It is with equal amounts of sadness and excitement that I must announce that I will be leaving this chowhounder's paradise of a city sometime in late Summer / early Autumn, as my girlfriend and I depart for the equally hound friendly city of New Yawk! Yes, it's almost time for graduate studies in the Big Apple, and so we've made a list of things we must do/see/experience in LA before we leave, and eating our way through the city's essential restaurants is high upon that list.
Here's where you come in. We're hoping you can help us refine our list of "musts" -- perhaps some of the restaurants you'll see below aren't worth the time or money (let us know!), or perhaps you'll think of a "must" that we've not named. In many ways this may turn out to be a list of Southland "ABSOLUTE MUSTS" - as much for inimitable L.A. ambience and style as for the food.
Since we're all given to our own interpretations of what constitute's a "must" restaurant, and because their are so many, many restaurants to try here in L.A., you may want to limit your recommendations to a small handful that you love and find absolutely essential - the 2 or 3 places you'd hit up one last time if you were leaving L.A. Say, maybe 1 high-end, 1 hole-in-the-wall, 1 off-the-beaten-path, 1 classic. Something like that.
In an effort to narrow the field, below you'll find both restaurants I've tried (on multiple occasions for most), and restaurants I'm hell-bent on trying before I leave. I'm primarily interested in restaurant recommendations that don't appear on either list - but you can of course give a hearty thumbs up (or thumbs down, for that matter) to anything on the lists.
So here goes.
For local "treasures" (I know some will quibble with a few of the restaurants listed here), I've done the following:
Krua Thai, Zankou, El Taco Nazo, Pie-N-Burger, John O'Groats, Tonny's, Polka, Marston's, In-N-Out (meh), the Polish place in Santa Monica (the name escapes me.. Warsaw?), Burger Continental (..kidding..), Sapp Coffee House, Mission 261, Ocean Star, Pho So 1, Rosalind's, Merkato, Bombay Cafe, Versailles, Phillipe the Original, the Pantry, Dots Cupcakes, Sweetlady Jane, Violet's Cupcakes, Porto's, Valentino, Mi Piace, Pinks, Diddy Reese, Asahi & Ramenya, Yujean Kang's, Crustacean (I know.. I know.. but still, it was at one time a destination restaurant, for the hype, if nothing else), Sam Woo BBQ, Canter's (bleh), C&O's, Fosselmans, Dr. Bob's, Aux Delices, Euro Pane, Angelique Cafe, Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles, Knoll's Black Forest Inn (R.I.P.), Apple Pan, Mama Voula's, Lawry's Prime Rib, La Paella, Chan Dara, Palms Thai (Vivaaa Thai Elvis!), Wat Thai, Red Corner Asia, Ruen Par, All India Cafe, Tanino, Soleil Westwood, Akbar, Azeen's, Nepal Tibet House, and Mozza (I'm sure I'm forgetting quite a few).
I've also worked my way through many of the local ethnic enclaves: I've had great haleem and frankies in Artesia, fantastic dim sum in SGV, great Oaxacan in West LA, solid Armenian fare in Glendale, wonderful doro wat and tibs on Fairfax, soulful soul food in Altadena, and a slew of memorable Mexican meals all over L.A.
For full-on ambiance spots, I've done Inn of the 7th Ray, Ritz-Carlton Huntington, and La Boheme. That's about it, really. Of those, The Inn of the 7th Ray was especially lovely.
That said, here's what I've not had:
In the high-end dept, I have resolved to save up for meals at Spago, Urasawa, Providence, Melisse, Patina, Cut, Morton's, Hotel Bel Air, and Mastro's.
A meal in K-Town. I'm embarrassed to say that I've never experienced real Korean BBQ.
A meal in Little Tokyo. I'm not even sure it's the best destination for great Japanese.. but maybe there's something worthwhile there?
A (truly good) meal in Chinatown. I've had substandard Chinese there, but nothing to rival what's available in San Gabriel, Monterey Park, Rosemead, and Alhambra.
Further South, I've yet to make a trip to Little Saigon. Any consensus on which restaurant might be the surest bet if making a trip down there?
I've also not done (but have been meaning to try - and will before I leave): Tacos Baja Ensenada, Clementine, Parkway Grill, Arroyo Chophouse, Raymond Restaurant, Shamshiri, Babita, Lares, Meals By Genet, Langers (though I did buy a loaf of rye bread there), Saddle Peak Lodge, Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery, Brit's (Pasadena), Casa Bianca, Brent's, Nate & Al's, Matsuhisa, Nobu, Cafe Bizou, A.O.C., Water Grill, Susina, Rosebud Cakes, Campanile, Angelini Osteria, Patina, Angeli Cafe, Scoops, Bulgarini Gelato, Papa Cristo's, The Ivy, Shahrzad, Asia De Cuba, El Pollo Inka, Tam O'Shanter, Gyu-Kaku, Trader Vics, and Ortolan.
Now then... what remains? I'm sure there's more than just a few hot little spots that you think are missing here.. Let me know!
As always, thanks so very much in advance - your help is always greatly appreciated!