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Gjelina Take Away - first thoughts

I'd agree with bulavinaka on all counts.

It's also worth noting that the coffee on offer is not only made from Intelligentsia beans, but actually prepared by Intelli alumni -- so far as I can tell there is at least three people who migrated there from the shop down the street. Makes for a complete breakfast!

Highly recommended to go with the coffee: the biscuit with one of the jams (which they also don't sell by the jar --- yet?). But the brownies are addictive too..... and the one pizza I had for lunch (bitter greens, bacon) was terrific too.

There always seems to be parking on Electric, btw...

I'd say Huckleberry is a whole other kind of outfit. Though no decent coffee, there are great breads to buy, excellent salads in the deli counter, great variety of baked goods etc. But longer lines and tough parking despite the lot during rush hours. So far, GTA seems a much faster pick up -- never seen lines to equal Huckleberry's.

Jun 05, 2011
antonis in Los Angeles Area

The best croissants on the westside...WHERE TO GO?

Agreed on Tarte Tatin and would add that their almond croissants are exceptional as well. But it's almost a one-man shop there, which means, they do run out of things and you have to time it just right some days. In return, I think the small scale (artisanal?) production is a good thing and rather rare in LA.

They are a block west of Doheny in the mall on the north side of Olympic.

I must add that their style of croissant is different than either Bite or Almandine (or the extra buttery style Anissette used to make). It's crispy on the outside without necessarily being flaky in the way Almandine's multiple, thin layers are. It's a matter of personal taste. For the moment, I'd place both Almandine and Tarte Tatin at the top of my list.

Mar 01, 2011
antonis in Los Angeles Area

First Matsutake sighting of the season: Sushi Gen

I know far less than bulavinaka about matsutake, but find that carefully cleaning with a damp towel is enough to remove any debris, at least with the ones I buy from Nijiya. It's probably OK to use a very wet towel if there still seems to be sand.
I believe the thing to preserve is the mucus membrane. In a pinch, even a brief rinse under low pressure water could be ok, though not ideal.
Again, I am no expert, but have enjoyed these pricey gems by buying them from the store in far greater volumes than I could have afforded if I had to pay at a restaurant for them.

I don't peel the stems, but cut off the very tip of the stem (at a diagonal). Then, I try to tear them by hand and when that seems too hard, I cut into the stems to start the tear.

Sep 20, 2010
antonis in Los Angeles Area

First Matsutake sighting of the season: Sushi Gen

Tons at Nijiya today (Sawtelle). Smallish packages run about $10 ea. Also seen at Grenada mkt up the street. The season has begun.

Since they are easy to cook, it's worth splurging to buy them at the market. The trick is always to clean them without de-flavoring them...

Sep 18, 2010
antonis in Los Angeles Area

Delicious Cheese at Wally's Cheese Box in West LA

Agreed on Surfas. I have been impressed with the discoveries I made there thanks to guidance from staff who knows what's what.

It's not always about the most variety in a shop (in which case, BH Cheese Shop reigns). Smaller places with knowledgeable people make all the difference. I have not been to Wally's, and thank you for bringing it up here. It's now on my list!

In the same spirit, I would add Joan's on Third, with its tiny but very nice cheese counter, always staffed by good people. And, of course, the ubiquitous Laurent Bonjour without whom the Farmer's Market wouldn't have an actual native from one of the major cheese countries! Can't try anything off the truck, in his case, but there are often rare finds worth betting on based on his description.

Sep 04, 2010
antonis in Los Angeles Area

La Petite Creperie in Mar Vista. New Place, best Crepes in West LA

I have only had their buckwheat galettes and agree that they are fantastic. Apparently the chef makes a careful selection of the kind of roast he uses for the flour and that makes all the difference.

Along the lines of carefully sourced ingredients, I was also impressed with their coffee. I found the price fair for the amount and quality of coffee in the French Presse. I wish other establishments that offer otherwise perfectly good baked goods or breakfast items would have such good, freshly brewed coffee.

I must also add that their service has been excellent and that little touches in the setting all add up: Nice country-style cloth napkins and Laguiole knives make a difference, while still keeping with the informal "rustic" look.

Jul 19, 2010
antonis in Los Angeles Area

Yatai Ramen Twist, a pop up at Breadbar on 3rd - impressive!

they did not

Jun 28, 2010
antonis in Los Angeles Area

Yatai Ramen Twist, a pop up at Breadbar on 3rd - impressive!

too thin a hole in the bone at that end of the spine -- not exactly a big "osso" : )

Jun 24, 2010
antonis in Los Angeles Area

Yatai Ramen Twist, a pop up at Breadbar on 3rd - impressive!

Went back to try two more ... we decided that the ox tail variation must be the best of the bunch. There are still 4 we haven't tried, but we just bet on that one.
It's very Chinese in its five-spice broth, and very... osso bucco in the braised-meat-falling-off-the-bone aspect of it. For anybody with classic ramen expectations, this is not the one.
But it's a nice broth, excellent gyu, same nicely done soft boiled egg as before.

This time we also tried to find out why the kale gyoza did not impress us as much as the pork one: it's the brown rice in it. Gives it a starchy stickiness which we thought didn't go with the wrapper's own starch. Brown rice and kale seems a nice combination on its own, but made into a gyoza -- maybe too gummy?

Also up for discussion is the question of whether the temperature in the bowl is hot enough for ramen. I'd say no, it is not. But in this case they have the excuse of the location not being designed for serving hot noodles. And makes the case that they need to set up a real shop in the 'hood!

As a footnote: part of the excitement over having Breadbar become a temporary ramen-ya is that we thought the quality and variety is far better than Santouka or Daikokuya. But equally important in the "excitement quotient" is the location. This good, this close to home beats something far away, even if the quality difference were only small. Just sayin' ...

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BreadBar
8718 W 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90048

Jun 22, 2010
antonis in Los Angeles Area

better solo dining options in West Hollywood or Beverly Hills?

second the Kiyokawa recommendation

on a night when you want to splurge a bit, Jinpachi on S.Monica Bl is terrific.

Kiyokawa Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar
265 South Robertson Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(310) 358-1900‎

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Jinpachi
8711 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069

Jun 22, 2010
antonis in Los Angeles Area

any suggestion for thai restaurant around robertson area?

I'd say start with Tuk Tuk. I haven't been in a while, but was there regularly for years. We are lucky to have so many choices in Thai in this 'hood. I can't say that I have tried them all recently. My preference for Tuk Tuk is based on visits to the others made over many years. Things may have changed since...

Tuk Tuk Thai Restaurant
8875 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90035-3335
(310) 860-1872‎
tuktukla.com

Jun 22, 2010
antonis in Los Angeles Area

Best of...in Westwood area?

I'd say it's worth giving it a try.
As J.L. says, it's a jewel, and a hidden jewel at that. I think it's a terrific value for Japanese "comfort food" at $35 for the set menu which usually means "more than you can eat", in a good way.
The menu changes by the seasons too. You get several "small plates" (we call them that, but in Japan these are regular sizes) and some of them will change in the course of a couple of weeks, until by the end of a season, all of them are switched.

Jun 20, 2010
antonis in Los Angeles Area

Bazaar? Hm...I'd rather go to Providence or Melisse.

I completely agree on the diminishing "wow factor" and have no interest in going back to Bazaar for a third time. As for the "star" scale in the LAT reviews ... look at how long it took them just to give two stars to Mori Sushi. Hardly worth taking their stars as any indicator.

However, should we compare it to French restaurants, or are there equivalent Spanish establishments that can stand up to foams and such with traditional fare?

I am not aware of any - and the one that I remember was ok but not up to that level. Maybe pure Spanish cuisine doesn't have a hold here as well as the Cal/French does?

Jun 19, 2010
antonis in Los Angeles Area

Best of...in Westwood area?

wouldn't you add Wakasan to that list too?...

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Wakasan
1929 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

Jun 19, 2010
antonis in Los Angeles Area

The Basics: How to Make Hummus

To those who have no fear of ... boiling garbanzos, I'd heartily recommend starting from the best dry garbanzos you can find. They need to be soaked possibly for more that 24 hr, then boiled for one and a half to two hours (unless you have a pressure cooker).
If you keep the water level just above the cooked garbanzos, you'll end up with a very tasty, thick liquid to add to your hummus (tastier than tap water). And, since garbanzos absorb whatever liquid they are in, instead of the nasty taste of canned liquid, they'll have absorbed your own fresh, filtered water with a pinch of salt.

Jun 19, 2010
antonis in Features

Friend visiting LA for 2 days, any suggestions?

The Lazy Ox Canteen is one that I and friends visiting from out of town enjoyed a lot. Smallish plates of what may sound like comfort food on the menu, but superbly done.
The one dish that was lackluster was a fish collar (hamachi kama) that was not done the traditional Japanese way and I thought didn't quite improve on the classic. Totally subjective take; nothing wrong with it technically.

Ambiance: noisy busy tavern with open kitchen.
Service: superb, especially given the crowded room and the many small plates that had to come and go in a hurry.
Drinks: good wine list, they were helpful and offered a taste to help us decide

Overall, I would say you get top quality without the attitude and pricing of the "bigger" establishments. It's downtown, just south of Little Tokyo. Street parking seemed easy on a Sunday.
More on eaterLA: http://la.eater.com/tags/lazy-ox-canteen

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Lazy Ox Canteen
241 S San Pedro St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Jun 17, 2010
antonis in Los Angeles Area

Yatai Ramen Twist, a pop up at Breadbar on 3rd - impressive!

Thank you for the tip mrhooks -- you are correct, sir: 八= 8 = はち=ha chi
Breadbar should fix the ads.
I hope you enjoy one of the eight bowls of ramen there and let us know what you think!

Jun 17, 2010
antonis in Los Angeles Area

Yatai Ramen Twist, a pop up at Breadbar on 3rd - impressive!

agreed -- and fwiw, we have been to both Santouka (at Mitsuwa on Centinela Bl) and Daikokuya (in the old days when it was really good) and Yatai Ramen is way beyond those.

Jun 16, 2010
antonis in Los Angeles Area

Yatai Ramen Twist, a pop up at Breadbar on 3rd - impressive!

Thanks ns1 -- forgot to mention prices. Originally I thought they were high for ramen - but now I think the "twist" makes it well worth it. Of course I can only speak for 2 of the 8 versions.
And, yes, 8 (hatchi) is the theme for Breadbar pop ups.

Jun 16, 2010
antonis in Los Angeles Area

Yatai Ramen Twist, a pop up at Breadbar on 3rd - impressive!

It was not crowded at all -- Tuesday night. We did have reservations, but walk-ins could have sat at the empty patio. The tables inside (long, bar-height) are few and worth reserving for.

Jun 16, 2010
antonis in Los Angeles Area

Yatai Ramen Twist, a pop up at Breadbar on 3rd - impressive!

Two of us went to see what the fuss was all about with "twisted" ramen at Breadbar on Third street, an unlikely environment for "street food", let alone Japanese refined cuisine. We were very pleasantly surprised. We tried the Shio (classic) and the Foie Gras (twisted) and were impressed by the quality of the ingredients but most importantly by the depth and layers of flavor in the broths (very different between the two).

Equally well made were the two kinds of gyoza on the menu. We liked the Pork Feet gyoza better than the kale, even though we were predisposed to prefer kale over hoofs : )
Both came with a well made dipping sauce, and both were properly pan fried to be crispy on the outside while still plump and juicy inside.

We were able to bring our own sake (though beer would be ramen protocol) and picked one that stood up to the demands of the rich broth. The Narutotai Genshu delivered the body, big flavor and layered taste that complimented the ramen.

Some photos on flickr: http://tinyurl.com/2a4tfuq
Those who will look closely will notice that the "shio" label is placed before the wrong bowl - please ignore and go by the title of the picture. The elegant service includes little printed labels to indicate the name of the dish; they just sometimes get mixed up!

In all, we were impressed enough to plan on going back to try the rest of the (small) menu. We have until July 24. We suggested to Kazu-san that maybe we deserve a permanent ramen-ya of his own on the West side, but he didn't think it was in the cards for now.

Info on Yatai Ramen Twist at Breadbar is here: http://tinyurl.com/24e5wrx

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BreadBar
8718 W 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90048

Jun 16, 2010
antonis in Los Angeles Area

Pinquito Beans? Lompoc?

Suncoast Farms also has a stand at the Culver City Tuesday market. Agree with pickypicky that all their beans (and garbanzos) are fantastic. But their pinquitos and yellow beans are out of this world!

Pinquito pictured.

May 14, 2010
antonis in California

In search of... Matsutake Dobin Mushi (before the season ends)

Just had a wonderful MDM at Jinpachi
http://tinyurl.com/yzrgnle

Taka-san has his own tweak (no ginnan for example) with lots of the precious 'take and a broth to die for.

Standard caveat - call ahead if you absolutely want to make sure it's available when you go.

For the matsutake junkies among us ... yeah, buy them fresh and make even the simplest of dishes at home (toaster-oven mushiyaki? matsutake gohan?) to get that devine hit. Otherwise the price tag for the season can be astronomical (though always worth it). Pick the smaller ones and tear them apart by hand...

Oct 19, 2009
antonis in Los Angeles Area

In town for medical treatment, looking for organic food/free range meats

Rustic Canyon

http://www.rusticcanyonwinebar.com/

I have been many times - find it better and more reasonably priced than Akasha, which is not bad, just not top-of-the-list.

M cafe is also good, but because of its macrobiotic approach may have fewer options for you.
http://www.mcafedechaya.com/contact.html

Real Food Daily is vegan and also limited but ok in a pinch.

Since you are in Century City, Clementine's could be very convenient. They use farmer's market ingredients and prepare fresh from scratch.

http://www.clementineonline.com/

Oct 19, 2009
antonis in Los Angeles Area

Pumpkin everything....That time of the year!

Organic Kabocha bought at Nijiya (or similar Japanese market) can be made into any number of delicious (and easy) dishes. No peeling required.
At its simplest, you can steam the whole thing, cut in half, scoop out the seeds and cut in pieces. You can stop here and have a quick snack with some hawaian salt sprinkled on.
Or you can simmer in dashi (which means you steamed it just enough to cut, but the flesh is still crunchy) and related flavorings (sake, mirin, shiro shoyu), then serve with black sesame on top (kuro goma) for dramatic contrast.
Any decent Japanese cookbook will have variations more sophisticated than this.
The point is that it's easy (and cheap) to cook kabocha, which for me is by far the best tasting pumpkin around

Sep 23, 2009
antonis in Los Angeles Area

Ume Plum vinegar -- where to buy in LA?

I've seen it at Whole Foods (Eden brand? not sure)...

Jun 09, 2009
antonis in Los Angeles Area

Family Sushi

Kiyokawa -- Robertson between Olympic and Wilshire (just east of Bev Hills).
Probably a little out of your ideal area, but a hidden gem nonetheless, especially for your budget.

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Kiyokawa Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar
265 S Robertson Blvd Ste 10, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

Jun 07, 2009
antonis in Los Angeles Area

Japanese tea: where to buy the best leaves in LA?

Many thanks for the links, omotosando! Looks like hibiki-an would be worth a try (though I am always reluctant to buy tea online).

My experience with ippodo is only by going to their store where they can brew a sample cup for you or you can sit at their tea room and taste different products. I don't know what they sell online. What I bought was impeccably packaged, especially the high end gyokuro in tin cans. They also supply very specific brewing instructions, which can make or break a delicate cup of tea.

I hope you'll let us know if white crane is worth considering.

btw ... since you are on the west side: Lupicia may be worth a visit just to explore the options there. My comment above was just to say that I didn't find tea like the kind I love in Japan, but there are infinite other possibilities. They are in the recently-renamed Westfield mall.

And thanks for the Torrance pointer noahbites - I got to do the trek one of these weekends...

Jun 06, 2009
antonis in Los Angeles Area

Japanese tea: where to buy the best leaves in LA?

I'm familiar with tea sold at markets like Nijiya, Mitsuya etc, I am also familiar with Lupicia in Century City. None carry the quality I remember even in a neighborhood store in Tokyo let alone the fancier ones in Kyoto (such as Ippodo).

On this board I've seen references to Haru in Encino - but that's the only one (and a bit of a trek from the west side).

How come it is so much easier to find great Chinese and Taiwanese tea in specialty tea shops in LA but not so for Japanese tea?.... Perhaps - as with any other precious product - the good stuff is kept for local consumption. Still....

I'm thinking that now is a good time to look for shincha, (the new - spring - tea), which should be getting to our shores about now - allowing for a two week delay from the Japanese "season".
Any suggestions?

Jun 06, 2009
antonis in Los Angeles Area

Best Sushi

Maybe it's time to post some thoughts on this question (which comes up a lot):

- Unlike other foods (pizza or ramen for example), sushi is an "interactive" experience. It depends a lot on what you ask for and how well the itamae knows you and understands your likes. This is no news, of course, but I'd almost say that the "best" is the sushi restaurant you go to the most often. Not quite, but really a big factor. Saving up to go once in a lifetime to Urasawa may not be as satisfying an experience as repeat visits over many years to a place you can afford.

- As we know, where you sit actually has an effect too. "Table sushi" will never match counter service, for example. Neither will being served by an assistant instead of the master.

- Unlike other eating experiences, how you go about eating and how well you observe table protocols affects what you actually taste. Obsessively dunking everything in a vat of shoyu, for example, most of which will eventually go to waste, will ruin any subtlety of taste.

- Perhaps because of these "rules", who you share a sushi meal with also has a big influence on the overall experience and taste.

- The knowledge and prior experience you bring to the table (or, more accurately, to the counter) will modulate how you appreciate what is offered. It's important to seek the sushi bar that best matches your level of "expertise". If you taste no difference between fake wasabi (prepared from powder) and the real thing, no reason to spend extra.

- How closely you observe the taste of things will also make a difference.
It's often that people get lost in conversation and won't pay attention to the carefully crafted mouthful which is gone in seconds.

So, to answer the question of what is the "best" sushi can be complicated. True, the skill of the itamae, the quality of the fish, ambiance etc are factors we consider in recommending a sushi restaurant. But that's only half the story. And that's unique to sushi.
A more useful question might be "where is the sushi that I can appreciate the best at this time?"
Which opens it up to a discussion with more questions - like what have you liked in the past and what can you afford on a monthly basis etc.

Sometimes, the best sushi is to be found close to home. Not because of any legendary status but because we the diners will do our homework and gain the respect of the guy with the big knives. He is there to teach us and it's for us to decide if we already passed that class and are ready for the next level - or not.

Jun 05, 2009
antonis in Los Angeles Area