L.A. Bites: January – June 2016
Jave and I have been busy adulting for the first part of 2016 – so much so that we even cancelled our spring travel plans to Asia to prioritize other goals that have nothing to do with travel. For the record, it’s been rough; my feet are itching and wanderlust has officially kicked in. The good news is that relief is in sight as we have a summer getaway booked for my birthday later this month to keep us motivated.
While we didn’t prioritize travel for the first part of the year, we certainly prioritized eating. I’ve been trying to push past our usual go-to’s so that we can be more versed on Los Angeles restaurants and the overall food scene here. Because I wholeheartedly believe in being well read, well traveled, and well fed. So in this post, I’m sharing some of the restaurants we’ve dined at around the city – the good, the bad and the mediocre – and my personal rating for each. Bon appétit!
What I Ordered: El Pesco
Located downtown on the charming, southern end of Main Street in the historic Old Bank District, Bäco Mercat is known for its flatbread sandwiches created by Chef Josef Centeno. The warm, soft bäco bread is complimented by flavorful, crispy toppings like pork and beef carnitas (The Original), lamb (The Amergaz), escabeche chicken (Jerk Chicken) and so much more.
We dined here on a Saturday afternoon and I ordered the El Pesco which was topped with crispy shrimp, sriracha and chive dressing. Hands down, it was one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in a very long time! The menu also features several salads, small plates and coca (crispy or chewy flatbreads) with a variety of toppings. The only drawback about the bäco sandwiches is that while filling, they’re somewhat smallish for the price ($12 – $16). Still, that won’t keep me from making repeat visits!
408 S. Main St.
Los Angeles, CA
What I Ordered: Braised beef short ribs with sautéed greens, Cipollini and horseradish cream (Dana); Grilled swordfish with carrot-beet slaw, harissa, kumquat and za’atar labneh (Jave)
I’d been wanting to dine at Lucques for years, but never got the chance to do so until recently. Owned by renowned Chef Suzanne Goin (who Jave used to work for, by the way), my desire to eat at Lucques only got stronger after dining at a.o.c., another one of Chef Goin’s restaurants, years ago. Yet, a meal at Lucques eluded me until our anniversary this past April. The restaurant is located on Melrose in WeHo (one of my favorite streets) next to the Kardashians’ boutique, Dash. Jave and I ate at Lucques before heading to the Walt Disney Concert Hall for a performance. Because we were running late, we had to rush through our meal. We were literally in and out in about forty minutes.
Still, those forty minutes were sufficient for me to savor every last bite of my braised short ribs which were very well seasoned and cooked to moist, tender perfection. I tasted Jave’s swordfish as well and can vouch that it was equally excellent. The only reason I’ve deducted a point from my score for this restaurant is because we had to dine in a hurry and didn’t really get to experience our meal the way we would’ve liked – totally our fault, not Lucques’. In any case, I definitely wouldn’t hesitate to dine here again for our next special occasion.
8474 Melrose Ave.
West Hollywood, CA
What I Ordered: Cup of New England clam chowder; Mussels & fries in white wine cream sauce
I recently ate at The Albright for a work lunch, and I have to say that I was blown away by how good it is. I’m not sure why, but I wasn’t expecting much from this casual restaurant on the Santa Monica Pier. I started my meal with a cup of clam chowder, and it was lackluster to say the least.
My score for this restaurant is based on the mussels and the mussels alone. My God! They’re probably the best mussels I’ve ever had…or a close second. The mussels are cooked in this rich, white wine cream sauce that made a perfect bath for my fries. This is the kind of dish that would be best eaten in the privacy of your home so you can lick the bowl while groaning and moaning – it’s that good! And the portions are so generous.
*Note: I included a picture of my co-worker’s seafood soup because it looks so good. I didn’t try it, but he confirmed it was delicious.
258 Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica, CA
What I Ordered: A plate of shalafel with hummus, tabouli and Moroccan carrot salad, washed down with pomegranate lemonade
At least once a week, Jave and I complain about how there aren’t any good grab and go restaurant options that offer delicious, healthy meals for fast food prices. Enter Yalla Mediterranean. Located in my neck of the woods in downtown Culver City, Yalla Mediterranean offers traditional Mediterranean flavors, craft brews and local wines, and the best part is that your basic meal will cost $11 or less. When placing your order, you first choose how you want your food served – in a wrap, as a salad, or as a plate. Then, you choose your protein – chicken shawarma; falafel; a combo of shawarma and falafel known as “shalafel”; or chicken, steak or salmon skewers. Lastly, you pick your sides and toppings, and voilà…there you have a nutritious meal for a reasonable price. I only deducted a point because my chicken shawarma could’ve used a tad more salt. Apart from that, I love Yalla, and it’s definitely a strong contender for my go-to rotation.
9516 Culver Blvd.
Culver City, CA
What I Ordered: Braised beef short rib banh mi (Moo Mì)
To be honest, Báhn Mi. didn’t really stand a chance with me. You see, after eating a bánh mi inspired po boy at Killer PoBoys in NOLA, there’s no way I can ever eat bánh mi again without making comparisons. But when I first heard about this bánh mi spot in Venice, I expected to be wow’d; I expected an experience similar to the one I had at Killer PoBoys. But my sandwich at Bánh Mi. fell flat.
I expected the short rib in my sandwich to be that tender, juicy slow-cooked short rib you make in your crockpot that’s bursting with flavor that slow-cooked meats usually have. But the only flavor in my sandwich was from the jalapeño, and excessive spice doesn’t necessarily equate to deliciousness. My sandwich was bland and the meat was tough and fatty. Maybe I should’ve ordered the turmeric chicken bánh mi instead. But after spending nearly $40 on two sandwiches and two fancy bottles of water, I won’t be giving this joint a second chance.
307 Lincoln Blvd.
What I Ordered: 3 wings and a waffle (aka, Obama Special)
A few months back, I received a news update from Eater that Roscoe’s filed for bankruptcy after losing an employment discrimination lawsuit. Worried about if and when Roscoe’s would go out of business, we made a point of going in for some of that good ‘ole Roscoe’s chicken and waffles. Roscoe’s is an L.A. institution, and I have fond memories of late night dining with friends at its LaBrea and Sunset & Gower locations back in my 20s during my club-going years. Whenever I go to Roscoe’s, I always order the same thing: 3 wings and a waffle, and I like my waffle well done. After President Obama visited Roscoe’s, this dish was renamed the Obama Special. I never order any sides – just chicken and waffles since that’s what Roscoe’s does best. Their chicken isn’t necessarily the greatest, but their waffles…man, oh man! I pray that Roscoe’s stays in business and gets back on financial track…our stomachs are counting on it!
106 Manchester Blvd.
323.752.6211 or 323.752.7053
What I Ordered: Crisp calamari, black Mediterranean mussels, truffle garlic bread, chicken parmesan, Strozzapreti
A colleague of mine recently hipped me to North Italia located in a recently opened plaza near work. She went on and on about the truffle garlic bread and a pasta dish with chicken, mushrooms and spinach which I’ve since learned is called Strozzapreti, and so I decided to give it a try for myself. During my first visit to North Italia, I ordered Strozzapreti to go. Although I was surprised by the large portion, I was even more surprised by the fact that I devoured it all in one sitting. The pasta is homemade, and if you’ve ever had homemade pasta, then you know that it really elevates Italian cooking. I recently returned to North Italia for a work lunch, and we feasted on perfectly crunchy rings of calamari sitting on a bed of arugula, perfectly seasoned mussels, and the second time around, I ordered the chicken parmesan for my entrée which is served with a side of homemade pasta. Can you say “foodgasm”?! And the truffle garlic bread. Won’t He do it! It’s served in a pan and topped with melted mozzarella and garlic and truffle-y goodness, and it just made my tastebuds so happy. I could literally make a meal of the garlic bread and mussels and be perfectly content. North Italia is definitely my new go-to for homestyle Italian.
840 S. Sepulveda, Suite 110
El Segundo, CA 90245
What I Ordered: Barbecue pork ribs with coleslaw and French fries
For as long as I can remember, I’ve gone to Houston’s when I’m in the mood for ribs. They’re perfectly cooked every single time and they literally fall off the bone and melt in your mouth. The only problem is that they’re very pricey. Last year, Jave and I found a new BBQ joint in Venice to satisfy our cravings called Chop Daddy’s, and it was equally good as Houston’s ribs – probably better, but in a different way – and their food was a lot more affordable. A lot more! I quickly replaced Houston’s with Chop Daddy’s as my new BBQ lover, and I was confident that our affair would continue for years to come when they opened a new location in downtown Culver City late last year. But just as quickly as they opened, they closed. I was seriously heartbroken. I still mourn when I drive by their closed location. So, to get our BBQ fix over the recent Memorial Day holiday, we headed back to Houston’s for a lunch date. We’ve since decided that we won’t be going back anytime soon. It seems like they cut down the portion of ribs and skimped on our fries, yet they still charged $30 per plate! Yeah…I know. So, we’re back to the drawing board and on a quest for our new go to for BBQ here in L.A., because Houston’s, we have a problem!
1550-A Rosecrans Ave.
Manhattan Beach, CA
What I Ordered: Salmon curry noodle with Thai black tea lemonade (Dana); Chicken Prik King with rice lunch special (Jave)
Jave and I recently had the chance to spend a rare Saturday afternoon together, so we decided to hang out in mid-city, and the first item of business was lunching at a Thai restaurant called Summer Buffalo. The restaurant has another location (its first location) in Burbank, but we ate at their Melrose outpost and were really impressed with the space and its eclectic décor. Although the restaurant is well reviewed on Yelp, we were the only ones dining, and I couldn’t help but notice that several passersby who popped in left soon after glancing at the menu; perhaps the frog legs turned them off.
In any case, Jave and I were both very pleased with our dishes. Although my salmon curry noodle bowl was delicious, I told Jave that the next time around, I won’t order a curry-based dish because my bowl was somewhat of a curry and coconut milk overkill. Jave’s chicken Prik King on the other hand offered the perfect balance of protein, veggies, savoriness and spice. Although it’s not close enough to home to become one of our regular go-to’s, Summer Buffalo will definitely get our return business, especially since our server was so friendly and encouraged us to come back and chat with her before we ever jet off to Thailand so she can give us some tips.
7275 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA
Atticus Creamery & Pies
I’d recently read about Atticus Creamery & Pies on Eater before receiving a Groupon offer in my inbox. With a $20 discount at our disposal (we paid $10), we went to this dessert shop located across from the Westside Pavilion, ready to do some damage. What I love about this place is the customer service; as soon as we got to the counter, we were offered an array of pie and ice cream samples. After sampling the Oreo, mango pineapple, and strawberry pistachio pies, I decided to order the coconut banana pie which I hadn’t sampled, but it turned out to be my favorite as it’s filled with homemade custard, banana chunks and topped with coconut custard and toasted shredded coconut. So good! Jave, on the other hand, went for the blueberry pie filled with blueberry cheesecake and blueberry jam at the bottom. Since my dad loves all things banana, we bought him a coconut banana pie and a strawberry pistachio for my mom.
As if that wasn’t enough, we each decided that we wanted a scoop of homemade ice cream and the guy working the counter gave us a sample of every flavor they had on hand that day – lemon lavender, double cookies n’ cream, sweet corn, chocolate peanut butter banana, and cereal & milk which tastes like a bowl of sweet milk that’s left behind after you eat your Frosted Flakes. But it was the brown sugar apple pie with chunks of caramelized apples that sold us. We ended up spending an additional $12 which included a tip for all the gracious samples. I have an insatiable sweet tooth, so it’s good to know that I now have Atticus Creamery & Pies in my corner!
10893 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA
What I Ordered: Shrimp “Saganaki” flat bread, turkey Youvarlakia, roasted striped bass filet with black eyed peas and kale, lemon potatoes and grilled pita bread
It’s official – I’ve found my new favorite restaurant in L.A. And who’d think that it’d be a restaurant that serves Greek tapas?! But yes, Inotheke is by far the best restaurant I’ve been to L.A. in a very long time and I’m looking forward to eating here again and again and again. Inotheke is a passion project of Carolos Tomazos, a Cyprus native who uses his family recipes in small plate format with a focus on wine. Just a short 15 minute walk from the Santa Monica Pier, Inotheke is a well thought out concept from its light and airy interior design to the well-developed Greek and Mediterranean flavors of its dishes.
The restaurant offers a daily happy hour menu from 5-6:30pm alongside its dinner menu. Jave and I started our meal with the shrimp “Saganaki” flat bread from the happy hour menu. The flavor of the perfectly cooked shrimp is enhanced by the buttery dough, goat cheese, and a beautiful tomato sauce. For one of our main dishes, we split the turkey Youvarlakia – turkey meatballs made with cooked rice and sitting in a bath of lemony dill sauce. Our waiter recommended that we order some grilled pita bread to sop up the sauce – best decision ever. We also ordered the striped bass which is perfectly paired with black eyed peas and kale. We complimented all of this with a side of roasted lemon potatoes. Our meal was hearty yet so nutritious, and although we were stuffed, we cleaned our plates – not a single bite left. The total for our delicious meal was about $58 (not including the tip). We thought the prices were reasonable and definitely worth every dime. If you’re headed to L.A., add Inotheke to your list of restaurants to try – this one is a must!
606 Broadway Ave., Suite 101
Santa Monica, CA