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Good (great?) Caterers in the Southern California?

Gary Arabia - Global Cuisine Catering www.globalcuisinecatering.com

Jan 21, 2012
cvc in Los Angeles Area

South Beverly Grill with a vet

You may have already gotten your answer but I just called SBG and they told me that they serve four egg halves, not five as I reported, and six oysters, not five as I also reported. Sorry about that. Two other footnotes: the AIA just awarded their Jury Prize for best new restaurant design to SBG, and Intelligentsia Coffee in Venice best cafe design; and our dear friend, neighbor; and dining companion on this particular excursion passed away last Thursday, June 24. His final meal in a restaurant was, of course, at Il Grano two days earlier that left him beaming.

Il Grano Restaurant
11359 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90025

Intelligentsia Coffee
445 N Rossmore Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90004

Jun 28, 2010
cvc in Los Angeles Area

South Beverly Grill with a vet

I sense that I sometimes try the patience of some on this board with my long winded posts but, in part, as much as the quality of the dining experience and economics, I find context equally important. So please bear with me here. I am a fan of the Hillstone Restaurant Group. I've never been disappointed at any of their restaurants and find their uncompromising company ethic and consistent performance reassuring at times. Their restaurants are beautiful or handsome and every aspect is well thought out. Even a tuna salad sandwich at R&D has merit. Only once did I feel rushed at one of their restaurants and that was years ago at Banderas in WLA which I attributed to the fact that my elderly mother was taking her time. I can be pretty forgiving in the organic world of dining but not when it comes to my guests. Over cook my steak and I'll quietly eat it. Over cook hers and you are going to replace it immediately. Sorry.

Conversely, one night at Houston's in Century City with a reunion of three friends that hadn't seen each other in a long time, we were so busy chatting that we didn't have any sense of the time passing until a manager came to our table announcing that our dinner was complimentary that evening because it had taken too long. Huh? What? Wow.

This brings me to their latest venture in Beverly Hills, South Beverly Grill, which, after three visits, certainly sustains my high opinion of their operations. The first time was the Sunday before Memorial Day when, suddenly faced with a weekend free of commitment I went on a bit of a grazing binge from Tin Roof Bistro in Manhattan Beach to Elements Kitchen in Pasadena (both previously reported on here) to a sublime late night drop in at Barbrix in Silverlake. (I could move to East L.A. just to be near this place. The veal meatballs and fried sweetbreads were amazing.)

My aim was to end up at the bar of Red O, the newly opened and acclaimed Rick Bayless inspired restaurant in West Hollywood, for a couple of appetizers but did not anticipate the club/lounge doorman presence who Jonathon Gold so succinctly described in his brief review this past Thursday. Admittedly, I was wearing Kirkland jeans and a For Members Only style jacket but I felt like Julia Roberts trying to shop on Rodeo Drive in "Pretty Woman" or, well, maybe Susan Boyle before the You Tube clip went virile.

"Sorry. You don't have a reservation" said the tall striking, stylishly suited man with an ear piece, clipboard and the personality of a Secret Service agent. That's fair and as I withdrew passed the haute Havana hat wearing valets with my tail between my legs I thought, "I know. I'll go to Poquito Mas on Westwood Blvd. and have myself a carnitas burrito!"

I'll go back to Red O because the best meal I had in Chicago during one trip in 1997, which included Spago and Spruce, was at Frontera Grill. How could Mexican food be this good in Chicago? But that Sunday heading west from Red O my car, often with a mind of its own, turned onto Beverly Drive and I suddenly found myself parking across from South Beverly Grill, being warmly greeted at the door and plopping down at the beautiful bar where service could not have been better. A hearty plate of pappardelle for $17 with roasted pork, braised Swiss chard, peas and mushrooms was the perfect salve for a bruised ego and a big appetite. SBG handles the bread conundrum cleverly by offering a plate of fresh baked jalapeno and corn biscuits and rosemary focaccia for $3. It's served with butter and and a garnish of a tapenade type mixture that includes almonds. Nice. Add a Thomas Kemper root beer in the bottle for $3.50 and I was out the door for $27 before tip.

Moving ahead, my third visit was this past Tuesday evening after the much blogged about Round Table chefs gathering at Disney Hall's Red Cat Theater arranged by the L.A. Convention and Visitor's Bureau featuring Karen Hatfield, Mark Peel, Josiah Citrin, Joachim Splichal, Wolfgang Puck and the ebullient Susan Feniger. Nothing revolutionary here but well produced and warmly given especially by master storyteller, Wolfgang Puck. Watching the row of culinary students listen in awe was the best part. Starry Kitchen provided a nice sampling of their wares and it was all over in less than two hours leaving you wanting more in the best sense.

Conventional wisdom would have dictated that we go to one of their restaurants afterwards but we certainly weren't up for the requirements of Patina or WP24. Street would have made the most sense probably based on pricing and location but something Chef Feniger said actually steered us in a different direction. Responding to the question about what their favorite food to cook at home was she exclaimed that at 5pm on her night off she made herself a vodka soda, a salad of cucumber, tomato and avocado and put a ribeye on the grill. Somehow South Beverly Grill followed in our minds.

I had the same pappardelle again while my friend ordered one of the best prime ribs I've ever tasted for $28. We shared the aforementioned bread plate as well as a highly seasoned and slightly sweet Caesar salad that satisfied for $7. We finished with a luscious tiramisu that certainly won't earn the AA seal of approval for $8. I had root beer again and my friend enjoyed two glasses of a well matched Gamba zinfandel for $10 a glass. Again service could not have been better and the live jazz coming in from the expert three man combo in the adjoining Honor Bar added just the right note of sophistication. We also noted, as we passed Ruth Chris's after parking that they were almost empty while SBG was almost full but that may have had more to do with the Laker's victory in Boston and the GOP ladie’s victory here. Both establishments certainly hold their own.

It was my earlier second visit, however, on Memorial Day with my nearly ninety year old neighbor that made the biggest impression. For the last six years or so he has been a week day fixture at first Joe's in Venice and then Il Grano touting both as the finest food to be found in L.A. In particular, he lovingly reports back on every course served at Il Grano whether it be Sal’s famous tomato menu fresh from his garden or the house made chocolate truffles that often end his lunch. He has quite the experience in this area having grown up in NY and eaten very well, indeed, over the years.

He's legally blind but that's never stopped him from getting to his destination, utilizing the bus system with great aplomb. In fact, at one point, he wrote SIV about her neglect of Joe's when talking about great seafood restaurants and she acknowledged him in a subsequent review. Whatever else is said about these two defining chefs on the L.A. dining scene, Joe Miller and Sal Marino's respect, courtesy and generosity toward this man is will forever be a part of their respective legacies. But the past few months has slowed him down and now he does not get out unless one of a handful of friends takes him so on this holiday Monday with both Joe's and Il Grano closed he let me know that he was craving deviled eggs and fried oysters, both of which I had spied on the menu of SBG the night before.

We arrived just before noon and the door was instantly opened by one of the attentive hostesses, greeted and shown to a table like Beverly Hills royalty. Not a beat was missed and staff stopped by the table to check on our progress throughout. Five nicely spiced deviled eggs arrived on a plate for $5 while an additional five of the largest oysters I've ever seen arrived each in their shell on a bed of creamed spinach and parmesan, beautifully seasoned and breaded for $10. When one female server inquired about them he happily responded, "As good as the Stork Club's!" I had the wonderful Shrimp Louie salad for $15 that placed six large prawns on stacked romaine, drizzled lightly with virgin olive oil and a very tasty Louie dressing with flavorful tomatoes placed around the plate.

We took our time and he recounted tales of being stationed at Bristol College outside London during WWII before being transferred to Mayfair and sipping French Champagne with his British mates as the German V-1 bombs started buzzing over head in 1944. We finished with the strawberry shortcake (reminiscent of pastry chef Natasha MacAller's version at Union Restaurant & Bar in Santa Monica back in 2002) with a warm lightly lemon flavored poppy seed scone, delicious organic strawberries and fresh whipped cream for $7 that was big enough for the two of us. We ate every bite. As the afternoon waned on we finished our iced teas that had been replenished non-stop for $3.50 each including the little pitcher of agave syrup that was served when he requested simple syrup from the bar. As the staff saw us out they offered that they hoped they'd see us again soon; a Memorial Day meal worth memorializing.

South Beverly Grill
122 South Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills 90212

176 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Il Grano Restaurant
11359 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90025

Poquito Mas
2215 Westwood Blvd Ste C, Los Angeles, CA 90064

Barbrix Restaurant and Wine Bar
2442 Hyperion Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027

Bandera Restaurant
3201 E Coast Hwy, Corona Del Mar, CA 92625

Houston's Restaurant
10250 Santa Monica Blvd Ste 195, Los Angeles, CA 90067

Tin Roof Bistro
3500 Sepulveda Blvd, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

Elements Kitchen
37 S El Molino Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101

Red O
8155 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046

Starry Kitchen
350 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90071

Jun 15, 2010
cvc in Los Angeles Area

Two homeruns in the Southbay - Darren's & Tin Roof Bistro

Back in the day at UCLA where the late John Wooden was an unqualified hero and minutes after realizing that there was more to eating than Woody's Burgers in Westwood, we would go to Manhattan Beach for two culinary events; one provided by Robert Bell and Michael Franks at Chez Melange and the other by John Sedlar at St. Esptephe. Aiolis were popping up everywhere and who knew you could make coleslaw with red cabbage and bleu cheese?

After last night's dinner at Darren's on Manhattan Avenue I am quite content to continue the tradition. I was a single diner on the hunt, or in this case the graze, who miraculously secured a parking space on the corner, marched passed the cacophony of Mamma D's and walked into the comfortably tight space that is Darren's. Big screen TV's seldom go hand in hand with open gourmet kitchens but they work beautifully here. It's partly the laid back neighborhood crowd out for a good time on the town; and particularly the friendly and stealth interplay of Jonathon the bartender, Bart the GM, Darren Weiss the chef/owner, a sharply attentive service staff and Shawn Davis the chef de cuisine (who coincidentally cooked for a while at Chez Melange) who spikes it over the net so to speak with each plate coming off the line. I was given the last bar table next to the kitchen and it was a ring side seat for the prior night's Laker's highlights and the kitchen's constant activity.

I started with a red and yellow beet salad with warmed Humboldt Fog goat's cheese, watercress and a pink peppercorn vinaigrette that had both bite and great flavor for $12. But it was a 14oz. perfectly white and perfectly cooked pork chop that hit it out of the ballpark, sitting on a bed of wild mushroom risotto with English peas and a pork reduction that would do Alain Giraud proud. I was so busy watching everything that I finished the whole thing in less than fifteen minutes and actually wiped the plate clean with a delicious cheese crusted bread.

I finished with a berry crumble for $10 that for once lived up to its description. This is a dessert that always sounds better than it delivers but last night's version tasted of stewed berries with toasted oatmeal topping that was neither doughy nor overly sweet. I forgot to ask where the wonderful vanilla gelato that it accompanied it came from. It may have been homemade.

Not drinking and, as I said, dining alone I could only longingly appreciate the Turley "Earthquake Vineyard" zinfandel on the well thought out wine list for $96 (with many selections half that price). Suffice it to say, I've seen it for more elsewhere. But at $5, an Australian Bundaberg ginger beer was a surprisingly refreshing accompaniment as well as refreshingly affordable and made the drive back to Santa Monica that much more confident.

In this setting it's hard to know where Chef Darren's input leaves off and Chef Shawn's begins but as with Wolfgang and Lee at Spago and elsewhere it hardly matters when the results are this good.

Memorial Day weekend could not have begun any better last Saturday morning when, finishing a project at our new office at Sepulveda and Centinela, a friend in the area suggested we grab a quick lunch at Tin Roof Bistro a mere twelve minutes south of us. With sunlight pouring into the eclectic and well designed restaurant, we both decided upon the Simmzy’s burgers, a voluptuous well sized sandwich with generous melted cheddar cheese, jammy caramelized onions, a tangy garlic aioli, tomato and house made pickles under a home made dome shaped bun soft as a pillow, all for $9.75 plus crispy shoe string fries for an additional $2. Easily one of the best burgers around and if I were prone to hyperbole (or just plain wacky), Chef Anne Conness’s unintended feminine response to Sang Yoon’s more masculine edgy version at Father’s Office. Service was bright and shiny as Carter would say, with our server Brielle keeping the fresh lemonade ever flowing for $2.75 and wisely recommending the newly added tapioca pudding with fresh mango for $5.50. This is an aspect that has improved greatly since our first visit and report. There may be only three desserts on this menu but when they’re this good that’s all you need. It even sidelined an additional purchase of peanut butter cream pie at our favorite SusieCakes next door. Stella Artois in the bottle for $6 completed the charges.

1141 Manhattan Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

Tin Roof Bistro
3500 North Sepulveda Blvd.
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

176 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

2043 Westcliff Dr, Newport Beach, CA

229 Manhattan Beach Blvd, Manhattan Beach, CA

Chez Melange
1716 S Pacific Coast Hwy, Redondo Beach, CA 90277

Centinela Cafe
4800 S Centinela Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90066

Tin Roof Bistro
3500 Sepulveda Blvd, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

Jun 05, 2010
cvc in Los Angeles Area

Pasadena long time passing -- frankly, what's new & exciting?

This may be too late for your initial query but finding I had a free night last night I made my way to Pasadena to see what was new thinking I'd head back through Hollywood and end up at Red O, sort of single diner with no reservations grazing night. Dream on. I called ahead to Elements Kitchen was warmly greeted and encountered an almost full restaurant enhanced by the theater crowd from the neighboring courtyard. Who knew a new Roy's and Ruth Chris's had opened up the street? Beautfiul night and you still can find parking a couple blocks away in the residential section. I sat at the bar and was greeted by JP who looked all of twelve and proceeded to expertly hawk his wares including home made simple syrup and grenadine. Not drinking anything hard core I said make me something fresh and non-alcoholic which he did with the dedication of an American Ido finalist. Fresh blackberrys, raspberries, mint and who knows what else blended into the kind of drink the Ivy would charge $12 for. $5 here and I was happy. I ordered two appetizers: a duck confit springroll cut in half for $11 with diced brussel sprouts and a plum/pomengranite sauce that at first I thought dry but with each successive bite found more and more satisfying. It wasn't greasy and very flavorful. I also tried the frisee salad with a Scottish duck egg and lardons for $15 but for its prescious presentation was also quite good. The frisee sat at one corner of a large white square plate with crispy smoky lardons with five asparagus spears, alternating green and white shooting out to the diagonal corner of the plate where a perfectly poached egg sat rolled in Panko crumbs perhaps. Small roasted tomatoes dotted the plate and JP cut the egg in half once the runner set the plate in front of me which had me scurrying to get that golden yolk mixed with the frisee which is my favorite part of this dish. All and all in worthwile adventure and good time. I'd definitely go back.

It was good to see Parkway packed and though I didn't make it to Red O I did manage to stop at Barbrix in Silverlake for a truly wonderful experience. But for another post. Suffice it to say that good service is alive and well.

Elements Kitchen
37 S El Molino Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101

May 30, 2010
cvc in Los Angeles Area

Sweet Rose Creamery - a mother's delight

We drove Mom around today taking in the beautiful weather and as we headed up 26th Street in Santa Monica we noticed the line out the door at Sweet Rose Creamery, the newest creation of Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan of Rustic Canyon and Huckleberry fame. The sign said they were opening this Wednesday, May 12, but were generously handing out samples nonetheless. If the people watching and the caramel ice cream with sea salt , chocolate fudge and fresh whipped cream are any indication, that line isn't going away anytime soon.

Sweet Rose Creamery
Brentwood Country Mart
225 26th Street, Ste 51
Santa Monica 90402

May 09, 2010
cvc in Los Angeles Area

Marche in Sherman Oaks

There are certain chefs who seem to just get the way we want to eat. Travis Lett at Gjelina, Warren Schwartz at Westside Tavern, Susanne Goin and Andre Guerrero at any of their restaurants all come to mind; and Gary Menes at Marche. Coming back from a late afternoon appointment in Woodland Hills, I decided to forego the trip over the hill to WLA and stopped in on the latest evolution of what once was Max and Max Bistro. The small room has been opened up with the once isolated front patio not part of the proceedings as well as the inclusion of what was a semi private booth and small bar area. Dark woods and amber tones create a warm effect and classic Miles Davis nicely entertains in the background. A friend had warned that the small plate format seemed pricey but for $29 (the price of an entree in most quality houses), I started with an addicting "pig candy" (caramelized maple, brown sugar and bacon) for $4, went on to a nicely composed and satisfying Heirloom tomato and arugula salad for $10 and an absolutely wonderful melt in your mouth pork belly with parsnip puree for $15. A wonderful homemade sourdough dinner roll and sliced Ciabatta like bread complemented the proceedings. And if the image of Jamie Oliver in the back of my mind shouting, "Stop already!" wasn't enough, I finished with an $8 warm chocolate souffle cake with a salted caramel center and vanilla ice cream removing any chance that I might stop at the new Menchie's yogurt shop clogging up the corner traffic. Service from the greeting at the door to the delivery of the bread was about as good as I've found anywhere - professional, caring, on the mark.

13355 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks 91423

1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291, USA

Westside Tavern
10850 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

6731 Fallbrook Ave, West Hills, CA 91307

Apr 24, 2010
cvc in Los Angeles Area

Hotcakes Bakes in Culver City/Mar Vista: Tres leches, horchata and chili mango all in one cupcake!

Thanks for this post. We recently moved our offices from Wilshire and Bundy (Amadine's choc almond croissants now only on the weekend) to Sepulveda and Centinela and I've been (re)discovering the pleasures of lower Centinela and Inglewood Avenues (Tacomiendo, Angel Maid Bakery) and hadn't been to Hot Cakes in awhile. On your recommendation I ran over there and bought four for the front desk which they loved. I wasn't crazy about the flavor but the presentation was beautiful. Could a Porto's tres leches be in the near future? By the way, Angel Maid makes wonderful corn meal cupcakes with a honey buttercream topping worth the trip for a $1.75.

Wilshire Restaurant
2454 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90404

Angel Maid Bakery
4538 S Centinela Ave, Los Angeles, CA

Centinela Cafe
4800 S Centinela Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90066

Apr 07, 2010
cvc in Los Angeles Area

Bite Bar & Bakery - seriously good croissants

Great to hear about the credit card situation and to see all of these posts. We went two Saturdays ago with $20 between us but still managed to share the ample and good pulled pork sandwich, an unforuntately dry red velvet cupcake, a very good double chocolate fudge cookie (not quite the quality of Buttercake's up the streeet, but hey, sometimes you're not inspired to go east of the 405), and a seriously over produced white chocolate mango macadamia nut rum cookie that might do better at happy hour. Agree about the vibe. Everyone was so welcoming that we'll go back sooner than later for the chicken pot pie and those croissants. Thanks.

Apr 07, 2010
cvc in Los Angeles Area

Lazy Ox, Babycakes with a nod to DK's

It's birthday week, mine specifically, yesterday to be exact, 55 to be frank. A very close friend scooped me up for an extended lunch this past Monday and let me just say that our lunch at Lazy Ox Canteen counts among the more truly satisfying dining experiences of recent memory. The first meals at AOC, Canele and Gjelina all come to mind. We had heard all the recent Press but for some odd reason thought that the Monday after Oscars would not require a reservation and although the small space at 241 So. San Pedro St. downtown L.A. was bustling the congenial hostess made us feel welcome and even gave us the one corner booth. Seconds later she rushed over realizing that someone else had promised it to a couple who'd called earlier and offered us the table next to it insisting on buying us a beverage. My friend had a lovely Faiverley pinot priced at $10 and I the usual iced tea. The first was on a blackboard but I couldn't tell you the price of the second since it didn't appear on the check.

Roasted corn kernels rolled in a chili lime seasoning are brought immediately to the table which I downed. Better with iced tea than red wine. We ordered partly from the black board and partly from the printed menu. Throughout we were taken care of by people who know what they're doing. We started with a cauliflower soup, with a curried shrimp, flame grapes and basil oil that my friend thought a little salty but that we both found delicious for $8. Soon to follow were the best salt cod fritters or brandade since the first Pinot Bistro opened under the auspices of Splichal and Becerra, also for $8 for three small but satisfying pieces. I had the burger not adventuring toward items like Spanish mackerel or pig's ears for $13 and it was a cross between a burger and a slider topped with Carmody cheese, arugula with a horseradish mayo. It came with great thin, slightly oily fries, as well as a homemade whole grain mustard and red pepper ailoi. Great. My friend had the salmon with yuzu and beluga lentils which had her immediately commenting that for $19 it surpassed in both size and quality the $31 version she had recently had at Bouchon. $52.68 before tip was the final tab.

I wanted to finish with the rice pudding for $7 but she offered me the option of doing dessert elsewhere. We should have kept it simple. By the time, we considered driving to Pie 'n Burger and Porto's, the time factor kicked in and I offered that it would be fun to try Babycakes since were in the area. I'm glad we did though the sparse case display and the half off everything sign was worrisome. What can I say? I fantasized about Pie 'n Burger's scrumptious coconut cream pie with both fresh cream and meringue and ended up with a vanilla cupcake sans dairy, sugar and wheat. The foodie in me appreciated the opportunity to report while the kid in me, well, you know. Still an interesting enterprise that must be highly valued in some parts but I asked when the cakes had been made and they offered the day before so the spelt laden versions that we tried of the red velvet, chocolate, carrot and aforementioned vanilla were somewhat dry but more flavorful than I would have thought. The staff was sweet and made us fresh coffe for the occasion. $3.95 per cake divided by two plus $2.50 for the coffee.

A fun addendum. Yesterday I stopped at DK's, a donut shop on Santa Monica Blvd. at 16th St. that never gets included in the whole Bob's vs. Primo's vs. Stan's discussion but that can always be counted on for that donut fix. I was stopped in my tracks when I saw a tray of newly frosted maple twists with bacon! I asked if someone had recently been to Nickel Diner and the young man behind the counter simply said, "No. It's just a great combination." At a $1.95 it was the culinary surprise of the week. This Saturday I'll continue my annual tradition of heading to California and Lake.

Lazy Ox Canteen
241 So. San Pedro St.
L.A. 90012

130 East 6th St.
L.A. 90012

DK's Donuts
1614 Santa Monica Blvd.
S.M. 90405

Pie 'n Burger
California & Lake

Mar 11, 2010
cvc in Los Angeles Area

best doughnut on westside

Primo's for sure... and that warm glazed buttermilk bar is heavenly heavy.

Feb 13, 2010
cvc in Los Angeles Area

Stefan's on Montana, Thyme Cafe and Bouchon

Perhaps the most telling test for any top chef is a simply prepared egg and the version tried this morning at Stefan Richter's new Montana Avenue location was simply perfect with an equally satisfying Hollandaise. The $10 eggs Benedict plate also included deliciously roasted Fingerlings and a small salad with a nice vinaigrette. Fresh orange juice for $3.50 completed the check and the attractive space and attentive staff make this a welcome breakfast and lunch addition for the neighborhood and the room was full by the time I left at noon. The server echoed Eater L.A.'s report that dinner would start soon with an emphasis on fondue. Why not?

The first time we dined at Thyme on Ocean Park, after having learned about it on Daily Candy only hours before, our enthusiasm was such that it invited an accusation of shilling from these quarters. It's worth the risk. Thyme just keeps getting better with, well, time. For $8 each two sandwiches come with decidedly different breads and preparation, one grilled and the other toasted: sliced turkey with Brie, arugula and onion comes on Ciabatta while a chicken tarragon salad is served on wonderful wlanut raisin bread. But we've stopped there in the late afternoon just for coffee and one of their wonderful desserts that are pretty reasonable for $3.50 to $5 and include a luscious key lime pie and an amazing pumpkin tart.

It was at one such recent visit that a friend and I who had a lovely lunch before Xmas at the new Bouchon in Beverly Hills was lamenting her return lunch the day before at the house of Keller, commenting on the over solicitousness of the server and the $31 price tag on what appeared to be a 4 oz. portion of salmon perfectly cooked but apparently lacking the advertised Bordelaise sauce. Bouchon has certainly lost the charm of those early Napa Valley days where you parked a few feet from the entrance and straggled in as late as midnight to break bread with the likes of Michael Chiarello or Johnathan Waxman. I even got confused making my way from the garage below to the second story dining room but did hook up briefly with a party of six English folk equally dazed. Perhaps the most unsettling and anticlimactic moment was to arrive at a front desk completely devoid of anyone with empty terrace tables behind. You quickly learn that the long stretch from the entrance to the dining area makes that a common occurence. Still, I don't think I've ever had a better bechamel sauce on the $19 Croque Madame and definitely never a better creme brulee for $12.50. Even the food runner who was insistent on serving us a creme caramel instead was rather charming about it until our server showed up with the correct dessert. Ah, what price fame... and famous neighborhoods.

Stefan's on Montana
1518 Montana Ave.
Santa Monica 90403

Thyme Cafe & Market
1630 Ocean Park Blvd.
Santa Monica 90405

Bouchon Beverly Hills
235 N. Canon Drive
Beverly Hills 90210

Feb 13, 2010
cvc in Los Angeles Area

PLEASE POST YOUR VOTES HERE: Ultimate Los Angeles Restaurants 2009

Wow! Ten choices just like the Oscars this year. Thanks for your work on this.

over $25
Westside Tavern
Church & State
The Brentwood Tavern

under $25
The Oinkster
Pie 'n Burger
Father's Office
Full House

Nov 29, 2009
cvc in Los Angeles Area

Where to eat on a budget near Disney Hall??

I'm going to echo the Chinatown recommendation which is not walking distance, although you could do it, but darn close. My pick is Full House Seafood which five of us ate at last year for $74. Great Schezwan green beans and cod in black bean sauce. They serve 'til 3am and have more fish tanks on the floor than your local pet store.

963 N Hill St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 617-8382

Oct 15, 2009
cvc in Los Angeles Area

Thyme on Ocean Park

Accompanied by a gentle rain, Thyme Cafe & Market opened today in Santa Monica in all of its Restoration Hardware splendor. Those who find Huckleberry pricey will appreciate the affordable tarifs with my tarragon chicken salad sandwich on toasted walnut raisin bread with a small salad for $8, as well as daily specials for $7.95 that come with your choice of a combination of 1/2 sandwich, soup or salad, and one of their delicious homemade cookies. In addition to a chuncky chocolate chip cookie for $1.25, we sampled the coconut cream and carrot cupcakes, both excellent for $3.25. Other sandwiches included a Gruyere grilled cheese for $5 and steak with watercress, caramelized onions and horseradish aioli on a baguette for $9. By the time we left at 12:45pm there was a wait for tables. Quality is high here and Thyme enters the market place vying for a place along side Clementine's, Amandine, Joan's and the aforementioned Huckleberry. If today is any indication, they should have no problem getting there.

Thyme Cafe & Market
1630 Ocean Park Blvd.
Santa Monica 90405

Thyme Cafe & Market
1630 Ocean Park Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405

Oct 14, 2009
cvc in Los Angeles Area

Map for Jonathan Gold's 99 Essential Restaurants (2009)

This is great! Just got my copy. Thank you.

Aug 30, 2009
cvc in Los Angeles Area

anyone tried haus dessert bar (on 6th btwn ktown & downtown)??

It is potentially one of the better dining adventures to be had: spicy chicken wings across the street at Kyochon and then French inspired desserts at Haus but I have to agree with some of the posters here that they can be erratic. On one occasion a circular mocha mousee with a dark chocolate topping and a layer of fresh whipped cream was wonderful. However, on another occasion the cream was hardened and the dessert tasted a few days old. Maybe if you ask the staff what's fresh from that day you'll be more successful. Another recommendation would be Wien Bakery and Coffee House on Olympic west of Vermont.

Aug 30, 2009
cvc in Los Angeles Area

Il Moro

When an office mate on Friday said let’s go for an early dinner so that we could catch up on her recent East Coast sabbatical (she raved about her dinner at Lorena’s in Maplewood, N.J. by the way), I had to think a bit before we landed on Il Moro and their much heralded Happy Hour spread. Our office is near Bundy and Wilshire and Amandine is our hang for just about any impromptu occasion and I didn’t know what to expect crowd wise at Brentwood Tavern even at 5:30pm.

It had been some fifteen years since my first dinners at Il Moro but in those days the buzz was the equivalent of, say, Church and State, and the celebrity spotting might include Oliver Stone or Daniel J. Travanti. Prime time reservations were difficult to come by to say the least.

On this particular Friday night (as with many) the room was half full but not for want of trying. That Happy Hour spread is pretty amazing and I grabbed a nice prosciutto gougeres as well as a tasty baby lamb chop. All this and more for the price of a $3.25 cranberry soda… and my friend’s $16 martini. (I'll have to ask her what she ordered tomorrow morning at the water cooler.)

We headed into dinner and the sweeping high ceiling room with blond wood, beautiful banquettes and lovely patio is still one of the most impressive in L.A. including Drago Centro, Craft or Cut. The hostess could have just stepped out of Project Runway but it was her courtesy and good will that impressed.

I’ve had better pasta at Il Grano and Angelini but not a better dining experience. A porcini Bolognese for $20 was generous and flavorful and my friends shrimp ravioli in a lobster sauce had the requisite saltiness and sweetness for $24. We started with one of my all time favorite salads: shaved artichoke with parmesan and lemon, nicely split for $12, mozzarella wrapped in eggplant also for $12 and finished with the familiar crema di vanilla, a sort of flan in a bowl with chocolate and caramel sauce; as well as a surprisingly good homemade yogurt ice cream drizzled with olive oil and a goat cheese ice cream spiked with chards of chocolate.

My friend enjoyed her glass of Italian white and service was some of the best in the city. $106 for two not including the unnamed high end vodka. Valet is available for $5.75 but there is plenty of street parking. Be aware that the meters in that entire area have recently been adjusted to go to 8pm. No wonder the gym on the corner went out of business... again.

Il Moro
11400 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064-1550
(310) 575-3530

Aug 30, 2009
cvc in Los Angeles Area

What's the big deal with the KOGI TRUCK? Long lines, but is it worth it?

Here's my rather lengthy post on this topic but I must point out that the day is not over and I've already run into the truck twice. First, after our wonderful lunch at Lemonade we found it parked in the Brigg Bar parking lot on Abbot Kinney and my friend having not tried it loved her beef short rib taco for $2 (there was another truck in the lot selling Indian food but everyone there seemed to be for Kogi); and about an hour ago it was parked next to the Bank of America on Pico near Overland in WLA. I stopped at the ATM to pay for a steak burger with cheese, an order of well done fries and a piece of chocolate cream pie from the Apple Pan two blocks away which a twenty covered nicely with a $3.50 tip.


Aug 15, 2009
cvc in Los Angeles Area

Lemonade and then some

It could be argued that our first experience dining out is the school cafeteria and I certainly remember a couple of wonderful Thanksgiving dinners with the family at the old Clifton’s Cafeteria in Century City. Such are the joys to be found at the newly opened Lemonade in Venice at the corner of Venice Blvd. and Abbott Kinney. From the pristine open food hall look, to the welcoming staff eager to sample you on everything from Turkey pot roast with dried cranberries to watermelon rosemary lemonade this is one of the happiest happening dining experiences in recent memory.

We tried Lemonade out earlier today only on their second day. They’re open from 11:30am to 8:30pm seven days a week. By the time we left there wasn’t an empty table to be had and why not. An attractive and creative salad line leads to a smaller sandwich and protein section to a pot roast area, then dessert, then lemonade where you pay, find a table and enjoy your meal. The pricing couldn’t be friendlier with salads at $4, pieces of buttermilk fried chicken or seared ahi for $5, pot roasts for $9 and desserts for a buck to $5. You can save a buck or two by combining certain items. Six different flavored lemonades are priced at $2.75 each. I loved the cantaloupe and finished with the traditional lemonade also satisfying.

For $27 we shared the traditional beef pot roast with great flavor of onion, carrots, etc. served with rice; roasted Brussels sprouts , parmesan cheese and Balsamic; avocado, cherry tomatoes, pine nuts in a lime vinaigrette; green corn, corn, pepitas in an ancho chili vinaigrette. Portions are generous and we left full especially after the excellent lemon meringue pie for $4. As we left we spied chef Alan Jackson on the line and realized that this must be, in part, his creation. Junior high never had it so good.

1661 Abbot Kinney
Venice, CA 90291

Aug 15, 2009
cvc in Los Angeles Area

Back at the Farm

Top Chef brouhaha aside (don’t you love that Carla won the car), the first time I knowingly had Stefan F. Richter’s cooking was at the opening of Enocteca Drago where a rather surprising but deliciously satisfying braised pork cheek with spaetzle appeared on Celestino’s Sicilian inspired menu. It was the kind of dish that chefs become known for. The first time I reportedly had Stefan F. Richter’s cooking was at a rather glam affair at the Bellagio in Las Vegas celebrating Wolfgang Puck’s 50th birthday hosted by Steve Wynn. Chef Richter was the Assistant Executive Banquet Chef and we remember that the food was excellent for such occasions and that the performance of “O” that followed was jaw dropping spectacular.

Which brings me to last Thursday’s lunch at the newly revamped Stefan's at L.A. Farm where post Top Chef runner up, Stefan F. Richter has set up shop literally dolling out sandwiches to the building tenants via a mini deli off the restaurant’s kitchen and presenting a somewhat traditional California-Fusion-European inspired menu to, on that day, a fairly large lunch crowd for only their fourth day of operation. We began with a nicely sized beet and goat cheese salad with a Balsamic vinaigrette for $10 and an excellent beef carpaccio for $12. We followed with the best dish of the day, John Dory with lentils for $26 perfectly cooked with a buttery flavor. I enjoyed my hamburger for $16 made with the requisite Neiman pedigreed beef, smoked Gruyere served on a pretzel flavored bun though in this age of fries cooked and seasoned in any of a dozen ways, these were surprisingly straightforward. All the breads are, in fact, excellent and apparently are supplied by Celestino Drago's former dessert chef/bread maker.

We finished with a delicious bowl of three homemade ice creams for $7 that included vanilla, maple pecan and red wine. It being my friend’s birthday I ordered the two desserts for $3 each, the Nutella crème brulee and the red wine lollipop. The first arrived with a candle and the second provided some fun conversation. Service was nothing short of first rate particularly for a restaurant in it’s first days and Chef Richter could be seen cooking in the familiar exhibition kitchen, instructing a server to let a customer have the right away, greeting guests at the door, and taking a moment to wish a rather stunning young lady a very happy 30th birthday. Indeed it was.

Stefan's at L.A. Farm
3000 Olympic Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90404
2 hour convenient parking provided with validation but watch out for what follows: $9 for an additional 45 minutes! Ouch!

Aug 13, 2009
cvc in Los Angeles Area

Tin Roof Bistro

It was a trip to Glendale's Costco a few years back that had us making the first of many impromptu stops at Mimi's Cafe for some cheap down home cooking. What I remember was that the food was better than expected with Mom enjoying her well seasoned meatloaf, as we enjoyed a great hamburger and Cobb Salad. Service was friendly and enthusiastic, prices were as low as one could imagine and the place was packed. The attentive manager even boxed some homemade muffins for my mom to enjoy with her morning coffee. It makes sense that the same group that created that famous chain, the Simmzy's, would pair with the chef from Em Bistro, Anne Conness, who helped to raise the bar on home cooking in the L.A. dining scene a few years back.

We tried out their new collaboration, Tin Roof Bistro in the Manhattan Beach Shopping Village on their first Saturday night a week ago and enjoyed our dinner quite a bit. The setting is a free standing bungalow like structure with an open air hacienda feel that features quite an impressive bar. On day five of this new operation the place was filled to capacity with the table next to us raving about their brasied short ribs with polenta, a spectacular looking hamburger and an impressive looking top sirloin.

The menu is varied but decisive with an interesting Butcher Block section featuring a kind of charcuterie offering including salami and prosciutto as well as nifty things like goat cheese and honey and, for a mere $1.50, some very tasty roasted bar nuts.

We started with a delicious bacon, gruyere and caramelized onion pizza for $12.50 that was an ambitious appetizer for two but took half home and enjoyed the rest for lunch the next day. We followed with a classic Caesar that was enough for two for $7.50 with a nice infusion of strong garlic. My friend remembering the roasted chicken from the chef's stint at Napa Valley Grille was quite happy with the version she's offering here accompanied with prosciutto and mashed potatoes for $19.25 while I really enjoyed the agnolotti with shrimp and crab in a well seasoned broth. We had to share a side order of that mascarpone polenta for $4.50 that took us back to a similar version at Zuni Cafe many moons ago.

The wine program is as familiar and surprising as the menu with an Angeline pinot noir for $7.50 and a Hunnicutt zinfandel for $15 both showing off nicely. Service was very attentive and accomplished with recommendations offered when asked and coffee refilled even though the hour was wearing late. We look forward to the dessert selection growing. With only two selections we enjoyed the homemade chocolate chip cookie with ice cream but with so much offered before we wanted more variety here as well.

Clearly Mimi's Cafe has grown up and the rather tony Manhattan Beach crowd seemd quite happy with the proceedings. As for the chef, my friend commented that not since Pizzeria Mozza have we dined in a restaurant where the chef was on the line when we arrived and as we were leaving two and a half hours later.

Tin Roof Bistro
3500 N. Sepulveda Blvd.
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

Aug 11, 2009
cvc in Los Angeles Area

Chez Melange in Redondo Beach - AWESOME.

Thank you for this report. This is definitely one of the restaurants that I cut my culinary teeth on so to speak in the way that I did with Parkway Grill as the gourmet escapades of Michael McCarty and Wolfgang Puck made their way to the burbs and flourished nicely. I really loved Chez Melange and can't wait to try their new location.

Jul 05, 2009
cvc in Los Angeles Area

Best Duck Confit in LA?

The duck at Comme Ca is pretty wonderful but if you're in the area the version at St. Amour in Culver City is serviceable and satisfying.

Jul 04, 2009
cvc in Los Angeles Area


It may have been the mix of the hotel travelers with the locals but it was refreshingly relaxed and unpretentious; and the oft remodeled space has got to be one of the most attractive hotel dining rooms around. Go early and take in the sunset.

Jul 04, 2009
cvc in Los Angeles Area


It was time for the three high school buddies to reunite around dinner again last Thursday with the only requirements being some place relatively quiet with good food and possible vegetarian options. A friend recently raved about her cheese and wine experience at Fig during happy hour so the two of us on the West Side lucked out with the selection of Fig at the Fairmont. A great irony here is that we drove across country in our senior year in 1972 stopping in New Orleans for a week to attend the numismatic convention (coin collecting for the uninitiated), where the most adventurous thing we would dare order was a hamburger steak with grilled onions at the Sheraton. Now, we were deciding on which cheese course to start with landing on the “Challenging” for $18 which featured a hearty Epoisses, a pungent Azeitao, a creamy Cana de Oveja from Spain, and a sharp blue veined Buffalo’s milk accompanied by a small piece of sweet moist date bread and a berry gelee. Happy Hour just got redefined and I would go back to sit at the bar and watch Eric the fromager in action. Charcuterie is another specialty but we passed on this occasion.

Mini baguettes are whimsically served warm in their own brown paper bag sleeve with an unusual and intense pesto like butter that we quickly devoured. One friend went next with a beautiful tomato soup with mascarpone for $9 which was followed by our three entrees: a tender Kurobuta pork tenderloin for $28, a richly textured short rib meatloaf for $21 and an off the chart spicy vegetable curry for $18 that had my friend sweating. Thank God we were almost pool side. The young chef Ray Garcia is making a mark for his use of local fresh organic product and his is artfully done cooking with vibrant flavors.

Desserts were fun and tasty with a play on the traditional banana split with homemade rum raisin ice cream for $7, corn fritters for $8 and a traditional chocolate pot au crème for $9. Service could not have been better with our water glasses continually filled well after the check had been paid. A warm and beautifully appointed room opens nicely to the lush pool area.

Fig at the Miramar Fairmont
101 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica 90401

Jul 04, 2009
cvc in Los Angeles Area

It takes a Hamlet

Walking through the bar this afternoon of the new Brentwood Tavern I could not help but think of Marilyn Lewis and the once anticipated super size Hamlet with both disco and strict dress code that originally inhabited this space. And why not? It could certainly be argued that Marilyn and Harry made every bit of impact on the L.A. restaurant scene as Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne continue to.

The building continues to be awkward to me with the only sight lines from the street, the wall that hides the kitchen and bakery in front. The somewhat austere bar with the most elegant gray paint works strangely enough against the green floral upholstered chairs. Once inside the three compartment restaurant we secured a comfortable table for four in the far corner of the bar at 2:15pm, knowing that the lunch menu stopped at 2:30pm and that the main dining room was completely full.

It hardly mattered. What followed with both menu and food was everything we’d come to expect and hope for from the people who’ve given us possibly the best carbonara I’ve ever had at the bar of Lucques and the brioche with prosciutto, gruyere and egg at A.O.C. The Tavern strives to celebrate what’s familiar: a burger, turkey sandwich, a chopped salad. With twists.

I had the “pork, pork, pork” sandwich on a wonderful homemade bun that took the shoulder of the pork, blended it with chorizo and formed it into a patty with fresh bread and butter pickles and homemade mayonnaise. The onion rings that came with it were both light and crunchy. My friend’s chicken was tender, moist and lightly charred on the skin sitting on a bed of cous cous with raisins. Both were excellent and $17 and $19 respectively. He liked the Campion pinot by the glass for $12 and I enjoyed my continually refilled iced tea for $3. We finished with a lovely lemon curd tart with a dollop of crème fraiche. But the walnut shortbread cookie I grabbed at the bakery counter for 50 cents on the way out was sensational. Service was exemplary from the phone to the door to the service staff. The validated parking in the lot in back is a gift in Brentwood and this new Tavern already seems every bit of a neighborhood fixture.

Jul 03, 2009
cvc in Los Angeles Area

Intelligentsia Venice now open

Great to see all of these varied posts. I wrote about my 6:30 a.m. experience about a week and a half ago and then met a friend there this past Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and, of course, the differences are partly the differences of that area between an early weekday morning and a slightly later weekend morning. Waited about fifteen minutes in line. The coffee was the same, my friend didn't care for her decaf and was somewhat bemused that they didn't have non fat milk; while my latte was pleasant again it still lacked distinctive flavor. We loved the Cake Monkey chocolate brioche muffin and the lovely Comme Ca croissant. The place is new and they have a lot of moving parts right now but it's an odd experience with the lack of chairs and built in Coliseum style steps in the back with cushions that you have to more than step up to with coffee in hand. The kids and their parents next to us loved it, pushing my friend from her seat as if they were in a sandbox and who could blame them. Are we showing our age? Certainly when the DJ behind us started the rock music at 11 a.m. we knew it was time to skidaddle. Geez, what happened to jazz in coffee houses? The staff was friendly and enthusiastic.

Jun 25, 2009
cvc in Los Angeles Area

Dinner after Patinkin and Lupone!

Rightly envious I am. We saw the lordly Dame last Thursday and I have to tell you that I've never seen a funnier show. LuPone and Patinkin. Now, that's a coup! We used the opportunity to try out Church & State, partly because of all the buzz and because it was referenced in a Southland episode which I loved. We arrived at 6pm and like other moments Downton L.A., it's a stunning setpiece in a rather lifeless warehouse area at that time of day. I've not had Walter Manske's cooking before but I would say he's giving the French bistro trend a run for its money. First, a warm crispy Bread Bar baguette is served with salty butter. The French only wine selection offers two red Burgundy's by the glass with a good 8oz pour in a Burgundy glass. The St. Patrick for $14 had my friend smiling. We started with plump tender mussels with good fries for $15 and a frisee and lardon salad with a perfectly poached egg and tart vinaigrette for $11.00. Excellent. We went on to turbot with Chanterelles and bacon for $29 and an artisan farm pork chop (I forget whose) with peas and pearl onions. The broth of the mussels could have used more flavor or maybe I've just been bombarded with spicier versions lately and the turbot was a hair overcooked. But this is just good cooking artfully done. Two of the service staff we spotted were from Joe's and we even met one of the owners, Jasmine, who is also involved with Joe. You know I was worried about arriving late (for that show you know what happens) so I skipped the white peach tart I would have ordered. But if you head one block west to Alameda and turn left at Temple you can make the Music Center in eight minutes. Allow another twenty minutes if you park below.


I do apologize. You were asking about late night dining after the show. Church and State stops at 10pm during the week, 11pm on the weekends. You can get on the 110 and hit Hollywood in ten minutes where I would recommend Lou's on Vine near Melrose or Hungry Cat. Others here can speak to the late night downtown scene EXCEPT we love Full House Seafood in Chinatown (serves 'til 3am every day). Great and inexpensive. Enjoy!

Jun 22, 2009
cvc in Los Angeles Area


Walking up the sloped cement walkway to the new Intelligentsia Coffee Store on Abbot Kinney in Venice this morning at 6:30 a.m. which once housed Scentiments Florists, I couldn't help but wonder what impact, if any, the opening of the visually technical L.A. Mill had on this new location. With multi leveled glass and metal shelving, copper tubing running everywhere and state of the art brewing equipment this is a bit of a step up from Intelligentsia's own Silverlake location. It's all fun and sassy with an attentive barista staff that lead you through the experience... sort of. The Honduras blend, one of four for the day, was not quite the jolt I asked for and rather light or lightly brewed while the latte was both smooth and tasting of sweet milk more than any distinctive coffee flavor. At $3.75 and $4.00 respectively for 12oz. pours, I'm not likely to be swayed from my Peet's routine which run $1.80 and $2.90 for the same quantities and a lot more character (and closer to home to be fair). The pastry is the best I've had for a coffee store with a delicious pecan muffin for $3 from Cake Monkey in Burbank. Had I waited another thirty minutes I would have been able to sample the new pastry custom made by Comme Ca for this occasion. I'll probably go back this weekend and lounge with a friend on our way to Costco to get a three pound can of Kirkland coffee for $8.99 for the office. Hey, we splurge where we can.

6am - 10pmSunday - Thursday
6am - 11pmFriday
7am - 11pmSaturday

1331 Abbot Kinney Blvd | Venice, CA

Jun 10, 2009
cvc in Los Angeles Area