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Top 8 Dine LA picks

19 Jul

Last night I I had the most delicious dinner with girl friends at Ryan Gosling’s Moroccan restaurant, Tagine. Normally with I dine with friends it’s at CPK or one of the local pizza joints, so going out to a real adult restaurants with amuse bouches to start and a fancy dress code was such a treat! There’s nothing better than catching up with old friends over great food!

This week and next week, DineLA is making it easy for everyone to get a chance to enjoy delicious food from some of the city’s most talented chefs. Over 250 restaurants are offering 2-course lunches and 3-course (or more if they are small plates)  dinners so that you can sample some of the city’s most talked about fare. Prices vary to fit any budget with $15, $20, or $25 lunches and  $25, $35, 0r $45 dinners. With so many options, it’s hard to decide where to go during the 12 days of food sampling, so I helped narrow it down with my list of the top 8 DineLA picks.

Dinner at AOC: This French bistro/wine bar on West Third Street was one of the first restaurants to jump on the small plates trend and continues to craft delicious, seasonally inspired dishes. Their DineLA menu includes a salad with tzatziki, cucumber, and cherry tomato; pork belly, nectarines, ricotta salata, and abbamelle; crushed fingerling potatoes with creme fraiche; and olive oil cake with plums, mascarpone, and pistachios.

Lunch at Asia de Cuba: This Latin-Asian fusion restaurant st the Mondrian Hotel offers incredible views off of Sunset Strip. Yelp reviewers have even described the massive planters on the outside balcony as creating a whimsical “Alice in Wonderland” feel. The lunch and dinner menus are extremely similar, except for the $20 discrepancy in prices. Start with the smoked salmon pancake or the Asian noodle box, then move onto the pallomina of beef or the wild coho salmon. After enjoying the side of plantain avocado fried rice and wokked vegetables, end the meal with a dessert sampler.

Lunch at Babalu: Spend the morning shopping along Montana Avenue (and maybe catching a YogaWorks class at their Montana location) then head on over to this Santa Monica Caribean stand-by. Although it may be known best for its brunch and bakery items, this 5-star yelp restaurant also has tons of savory island-inspired dishes. Begin with the blue crab cake, then move on to the sweet summer corn agnoloti or the vegetarian burger and finish it all off with a slice of the key lime pie.

Lunch or Dinner at Bar & Kitchen: This small bar in Downtown’s O Hotel immediately won me over with the sweet blurb at the top of its menu that claims “we’ve created this menu specifically for you! why? well. it’s because we love you.” After reading something that sweet, how could anyone resist giving the restaurant a try? They incorporate the freshest summer produce into both their greatly varied lunch and dinner menus, so it’s hard to choose which time of day to come. Come at lunch to get the tomato gazpacho with lump crab and the restaurant’s famous shrimp & grits. Or come for dinner and get the tuna crudo with yuzu puree, the sweet corn risotto, and the peach panna cotta.

Dinner at Craft: This is your chance to try the raved-about fare from celebrity chef Tom Colicchio’s Century City restaurant at reasonable prices. The restaurant run by Top Chef’s head judge is quite the place for power lunches, so instead come by in the later hours for a leisurely dinner. Enjoy the more relaxed, peaceful atmosphere while sharing the endive and arugula salad, the ham with fig mosteada, and the diver scallop ceviche with the whole table. Then chose from dishes including the corn agnolotti, Alaskan salmon, and flatiron streak. Finish off the decadent meal with the brown sugar pavlova with peaches and blueberries.

Dinner at Culina: Enjoy the upscale Italian fare of the Four Seasons  in the heart of Los Angles’s hip East side. This restaurant is a real gem because in addition to the beautiful gardens to dine in, the chefs are masters of preparing raw seafood crudos and steamy pizzas alike. Start off with the crudo sampler of intricately dressed ahi tuna, salmon, and yellow tail. Then move onto the delectable Prince Edward Mussles. Next enjoy the Maine lobster farro or the lamb chops. Finish off the meal with macerated stone fruits and house made gelato.

Dinner at Ray’s: This is the place to go for the quintessential evening in LA. Spend the afternoon walking around the Grove, then head on over to LACMA for some museum perusing. Next head to Ray’s, the new farm-to-table restaurant at LACMA, and finish off the night at a concert at the Wiltern. Enjoy charred octopus, squid ink pasta, and market stone fruits at this hip new space that simply oozes culture.

Dinner at Scarpetta: I know, I know, not another hotel restaurant, but the Montage’s modern, seaonally-inspired Italian restaurant Scarpetta really is such a treat that it can’t be left off the list! While the Montage’s other restaurant, Bouchon (another DineLA contributor) usually gets most of the fame, I think that Scarpetta’s delicate preparations make this restaurant the hotel’s real gem. The prices are usually pretty steep, so don’t miss out on the opportunity to try the delicous food at discounted prices. Start with truffled mushroom polenta, then move on to the short rib agnolotti or the mediterranean branzino, and end the evening with the coconut panna cotta with guava soup and caramelized pineapple.

Where are you going to participate in DineLA?

Restaurant review: Lukshon

27 Mar

A while back, I posted about one of my favorite restaurants, the Bazaar. Now, I want to share another LA hotspot with intriguing food and a wonderful atmosphere: Lukshon, chef Sang Yoon’s  effortlessly cool Culver City eatery that serves up inventive South-East Asian fare.

Old-school flashing sign that greets you as you approach Lukshon

Old-school flashing sign that greets you as you approach Lukshon

Located in alleyway behind Helm’s Bakery, Lukshon oozes minimalist-cool. Although it is just a few hundred feet from Father’s Office, a popular high-end burger joint by the same chef, it seems isolated in its own Asian zen. The one-year-old resturant has already made quite a name for itself as one of Zagat’s picks for the top five new restaurants in Culver City.

Charming outdoor terrace

Charming outdoor terrace

Ana Henton of MASS Architecture and Design won a 2011 AIA Restaurant Design Award for her design of the reaturant. She expertly establishes a minimalist interior that is effortlessly chic. Guests can enjoy the view from the beatiful fireside patio, observe the chefs in action from the bar seats, dine at surprisingly elegant communal tables, or snuggle into cozy booths. The low-key furnishings allow the reinvented street food to take center stage.

From Daily Candy

From Daily Candy

Yoon applies his European culinary training to create mouthwatering combinations of seasonal vegetables, fresh seafood (there’s meat too, but I’m a pescatarian, so I can’t vouch for its quality) and exotic spices. Here are my list of recommendations for when you visit.

 

Chinese black mushrooms

Chinese black mushrooms

Green papaya salad

Green papaya salad

Tea leaf salad

Tea leaf salad

Crispy coconut rice cakes

Crispy coconut rice cakes

Butterfish

Butterfish

  • Crispy Coconut Rice Cakes with pandan and shallot chile jam
  • Chinese Eggplant with fennel raita, tomato sambal, and eggplant “fries”
  • Hawaiian Butterfish with pickled watermelon radish, daikon, nahm jim, and rau ram
  • Chinese Black Mushrooms with maitake, woodear, chanterelles, and mustard greens
  • Prince Edward Island Black Mussels with green chile rempah, coconut, tapioca, thai basil, and lime

If you’re a tea lover like me, make sure to order a pot of one of their delicious teas too! They serve them in beautiful Asian teapots with the cutest little teacups.

Free desserts!

Free desserts!

Instead of pestering guests with baskets of free bread that causes people to fill up before the actual food arrives, Lukshon serves people freebees that they actually want: house-made sparkling water and a trio of desserts that varies from night to night.

 

Restaurant Review: The Bazaar at the SLS Hotel

30 Jan

To celebrate getting into architecture school, this weekend I went with my amazing family and incredible boyfriend to the SLS Bazaar. With the intriguing food, funky decor, and energetic atmosphere, there is no better place to celebrate a special occasion!

My amazing family

The Bazaar is my favorite restaurant in LA because designer Philippe Starck’s eccentric furnishings and unique spacial layout perfectly compliment chef Jose Andres’s delectable gastronomic creations.

The inside is an interior design wonderland with countless treasures including a hundred different styles of chairs and almost two dozen chandeliers. Rich velvet curtains and intimate seating arrangements divide the restaurant into four main areas.

People can begin with exquisite cocktails in the Bar Centro. Then they move into either the Blanca or Rojo dining rooms where the extensive menus offers mixture of modern and traditional tapas, each with Andres’s distinctive flair. Finally people finish off the unforgettable night with a delectable assortment of cookies, cakes, and confections in the Patisserie.

The Patisserie

We started off with the semi-normal sweet potato chips with yogurt and balsamic foam to, then moved on to more adventurous dishes. My favorites include japanese eel tacos in a cucumber “shell,” brussel sprouts topped with tangy lemon air, guacamole wrapped in jicama paper,and caviar cones filled with cauliflower creme. The most impressive of the desserts was the floating island, coconut moose frozen with liquid nitrogen.

Eel Tacos

Caviar Cones

Brussel Sprouts

Sweet Potato Chips

There is also a fun shop attached to the patisserie with a changing display of peculiar objects that you would only fin d in the most luxurious boutiques. Although this may seem to a strange feature, it fit perfectly with the avant guard atmosphere o the restaurant with its quirky details and unexpected pairings.

Curated Shop

I highly recommend that everyone save up to try this unforgettable restaurant at least once in their lives because in all the time I have spent in LA, I have never seen anything like it!

Out and about in Santa Monica

16 Jan

Yesterday my mom suggested that maybe we go down to Disneyland for the day, but I recommended that maybe we go shop around Santa Monica’s Abbot Kinney and Main Street instead….a.k.a. Grown Up Disneyland.

I love the Venice/Santa Monica area because even though it’s a mere 25 minute drive from where I live, the vibe is quite different. Trendy, beach-going hipsters populate this area of Los Angeles with kitschy boutiques, beach cruiser bikes, pilates studios, gourmet cafes, avant garde condos, and uplifting street art.

My dad stood in the infamous line to get a table at Gjelina, while we shopped at some of the adorable stores that dot the street. When we were finally seated the sophisticated, yet casual attitude of all of the waiters and restaurant patrons amazed me like it always does. The building itself is incredibly alluring with a giant eye on the facade of the upper level,and various utilitarian details.

Exterior of Gjelina

The food was as good as the out-the-door line suggested. We started off with the most delicious Blueberry Brown Sugar Scones I’ve ever eaten. Flecks of lemon zest, plump blueberries (even in the middle of winter…this is Southern California after all), and a crumbly brown sugar surface made these delicious. These are a must-order; I will try to imitate them on my blog soon! For our meal, my mom and I shared  Moroccan Baked Eggs (a.k.a. shakshuka). It was yummy, but not as good as the shakshuka at Momed on Beverly Drive. For those of you who don’t know, shakshuka is baked eggs atop tomatoes, peppers, and onions, with spicy seasonings.

A photo taken by my precious little sister Rosie

Rosie and her Smoked Salmon Platter

My Moroccan Baked Eggs

If you want to try Gjelina’s tasty fare, but aren’t willing to wait in the long line, no worries, just head next door to their take-out cafe.

Here are people eating at the tables next door to Gjelina's take-out cafe

After brunch, we shopped around Abbot Kinney and saw some great stores with unique items. These stores are great for cards, gifts, or buying for yourself because you know how awesome you are. Here are some stores you may want to check out next time you’re in the neighborhood:

Patio in the back of Zingara

Lending Library at Zingara

Exterior of Urban Paper Boutique

Exterior View of Bountiful

Cute Card at Urban Paper Boutique

  • Mailbox at Tumbleweed and Dandelion

  • Ananda: fun vintage-esque women’s clothing
  • G2 Gallery: art, photography, and other unique goods sold to promote appreciation of nature
  • Zingara: Its name meaning “Gypsy,” this tent-like store has an eclectic mix of clothing and accessories with a global feel, a beautiful porch in the back, and a great lending library in the front
  • Firefly: The harmonic mix of clothes, books, cards, jewelry, and other goods keep this store brimming with hidden treasures
  • Urban Paper BoutiqueThis store is a more card-oriented version of paper source with beautiful, quirky cards for every occasion
  • Mona Moore: This beautiful space hold a plethora of runway-ready purses and shoes; it’s a must-see for any accessory aficionado
  • Very Venice: Another shop that sells arts produced by local artisans from this bungalow-esque galley
  • Undrest: This store epitomizes the beachy-feel with its year-round collection of bathing suits and cover ups
  • Bountiful:This may very well be my favorite store on Abbot Kinney with its blast-from-the-past collection of homewares and embellishments
  • Ten Women: A store of various goods curated by 22 women who are embracing their entrepreneurial spirit while helping up-and coming local artists
  • Tumbleweed & Dandelion: This store has an extensive collection of white-washed, Cape Cod-style homewares that would sparkle in any beach home

I highly recommend that any of you come check out Abbot Kinney when you get a chance!

 

Bohemian Rhapsody in Culver City

4 Jan

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I had lunch with my mom and two of my sisters, checked out an eccentric art exhibition, shopped in a few quirky boutiques, and loaded up on produce at the farmer’s market… and I did all this within a ten-block section of Culver City.

First we had lunch at Royal T, a zany cafe/store/gallery where elegant furnishings contrasted with the utilitarian space.

I ordered a delicious Tuna Tataki salad and a pot of yuzu green tea.

After lunch we walked around the art space where the current display showed a mishmash of recycled objects used in unconventional ways.

Before leaving Royal T, we looked around the store that is continually restocked by various curators. The various unnecessary, but wonderful nicknacks made me chuckle.

As we walked through Culver City, we passed a variety of beautiful, historic buildings including the Culver Hotel, the Citizen Publishing and Printing Company, and Ashaka Restaurant.

Next we shopped around a great gift boutique called Lundeen’s where they had a great assortment of cards, toys, and house wares.

Last, but certainly not least, we shopped around Culver City’s weekly farmer’s market that happens every Tuesday from 3-7. There were about two dozen vendors selling everything from crafts to prepared food to organic produce. I bought a hand carved “Namaste” sign, korean kimchee, winter citrus, and a variety of vegetables to make homemade vegetable broth later this week. 

I had a wonderful adventure in Culver City yesterday afternoon and I highly recommend that any of my readers who live near LA make sure to check out the many shops, restaurants, and markets that the city has to offer!