Some chefs that are so inextricably linked to specific foods that you wonder if they grew up cooking it their entire lives, eventually perfecting it in their professional cooking careers. Who thinks about Judy Rodgers without Roasted Chicken? Tomohiro Sakata’s yakitori’s is peerless. Scott Conant perfected spaghetti, and I’m pretty sure David Chang’s has cooked enough pork belly to feed a small country. These chefs struck something deep inside me and changed the way I saw a particular dish or ingredient– almost like a food epiphany.
When I first ate at Totoraku years ago, the experience was one of those moments. One dinner made me reconsider what I knew about beef. By the end of the meal, I was certain Totoraku was finest example of Japanese barbeque (yakiniku) outside of Japan.
There’s just one hitch though: it’s likely the hardest reservation in Los Angeles. The front door is locked; the phone number listed on the awning is a fake. Totoraku technically isn’t open to the public and one generally does need to be invited by Chef Kaz Oyama to attain reservation privileges or at least know a regular to get in. However, once you step inside, the door is locked behind you (kinda freaked me out the first time), and the magic begins.
My recent meal at Fraiche with my friend Mike in late December could be best described as caloric suicide. Midway through our meal, the strangers seated at the adjacent table couldn’t help but lean over and ask how in the world we were eating so much food. At the end of the night, the thirty foot hobble from my table and out the front door -all while restraining myself from vomiting- required a herculean effort! I was barely two steps out of the restaurant when I slumped over a nearby bench, looked over at Mike, and between staggered gasps of air, briefly considered if I was going to die.
My curiosity with the restaurant was piqued in December when I heard Ben Bailly had recently left his helm at Petrossian to revamp the menu and serve as the executive chef of Fraiche’s Culver City location. Excited to see how Bailly would adapt from the luxurious caviar-laden dishes of Petrossian to the rustic cuisine at Fraiche, I called up the restaurant and had them specially whip up a nine-course tasting menu for us.
Scarpetta, Scott Conant’s flagship Italian restaurant, literally translates to “little shoe”, but according to our server Ian, in Italian slang, it refers to a small piece of bread used to mop up lingering sauce. And after experiencing the stupendous bread basket at Scarpetta, I really wonder if anyone expects there to be any scraps of bread left over to sop up sauce. Textbook-perfect examples of ciabatta and crusty Italian bread dot the top of the basket but digging deeper reveals even more awesomeness..
Two weeks ago, I stumbled across an old restaurant review by Jonathan Gold (published in November 2009) with the following statement:
“His multicourse omakase dinners are epic, kaiseki-style feasts; seasonal, imaginative meals that, while not cheap, rival their equivalents at places charging two and three times as much. In my decades of reviewing restaurants, Kiyokawa may be the first place I was tempted to keep for myself”
I almost crapped my pants at work.
There’s no other food critic or writer I respect more than Jonathan Gold, and it’s very rare to see him give a restaurant such high praise. And to think I’d never even heard of Kiyokawa! Dinner reservations for later in the week quickly ensued.
I love hole-in-the-wall finds; the grimier the better! And of course, there’s that awesome feeling of walking out of a restaurant with your stomach full of delicious food and your wallet only a few bucks lighter. La Cevicheria is one of those special places.
Located in a seedy neighborhood a few blocks east of West Pico and Crenshaw Blvd, La Cevicheria stands tall and proud. With a turquoise blue facade and kooky nautical embellishments strewn across its dark blue interior walls, the restaurant almost looks like a three-year-old started on the decorations and stopped halfway. Just the way I like it.
As a foodie, the feeling is all too familiar:
Staring at the menu, racked with indecision about what to order. Everything looks so darn delicious.
After some hemming and hawing, you finally make a decision and cross your fingers in hopes you ordered the best dish. But then what if it ends up being mediocre? You simply can’t shake off that lingering feeling… what if that other dish would’ve been better?
Well, you certainly won’t have that problem at Han Bat Shul Lung Tang. Even before you arrive at the restaurant, you already know what you’re going to eat. In fact, the waitresses know what you’re going to eat, and so do all of the restaurant’s other loyal patrons.
Great things come in small packages, and that’s certainly the case with Spring For Coffee. Located in the heart of Downtown LA, this cafe puts out some of the best coffee in Los Angeles– all in a shop the size of my closet.