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The Best Dishes Eater Editors Ate This Week

Follow Eater editors each week as they share their favorite dishes around town

California brisket at Domestic BBQ in Covina.
California brisket at Domestic BBQ in Covina
Farley Elliott

The editors of Eater LA dine out several times a week, if not per day, which means we’re always encountering standout dishes that deserve time in the limelight. Here’s the very best of everything the team has eaten recently.


July 26, 2021

Grilled octopus at Cinque Terre West Osteria in Pacific Palisades

Grilled octopus at Cinque Terre West Osteria in Pacific Palisades.
Grilled octopus at Cinque Terre West Osteria in Pacific Palisades
Mona Holmes

I’ll be honest that the Palisades is one of my blind spots. It’s quite a jump away from my Northeast LA home, and tucked right in front of a residential part of Palisades Village. But Cinque Terre West Osteria is one of those charming finds with handmade pastas, good wines, pizzas, and tons of seafood dishes. Husband and wife team, Marlo Vinzoni and Ligurian chef Gianba Vinzoni, have owned Cinque Terre West for years, and know the locals well. There’s a tree-lined patio with plenty of space between tables, and Gianba’s octopus is a perfect dish for a summer day. It’s light and perfectly grilled over a bed of watermelon radish, leeks, and salsa verde with high-quality olive oil to finish. Marlo will recommend a glass of prosecco for just about anything, and you’re right to follow her cheery instructions. 970 Monument Street, Pacific Palisades. —Mona Holmes

California brisket at Domestic BBQ in Covina

California brisket at Domestic BBQ in Covina.
California brisket at Domestic BBQ in Covina
Farley Elliott

Lines form quick at the weekend-only corner restaurant Domestic Barbecue in Covina. The offshoot spot — an original runs throughout the week in nearby La Puente — still offers the usual smoked meats that the name implies, though the folks that pour in through the front door also come for burgers, fries, pints of craft beer, and to watch games on the hanging televisions. They’re smart to do so, but not at the expense of what may be some of the best barbecue in the greater San Gabriel Valley region. This is California cooking with a low and slow mentality, featuring brisket with that familiar Texas wobble but a little extra char on the bark for a slightly firmer bite at the edges. There’s pulled pork and ribs, and big beef-on-bone dino ribs that, when ordered whole, arrive at tables with knives sticking out of the top, as if fresh from the kill. No wonder this place manages to keep its customers pouring in; it’s fun, friendly, and above all delicious. 325 North Citrus Avenue, Covina. — Farley Elliott

Koji-cured hangar steak at Mírame in Beverly Hills

Koji-cured hangar steak at Mírame in Beverly Hills.
Koji-cured hangar steak at Mírame in Beverly Hills
Matthew Kang

The dining scene in Beverly Hills illustrates the strength of revenge spending at its finest, from the loaded outdoor areas at Spago and Nusr-et to the jovial patio at Wally’s. Mírame is no different, with its bustling front patio, with mezcal cocktails, Rolexes, and luxe tacos flexing outward to the Golden Triangle. Joshua Gil’s menu has expanded a bit since opening last year, but the quality and execution are just as good, perhaps even sharper. While starters like the salmon skin chicharron with fermented garlic aioli and the guac with salsa trio are solid as ever, the reason to come here are the tostadas. The artichoke and truffle tostada, with avocado, tomatillos, and summer truffle, is one of the most inventive vegetable dishes in LA right now (I could do without the truffle personally but this is Beverly Hills), while this koji-cured hangar steak has spades of umami. The grilled steak comes loaded with mushrooms and pickled pearl onions, which means it’s a certified challenge to eat it all without the toppings coming out. It’s worth the effort. 419 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills. —Matthew Kang

Naengmyeon at Yuk Dae Jang in San Gabriel

Naengmyeon at Yuk Dae Jang in San Gabriel.
Naengmyeon at Yuk Dae Jang in San Gabriel
Cathy Chaplin

There’s nowhere I’d rather be than in front of a bowl of Korean cold noodles when the sun’s blazing and temperatures are climbing. My current favorite bowl of naengmyeon is served at Yuk Dae Jang in San Gabriel (though the one served at Yu Chun Chic Naeng Myun in Koreatown may be the best one in LA). The naengmyeon’s icy, tangy, and highly slurp-able broth cools from the inside, while its thin and chewy buckwheat noodles are light but filling somehow. Hot mustard and vinegar is served on the side for adjusting the soup’s profile, but I find it pitch-perfect as is. 704 West Las Tunas Drive, San Gabriel. —Cathy Chaplin


July 19, 2021

Tenshin chahan ankake at Kouraku in Little Tokyo

Tenshin chahan ankake at Kouraku in Little Tokyo.
Tenshin chahan ankake at Kouraku in Little Tokyo
Matthew Kang

There’s nothing quite like taking one of the tiny booths in the back of Kouraku, one of Little Tokyo’s classic late-night haunts that’s been serving Japanese comfort food since 1976, and looks like it hasn’t changed very much since then. Recently a few friends and I had dinner here at a more modest hour, as the restaurant now closes at 9 p.m. The katsu curry and gyoza are highlights, but I was especially taken with the tenshin chahan ankake, a fried rice served into an upside bowl shape, covered with an almost velvety shrimp omelette, and then positively doused with pork gravy. The gravy isn’t too thick or salty, but does a great job of soaking into the well-fried rice. If I had a larger stomach, I would’ve finished this in addition to my order of mixed fried katsu curry, which was also served in a huge portion. Kouraku is still going strong in Little Tokyo and beckons a visit for a blast to the past. 214 East 2nd Street, Los Angeles. —Matthew Kang

Bistro burger at Bistro Jolie in Beverly Glen

Bistro burger at Bistro Jolie in Beverly Glen.
Bistro burger at Bistro Jolie in Beverly Glen
Farley Elliott

It’s been about two weeks since Bistro Jolie, the quiet French-California restaurant up in the Beverly Glen hills, reopened its doors for on-site service. The energy in the room is palpable, as staff turns out plate after plate of pommes frites, little gem salad, grilled salmon, and the like, with executive chef Charles Voudouris calling tickets and executing finishes with a flourish at the pass. In the midst of new mask mandates, a nationwide worker shortage, and public health uncertainty, it’s easy to look into the restaurant industry at large and continue to see anxiety and burnout writ large. But Voudouris and his crew? They seem genuinely happy pushing plates, smiling as they cook what is probably the best food for miles in any direction. That itself is something to celebrate — and were it not for the excellent bistro burger, served thick and rich like a good New York City tavern might do it, the happiness of the place might be the biggest thing to talk about. But at Bistro Jolie (and everywhere else) the food is only one side of the conversation. The staff, the sense of belonging, the eagerness to cook, and the willingness to serve … that’s what takes a place from good to special. 2922 Beverly Glen Circle, Beverly Glen. —Farley Elliott

Chicken thighs at Girl and the Goat in Downtown

Chicken thighs at Girl and the Goat in Downtown.
Chicken thighs at Girl and the Goat in Downtown
Mona Holmes

It’s been fascinating to observe chef and restaurant culture change with the advent of reality television. A handful of chefs from numerous shows have accomplished incredible feats, and one of them is Stephanie Izard. The endless obstacle course continues after opening a restaurant. Staying power is hard, even for the first woman to win Top Chef. During a recent dinner at Girl and the Goat in Downtown, the kitchen sent out a plate of smoky roasted chicken thighs — with the crispiest skin, roti, a grape salad with citrusy manquat, and a wonderfully smooth layer of labneh and dill tahini. There’s only one way to take this dish in: cut a piece of chicken, slather it in all the bits, look up to the high ceilings, sip a cocktail, and settle into the comfy booth. 555-3 Mateo Street, Downtown. —Mona Holmes

Grilled octopus at Xécora Gastronomía Urbana in El Monte

Grilled octopus at Xécora Gastronomía Urbana in El Monte.
Grilled octopus at Xécora Gastronomía Urbana in El Monte
Cathy Chaplin

El Monte’s Xécora Gastronomía Urbana proved to be the ideal spot for a weeknight meet-up with an Orange County-dwelling friend. Located halfway between our respective abodes, and serving up both solid cocktails and memorable cooking (a rare combination in the deep San Gabriel Valley), it was the place to be on Thursday night. We sipped on two-for-one cocktail specials made with mezcal while perusing the seafood-centric menu. The evening’s spread included another round of drinks, of course, along with a shrimp ceviche, marlin tacos, oysters on a half shell, and most fabulous of all — grilled octopus. While grilled octopus is fairly common on restaurant menus throughout the Southland, the version here stood out for its careful balance of smoke and char, all while delivering on supple and tender tentacles. 11583 Lower Azusa Road, El Monte. —Cathy Chaplin

Liberty duck and turnip kebab at Birdie G’s in Santa Monica

A recent visit to Birdie G’s near Bergamot Station in Santa Monica gave me what I can say is a bite that veritably tastes like summer — more so, even, than the restaurant’s starter-snack of lavender-dusted almonds. The liberty duck and turnip kebab is a seasonal dish (cooked on a skewer but served not on a skewer) featuring roasted duck with sliced turnips over a sweet (but not too-sweet) rhubarb sauce the color of a Mattel dream car. The duck is ridiculously tender, providing a nice contrast to the bite and earthy flavor of the turnip as well as the nectar-y rhubarb sauce. It is both dinner and dessert, a Wonka-esque manifestation of the three-course chewing gum that ousts Violet Beauregarde from the factory. In this dish, you get the main course, vegetable side, and dessert in one bite; you’ll be thinking about it long after your real main courses and desserts arrive. 2421 Michigan Avenue, Santa Monica. —Nicole Adlman


July 12, 2021

Pork belly at Craft LA in Century City

Pork belly at Craft LA in Century City.
Pork belly at Craft LA in Century City
Matthew Kang

It’s funny to think that Craft LA opened during the wave of pork belly and other gastropub-inspired fare in 2008, and continues to churn refined seasonal American food for the suited types in office-oriented Century City. With chef Brian Rigsby at the helm of this Tom Colicchio-operated restaurant, the menu is now 13 years old, but doesn’t feel dated in the least. The cooking is still top-notch, like this nicely seared pork belly with ripe peach and sweet, chewy dates as the perfect foil to the fatty cut. As dining has returned to LA, it’s great to be reminded that even a throwback like seared pork belly can comfort like it did back in the day at one of the city’s most reliable upscale American restaurants. 10100 Constellation Boulevard, Los Angeles. —Matthew Kang

Three cup chicken, pork intestines, and squid at Tasty House in San Gabriel

Three cup chicken, intestines, and seafood at Tasty House in San Gabriel.
Three cup chicken, intestines, and seafood at Tasty House in San Gabriel
Cathy Chaplin

I didn’t know what to make of Tasty House the first time I perused its menu. With specialties like Hainan chicken rice, a smoked tea duck, and Hunan tofu, the restaurant seemed to defy the kind of hyper-regionalization I’ve come to expect from Chinese restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley. Needless to say, I was skeptical but I could not have been any more wrong. The Taiwanese-run Tasty House is so very good, especially its three cup preparation that included chicken, squid, and pork intestines. Sweet, savory, and even a little sticky, the trio went down easy over rice. Also worth ordering here is the bitter melon with salted eggs and the smoked tea duck. 120 North San Gabriel Boulevard, Ste. C & D, San Gabriel. —Cathy Chaplin

La Especial at Chuladas Burgers at Avenue 26

La Especial at Chuladas Burgers at Avenue 26.
La Especial at Chuladas Burgers at Avenue 26
Farley Elliott

The mood has cooled somewhat at the broad Avenue 26 street market these days, owing to the broad reopening of restaurants and other businesses post-June 15. That’s okay, though; there are still dozens and dozens of vendors lining up to sell everything from teriyaki bowls to pizzas to pastas to tacos and beyond, with plenty of desserts (and drinks) on deck too. One of the stalwarts of the industrial area over the past year or so has been Chuladas Burgers, a small stand that mostly traffics in smashed patties but also offers a more classic LA burger known as the La Especial, thicker in the middle and topped with plenty of lettuce, a thick tomato, and served on a very squishy bun. It’s got shades of LA’s many fast-food diners — and of the more recent Yellow Paper Burger pop-up that started in Monterey Park — but is really something all its own, a kind of diner daytime staple bacon cheeseburger but done on the street. That’s good news for folks sick of the smashed trend, and with the added bonus that the crowds lining up to try (and every other vendor) aren’t quite so thick right now. 3101 Artesian Street, Fridays and Saturdays only. — Farley Elliott

Cheese and charcuterie board from Silverlake Socialite in Silver Lake

Cheese and charcuterie board from Silverlake Socialite in Silver Lake.
Cheese and charcuterie board from Silverlake Socialite in Silver Lake
Mona Holmes

My family came over yesterday bearing gifts, mostly in the form of food. When my cousin showed up with a giant platter of cheeses, salty meats, fruits, flowers, seeds, and honeys on a 24-inch platter, I knew there would never be a birthday cake in my presence again. She picked it up from Silverlake Socialite, a local caterer named Lauren Delp who specializes in boards of every kind, from fruit to charcuterie, crudites, ones with lox and bagels, and even entire boards that are gluten-free. The gorgeous spread — which also included various citruses (blood orange and grapefruit), pistachios, brie, feta, goat and sheep’s milk cheeses, figs, apples, cashews, olives, strawberries, cherries, and crackers to boot — gathered the same responses from everyone who entered the room: a gasp or a smile. It’s very possible that I’m eating the leftovers right now. Head to Delp's website to see the goods and place an order. —Mona Holmes


July 6, 2021

Doubles at Bridgetown Roti at Smorgasburg

Doubles at Bridgetown Roti at Smorgasburg.
Doubles at Bridgetown Roti at Smorgasburg
Matthew Kang

Rashida Holmes’s Caribbean food pop-up, Bridgetown, has a weekly home at Smorgasburg LA and I couldn’t be happier for the new addition to the Sunday food festival. Everything at Bridgetown is delicious and well-prepared, from the crispy dark-brown fried cod fritters to the namesake chicken curry roti. While the oxtail patties were already sold out by midday, I was able to nab the last order of doubles. These plush, slightly tangy foldover snacks from Trinidad were an amazing bite, with julienned cucumber and curried garbanzo beans spilling out. The fiery pepper sauce brought in the right level of heat and acid for a great punch. These are doubles I will dream about. 777 South Alameda Street, Los Angeles. —Matthew Kang

Fried chicken sandwich at Daybird in Westlake

Daybird’s fried chicken sandwich in Los Angeles
Fried chicken sandwich at Daybird in Westlake
Matthew Kang

As usual, Oprah is right: Daybird is great. Mei Lin’s pandemic-era fried chicken sandwich shop opened in March to lines almost as long as the wide, flat edge of crispy chicken that sticks out from each sandwich — a sign of Lin’s Top Chef fans and her cooking prowess. And while the lines have died down somewhat since those opening days, there’s sure to be a renewed interest after daytime television star Oprah shouted out the sandwiches on Instagram over the holiday weekend. Get over to Daybird to beat the crowds, and make sure to order your Sichuan-spiced sandwich hot; it’s got the right amount of heat, tingle, and flavor, all rolled into one de-boned and breaded thigh. Oprah approves. 240 N. Virgil Avenue, Los Angeles. — Farley Elliott

Macaroni salad with lemon and herbs

Macaroni salad with lemon and herbs.
Macaroni salad with lemon and herbs
Cathy Chaplin

After spending the last week in Birmingham, Alabama visiting my in-laws and sampling the city’s latest and greatest, it was beyond lovely to return home to Los Angeles and cook in my own kitchen this past weekend. At the request of my daughter, we fired up the grill in honor of the Fourth. And while the cheese burgers and hot dogs were dependably good, my favorite dish was the macaroni salad with lemon and herbs from the New York Times. From the tangy buttermilk-laced dressing to the snappy celery and pickles, and the avalanche of fresh dill, every verdant ingredient made this pasta salad one to remember. It’ll be my go-to side dish this summer and beyond. —Cathy Chaplin

Ricotta at Bari in Beverly Grove

Chad Colby’s Bari hits a bit differently very on a busy stretch of West Third Street near La Cienega. There’s no clear sign, just a clean Mediterranean-white building nestled between the busy neighboring eateries. Bari is both beautiful and sexy, with delicate design touches, dim lights, an incredibly friendly and attractive staff, a mostly instrumental electronica playlist, and limited menu for the moment. I’m looking forward to Colby introducing pastas and skewered meats to diners, but for now, it’s a truly stunning place to nab a cocktail from seasoned bartenders and small plates inspired by Puglia. They’re all filling and unexpectedly delicious, especially the ricotta topped with almonds and olive oil. By all means, spread the ricotta over bread or eat it with a spoon because it will be the dish that stuns, next to the burrata anchovies and crispy bread crumbs. 8422 West 3rd Street, Los Angeles. —Mona Holmes


June 28, 2021

Milk bread at Ardor in West Hollywood

Milk bread at Ardor in West Hollywood.
Milk bread at Ardor in West Hollywood
Matthew Kang

Whenever a server says the bread is something you have to order, it seems like an unnecessary upsell. But the incredibly plush, buttery milk bread at Ardor in West Hollywood, topped with sweet tomato slices, is possibly the most spectacular first bite of food you can eat in the city right now. Sliced into pillowy pieces, the table will likely fight over who will get the last bite of this cloud of carbs topped with the intense umami of roasted tomato. The uber-stylish restaurant inside the swanky Edition hotel opened in November 2019 and didn’t really get a chance to develop a following before closing for most of 2020. John Fraser, who operates a number of restaurants in New York City, returned to his hometown with a big city approach to vegetables (though Ardor serves plenty of meat too), and this first course sets a great tone to an excellent meal. 9040 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood. —Matthew Kang

California meets Louisiana barbecue at Shady Grove Foods in San Pedro

California meets Louisiana barbecue at Shady Grove Foods in San Pedro.
California meets Louisiana barbecue at Shady Grove Foods in San Pedro
Farley Elliott

As the breeze blows in off the Los Angeles Harbor on Saturdays, cooling nearby communities like San Pedro from the emerging summer heat, there is the distinct scent — at least at warehouse brewery Brouwerij West — of smoke and meat. Alongside the port building, two pop-up shade tents hold back the sun while a bespoke Santa Maria-style grill and separate steel smoker turn out a little bit of anything and everything all at once, including andouille sausages, fried chicken sandwiches, thick-cut bourbon-glazed bacon, and more. The name of the operation, Shady Grove Foods, purposefully obscures the specificity of the project, allowing owners David and Dennis Robicheau to basically cook whatever they want. There’s a lean on Louisiana staples, including a smoked Cajun meatloaf, as well as California barbecue options like tri-tip sandwiches and ribs cooked over red oak, but mostly this is the Robicheau family show, born out of backyard meals and family get-togethers. It’s not quite all barbecue, not quite all sandwiches and sides; it’s something more, and that’s the point. Stop by for a weekend sampling of that bacon, those ribs, and especially the incredible cowboy beans laced with a few chiles and lots of chorizo. 110 E. 22nd Street, San Pedro. — Farley Elliott

Pork and preserved egg congee at Harlam’s Kitchen in Rosemead

Pork and preserved egg congee at Harlam’s Kitchen in Rosemead.
Pork and preserved egg congee at Harlam’s Kitchen in Rosemead
Cathy Chaplin

Whether it’s 90 degrees and sunny or dreary with a chance of sprinkles, it’s always congee weather in my book — and my go-to bowl brims with silkened rice, shredded pork, and creamy preserved eggs. Hidden in the food court of a Rosemead grocery store, Harlam’s Kitchen is the place to go for seriously affordable porridge that’s served efficiently and comforts like no other. Grab a seat in the popular food court or take it to-go — either way it’ll hit the spot. And while Harlam’s Kitchen doesn’t offer much in the way of dessert, Vietnamese sweets stall Hien Khanh next door has it covered. 8150 Garvey Avenue, Rosemead. —Cathy Chaplin

St. Nic turkey sandwich at Strings of Life in West Hollywood

St. Nic turkey sandwich at Strings of Life in West Hollywood.
St. Nic turkey sandwich at Strings of Life in West Hollywood
[Official Photo]

My table at Strings of Life in West Hollywood was full of dishes designed to wow — a savory Australian sausage roll; a beautiful pan-roasted salmon with feta, green beans, garbanzo, tomato, olives, artichoke, arugula, and fresh herbs; a carrot cake by pastry chef Jaci Koludrovic; plus a gorgeous poke rice bowl. I was a little stunned and overwhelmed (in a good way) by the St. Nic turkey sandwich. Fresh ciabatta is always a good start, but there’s something about chef Jordan Mathurin’s assembly of thinly shaved turkey with arugula, cranberry, mustard, and a semi-dried tomato with the proper amount of avocado that hits just right. It’s the kind of sandwich you want without realizing you need it. S.O.L. feels spacious with floor to ceiling windows and is the kind of peaceful hideaway that West Hollywood needs. Keep an eye out for the sign on Knoll Drive slightly away from Melrose. 609 N W Knoll Drive, West Hollywood. —Mona Holmes


June 21, 2021

Porcini mushroom tagliatelle at Pasta Sisters in Culver City

Porcini mushroom tagliatelle at Pasta Sisters.
Porcini mushroom tagliatelle at Pasta Sisters
Matthew Kang

With full capacity in effect, an already popular restaurant like Pasta Sisters in Culver City seems to be nearly bursting at the seams with carb-loving diners. A visit last week saw what seemed like three or four dozen people just waiting to place an order at the beloved Italian restaurant, which is smart to use its two outdoor patios to accommodate patrons. I hadn’t ordered the porcini mushroom cream pasta before, but after trying it, I think it’s the best dish on the menu. Coupled with nicely chewy tagliatelle prepared in the restaurant’s own pasta lab (previously the one for Bucato), I could see myself craving this every week. 3280 Helms Avenue, Culver City. —Matthew Kang

Jamaican oxtails at Pasadena Fish Market in Pasadena

Jamaican oxtails at Pasadena Fish Market in Pasadena.
Jamaican oxtails at Pasadena Fish Market in Pasadena
Cathy Chaplin

I initially came into Pasadena Fish Market for its deeply satisfying menu of fried seafood ( the oysters, shrimp, and sand dabs are particularly excellent), but have been returning for the lesser-billed but equally excellent Jamaican cooking. From the flaky and flavorful beef patties to the awesomely spiced goat curry and most recently, the stewed oxtails, everything coming out of the kitchen has been truly superb. Best of all, my daughter still loves the seafood side of the menu best, so our Jamaican feasts are always rounded out with all the deep-fried things, hushpuppies, and plantains, too. 181 East Orange Grove Boulevard, Pasadena. —Cathy Chaplin

Madame at Nic’s On Beverly in West Hollywood

 Madame at Nic’s On Beverly in West Hollywood.
Madame at Nic’s On Beverly in West Hollywood
Mona Holmes

If you ever tried to take away my eggs or bacon at Saturday or Sunday brunch, it could result in a fight. This act would typically be in direct violation of the unofficial weekend daytime dining rule that’s reserved for savory, rich, and completely decadent brunches. I am rethinking the decree after dining at Nic’s On Beverly thanks to its recent addition of the madame, a twist on the traditional and filling croque madame. They start with a butter-free croissant from Chaumont bakery, and add plant-based everything savory to it including a pan-fried “ham,” a melty cheese, and folded Just Egg. The bites are truly surprising, flavorful, wonderfully salty, and pairs well with one of Jason Eisner’s gorgeous cocktails. One more thing, if there were ever a time to sit on Nic’s lush patio, the time is right now. Every seat is shaded, cool, and a relaxing vibe. 8265 Beverly Boulevard, West Hollywood. —Mona Holmes

Solvang hot chicken from Peasants Feast in Solvang

Solvang hot chicken from Peasants Feast in Solvang.
Solvang hot chicken from Peasants Feast in Solvang
Farley Elliott

It’s not all breakfast pastries and tri-tip in Solvang, the sleepaway Danish Village north of Santa Barbara on California’s rural Central Coast. At Peasants Feast, the small greenhouse restaurant just off the main plaza in town, chef/owner Michael Cherney and general manager/owner/partner Sarah Cherney have created a mix of… well, whatever they want. There are vegetables galore, done up in salads and soups and even tacos, plus sandwiches, sweets like honey toast, and even a smash burger (naturally). One star among the talented cast is the Solvang hot chicken, an ode to the Nashville original that earns its focus thanks to a bath in hot, spiced oil. The bread from local Bakers Table helps, but really it’s all about the buttermilk brine and craggy, sweat-inducing batter and spicy finish. The sandwich (and the restaurant) make for a nice alternative in long-shifting Solvang, where it’s as possible to grab some ebleskivers or a glass of merlot as it is a craft beer, hot chicken sandwich, and great bowl of ramen. 487 Atterdag Road, Solvang. — Farley Elliott


June 14, 2021

Spanish octopus at Bar Le Côte pop-up at Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica

Spanish octopus at Bar Le Côte pop-up at Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica. 
Spanish octopus at Bar Le Côte pop-up at Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica
[Official Photo]

I have been in a very Central Coast state of mind since my visit to Santa Barbara, Goleta, and Los Alamos over Memorial Day Weekend: Aside from an idyllic dinner at the understated French-Cali bistro Bell’s, I encountered the brisket wonder of Priedite Barbecue and fell into nostalgia at Santa Barbara’s folkloric, never-fail La Super-Rica. So when the new restaurant from the Bell’s team, a seafood project named Bar Le Côte, decamped to Los Angeles for a weekend pop-up at Santa Monica’s Rustic Canyon, I couldn’t miss it. (You heard it here first: summer 2021 is hot pop-up summer in Los Angeles.) The two savory dishes from the menu are teases of what the Los Olivos restaurant will ultimately serve in its space: a halibut tartare with pickled fennel, dill pollen, and a tangy buttermilk vinaigrette, and Spanish octopus with fingerling potatoes, frisée, and saffron aioli. The Spanish octopus was the dish I kept coming back to for its char and that silken saffron aioli, which complemented the grilled octopus and crispy paprika-roasted potatoes perfectly. 119 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica. —Nicole Adlman

Yuk gae jang with handmade pasta at Yuk Dae Jang in San Gabriel

Yuk gae jang with handmade pasta at Yuk Dae Jang in San Gabriel.
Yuk gae jang with handmade pasta at Yuk Dae Jang in San Gabriel
Cathy Chaplin

I didn’t realize how much I’d missed banchan until the trio of small nibbles (fish cakes, kimchi, and chives) was set in front of me during a recent meal at Yuk Dae Jang. Soon after, a tray of steamed pork and kimchi mandu and a heaping bowl of yuk gae jang landed on the table too. It’d been way too long since I’d sat down for a proper Korean feast, and every dish was truly terrific. The restaurant’s signature yuk gae jang bested them all though, with it’s chile-spiked ox bone broth, plentiful Angus brisket, and best of all, silky handmade noodles. The noodle soup’s portion was large enough to share. The abundance and beauty of the food, coupled with the kind service and wonderful company, made this a lunch to savor. 704 West Las Tunas Drive, Ste. E1, San Gabriel. —Cathy Chaplin

Fusilli puttanesca at La Pergoletta in Silver Lake

Fusilli puttanesca at La Pergoletta in Silver Lake.
Fusilli puttanesca at La Pergoletta in Silver Lake
Matthew Kang

I’d known about La Pergoletta and its delightful, reasonably priced fresh pasta for years but never had the chance until this past weekend. It is indeed a homey, approachable place to get Italian-American fare, with welcoming service and easy reservations. Most of the pastas were good, though nothing to write home about, except for the puttanesca, whose flavors popped and shone thanks to the brightness of the olives and capers. The sauce bound well to the spiral pasta, leading to the right balance between sweet tomato and those salty ingredients. The table was fighting to eat the last bite of this dish, and for good reason. 2827 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles. —Matthew Kang

Poolside snacks of all stripes at Veranda Al Fresco Restaurant in Downtown

Poolside snacks of all stripes at Veranda Al Fresco Restaurant in Downtown.
Poolside snacks of all stripes at Veranda Al Fresco Restaurant in Downtown
Farley Elliott

It’s going to be a real heater this week, which makes the cooling, crisp, slightly acidic Chilean sea bass ceviche classico from Veranda all the more appealing. The gorgeous and simple dish is best served poolside at the coffin-shaped watering hole behind Downtown LA’s Hotel Figueroa, and with lots of margaritas and mezcal in tow. Maybe you can’t take off a workday just to lounge around in the sun (though it’s worth asking), but for after-work snacking and people-watching the whole setup is hard to beat. There’s tacos and salads and a burger too, of course — it’s still a hotel after all — but for pure heatwave bliss, it’s got to be ceviche all the way. 939 S. Figueroa, Downtown. —Farley Elliott


June 7, 2021

Pork bulgogi banh mi at Bites and Bashes in Lomita

Pork bulgogi banh mi at Bites and Bashes in Lomita.
Pork bulgogi banh mi at Bites and Bashes in Lomita
Matthew Kang

Julie Coser bases much of the menu at bright all-day restaurant Bites and Bashes on the food she cooked at home for her family. The pork bulgogi in this tremendous banh mi is Julie’s daughter Crystal’s (who co-runs the catering company and cafe) favorite dish, and it’s easy to see why. Crisp, pickled vegetables sit atop a generous portion of sweet, slightly spicy pork that resembles the barbecue pork from a more traditional banh mi shop, but with an underlying Korean red chile flavor. Plush French rolls contain the sandwich, making it a hearty and satisfying lunch that won’t weigh you down. Try the bacon candy and seasoned fries too for a complete experience. 25600 Narbonne Avenue, Lomita. —Matthew Kang

Escargot at Perle in Pasadena

Escargot at Perle in Pasadena.
Escargot at Perle in Pasadena
Cathy Chaplin

When French bistro Perle opened in Pasadena in the middle of the pandemic, I made a mental note to dine there as soon as the city opened up and childcare was available. So when my mother-in-law came into town for the first time in over a year, reservations were made and a dinner date was finally had. After settling into an alfresco table lining Union Street, we ordered a trio of appetizers (beef tartare, pate en croute, escargot), two mains (duck à l’orange, vegetarian coq au vin), and a tarte tatin for dessert. Every dish was well-executed, especially the wild Burgundy snails with herbed butter, garlic, and a pistachio-panko crust. Served in its shell, each snail had a bite-sized crouton saturated with butter hidden inside — a special surprise that delighted us once the snail was long gone. 43 Union Street, Pasadena. —Cathy Chaplin

Kale Jidori chicken salad at Porto’s in Glendale

I’ve been eating Porto’s guava, cream cheese miracles wrapped in pastry dough my entire life, along with the stuffed potato balls, and Cubano or medianoche sandwiches. Visiting this nearly 50-year-old restaurant is worth the drive no matter where you live in the Southland, but don’t you dare miss out on those seasonal items like the Thanksgiving potato balls in November, the springtime raspberry almond cookies, or a new dish like the cilantro chicken caesar salad. Yes, I know, you don’t go to Porto’s for salads. But this one just hits with the iceberg and strips of kale, Jidori chicken breast, cotija cheese, and croutons from house-made bread. The cilantro caesar dressing only tastes slightly familiar, it’s a refreshing take on arguably the most popular salad in the country with the right amount of crunch and flavor. 315 North Brand Boulevard, Glendale. —Mona Holmes


June 1, 2021

Meat pies and sausage rolls at Pie Room by Gwen in Beverly Hills

Meat pies and sausage rolls at Pie Room by Gwen in Beverly Hills 
Meat pies and sausage rolls at Pie Room by Gwen in Beverly Hills
Matthew Kang

Curtis Stone smartly changed course at his Michelin-starred fine dining restaurant Maude in Beverly Hills during the pandemic, turning the dining room and open kitchen into a takeout/pre-order Aussie-style pie shop called Pie Room by Gwen. While the shop’s namesake Gwen (Stone’s separate restaurant) plans to reopen soon in Hollywood, Pie Room here in Beverly Hills looks like it’s strumming along just fine with these buttery baked treats. The menu is pretty expansive, with loaded oxtail and cheek meat pies big enough for two people to the flakey sausage roll served with ketchup on the savory side. Sweets include everything from banoffee pie and salted caramel apple pie to cherry danishes and cinnamon buns. Take in some of the baked goods, then look for Stone on his latest television show Crime Scene Kitchen. 212 S Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills. —Matthew Kang

All the smoked things at Cuyama Buckhorn in New Cuyama

All the smoked things at Cuyama Buckhorn in New Cuyama.
All the smoked things at Cuyama Buckhorn in New Cuyama
Cathy Chaplin

This past weekend’s much-needed getaway to New Cuyama was my first time leaving home since last March. It’s been a tough stretch of remote working and home schooling, so spending a few quiet days in the wide-open high desert offered a welcomed change of pace. Staying at the Cuyama Buckhorn meant that breakfast, lunch, and dinner was taken care of by chef Daniel Horn and his impressive smoker. From the Santa Maria tri-tip sandwich topped with scratch-made barbecue sauce to the spicy pulled-jackfruit sandwich served with hand-battered onion rings and even the grilled veggie wrap, everything the smoker touched was imbued with the rustic, irresistible essence of red oak. 4923 Primero Street, New Cuyama. —Cathy Chaplin

Filipino barbecue at Sisig in Historic Filipinotown

Filipino barbecue at Sisig in Historic Filipinotown.
Filipino barbecue at Sisig in Historic Filipinotown
Farley Elliott

There’s a newish player on the Historic Filipinotown food scene, just up from Bloom and Plume and all the other more recent additions to the longstanding LA neighborhood. This one’s called Sisig, and it trades in one of the more popular meals around LA at the moment: Filipino barbecue. While not served on skewers (like nearby Dollar Hits), the smoky, slightly charred meats do offer a sense of summer barbecue fun, just like what’s currently found at Sweet Meats at the Avenue 26 night market, or Manila District in the Downtown area. Here the spare dining room offers an overhead menu that ticks off the basics, from chicken to pork to beef, with garlicky rice, lumpia, and of course sisig available to boot. This is the new spot not just for the neighborhood, but for the Filipino meat trend that’s all over LA. 1714 W. Temple Street, Historic Filipinotown. —Farley Elliott

Pineapple paleta at La Michoacana Helados 3 in Rancho Cucamonga

Pineapple paleta at La Michoacana Helados 3 in Rancho Cucamonga.
Pineapple paleta at La Michoacana Helados 3 in Rancho Cucamonga
Mona Holmes

Outside of changing an old air conditioner filter, the best thing you can do right now is find a reliable place to get paletas. Traditionally made from fresh fruit or a creamier variety with ingredients like condensed milk, Mexican chocolate, piloncillo, and cinnamon, there is a flavor that can easily turn a warm day into a happier one. That’s especially true for folks heading to La Michoacana Helados 3 in Rancho Cucamonga, where every delicious paleta is made the same day (plus, they’re gorgeous to look at). Not a drop of added sugar is needed when working with ripe fruit, making the pineapple paleta sweet and perfect on its own. Sprinkle a bit of Tajín over the top of the pineapple version, which enhances the fruit flavor, or opt instead for the blueberry cheesecake paleta, where actual chunks of cheesecake accompany the fruit. It’s impossible to make a bad choice here or at any of the La Michoacana locations. 6614 Carnelian Street, Rancho Cucamonga. —Mona Holmes


May 24, 2021

Jambalaya and other Cajun delights from Chef C’s Smhokin’ Pot in Carson

Jambalaya and other Cajun delights from Chef C’s Smhokin Pot in Carson.
Jambalaya and other Cajun delights from Chef C’s Smhokin’ Pot in Carson
Matthew Kang

A few weeks ago a friend and I loaded up on the Cajun-inspired fare of Chef C’s Smhokin’ Pot, which opened at a very busy strip mall in Carson just a block away from the Dignity Health Sports Park. It’s close enough that I can drive locally there, which is a major boon for when I’m craving things like gumbo, jambalaya, and lobster-laden mac and cheese. The gumbo and jambalaya in particular were very good, with heavy seasoning and all the right levels of comfort that took me back to my trip to New Orleans many years ago. Calvin Alexander drove his popular truck Chef C’s before settling into this permanent location just last month, and already the place is buzzing with energy. Next time, I’m ordering the garlic chicken over rice. 17944 South Avalon, Carson. —Matthew Kang

Trout pescado Contramar at Salazar in Frogtown

Trout pescado contramar at Salazar in Frogtown.
Trout pescado contramar at Salazar in Frogtown
Mona Holmes

I drive by Salazar in Frogtown at least 10 times per week. It’s one of those businesses on my regular commute, and an ideal standby for out-of-towners who require good drinks and sit-down service. I missed this place with it’s sandy floors, massive shade structures, one of the city’s most impressive succulent gardens, wonderfully smoky scents, and the food. Chef Jonathan Aviles prepared a menu that is always delicious, and the pescado contramar is just wonderful. Aviles prepares it two-ways with a garlic parsley sauce and a chile vinegar achiote rub. This week’s fish selection was trout, which easily flaked into the house made corn tortillas, smoky salsa, and went down beautifully with a paloma. Get there during a sunny afternoon, but always with a reservation. 2490 Fletcher Drive, Frogtown. —Mona Holmes

Dim sum at Capital Seafood in Arcadia

Dim sum at Capital Seafood in Arcadia.
Dim sum at Capital Seafood in Arcadia
Cathy Chaplin

Giddy doesn’t even begin to describe how it felt to dine-in at Capital Seafood for dim sum this past weekend. I’d missed the timeless routine of pencilling in my order on the paper form, mixing the tableside chile oil and soy sauce into a pitch-perfect condiment, and receiving efficient but very indifferent service. It was the little things that made this a meal to remember. That and the tremendous flavors captured in every steamer. None of the 10 dishes ordered was a snoozer — from the expertly seared radish cakes to the delicate shrimp-filled dumplings and the wonderfully plush salted egg yolk custard buns. I considered dim sum to be a fine tradition before the pandemic, but after a year in lockdown I am convinced that it’s the greatest dining ritual of all time (or maybe it’s the giddiness still talking). 333 East Huntington Drive, Arcadia. —Cathy Chaplin

Hawaiian roll sliders from Bite Club pop-up

Hawaiian roll sliders from Bite Club pop-up.
Hawaiian roll sliders from Bite Club pop-up
Farley Elliott

In the never-ending burger battles of Los Angeles, smashed is currently king — and that’s okay! It leaves room for others (like Thicc Burgers, Yellow Paper Burger, and the great stuff Alvin Cailan is doing at Amboy) to zag against everyone else’s zig. Sure, there’s a lot of copycat stuff, but there’s also a lot of innovation that comes from trying to stand out. One of the more recent micro-trends is the slider, which has a more specific connotation for East Coast burger purists but in LA has largely meant ‘just a small burger’ over the years. Chris N Eddy’s has gotten popular with their Hollywood pop-up serving cheesy mini-ish burgers, and now the new roaming setup Bite Club is looking for a piece of the action too. The tiny patties are still smashed, but not to a lacy thinness, and still (usually) come with American cheese, but its compact proportions are ideal for scarfing several in quick succession. These aren’t the steamy, onion-heavy sliders of New Jersey lore, but that’s okay too; Bite Club is out to be something different, right when LA’s burger scene needs that thinking most. —Farley Elliott


May 17, 2021

Papa rellena from Porto’s in Glendale

Potato balls open to reveal meat inside from a Cuban bakery.
Papa rellena from Porto’s in Glendale
Flickr/jreece

Now that I’m fully vaxxed and meeting up with friends again, I forgot about why Porto’s is essential when bringing something for a potluck. Walk into any gathering, whether family or friends, Porto’s papas rellenas (aka potato balls) will yield no leftovers. As someone who has eaten these most of my life, I’m always shocked at the local who hasn’t been graced with these fairly sizable potato balls. That crispy panko exterior is stuffed with ground beef, onion, bell pepper, and olive, which is surprisingly filling, and so delicious. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye out for the seasonal ones, the seafood potato balls are exceptional, as are the ones that come out every year for Thanksgiving with turkey and gravy. If you haven’t tried picking up food at Porto’s yet, they have one of the easiest contactless pick-up systems in town. 315 North Brand Boulevard, Glendale. —Mona Holmes

All the doughnuts from Dot & Dough in Pasadena

All the doughnuts from Dot & Dough in Pasadena .
All the doughnuts from Dot & Dough in Pasadena
Cathy Chaplin

It was years ago when I first tasted the filled malasadas from Dot & Dough. The Monterey Park-based shop’s take on the Portuguese doughnut was light, sugar-dusted, and filled with luscious custards flavored with vanilla and matcha. Since then, the shop expanded into Pasadena and added a few more equally fetching menu items. The strawberry Pocky-inspired mochi doughnut is nothing short of fantastic, while the pink frosted malasada is an apt ode to Homer Simpson. Best of all is the filled malasada with a Taiwanese brown sugar custard that teeters brilliantly from sugary to caramel-y and back to plain sweet again. 1731 E Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena. —Cathy Chaplin

Cod sandwich from Oui Melrose in Hollywood

Cod sandwich from Oui Melrose in Hollywood.
Cod sandwich from Oui Melrose in Hollywood
Farley Elliott

In the emergent fried fish sandwich wars (which I still contend will never reach the bloodthirsty heights of LA’s fried chicken sandwich wars), there are the fast-food names, the longtime local spots, and the Big Ones, capitalized because of just how pervasive they have become in the overall fried fish conversation. Among them are Little Fish in Echo Park, the food truck Yess Aquatic, and tiny Oui Melrose, a centrally-located catch-all spot that also happens to turn out fantastic sticky buns, doughnuts, and lots of other treats. The latter option is a cod monstrosity, overclocked with lots of dill-heavy tartar sauce, pickles, and (sometimes) even summer truffle shavings. It’s a beast of a thing, made all the better thanks to Old Bay in the seasoning and a fluffy pull-apart bun that owner Armen Piskoulian makes himself. Remember, this is a fish sandwich war: You’re going to have to get messy. 6909 Melrose Avenue, Hollywood. —Farley Elliott

Mushroom taco at Loqui in Free Market at Playa Vista

Mushroom taco at Loqui in Free Market at Playa Vista.
Mushroom taco at Loqui in Free Market at Playa Vista
Matthew Kang

Little taco shop Loqui has a way of finding itself in some very hip places, like Platform in Culver City and nestled into Free Market, a modern retail experience at Playa Vista’s Runway development. Loqui’s tacos have always been very good, especially with the handmade flour tortillas, though surprisingly the mushroom taco might be the best of the bunch. With savory, thinly sliced mushrooms and all the accompaniments of guacamole, salsa, cilantro, and onions, it’s a delicious handheld package. 12751 Millennium Drive, Playa Vista. —Matthew Kang


May 10, 2021

Banh xeo at Bun Mam Cay Dua in Rosemead

Banh xeo at Bun Mam Cay Dua in Rosemead.
Banh xeo at Bun Mam Cay Dua in Rosemead
Cathy Chaplin

Rosemead newcomer Bun Mam Cay Dua makes a Mekong River Delta specialty called bun mam — a noodle soup with an anchovy-laced broth and slippery rounded rice noodles. Though bun mam can be too funk-forward for some, it’s one of my favorites in the Vietnamese noodle soup canon. The version at Cay Dua was solid — with plenty of roasted pork, fish cakes, and eggplant to round out the bowl — but the most spectacular dish on the table was the banh xeo. Fried to order with crispy edges and a fine bit of char, the banh xeo was filled with shrimp, pork, and bean sprouts. All that it needed was to be wrapped in leafy greens and dunked in fish sauce. I came for the bun mam, but will return for the banh xeo. 8526 Valley Boulevard, #106, Rosemead. —Cathy Chaplin

Meatball sub from the Kitchen in Pasadena

Meatball sub from the Kitchen in Pasadena.
Meatball sub from the Kitchen in Pasadena
Farley Elliott

With all the recent attention being paid to greater Pasadena’s restaurant scene these days, it’s important to take time to reexamine the longstanding spots in addition to all the newcomers. Take for example the Kitchen, a simple corner Italian spot in Old Pasadena — on bustling Union no less — that has been in business (and female-owned) since the late ’90s. The restaurant is simple but effective, offering thin pizzas (whole or by the slice) as well as deep dish pies, salads, sandwiches, wine, and more, all just a block off the main Colorado drag. It’s nice to return to spots like this, the ones without robust social media presences or lots of brand new discussion behind them, to see how the everyday places, the quality spots that neighbors love, have been faring of late. Thankfully the Kitchen seems just as steady as ever, particularly its crispy-at-the-edges meatball sub with hefty, well-seasoned meatballs in a deep red sauce. It’s the kind of casual comfort food that’s everywhere in LA, not just Pasadena, though sometimes it’s hiding in the shadows of bigger names nearby. 78 W. Union Street, Pasadena. —Farley Elliott

Grandma pie with pepperoni from Tomato Pie in South Pasadena

Grandma pie with pepperoni from Tomato Pie in South Pasadena.
Grandma pie with pepperoni from Tomato Pie in South Pasadena
Matthew Kang

It’s been years since I’ve had the grandma pizza at Tomato Pie, but thankfully its snazzy location in South Pasadena is just a few doors away from my mom’s place. I always loved the tomato-y cheese-y New York-style pizza (with almost too much cornmeal sprinkled everywhere on the crust), but it never occurred to me to add some pepperoni to the thing. And those curled up pepperoni indeed makes this pizza so much better, balancing out the sweet, chunky sauce and slivers of basil with salty, meaty slivers. Pizza might be having its heyday in LA right now, but Tomato Pie remains one of LA’s best thin-crust versions. 1130 Mission Street, South Pasadena. —Matthew Kang

Beef ribs at Ribtown Barbecue in Jefferson Park

There are a multitude of things that make a stop at Ribtown worth it. The rib tips, brisket, and short ribs are tasty, as is the smell of delicious barbecue smoke. But it’s the friendly face of Lonnie Edwards that really gets me, his smile and constant reference to the massive smokers lined up behind the stand that sits right inside the Westside Loan Office parking lot. There is always parking at his Jefferson Park spot, it’s central, and worth sitting to enjoy those cuts while people watching. The sides are particularly pleasant, especially those baked beans. It’s a messy, glorious time while eating Edwards’s food. assume you’ll be taking leftovers home. Ribtown’s portions are generous. Always check Ribtown’s Instagram to make sure you get a taste. 2125 W. Jefferson Boulevard, Jefferson Park. —Mona Holmes


May 3, 2021

Chirashi bowl from Ichijiku in Highland Park

Chirashi bowl from Ichijiku in Highland Park.
Chirashi bowl from Ichijiku in Highland Park
Matthew Kang

Ichijiku might be the most ambitious sushi spot along Figueroa in Highland Park, though the situation still feels casual with take-a-number-to-your-seat and everything disposable on the table. The prices are in line with a mid-range sushi place (about $35-40 per person), as is the quality, from the deep cuts of tuna to the hulking slivers of salmon. The chirashi bowl could use a bit more variety, with maybe a few pieces of uni or sea bream to round out the rather heavy offerings. The rice was excellent, though: well-seasoned and perfectly cooked. Service was slightly off as my mother’s sashimi plate arrived well ahead of mine, which meant she was eating on her own and then I was eating on my own. Despite these foibles, Ichijiku is a promising addition to the neighborhood, one that I hope to try again when the indoor counter is open. 5629, 1/2 N Figueroa Street, Los Angeles. —Matthew Kang

Blueberry Cobbler from the Gourmet Cobbler Factory

Blueberry cobbler at the Gourmet Cobbler Factory in Pasadena.
Blueberry cobbler from the Gourmet Cobbler Factory in Pasadena
Cathy Chaplin

It was impossible to ignore the array of cobblers for sale on a recent visit to Clifton’s BBQ and Catering, which shares the same space as the Gourmet Cobbler Factory —the two-decade-old shop run by the Powell family. So in addition to the hefty barbecue platter with pork ribs, a beef hot link, a quarter chicken, collard greens, and macaroni and cheese, I added on a still-warm-from-the-oven blueberry cobbler for dessert. While the fruity filling walked the fine line between sweet and tart, the carefully woven crust atop was golden and flaky. Cobblers are baked continuously throughout the day, which means that the chances of getting a piping hot creation is highly likely anytime of day. 33 North Catalina Avenue, Pasadena. —Cathy Chaplin

Pick a steak, any steak, at Charcoal in Venice

If there’s one thing that the pandemic and year of rolling lockdowns has taught many of us, it’s this: cooking a great steak is hard. It seems easy, and maybe for some it is (a result of confidence, practice, a skilled local butcher, or combinations therein) but for many people an at-home steak that achieves restaurant deliciousness is something akin to a myth. It’s rumored about often, but rarely seen. At least that’s the way I often feel — especially as I’ve been increasingly considering my own meat consumption, and have largely stopped buying animal proteins entirely for at-home consumption. That’s a long, winding way to say that Charcoal in Venice cooks a heck of a steak. It’s not news that owner Josiah Citrin knows his way around sourcing, and his staff knows their way around cooking. Rather, it’s a nice reminder of just one of the many, many ways that restaurants continue to touch our lives, to offer us something beyond what we might be willing or able to do for ourselves. I admit to having been trepidatious about returning to on-site dining around LA, but after a splurge-y week of Westside eating — and one incredible steak from Charcoal — it’s safe to say I’m feeling, well, more safe about the whole thing. And I won’t lie: I was missing great steaks, too. 425 Washington Boulevard, Venice. —Farley Elliott


April 26, 2021

Peach and apple cobbler from Cobblers, Cakes, and Kream in Inglewood

Peach and apple cobbler from Cobblers, Cakes, and Kream in Inglewood.
Peach and apple cobbler from Cobblers, Cakes, and Kream in Inglewood
Matthew Kang

After a smoky barbecue lunch at Ribtown, I drove down through South LA to Cobblers, Cakes, and Kream, a popular dessert spot in Inglewood after a strong recommendation from my colleague Mona. The peach and apple cobbler is a warm, flaky thing of beauty, something that would otherwise be considered a treacherous thing to eat in the car. I braved through the runny, syrupy filling and chowed down because that barbecue lunch needed a sweet finish. The cobbler here is exemplary, with a buttery, shattering crust with deeply cooked peaches and apples. If I didn’t have to share the rest with family, I would’ve finished it right there. The key lime pie and coffee cake were also stellar, in case you’re not in the mood for cobbler. 2323 W Manchester Boulevard # B, Inglewood. —Matthew Kang

Espresso gelato from Tondi Gelato in Santa Barbara

Espresso gelato from Tondi Gelato in Santa Barbara.
Espresso gelato from Tondi Gelato in Santa Barbara
Mona Holmes

Road trips require rewards, which is why the first stop after a two-hour LA to Santa Barbara drive was to the newish gelateria, Tondi Gelato. Tondi is on the stretch of State Street that’s temporarily closed to cars, where bike paths and pedestrians have the right of way. Head right into the husband-and-wife-owned Tondi, where Deborah or James (aka Tondi) is in the production area of the shop, whipping up a new batch of vegan or full-cream gelato, with pistachio, salted caramel, lemon, or espresso. Beautifully creamy and full of coffee flavor, the espresson gelato is a wonderful, joyful bite, which is best savored while slowly walking down the promenade, or in an insulated to-go bag and dropped into an ice-filled cooler for the trek back home. 401 Paseo Nuevo, Santa Barbara. —Mona Holmes

Classic smash at Uncool Burgers in Larchmont Village

Classic smash at Uncool Burgers in Larchmont Village.
Classic smash at Uncool Burgers in Larchmont Village
Farley Elliott

Larchmont’s sleek Uncool Burgers is (and isn’t) the usual kind of burger restaurant proliferating around the city right now. There’s the light blonde wood and long communal table, so common to the pre-pandemic era, though not getting much love at the moment thanks to a grassy patio setup atop a few unused parking spaces in front. There’s the smash patty meant for seared, thin, crusty burgers, though it’s the vegan double (and vegan sauces and shakes) that may end up being the true fan favorites. There’s fried chicken and onion rings and french fries and all the other trappings of the comfort-is-king casual restaurant scene right now, but done with more thought and more execution than plenty of other places. It’s nice to see a restaurant simultaneously hit on a trend, while quietly offering more than expected. It’s not cool for cool’s sake alone (though definitely still of-the-moment), making the Uncool name both tongue-in-cheek and right on the money. 139 N. Larchmont, Larchmont Village. —Farley Elliott

Banh mi dac biet gio thu from Banh Mi & Che Cali in San Gabriel

Banh mi dac biet gio thu from Banh Mi & Che Cali in San Gabriel.
Banh mi dac biet gio thu from Banh Mi & Che Cali in San Gabriel
Cathy Chaplin

There’s a lot to love about Banh Mi & Che Cali, the chain of Vietnamese delis with dozens of locations throughout Southern California. In addition to excellent banh pate so (pork-filled puff pastries) and banh bao (steamed pork buns), the shop makes a tremendous house-special sandwich (banh mi dac biet gio thu) smeared with a punchy pate and filled with slices of headcheese punctuated with snappy porcine-cartilage, along with the requisite cilantro, jalapeños, and pickled carrots and daikon. It’s the quintessential banh mi and tastes as terrific as ever. 135 South San Gabriel Boulevard, San Gabriel. —Cathy Chaplin

Dungeness Singaporean chile crab at Majordomo Meat & Fish in Las Vegas

Dungeness Singaporean chile crab at Majordomo Meat & Fish in Las Vegas.
Dungeness Singaporean chile crab at Majordomo Meat & Fish in Las Vegas
Matthew Kang

The last time I had chile crab was five years ago in Singapore, where I was chowing down on the sweet, spicy crustacean with my late father. I’d heard of the legendary dish but rarely had it stateside, and it was pure bliss to have the whole experience of eating on a communal table in the middle of a crowded hawker center with my dad. Last week I had the famous Singaporean dish inside Majordomo Meat & Fish at the Palazzo, and it certainly brought back those memories. The sweet, tender crab might’ve been more substantial here, a credit to the West Coast creature and Majordomo’s expert cooking. The air conditioned dining room echoing with other diners just wasn’t the same as that muggy July evening in the middle of a hawker centre, but I’m happy to have tasted this dish after a years-long hiatus. Get it while it’s still in season on the next Vegas trip. 3325 S Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas. —Matthew Kang


April 20, 2021

Peking duck crepe at Me + Crepe in Pasadena

Peking duck crepe at Me + Crepe in Pasadena.
Peking duck crepe at Me + Crepe in Pasadena
Mona Holmes

Eating while driving (or on the side of the road) is an accepted reality in LA. But when in a hurry, eating something delicious and remarkable shouldn’t be restricted to those who can sit down and bliss out over a dish in a beautiful space. Which brings us to Pasadena’s Me + Crepe. Me + Crepe’s Peking duck crepe is probably the perfect thing to eat when on the go. It’s filling, savory, and fantastic texture is folded over ever so perfectly and layered with oodles coriander, hoisin, and whatever add-ons you prefer, like those delicious pickled greens. Wait a few minutes for the temperature to cool, and about 15 crunches later, you’re full and happy. 89 East Green Street, Pasadena. —Mona Holmes

Red braised pork at No. 1 Express in Arcadia

Red braised pork at No. 1 Express in Arcadia.
Red braised pork at No. 1 Express in Arcadia
Cathy Chaplin

Braised meats are usually reserved for colder temps, but the mood struck for something hearty this past weekend and No. 1 Express came through on all fronts. Opened last month in Arcadia, the restaurant makes a mean red braised pork — a Shanghainese specialty of tender pork belly simmered in an umami-rich broth of soy, sugar, and aromatics. I ordered it over steamed white rice with a tea egg and vegetables, but it can also be purchased in bulk to feed a family. Also fantastic was the red braised lamb, crispy duck leg, and a few Sichuan dishes that seem to have slipped off the most recent menu. The cooking is beyond solid at No. 1 Express, so definitely order anything on the menu that sounds remotely good. 713 West Duarte Road, #F, Arcadia.

Crispy, rich lechon at Lasita in Chinatown

Far East Plaza is humming again — not with Howlin’ Ray’s line, but with eager sun-soaked diners picking up burgers from Alvin Cailan’s Amboy or sitting in small, shaded groups at the new Lasita across the way. The casual restaurant, born out of the loss of LASA earlier in the pandemic, focuses on rotisserie’d Filipino meats and sides, including what is likely to be some of the best lechon you can find in this city. It’s hearty, rich, and best shared with a person or two, if only because it opens up room for more sides like garlic rice and pickled veggies. A splash of Spanish cider here, a bite of pancit there, and the time just flies away in Chinatown. 727 N. Broadway, Chinatown. —Farley Elliott


April 12, 2021

Pastries from Spoons Patisserie in Westwood

Pastries from Spoons Patisserie in Westwood.
Pastries from Spoons Patisserie in Westwood
Matthew Kang

Steven Cheung decided to start his own pick-up-only patisserie in his kitchen last year, crafting some of the most polished pastries in the city right now with just a humble gas oven. Cheung, a longtime fine dining pastry chef, drives between San Francisco and LA to bake these colorful, Asian-influenced pastries. So far, it’s a weeks-long waiting list just to get a taste, but Cheung’s chops are more than evident here. He takes the classic Hong Kong-style egg tart and jazzes up the flavors with ube, Thai tea, and even almond jello (a classic egg flavor is also in the sampler). Cheung infuses deep black sesame flavor into the bite-sized financiers. The ube-inflected alfajore crumbles gently while the deep-green matcha tea cookie is an excellent finish. If you have the chance to reserve a sampler or get one of the last-minute slots on Instagram, nab them quick. Spoons Patisserie is pick-up only in Westwood. —Matthew Kang

Seafood pasta at Saso in Pasadena

Seafood pasta at Saso in Pasadena.
Seafood pasta at Saso in Pasadena
Cathy Chaplin

There’s much to adore about Pasadena’s newest seafood spot Saso — a peaceful courtyard, strong cocktails, and tremendous Basque-inspired cooking from chefs Dom Crisp, Dolly Webster, and Timothy Garcia. On a leisurely lunchtime visit, my dining companion and I made our way through many of the daytime menu’s heavy hitters including the grilled oysters with miso butter, fried baby artichokes, fresh-from-the-fryer croquetas, salmon and beef tartares, a humongous Dungeness crab, and my favorite, the restaurant’s namesake pasta Saso. Portioned for two hearty eaters, the dish included a tangle of house-made pasta along with a smattering of perfectly cooked mussels, clams, fish, and shrimp. It doesn’t get any better than rich duck egg yolk noodles sopped with seafood broth. 37 South El Molino Avenue, Pasadena. —Cathy Chaplin

Dougie Fresh pizza from Little Coyote in Long Beach

Dougie fresh pizza from Little Coyote in Long Beach.
Dougie fresh pizza from Little Coyote in Long Beach
[Official Photo]

As a child raised in the early hip-hop era and a former Long Beach resident, I couldn’t resist taking the 30 minute drive into LBC to try Little Coyote’s new pizza, the Dougie Fresh. Before we get to the pie, some context. For loyal head-boppers, Dougie Fresh is a rapping, beat-making king. For the unaware, Dougie Fresh is an actual human being who is also known as the human beat box, whose style is unmistakable and bold. Now, onto his namesake pizza. Little Coyote’s thin, hand-stretched, New York-style crust is always a welcome sight. The soppressata, garlic, mozzarella, and basil hits right — just like Fresh. Expect a bit of heat thanks to the spicy cured meat, along with jalapeno and chile oil-filled crust. Pick-up a bottle from Little Coyote’s wonderful wine selection too. 2118 E 4th Street, Long Beach. —Mona Holmes

Pupusas from Walking Spanish in El Sereno

Thick, golden, crispy, cheesy pupusas are a staple food in Los Angeles, but it’s hard to find better versions than the ones being made in El Sereno by the Walking Spanish team. Chef Steph Lemus and her crew are griddling, flipping, and serving pupusas like crazy along Eastern Avenue weekly, and at occasional pop-ups (like Sunday night’s stop in Echo Park). The star of the show of late has been the Cali Gold, an orange-hued disc spiced with achiote right in the masa, plus lots of garlicky cheese and squash blossoms. While the pupusa menu rotates frequently, the everyday staples like the Savior — a fried chicken sandwich — and the loaded yuca fries with crispy pork belly on top are also fan favorites. Check the Instagram page for next pop-up locations, or better yet: drive out to beautiful El Sereno for a bite at its usual corner stand. 2700 N. Eastern Avenue, El Sereno.—Farley Elliott

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