc and Parsley

Maple Fried Chicken Taco with Purple Kale and Red Rooster Vinaigrette

Bison Chili Taco with Yellow Cheese and Banana Peppers

Kurabuta Pork Chicharrones with Diablo “Ketchup”

Warm Chocolate, Bacon, Peanut Butter and Marshmallow Cookie

Diablo describes itself as an “Urban Taco Fabricator and Crafter of Fine Micheladas”

Diablo Taco on Urbanspoon


Filed under Silverlake

A Sweet Shave

One of the best things about eating dinner on Sawtelle Boulevard in West LA aka “Little Osaka,” is that after your meal, there are fun Japanese shops to visit, karaoke if you’re in the mood, and most importantly, half a dozen dessert places to satisfy the need for something sweet. My favorite such dessert place is Blockheads Shavery, which opened this past year and serves something truly unique; a frozen confection that they call “Snow Cream.” Snow Cream is a cross between shaved ice and ice cream. Large frozen blocks of flavored and sweetened cream are shaved to order on a machine, resulting in a delicious treat with a very unusual texture. It’s a fluffy mass of icy thin sheets folded on top of each other.

Here’s how to order: First you select one of the flavors, which typically include chocolate, coffee, strawberry, black sesame, green tea, peanut butter and their “original” flavor which reminds me of Pinkberry original. Next you select which topping you want. There are Asian-style toppings such a egg custard, red beans, almond jelly and lychees, as well as the more typical yogurt toppings such as Oreos, Reese’s Pieces, nuts, brownie bites, and fresh berries. Regardless of which flavor of Snow Cream you get, I highly recommend the homemade rice cakes. They are chewy and delciously glutinous; an absolute must-have. Finally, you select a “drizzle” such as condensed milk, caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, strawberry puree or mango puree. If you have trouble choosing, don’t worry; there is almost always a long line at Blockheads so you have plenty of time to decide.

Blockheads Shavery is located at 11311 Mississippi Ave., Los Angeles (in West LA).

Original Snow Cream with Egg Custard, Toffee Crunch and Caramel Sauce

Makin’ Snow Cream

A cool little dessert place in Little Osaka

Blockheads Shavery Co on Urbanspoon

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Filed under West LA

I Melt For You

This place is a nice find. Named after the 16th Century playwright/poet who wrote that “the moon is made of green cheese,” Heywood is a cool little Silverlake joint that essentially serves only one thing: grilled cheese sandwiches accompanied by tomato soup and salad. For so many of us, grilled cheese and tomato soup is a childhood favorite; the ultimate comfort food prepared lovingly for us by our mothers, especially on a cold or rainy day. No offense to your mother, but the sandwiches and soup at Heywood are better.

The grilled cheese sandwiches here are gourmet versions of the classic. You can build your own and choose from ten different cheeses (including an aged English cheddar, a triple cream French brie, and a cotswold), five different kinds of bread and more than a dozen add-ons and artisan spreads including bacon, maple onion confit and raspberry habanero jam. Or you can choose from one of the pre-designed models such as the Tres Truffle Shuffle (country white bread, Appenzeller Swiss cheese, aged English cheddar, Pointe Reyes blue cheese and a dash of truffle salt) or my favorite, the Muy Caliente (fontina and spicy jack cheeses melted on top of sliced jalapenos, fresh cream cheese and crunchy tortilla strips on sourdough bread). Not to be relegated to the role of mere sidekick, the tomato bisque at Heywood is the best tomato soup I have ever had; no exaggeration. It’s perfectly spiced and has small bits of roasted tomatoes and peppers in it. Every sandwich comes with a tiny bowl of this soup, as well as a side salad. They also offer vintage sodas and a few desserts including a decadent S’Mores Bar by Motherfudger Fudge.

One word of warning: Heywood is a tiny place and it can be hard to get a table at lunchtime. It would be great if they installed a counter for additional seating. It’s cool that they’re open late (until 3am on Friday and Saturday) so you can hit them up after a concert or a night of hipster bar hopping in Silverlake. Would your mom grill you a sandwich so late at night? I don’t think so.

Heywood is located at 3337 1/2 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles (in Silverlake).

The best tomato soup I’ve ever had

Half sandwich with soup and salad

I’ll take a Lemmy!

Motherfudger Fudge S’Mores Bar

A Gourmet Grilled Cheese Shoppe in Silverlake

Heywood: A Grilled Cheese Shop on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Silverlake

Taster’s Choice

Bike riding on the beach with friends in Santa Monica, summiting Runyon Canyon in the Hollywood Hills and taking in the stellar views, strolling down Abbot Kinney in flip-flops with your dog and an iced latte; this is the Southern California good life and I love it. One restaurant that I think really epitomizes this lifestyle is The Tasting Kitchen in Venice. This place exudes casual elegance. The decor is both modern and rustic chic with a tree growing in the middle of the dining room. The plates are cool and vintage-looking. The atmosphere is fun; relaxed yet sophisticated, like a great dinner party at a friend’s beach house. And most importantly, the food is across-the-board excellent.

You should start your meal with a cocktail or two. Bartender Justin Pike was named LA’s top mixologist last year and prepares killer libations such as the Staycation (tequila, watermelon shrub and soda), the Summer Assassin (bourbon, allspice, maple and cava) and Coco Joe’s Punch (a tiki-style drink with rum, cardamon and citrus). The dinner menu, which changes daily, features rustic, seasonal and ingredient-driven cuisine from super-talented chef Casey Lane. I suggest that you take your cue from the name of the restaurant and order one of the tasting menus. If you order a la carte, I recommend the Beets with Creme Fraiche and Horseradish, the Gigli Pasta with Luciana and Squash Blossoms, the Tortelli Pasta with Hen Sauce and Maitake Mushrooms, and the Salt Roasted Branzino if available. For dessert, you can’t go wrong with the Doughnut with Buttermilk Gelato, Figs and Walnuts. The restaurant also has a great weekend brunch.

The Tasting Kitchen is located at 1633 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice.

Amuse Bouche: Lobster Bisque

Porcini Crudo with Prosciutto and Cherries

Aragosta alla Griglia (Grilled Lobster Tails)

Beets with Creme Fraiche and Horseradish

Butter Lettuces with Tarragon and Point Reyes Cheese

Lentils and Rapini

Tortelli Pasta with Hen Sauce and Maitake Mushrooms

Gigli Pasta with Luciana and Squash Blossoms

Salt Roasted Branzino

Roasted Chicken

Cherry Almond Gelato

Deconstructed Ricotta Cheesecake

Caramel Bread Pudding

Doughnut with Buttermilk Gelato, Figs and Walnuts

Chocolate-covered Cookies and Sugar Cookies

Great cocktails

The Tasting Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Venice

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


Filed under Studio City

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


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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Filed under Downtown

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


Filed under Hollywood

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.

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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


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


Filed under Koreatown