First, a big thank you to all the LA hounds-I couldn't have done it without you. It's been years since I've been out your way and knew nothing. Second-these are quick impressions of a New Yorker in LA-I tend to lose track of what I actually ate in any detail.
Pie and Burger: The long counter had an opening right in front of the pies. We had burgers-nicely charred and moist and fries-large cut, crisp and potato-y (I might skip the fries for more pie)-the lemon pie was good (not the best-that prize goes to my mother) and the coconut, which was great-toasted coconut, the custard filling perfect.
Arroyo Chop House: a bit disappointing-I was looking for something easy and in walking distance to where I was staying. The Caesar salad was not well made-not enough garlic, no discernable anchovy and the steaks-rib eye and filet mignon-were ok but nothing special. The waitress oversold the steaks, going on about the age and how it's the best you'll get…then tried to sell us on the shrimp appetizer. When she failed, she brought two "to try" and then came back moments later "did you try them?" A bit much-don't know if it was just her or the place.
Getty Museum Restaurant: Do take your out-of-town guests here-the space, the view-and the food is solid. Carrot soup, crab/shrimp cake, Tasmanian sea bass, cauliflower risotto-all very nice-not surprising, but it’s a break from the museum and a great space.
Spago-thanks for convincing me-I might have skipped it, thinking it not a proper chow destination, but it was very good, and the terrace is a fine place to sit. The tasting menu was paced perfectly-the tuna cone, salmon blintz, bacon en croute, ravioli with black truffle (one of the best dishes anywhere), game bird (can’t remember-wine pairings to blame!) with a licorice sauce, bread pudding. Flawless service and, yes, Chef Puck was making the rounds.
Crepe Vine: a good spot for lunch near the Norton Simon and Gamble House-very relaxed and pleasant-chicken and mushroom crepe tasty, the dessert crepes not too filling at all-enjoyed the raspberry crepe. An odd point-the bathroom is out the door and down the alley and you need a token to use it.
Opus: a true believer-I spoke to the chef briefly as he explained his philosophy of providing fine dining at a reasonable price-I really liked him and wish him success. Certainly the best value for the money in this category. I could have done without the techno-music, but did notice he was drawing a much younger crowd than most of my other stops. And, we did drive rather than take the metro (earlier post.) That amazing soft boiled egg, asparagus soup with oxtail ravioli, rabbit three ways, lamb with the best lentils I can remember having and the root beer float dessert that was at once surprising and familiar. The service not up to the food (uh, this is a white from Italy…) but well meaning. At those prices you can’t complain too much.
Huntington Library Tea: I don't know that it's worth going out of your way for, but a good stop if you are at the Huntington-I like the all you can eat idea, and the scones were excellent, as was a cucumber/mint salad. Everything else was fine…the space is a bit cramped-it's not an elegant space, and there's no view to the gardens.
Providence: perfection from beginning to end-the quiet, subdued space, knowledgeable service, wine pairings-inventive, quality ingredients. This would be my splurge pick. Himachi with the soy gel filling, sweetbreads with peas, John Dory, scallops…all wonderful. And a white chocolate mousse with mint and sweet olives that was to die for. I can’t do the food justice here, just go.
Downtown Market: I wish I had someplace like this near my workplace-was short on time (blame the wine pairings at Providence) so only tried the gordita with pork at Ana Maria's-delicious. We even managed to find a seat (-Charmo-you were right about the marathon crowds-none at all.)
Babita-if you live within 100 miles of this place and haven't eaten here, shame on you! This is one of the best-I think it's joining my top restaurant list. First, what a wonderful place-I loved talking to the chef (and he's proud of his chowhound standing)-but what food…chiles en Nogada is so different, so heavenly. Potato/cilantro soup-like a fine reduction more than soup, beef cheeks and semifreddo with a goat milk/caramel sauce. I would eat here every week if I could (and there's easy street parking-just watch that German Shepherd on S Pine!)
Geoffrey's-with a view like that, they don't need to serve good food, but I found it pretty tasty. The service is a bit spotty (missing napkins, having to ask twice for my wine, etc) but it's hard to complain when you look out at the ocean and it's 75 degrees and you're thinking of your friends back in NY where it's 10 degrees…well, you get the idea. I wouldn't eat here after dark. This is perfect for dining near the Getty Villa-15 minutes away (we had no traffic.) The roasted corn/pepper soup was very good, duck breast salad not so good, crusted ahi seared correctly and fresh.
Musha-I really enjoyed this-not, however, a quiet, romantic spot, unless you consider Japanese girls shouting out orders romantic...loved the crunchy sesame green beans, the egg/octopus dish and the risotto.
Joe's-a very staid Venice beach spot (I say that in a good way compared to a few blocks over)-and a great deal for lunch. Had the special, a monkfish and salad, only $15. Good service and wines by the glass.
Jiraffe-very fine-I liked the second story perch we were offered…I was slightly put off by the waiter-a little too much (handing the dessert menu with the words "your mission, should you decide to accept it…") Enjoyed the blue potato gnocchi with rock shrimp and the seafood risotto, along with the lemon soufflé.
Sam's by the Beach-ah, to be a regular. This is a perfect example of a small restaurant lovingly run-good, solid food, interesting wine selection, friendly but professional service…there were three birthdays being celebrated the night we were there-and I would recommend it for anniversary's as well. I also noted the warmth shown to a single diner. Chorizo risotto was wonderful, as was wild leek soup, the venison special and the bread pudding. Fairly large portions.
Violet-a strange spot-waiter the very caricature of the Santa Monica culture (no offense!)-I didn't really find the small plates that small-one could, at least at lunch, linger here awhile. I liked the beet salad and the mac and cheese (not too rich.) Didn’t have it, but the burger was full-sized.
Chadaka Thai-in beautiful downtown Burbank. I felt this was a fairly good, sit down place. The value for me was a place to eat before a 9:00 flight out of the Burbank airport-literally 10 minutes away. Not the best you'll have, but pretty solid in the area, and relaxing. I liked the crab noodles.
I have to say-it's a lot easier driving in LA than it is in NY-so don't be afraid to drive around…and, for the most part it seems people eat early here-with an 8:00 reservation, we were closing down some places. And it really confuses the valet attendants when you want to take a little walk before retrieving your car.
I'm only sorry for the places I missed-oh, and my incoming Amex bill. Thanks again, all.