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Restaurants & Bars 11

A Week in LA - Oh Man It's a BONZER*

jaydee | Mar 11, 200405:32 PM

First off, you’ll have to excuse the length of this post – given that I am bored on my transatlantic flight, and the inflight movie is on its second run – I wanted to start on this post to help pass the time.

Earlier towards the end of February, I had posted a request for opinions on places I should dine while back in LA for a respite from my current business affairs in London. I knew that I would want to hit up a few of my regular faves, but I wanted to use the opportunity back at home to really hit places that would satisfy my yearn for LA-centric dining experiences and help tide me over for the second half of my international project. I got several good recommendations, and I have outlined my experiences below…..

I arrived back in LA Saturday, tired but happy that I had only lost two hours of Saturday given the time difference between LA and London. With my bags in tow, my friend and I decided to hit up Sushi Ryo later on that night – simply because sushi was the one item I missed the MOST while in the UK. Now those who are familiar with my postings will know that I have become a HUGE fan of Sushi Ryo, and that I often sing its praises. Before I had left, the head Sushi chef Jun had alerted me that they were looking for a new chef to help him out, given that his old assistant had left to work at a new restaurant in San Diego. He told me that this new guy would be around once I returned from London, so I was curious to see how the newbie would pan out.

Upon returning, my friend and I sat ourselves towards the end of the bar where ‘new guy’ was working. He seemed a little more animated than Jun, and he had a comical sense about him with several attempts at jokes throughout the night. His English is definitely stronger than Jun’s, and he often made attempts at the bar to help translate orders from other diners. Overall, it seemed a bit like a ying-yang relationship with Jun being the calm and collected one versus the busy bodied neophyte, working diligently and announcing orders as they were complete. The jury is still out on whether or not my friend and I like this new guy or not (please mind that I have no degree in Sushi chef assessment, I am simply going off of what he has prepared for me in comparison to how Jun does similar items). I noticed that Jun was slowly transitioning the new guy into the swing of things, so he had most of the roll construction duties while Jun kept up with the preparation of the fish. I had some staples that I always have when I am there –buttery yellowtail (from the belly), excellent Spanish mackerel which is always a special at this place (the new guy put this order together, and I found that he overdid the ponzu), great pieces of halibut and snapper and amberjack all fresh and signature rice-to-fish ratio that I love about this place. Another reason I like this place is that the rice is warm, but not at Nozawa levels and the fish is top notch.

New items that I tried out included an Albacore sashimi salad that was comprised of pieces of excellent albacore, mixed seaweed and ponzu sauce and a dash of sesame seeds. I noticed a table of regulars receiving it and I asked Jun if I could also partake. It was excellent with high quality, melt-in-your mouth albacore playing well against the snap like texture of the seaweed. Just the right amount of ponzu and scallions kept me and my friend in smiles throughout the meal. Another item that I found pleasant was the Kare Age (Sesame Fried Chicken), very delicious. Hints of a sweet honey marinade similar to the chicken they serve at the Loft or Back Home in Lahaina, and a nice crunch with the skin attached. I am a fried chicken fan – and this dish served as a cool break from the fish. We also tried the Boston Sweet Shrimp (on special), which was smaller than the regular sweet shrimp they usually serve, and very sweet. It was quite a difference from the sweet shrimp I am used to ordering, but delicious nonetheless. Jun placed two shrimp on the rice per sushi piece, and I was pleasantly surprised. By the way, I am a fan of the sweet shrimp at Sushi Ryo – something I feel it beats Nozawa in hands down. Overall, another great meal at Sushi Ryo – I left in smiles.

On Sunday afternoon – I took my sister to Café Du Village on Larchmont. Since I ran into this place by accident a few years ago, it has become a steadfast staple for me whenever I want to dine on Larchmont for lunch/brunch. It gets crowded during the weekends, with a mix of local senior citizens, young families, escaping west Hollywood/Hollywood trendies, low key celebrities, and normal schmos like me. I have only had lunch at this place, and I have never left disappointed. The place is charming and is run by a group of French guys that have that French chic that you can’t find at too many “French” places – think scruffy painters (not actors) with part time gigs as waiters. I usually go with sandwiches (a remarkable ahi, or apple and brie), but I ordered the Ahi Tuna salad and my sister the Cobb. The Ahi Tuna salad came with a citrus vinaigrette that I found to be a little to acidic for my tastes. The salad included some fried wonton strips, which added great texture – really did nothing to the flavour of the overall salad. A bite of my sister’s cobb confirmed that I chose the weaker of the two dishes, as her salad was loaded with a flavourful bacon and a great shallot balsamic vinaigrette. A dressing that is excellent on their mixed greens, but no kissing for the rest of the day – as my gurlfren announced as I reunited with her after lunch. If you ever go – ask for a table in the back patio. The walls are covered in Ivy and it has a very quaint feeling – kind of an escape from the busy restaurant indoors and the al fresco crowd out front.

Sunday night, we all went to the Kitchen – a new place for me. I thought again, a charming “anti-West Hollywood” eatery that seems to be the norm for Silverlake. Though my experiences in Silverlake are limited (Thai American Burger – RIP, host of taco trucks during drunken hunts for pastor of pastors) I appreciate the vibe out in Silverlake, as I really don’t claim allegiance/loyalty to west side destinations, and I am conveniently located between the two areas to try my pick at the best each area has to offer. The special that night included a creamy corn chowder and scallops with asparagus and horseradish mashed ‘tatoes. I opted for that, and both my gurlfren and sister opted for the corn chowder, along with the buttermilk fried chicken and fish and chips respectively. I found the corn chowder to be quite surprisingly “unchowderish” with a coconut milk base which reminded me a lot of the thai curry soups my Ma would make. Very light and not heavy for a chowder. The scallops were fine, lacking any significant flavour but was well received by this diner. The asparagus was sautéed well – still with a snap and bite to em. The horseradish mashed taters, left me wondering whether or not there was really any horseradish at all. A bite of my gurlfren’s chicken revealed a dry piece of fried chicken that left this chicken fan underwhelmed. Sister’s fish and chips were run-o-the-mill and nothing I was too excited about given I had had my share while in London, and I had given up fried potatoes for Lent. Corkage fee of $3 was a highlight, as they have no liquor license.

For two days during the week – I had Langer’s for lunch. Day one - from my office downtown, I heeded the advice of other Hounds and took the Red Line to the MacArthur Park Station. I figured I would capitalize on the practice I had with the London underground. A convenient two stop ride from Pershing Square dropped me and my friend off a block away from the restaurant. We were promptly seated and immediately noticed the sign touting the #19 – Pastrami, Cole Slaw, Russian Dressing, Swiss Cheese – on rye. Given that we were both Langer’s virgins, there was no other choice but to go 19. The sandwiches came out promptly and we both dug in. I’ve had pastrami at Katz Deli in Manhattan, and I had to say that during day 1, I came to a preliminary conclusion that Langer’s was a VERY close second after I had made it through half of my sandwich. I appreciated the texture of the coleslaw and the flavour hints from the Russian dressing, but I think I ordered a cluttered sandwich. My friend was unavailable for comment given that she was in heaven at the time while eating her sandwich. I thought I needed to order a simpler sandwich, and let the two ingredients I enjoyed immensely – the crunchy rye and pastrami – shine through. So given this dilemma and the guilt I felt for possibly ordering wrong at Langer’s, I went back the next day by myself. I sat at the bar and ordered a pastrami sandwich with swiss, on rye, Russian dressing, and I applied the Guldens mustard myself. Simply put, I was BLOWN away. Not that I wasn’t before, but the second time around, my appreciation for the meat and bread increased 100 fold and now I can count myself amongst the self-confessed addicts of this LA institution. As an aside, I really dig the setting within Langer’s. Vintage wood (60s and 70s feel) booths and the counter area really give it that vintage-cool feeling that I feel is lost on today’s places that try to recreate a vintage feel (cheesy 50’s diner) and is (based on reading old posts about the “Old LA”) even harder to come by nowadays in its genuine form. I overheard the waitresses chatting up regulars and newbies, and I overheard jokes being passed from the deli counter to the line of faithful patrons waiting for a seat at a booth, or ordering some deli meat to last the family the month. All of this along the backdrop of MacArthur Park and a sunny LA afternoon makes me love the fact I live in LA and that I would take this over having to find my way to Houston St for a decent pastrami sandwich.

Monday night my gurlfren decided to take me to her ‘Sushi Ryo’, only it wasn’t Sushi Ryo – or remotely close. It was Crazy Fish. Crazy indeed. The place was packed to the gills (nyuk nyuk), even with the downpour outside. The annoying fluorescent lighting reminded me of eating in a hospital cafeteria, and the lifeless marble sushi bar reinforced that idea. I think a rule of thumb for me and sushi bars is to never to eat at one that can accommodate more people than you would find in your average 2nd grade classroom. We took a table in the back where we ordered the dynamite, a spicy tuna and eel roll (didn’t have the name memorized), two orders of hamachi and albacore sushi, and the dynamite. The fish wasn’t anywhere near the quality that I enjoy, and the rice was horrible (not to mention the rice-to-fish ratio was not to your advantage). I powered through the meal, and found the dynamite to be the surprise of the meal, and the roll was flavourful, though I think that was because it was drowned in eel sauce. Ahhh, the things you do for love. My gurlfren realized that I wasn’t too impressed and stated that I was a sushi snob. If being a snob means I don’t have to eat at Crazy Fish again – then pass me the Grey Poupon baby.

Thursday evening, I had dinner with the gurlfren’s parents at the Wilshire Counrty Club. It’s amazing, because I realized that if you’ve had dinner at a golf club, you’ve had dinner at them all. We ate in the semi-formal dining area – so no jackets required – but no jeans either. My gulfren’s brother in law was asked to tuck his shirt in, but other than that – we were met with warm service. A delicious stuffed Portobello appetizer and an overdone filet and a good grilling from the gf’s father, made for quite an interesting dining experience. It was at night, but I figure lunch there would be unbelievable given the view of the course outside. The menu looked like an exact replica from my days as a busboy at the local club house.

Friday was another Sushi Ryo repeat. Same orders – no kare age given Lenten obligations – but man-oh-man was it great. No need to repeat too much here – though Jun hit on the GF – way to go big guy.

Saturday – I made up for no meat with an obligatory stop at In-N-Out. Always fulfilling and a must when you’ve been away from home as long as I was.

Later on that afternoon – I took GF to the Beverly Hills Hotel for afternoon tea. Given my recent stint in the UK, I decided to try and impress my love with a ‘proper’ tea. It was my first time there, and her first time since her HS prom. I was immediately impressed with the setting. A nice piano player and pleasant waitresses/hostesses (whatever the proper term is for afternoon tea facilitator). There was a bevy of bridal showers and birthday celebrations – and I was the only male in the vicinity and possibly the only one person there under the age of 25. The service was impeccable, and the food was great. Included were sandwiches (cucumber on white, chicken on marble rye, egg mayo on wheat, and smoked salmon on pumpernickel), warm scones (almond cinnamon, and currant), and an assortment of sweets. I devoured the sandwiches and found them to be all quite delish, along with the scones the star being the almond cinnamon (clotted crème and a selection of jellies accompanying). The sweets were good, but I am afraid I wasn’t able to take in too much given that I am not that big of a fan of chocolate and I didn’t want to torture my GF since she had sworn off sweets for her Lenten promise. It was a WONDERFUL time, and I say that with my full masculinity intact. While in London I went to tea at Fortnum and Mason and at my hotel (Park Lane Hotel) – and the tea we had at the Bev Hills Hotel was by far the best I have had and at HALF the price. Highly recommended.

Before my flight Monday, we checked in my bags early and headed south on Sepulveda to Back Home in Lahaina – a Hawaiian restaurant from the same owners that brought you the Loft in Torrance. An order of the Lahaina fried chicken to start, and some spam musubi had us well on our way to getting full before the main course. GF ordered the beef teriyaki bowl, and I ordered the Lau Lau (pork and butter fish wrapped in taro leaves and steamed). The plates at this joint are HUGE, and our meals included an average bowl of Miso soup, two scoops of rice, a potato salad-esque macaroni salad, and I opted for the chow mein (versus the ramen cabbage). My meal also came with a bowl of chicken long rice (chicken broth, shredded chicken and silver rice noodles/vermicelli). GF and I agreed that the starters were great, and she enjoyed her teriyaki. I found the Lau Lau to be decent, and not as dry as the rendition over at Chakas. The Mac salad was not that great to me, and neither was the chow mein which was overly sweet and lacked any type of discernable flavour. If I had to do it over again, I would have gone with the fried chicken and kalbi combo plate – perhaps next time. The restaurant is decorated nicely, without overdoing the tropical theme too much. On the way out I saw that they are opening a new location in Carson.

If you have read this far – THANKS SO MUCH FOR HUMORING ME! Really, this helped the flight along, so thanks for reading.

Sushi Ryo –
6779 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90038-1218
Phone: (323) 462-7200
Closed on Sundays

Café Du Village –
139 1/2 N Larchmont Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90004-3704
Phone: (323) 466-3996
Open for lunch and dinner with the exception of Sunday evening

The Kitchen
4348 Fountain Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90029-2226
Cross Street: Sunset Boulevard
Phone: (323) 664-3663

704 S Alvarado St
Los Angeles, CA 90057-4020
Phone: (213) 483-8050
Closed on Sundays

Crazy Fish
9105 W Olympic Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90212-3507
Phone: (310) 550-8547

Wilshire Country Club
301 N. Rossmore Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90004
Phone: (213) 480-3232
Closed to the public – membership/member escort required

In-N-Out Burger
Locations all throughout California, Arizona, and Nevada

Beverly Hills Hotel – Sunset Lounge
9641 Sunset Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Phone: (310) 276-2251

Back Home in Lahaina
916 N. Sepulveda Blvd.
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Phone: (310) 374-0111

*bonzer – Australian “slang” word used to describe the size of the porterhouse at your local Outback Steakhouse.

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