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Lee by the Sea's Profile

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Villa Italian, Culver City Pizza

Try Pizzarito in the Villa Marina shopping center at Mindanao and Glencoe between Pavilions and CVS. Takeout not dine-in unless you are desperate. The square deep dish pizza is what you want. It has been there for decades (the store, not the pizza :) Close to the end of the 90 Marina Fwy.

Any great Thai / Indian restaurants in the Westside?

Yes, there is one, and it is very good indeed. Addi's Tandoor, 800 Torrance Bl in Redondo Beach, is owned by a guy from Goa. In the 1990s he had a small restaurant on Rosecrans Av near the 405. His Lamb Vindaloo is vinegary, plenty spicy, and totally free of the tomato sauce which doesn't belong in it.

Re m3tan's comment on Amber in SF, I agree that we have nothing at its level in LA (been to Amber two or three times and have dined Indian in LA and the UK since the 1970s). Not sure, though, that SF has anything else to match Amber, nor for that matter anything to match Bombay Brasserie in London (old OR new versions).

That said, see if you can try Mayura's Kerala Fish Curry sometime.

Loose Leaf Teas

In a different vein, for the best Ceylon tea I have found after a lot of searching, packed in Sri Lanka:

They have a full line of black and green Ceylon teas; my favorite is their full-flavored English Breakfast tea.

Very nice meal at Limani Taverna (former Papadakis Taverna venue)

We rarely visit San Pedro but Friday was one of those days. I recalled Papadakis Taverna from previous visits years ago, but also recalled reading that it had closed. Why not try Limani Taverna, which had replaced it? That turned out to be a great idea.

After she had a good strong Greek coffee, we started with Melitzanosalata, a roasted eggplant dip. It had the flavor of a Lebanese Babaghanouj but had not been processed to a uniform puree. You could just make out the vegetables that made it taste so fresh. Delicious and tangy, it spread nicely onto the hot pita triangles that came with it. We devoured every bit.

Our second appetizer was Spanakopita. It was simply the best version of this Greek standard that we have ever had! The three amply-sized triangular filo-dough pies of spinach and cheese were flawlessly and freshly made, layered, flaky, and crispy outside with mild melted cheese bound to freshly cooked spinach inside. We both like Spanakopita and invariably order it at a Greek restaurant; Limani's version just blew us away. It is now our reference point for this dish.

For entrees, I had Lamb and Potatoes and she had Mousaka. The lamb slices were tender, lean, flavorful, and plentiful. They were accompanied by fresh vegetables, cooked al dente, along with chunks of roasted potatoes. Her Mousaka was pleasant but was a little on the bland side. It had some of the same good fresh vegetables with it.

We were about to decline the baklava dessert which is usually offered at this point, but our waiter beat us to the punch with complimentary Greek cookies. They were delicious shortbread cookies with finely-ground nuts in the dough.

We could not review an aspect of the restaurant that appears to have carried over from the Papadakis era. On one side of the room a little away from us was a setup for musicians, with microphones and a sound system. We had arrived in the midafternoon for a quiet late lunch (the restaurant is open continuously from 11 am on). Later in the evening, our waiter said, there would be live music and dancing, just as we recalled from our dinner visit to Papadakis.

In response to my asking, our waiter told us that the restaurant had originally been reopened as Limani Taverna by a Bulgarian family, but around the beginning of 2013, they had exited. Both the kitchen and the front of the house are now staffed entirely by the same people who worked here when it was Papadakis Taverna. And I'd say it shows.

What's the great places to go now for dinner in Long Beach/Seal Beach/Lakewood area...for really delilcious food...anything!

Strange experience at BC Grill yesterday at lunchtime. Had to go to nearby courthouse but was a bit early, wanted only a light bite under the circumstances. Iced tea for me, coffee for wife, carrot cake to split. Should be no big deal, right? Well...the iced tea was a cinnamon-mint concoction about like Lavoris mouthwash with no tea flavor noticeable (innocently labeled "iced tea" on menu). My wife returned the coffee when the provided cream floated blobs on top of it. The carrot cake was OK but was decorated with a strawberry that looked like it had been dried on the counter overnight, sitting upside down with its green top still on in a mound of whipped cream. (Wins less-would-have-been more award.) That dessert, from an unpriced menu board, was $7. We were glad we had not ordered lunch.

Vito Italian Restaurant in Santa Monica

Just saw this thread. We could certainly use a few good "red sauce" Italian restaurants on the Westside--NY Italian comfort food level, not more authentic Italians like Valentino, Vicenti, and plenty of others. Guido's is about the best I've found in this area for spaghetti with meatballs, chicken piccata and the like. (I haven't had really good restaurant lasagna around here since Bruno's turned into a church.) We have gone to both Guido's and Vito's a couple of times in the last year. Vito's was better than OK, but given the choice we'd go to Guido's. We had one very bad meal at Il Pastaio several years ago, compounded by atrocious service. Maybe a bad night, but we haven't been back. Pastaio's food did not justify its prices, either.

After Batali Bust, Arguments for and Against Tipping Out

The last I heard, IRS adds something like 8 percent to waiters' reported income to cover the tips IRS assumes are not being reported. Why should waiters tip out to anyone who does not have to carry that IRS burden? I'm only a customer, but I expect my tip to go to my server. Period.

Mar 11, 2012
Lee by the Sea in Features

Lancsater/Palmdale restaurant suggestions provided

While looking for more recent information, I found this:

And Tina's Ristorante in OP's list is closed, per this short thread:

With the growth in the Antelope Valley, I hope we'll get some more hound listings.

Waterloo and City: Luscious First Night now has the menu.

Waterloo and City: Luscious First Night

I think they have some tap and mostly bottles. Nothing is brewed there. I didn't explore that in detail because I'm not much of a beer drinker.

Waterloo and City: Luscious First Night

You are welcome!

Waterloo and City: Luscious First Night

The closest folks to us, two tables away, had two appetizers--an ahi tuna tartare appetizer that had something stuffed with the tartare and tempura-fried atop something else with a base of more ahi tuna tartare, and almost-deboned quail appetizer topped with a quail egg. (Almost-deboned means one large bone is left in the quail.) I didn't write down anything else from the menu before it was taken away, there were no copies available, and I didn't take photos. (Someone should, as all the food was beautifully presented and tends toward the vertical.) My recollection is that the menu has five or six items under each of these headings: appetizers, salads, cured meats and patés, pasta, pizza, mains. The pastas and mains can be had as half-sizes (small plates-appetizers) or as full plates. There were also the items for two that I mentioned. It is not an easy menu to summarize (or remember) because items are named by ingredient lists.

What we had was not what I'd call heavy but I'm sure you could make a lighter (and somewhat less expensive) meal. The char was not swimming in cream sauce; it was more like sitting atop a loose vegetable layer with the vegetables having been sauced. A spoonful of the vegetable crock was mostly vegetables, likewise for the lentils.

When we came in at 7 pm the restaurant was nearly empty--maybe four couples. When we left at 8:30 (we took our time) it was maybe 25 percent full. It's a big room. The parking lot was less than half full when we left. From the conversation at the table with the tuna, I think many who were there were friends and business associates of the owners, sprinkled with a few locals. We were told that on Monday only staff had been there, tasting their way through a good part of the menu.

I'm quite sure that the full wine and microbrew list is available. I saw bottles being poured. (Corkage is $10--we asked.)

Looking for an awesome NEW higher-end dinner place

Re Puck Live: Consider the Jean de Belley rule: Restaurant quality is inversely proportional to its height above ground. Limiting case: Airline food.

Upscale yet relaxing Italian on the Westside?

Guido's is not Valentino's, to be sure, but IMHO meets your third criterion admirably (and definitely meets the first). In the regular dining room there are no tables, just big red leather banquettes, including some large ones. It's a quiet and relaxed place. They do have a separate room for big parties, if that is your plan. They have their own parking lot but it is 100% valet; watch out for nearby street parking as much of it has recently been relabeled ONE hour, 8 am-8 pm to help fund the city by ticketing you.

11980 Santa Monica Blvd.

Waterloo and City: Luscious First Night

We got back a little while ago from a satisfying and amazing dinner at Waterloo and City. Amazing because you don't expect near-perfection on the first public night at any restaurant. Amazing because the advance description of Waterloo and City as a "gastropub" does not begin to do justice to its high culinary level. (No, Dorothy, we are not in BJ's any more.) We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and made reservations for a return visit.

The restaurant is in a large former coffee shop that had stood empty for at least a decade, maybe two. From personal knowledge it had been a coffee shop for at least two decades before it closed. We have been watching and waiting for the rebirth of this restaurant from the moment we saw stirrings within and have been dropping by to ask about its opening as the expected date approached. That's how we got there tonight; we have no business or personal relationship with anyone at the restaurant and we paid full menu prices for every bite.

Waterloo and City is not about comfort food, though steak (for two), roast chicken (for two), pot roast, and salmon (well, arctic char) are on the menu. It took us awhile to study and select from the menu's two long pages of detailed description plus two recited pasta specials. Even with our server's willing assistance we were surprised by one entree, but the surprise was OK.

We did not want wine tonight but noted that the page-long wine list includes six or seven by-the-glass choices between $6 and $9. Forty-some microbrews were on the reverse side of the page.

An ample basket of three types of warm bread--crisp-edged dense white, seven-grain, and French baguette--arrived promptly after we ordered. The bread, prepared and baked daily in the restaurant, was indeed fresh and delicious.

We shared appetizer portions of a salad from the menu [$11] and a pasta special [$12]. The salad of English peas, fava beans, caramelized walnuts, and fresh mozzarella arrived in a small crock. It was altogether wonderful. A little mint augmented the semi-liquid mozzarella. The pasta, fresh, handmade orecchiette, was in a parmesan sauce with broccoli rabe and slivers of red bell pepper. It seemed a little lonely in the expanse of its bowl but tasted so good that we considered licking out the bowl.

Our entrees were arctic char [$24] and "local" halibut [$22]. (It turned out that the halibut was not local--that's unlikely off Marina del Rey--but was wild-caught from northern waters as one would expect.) My wife's arctic char, which was like salmon in appearance, texture, and flavor, was in a large bowl atop a bed of spring vegetables--peas, pearl onions, and artichoke chunks in a cream sauce with a light cheese flavor. A small crock contained more of the spring vegetables and its sauce. The sauce paired well with the salmon and did not overwhelm it.

My halibut likewise arrived in a large bowl, but I was surprised to find a large sausage nestling next to it! The sausage was about one inch in diameter and four inches long. Frankly, I had expected halibut to be where the sausage was. The entree description had included "merguez sausage"; its spicing revealed that was indeed what it was. Under the halibut and sausage were black lentils in a savory sauce. More of the lentils and sauce were in another small crock. Taken together, the small black lentils, sauce, and chubby sausage were like a grown-up version--or maybe a parody--of hot-dogs-and-beans. It all worked together, though it was not exactly what I thought I had ordered.

Service throughout the meal was exemplary. Water and coffee were refilled as if by reading our minds, flatware was replaced as appropriate, and our server brought extra flatware--without our even asking!--so that we could share things. Little details showed that even the busboys had been trained. Both the kitchen and the serving staff were speedy. Waterloo and City has many tables, so possibly things could slow down when it is full and everyone is busy (which wasn't the case on this first, unadvertised open night), but this is clearly a heads-up, first-class operation. I think they will be ready.

The "official" opening night is this Friday, May 14, 2010.

Waterloo and City
12517 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90066

large free parking lot, no valet
location is a little west of Centinela Blvd.

Waterloo and City
12517 W Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA 90066

Driving from OC to Reno, Nv - Any suggestions or "MUST STOP HERE?

You may well find that I-5 to I-80, or US99 to I-80, makes more sense than old, rough, and sparsely serviced US395. (These days 99 and I-5 are both fast routes.) Too many eateries to count on 99; many fewer on I-5 (Harris Ranch at Coalinga is about the only above-average place); not much on I-80 after it leaves Sacramento. I'd go via 99, overnight somewhere between Fresno and Stockton depending on your driving style, and query the California board for chow in cities along 99. Good luck.

Dec 07, 2008
Lee by the Sea in California

Where to eat on the way back from San. Fran?

Javan!! Take the Santa Monica Blvd. West exit from the 405; turn right at the bottom of the offramp. Go 4 short blocks (you go past Sawtelle, Corinth, and Purdue) and turn left on Butler. You will pass Javan (SW corner) as you turn. Park on that block or the next and be sure to feed the meter before 6 pm. Your car should be safe as a police station is on the same block! Javan almost never has a wait to be seated, is family-friendly and informal, and has about the best Persian food in LA. One dish per person will keep your tab under $20 pp and will be plenty. Retrace your path and turn right to get back onto the 405.

11500 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

Where to eat on the way back from San. Fran?

Our dinner here was unimpressive a week ago. Feijoada plain, not much to it; wife's chicken dish unmemorable. Almost fast food--you pick up your dishes and bus them at the end. Not the least relaxing or a break after a long trip. Though we are 4 blocks away we won't be back. Only street parking.

Nawab shines after Chakra dumps

Fortunately we hadn't parked yet. My time-fanatic wife had insisted on phoning that we'd be ten minutes late for her birthday dinner at Chakra. She had made the reservation only four days before, complete with phone number. But in the meantime Chakra had booked a private party. We were told that we had "lost" our confirmed reservation without so much as a courtesy call.

A booking at Nawab was available, so we went back to Santa Monica, expecting a solid if unspectacular dinner. We've been going to Nawab for many years. At one time we felt it was head and shoulders above every Indian restaurant within an hour's drive or more. The Sunday buffet was always delicious and delightful. But in the last year or two, the buffet seemed to be getting thinner and more plebeian. Meanwhile, dinner quality seemed to be going down while the check went up. Very good nearby Indian restaurants now eclipsed Nawab.

Not any more! The Lamb Vindaloo was superb. Its dark brown, vinegary, peppery sauce had the deep, multilayered, complex, harmonious spicing of the best vindaloos I have enjoyed. There wasn't a trace of the tomato sauce which misguided chefs too often add. The lamb was of excellent quality, not tough, fatty, or gristly, and was so generously portioned that I only encountered one small piece of (the obligatory) potato. Chicken Sagwala was right, chunks of good chicken in a gently-spiced, medium smooth spinach sauce that had not been pureed to death. Vegetable korma had many nice, compact "vegetable meatballs" in a rich, mild cream sauce. The korma was an excellent foil for the vindaloo. I've had korma with a bit more flavor in the sauce, but it is not supposed to be a strongly-flavored dish. Good rice and naan rounded out the meal.

As a birthday celebration we had Ras Malai for dessert. Its mild Indian cheese patties were light, airy, and very fresh; they were napped in an ample portion of fresh, sweet, cooked-down milk with light dessert spices. Nawab is unusual for having this dessert always available; it is complex to make and does not last long, so we frequently find it listed on restaurant menus but "not available tonight." My description does not do Ras Malai justice; if you like milk you must try it.

Chakra had offered to rebook us, but I think it's Nawab to which we will return.

Nawab of India
1621 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90403

151 S Doheny Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

London (Mayfair) and York and Edinburgh

Well, you were expecting a Brit but got a Yank from L.A. instead. I can help some with London, but was looking for Edinburgh information myself. We are not of Indian heritage ourselves but learned to love Indian food in London a few decades ago. We've visited London many times since, and almost all we eat there is Indian. We are spoiled by the choices we have at home, but London is really better for Indian food. Most of what you'll find is North Indian, though we have had good South Indian food in London.
1. Must go, best in the world: Brunch buffet at Bombay Brasserie. Probably in £15-20 area, but worth every penny. Wonderful dishes cooked to perfection. You don't need fancy dress--though the room and the service would suggest it--but I myself would not go there in shorts. OK for grade-school kids and up, and not too spicy for them; they just need proper buffet behavior or adult supervision. A 5-minute walk from the Tube--you go out one side, cross a street, and you're in the "Close" on which it is located. As usual in London, study your map thoroughly. Worth a detour--we are doing that ourselves on our way to Heathrow.
2. Sarkhel's. If you want a celebration dinner of modern, upscale Indian food, you cannot do better than this. Mr. Sarkhel was exec chef at Bombay Brasserie before he opened his own restaurant in about 1990. (You may hear of Chutney Mary's in this category. Don't go.)

More generally, you will probably be in good hands if you go to an Indian restaurant that has been around for awhile. Oddly, ordinary guidebooks (Frommer, Lonely Planet, etc) may be a better resource than Zagat. (There is a Zagat for London but it is unhelpfully organized for tourists and has delivered us enough bad meals that we won't use it again for anything. It continues to list a "modern Indian" in the Soho area that we found atrocious.) Time Out, which is based in London, may help you on your celebration dinner if you don't want to go Indian. (Bombay Brasserie serves dinner, too, a la carte and excellent.)
Happy travels.

Jul 08, 2008
Lee by the Sea in U.K./Ireland

Edinburgh chowhounds?

As one of the zillion attendees of the Fringe this August, I would like to encourage Edinburgh folk to respond to your invitation. It's the fifth visit my wife and I will be making to your fine city, and our third Fringe. Normally we would look forward to many good Indian meals, a couple of visits to Henderson's Salad Table, and one or two nice but expensive dinners of fresh Scottish fish. But this time we are traveling with a vegetarian threesome, one of whom is a teenage girl who eats little but salads and Italian food. Any suggestions for the latter--moderately priced, veg-friendly Italian restaurants?

The "Sea" in my name is the Pacific Ocean--we're all from Southern California.

Jun 14, 2008
Lee by the Sea in U.K./Ireland

Italian or Chinese near Pico and LaBrea?

We dine again tonight with our vegetarian (not vegan) friends, who are bringing Miss Finicky Fourteen along. Italian usually works (think pizza) and Chinese can. We'd like to dine within 5 minutes' drive from this intersection. I'm coming up blank. The popular Culver Junction restaurants are a bit too far and a bit too busy. Can anyone help?

Westside Italian restaurants with BIG serving sizes?

Head for Maggiano's in the Grove shopping center. It ain't gourmet, it's a chain, but IMHO they provide nice, flavorful American red-sauce Italian and portions are more than ample. Of course, the Buca di Beppo chain is famous for quantity but their quality is infamous on this board. I can't verify that by personal experience but look around the board to decide for yourself.

Best Dim Sum

Click on "link to a place" before you finish your original comment, enter the address, and the site will look up all it has and invite you to add a new link if it doesn't already have yours. Unfortunately you can't edit them into your comment if you forget, except by making a new post. There's a long description somewhere.

Best Dim Sum

We're showing our age to remember the Helms truck :) but I'd rather have La Brea Bakery from the market, truth be told...

Mar Vista Memories

Happy to help update this delicious old thread. Don't miss Agra Indian Kitchen on the west side of Lincoln not far north of Washington Blvd. IMHO this little place continues to have the best Indian food on the Westside. We keep going back. Just last Saturday wife and I happened to be near Little India on Pioneer Ave in Artesia, so we went to Hound favorite The India Restaurant for buffet lunch. Agra is so much better than TIR that I was amazed.

While it may be apples-to-oranges to compare buffet offerings to prepared-to-order dinners at Agra, in my experience buffet Indian is a good guide to what the restaurant delivers, because much of Indian cuisine does pretty well on a steam table.

Agra Indian Kitchen
2553 Lincoln Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

Mar Vista Memories

See separate thread on Casa Sanchez. Beautiful building, loud mariachis, end-to-end tables, outdoor patio with cigarette smoke that drifts in, but definitely a happening kind of place. Didn't start out well in the food or service category; reviews are still mixed. Best item reported to be the stuffed sole.

good Culver City restaurant open Memorial Day?

Check out Giovanni's Trattoria (excellent moderate-priced Italian-Italian, and Brasa Brazilian Grill (churrascuria, AYCE meats and salads). They're in the same mini-mall on Venice at Clarington in Culver City. It's 3-5 minutes away from the Jazz Bakery, straight east down Venice. Park on the street.

Looking for suitable place with personality for dinner/meeting for 25 in El Segundo-ish area

Recently I went to a dinner/meeting at Manhattan Beach Country Club. This is not very far into the country--just east of the Marriott Hotel, just south of Rosecrans, just west of Manhattan Village Mall at Rosecrans and Sepulveda--but it feels much more isolated. Cooking was pretty average banquet stuff (salmon/prime rib/chicken breast) but was competent with good service. Parking is free.

There are lots of restaurants along Rosecrans between Aviation and Sepulveda with a wide range of prices, but you would have to call to ascertain the availability of the private room which I assume you want. The Daily Grill (a chain, yes, but IMHO delivers a good meal every time) is one which may have a private room. Parking there is not free.

The Proud Bird, on Aviation just north of Imperial, has private rooms from which you can look at old planes and watch newer ones land at LAX. Thankfully you see them but do not hear them. I've been several times for the $20 AYCE lunch buffet--it's a large spread of good-to-average quality (I leave feeling value was received)--but I've never been there for dinner. That would be where I would go for a nice dinner/meeting for 25, but you might want to drop by for dinner yourself to check it out. Ample free parking.

Vito Restaurant in Santa Monica let us down

We went to celebrate a special day at Vito Restaurant in Santa Monica last Sunday evening. Instead of celebrating, we found ourselves wading through a meal of homogenized Italian food from which the life had somehow been extracted. What Vito claims is traditional Italian cuisine tasted like shortcut Italian-style dishes cooked by a bored kitchen that was unfortunately not nearly as capable as Vito's attentive but not intrusive serving staff.

Wife began with Mozzarella Marinara, a two-inch square of the cheese breaded, deep-fried, and napped in tomato sauce. It was pleasant, though the breading was heavy (think KFC chicken) rather than the wished-for tempura lightness. Its sauce was unsprightly. I had a very ample plate of roasted peppers, tomatoes, and anchovies on a bed of sliced onions. The menu says "fresh roasted peppers" but these were cold and rather limp, probably from sitting quite awhile in the (good) olive oil which was abundantly spooned onto the plate along with the peppers. I have had this dish elsewhere (usually warm) many times; elsewhere it's been delightful.

We moved on to split portions of pasta. Wife had Penne Arrabiata, which was gently peppery..period. It did not sing of herbs, mushrooms, garlic, or anything much else. It was more like an unseasoned cooked tomato sauce that had been pureed. It possessed a strong familial resemblance to what had been on her Mozzarella Marinara--and also to what was on my Spaghetti Bolognese. That was inappropriate and unexpected. The Bolognese was like her Arrabiata, minus pepper but plus cheese and a tiny amount of ground meat. At a restaurant of this price level one should expect individual preparation and trueness to the cuisines of very different regions, but that's not what I was tasting.

For mains, wife had Sole; I had Veal Parmigiana. The ingredient quality was good and the quantities were ample but the flavors were muddy. The sole was covered in a lemony sauce that tasted like a thinned Hollandaise. Again the frying, this time of the sole, was indelicate, and again the red sauce on the veal was strangely familiar. Both dishes rapidly became monotonous. They were accompanied by an ice-cream scoop of smooth, slightly garlicky mashed potatoes and some freshly-cooked, oil-doused mixed vegetables. Both plates had these same sides. We skipped dessert.

I should note that this is not a particularly inexpensive restaurant. Most appetizers are between $10.50 and $12.50; pastas are between $15.50 and $19.95; most main dishes are between $19.50 and $25.

Though we had intended at the start of the meal to have wine, we ultimately chose not to. The wine-by-the-glass prices were $10.50 to $11.50, which I felt to be inordinately high once we heard our server describe several mediocre wines. Several more wines were described by varietal name only, something like "We also have a merlot and a cabernet by the glass." Queried, he could only provide the varietal name, not its maker or year. There also was a long book-style wine list with very few wines under $40. The list had one or two bottles between $25 and $30, but they were unappealing choices on a "bargain page". The list did have an abundance of choices well above $100! If those wines had actually been available and unspoiled, I would say that they would have greatly exceeded the quality of our dinners at Vito Restaurant.