After a long uncomfortable 5 hour flight in, headed to the Border Grill in Santa Monica. Had the chile cheese tamales which were good but temperature wise, tasted nuked (warm on the outside, cold on the inside). For the main, had the skirt steak. Done perfectly to order (medium) and the corn relish and black bean accompaniments were excellent. The hot salsa I asked for was a refreshing way to further spice up the steak.
Headed to Santa Monica again the next day. The original intent was to dine at The Lobster by the pier, but it was 6PM (9PM east coast aka stomach time) and no tables were available until 10PM. Wandered around and found Ocean Avenue Seafood. Tried the lobster toquitos to start and the crab cakes for the main. The toquitos are a good idea...in theory. The toquitos were left in the fryer too long resulting in a crunchy on the outside and too crunchy (almost unrecognizable) on the inside texture. But the sour cream/guacomole dip balanced (read: hid) the taste nicely. The crab cakes were dry on the inside and a little overcooked too.
Next day headed to Beverly Hills and hopped into Johnny Rockets. Had the Smoke House burger which was oh so good. I've often put onion rings on my burger and this proves I'm not a wacko. I also like the retro 50s atmosphere. For dinner, headed west on Pico to La Serenata Gourmet. Had the fish sope and chorizo burrito. The fish was fresh and the sope as a whole was just OK. I liked my chorizo burrito better. Maybe a little oily...but it's chorizo, right? And once you load up on that guacamole and sour cream...hmmm mmm.
Was suppose to go downtown and visit Philippe but ended up in Culver City to try In-N-Out. Ordered the cheeseburger (with onions) combo. Fries were great. Sat outside and watched the neverending line up. And thought to myself...this burger is alright...not great...just alright. The fries were a bigger surprise than the burger. Now, where's the nearest Johnny Rockets? I would later find one at the Century City mall. But eat there I did not. Instead, decided to try Baja Fresh. Had the steak burrito enchilado style and the Baja Fish taco. Where's the fish? That goldfish sized entity gave me bad thoughts. The burrito was OK and definitely something better than I would find at my local Taco Bell (the closest pre-trip (Tex)-Mexican experience I had).
It's off to Hollywood the next day where after a long "see where the movie stars live tour", we give in to our hunger pangs and once again try Johnny Rockets at the Hollywood and Highland complex. I try the #12 and quickly learn that it is a far cry from the fireworks the Smoke House gave me. A very quick taxi ride later and we end up at Roscoe's Chicken n Waffles on Gower. We order the half chix smothered in gravy n onions alongside 2 waffles. That gravy is some good eatin. But what's with the doorman who thinks he's a bouncer at The Viper Room? We walk a little south on Gower toward Sunset and spot "Red Ribbon bakery", a Filipino bakery to be exact. We take home a mango square and some ensaimada (a sweet bread with shredded cheese, butter, and sugar on top). It's not until late night at the hotel, do we realize how good and fresh their ensaimada is. No wonder there was a steady stream of customers, Filipinos and non-Filipinos, even at non-lunch hours.
Day five had us for lunch at Goldilocks, a Filipino restaurant. Had sotanghon (glass noodle) and BBQ pork. blah. bleh. ewww. With a full stomach, we headed to the Farmers Market. Wow! What a lot of great eats. I saw and noted Dupar's, Loteria, and Gumbo Pot. The Malaysian place also looked good. But alas. A full stomach is a full stomach. Besides, this was the night we had a reservation at Spago. Started with the calamari w/ mustard sauce. Delicately coated without a trace of oil. The mustard sauce was a perfect foil. Had the Wienerschnitzel for the main. Thin as paper and once again, expertly fried. The meat was so tender, but I wish it had an accompanying sauce like the calamari did. The dessert was unremarkable. By the way, pretty sure we were behind an old hollywood celeb, but couldn't recognize who it was. Many people kept pointing and smiling at the elderly gentleman. He even shook some people's hands. And the manager, who I'm pretty sure is Wolfgang's brother Klaus, coddled them the entire night.
Visited the Beverly Center the next day. Thought it would be a little nicer. Stopped by Mako for lunch. For the appetizer, had the scallop carpaccio. Very delicious. And if I had known exactly what it was, I might not have ordered it to begin with...but glad I did. The scallop carpaccio is bascially thinly sliced scallop that was "cooked" in vinegar (otherwise raw) and topped off with coarse salt. For the mains, shared shrimp pad thai and duck pancake. Their version of pad thai is not something I expected. They use the thick round noodle which is stir-fried with tempura-battered rock shrimp and shredded red cabbage. The mixture as a whole is quite sour in contrast to the sweetness I come to expect from traditional pad thai. Although I think they should stop calling it pad thai, I would agree on the excellent taste. The duck pancake is shredded duck in a very thin pancake. The portion was quite big even for 2 people. And the tender duck, like the pad thai, was a bit on the sour side. But again, quite good.
I could go into detail about how bad El Paseo at LAX (Terminal B) is, but how often are you going to dine there? And, I should have known better, right?
Some final notes...we probably ate at more fast food restaurants then we really wanted to, but when you're trying to sightsee sometimes there's no other way but right into the tourist traps. I also assumed everyone would be dressier at the non-fast food restaurants. The exception being Spago of course. Drove through your HUGE KoreaTown. On the next visit, Philippe, Thai Town (and Thai Elvis) and the Farmer's Market for sure.
Thank you Angelenos. Until next time...