We spent 2 weeks driving trip SF to Burbank, eating our way down and back up again. Retirement is wonderful and our waistlines prove it [smile].
(note: Monterey, Cambria, Santa Barbara, and Paso Robles are posted in the California forum)
We picked two restaurants; my brother and his wife picked three. Ours were so-so, their picks were winners. Next time we'll let them pick everything [smile].
Bashan: Fusion, with the flaws that usually entails. There's talent here and excellent knifework - so good, in fact, it made me scrutinize the knifework at every restaurant we went to afterwards. But there is also a little too much "let's toss in the kitchen sink", with too many flavors on a plate. Still, that pork belly with fresh pineapple/sugar snap pea salsa, spiced up with fresh jalapeno, drew raves from all four of us. Our pick; we judged this place as okay.
Canele: This bistro really impressed us back in 2009; we went twice in three days. But either inspiration has flagged or attention to detail is waning. The food was reasonably tasty but sloppily prepared - surprising what a difference that makes. The chef-owner was cooking in the open kitchen, so no excuses are allowed. Our second pick; we wouldn't return again.
Omar's Halal (Uygur): The next three restaurants were from my brother's/SIL's suggestions. I let Spouse choose the cuisines. We loved our experience here. It's very similar to Hamro Aangan/Albany (NorCA), Spouse's beloved "fried goat" Nepalese restaurant where we live. The Spicy Fried Lamb here was killer. The housemade noodles - made fresh only when someone orders them - were chewy and delicious in their curry gravy. Lamb, curry spicing, and chiles: that totally works for us.
Mo-med: Updated Armenian. Great contemporary space, reminds us of how Mourad Lahlou/Aziza in SF fuses Moroccan cooking with California cuisine and ingredients. But Mo-med is aimed at locals, with a relaxed casual air that welcomes everyone. The pide, flatbreads, were amazing. Skip dessert and finish with the "Turkish cappuccino" - lovely end to a great brunch.
Yong Su San (San Gabriel): Wow! A Korean kaiseki dinner. Properly made food served banquet style, in courses. Private rooms, so make a reservation. Pure, clear flavors where the skill of the cook overcomes the more limited ingredient/spice set than what the Chinese have. A stunning experience, there's nothing like it anywhere else that we know of, on the West Coast. If nothing else, come taste what Korean food is like without so darn much sugar. It surprised even us, and we've been eating Korean food for over four decades.
~ Part 1 posted separately in California forum: Monterey #1, Cambria
~ Part 2 posted separately in California forum: Santa Barbara, Paso Robles, Monterey #2