You should’ve seen the crowd at Shophouse on Hollywood & Vine, where I went to meet Zach Brooks (of Midtown Lunch and Food Is The New Rock fame) for lunch last week. The place was his suggestion because, apparently, he’s addicted to it. It’s a new concept from the folks that brought you Chipotle; whatever it is they did with Mexican food, they’re doing it here with Asian food (I say “Asian” food because it’s a combination of rice, protein, vegetable, and sauce which could describe various Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai dishes). Despite some lawsuits going on behind the scenes, it looks like Shophouse is going to be a huge hit. Here’s why.
Sometimes you have to tap into your inner Mary Poppins and remind your inner George Banks that flying a kite is a perfectly respectable way to spend an hour or two, even on a busy day. So in the middle of my mad apartment hunting, I gave myself a break by driving up on the highway to Sunland to check out a restaurant I bookmarked a few months ago after Jonathan Gold wrote about it; a Mole-specialty joint called Rocio’s Mole de Los Dioses (aka: Mole of the Gods).
If California falls into the ocean some day, and I find myself living back in New York, you might think that Pizzeria Mozza would be the last place I’d miss with Franny’s and Roberta’s and all the other individual pie places (Motorino, Co., etc.) that would fill that gap. You’d be wrong, though, because Mozza is a lot more than a pizza restaurant. As Amateur Gourmet reader (and Raoul in “Phantom of the Opera”) Kyle Barisich said to me recently on Twitter, “I really think Mozza is LA’s finest restaurant.” Can’t say I disagree.
Pop quiz, hot shot: you’re at dinner, sitting at a table, celebrating your anniversary, and someone puts this glass bowl in front of you.
Do you: (a) Admire this beautiful display as a table decoration or do you (b) Eat it? The answer, it turns out, is both.
Here’s what I’m starting to get about L.A.: L.A. cherishes its secret hole-in-the-wall dining destinations. People would rather eat at a restaurant that nobody knows about yet than one everyone’s clamoring to get into. In New York, things are more open. For example, the restaurant-of-the-moment in New York right now is Carbone and everyone’s Tweeting and Instagramming and talking to their therapist about going there. In L.A., there are restaurants so exclusive they don’t take reservations and you can’t go to them unless you’re invited (see: Yamakase). I think the L.A. vibe is a product of celebrity culture, one in which well-known people want to remain incognito while enjoying the best life has to offer. As a result, some of L.A.’s best dining experiences are hidden away like little buried treasures waiting for you to find them.
Yesterday I crowned Forage my #4 favorite place to eat in Los Angeles. Even if you don’t live in L.A. or don’t plan to visit any time soon, this is relevant, I think, because what I’m praising here isn’t just a restaurant that makes good restaurant food. I’m praising a place that does something instructive: it makes Michael Pollan-ish food that’s not obnoxiously healthy. It’s all seasonal, it’s all colorful, but mostly it still tastes like a treat when you eat it. Compare the chefs at Forage to the chefs who use fat as a crutch and a calling card, who wrap chunks of lard in bacon, deep fry it in duck fat and call it dinner. Sure that’s sensational and will get you written about, but it may also kill you. Forage shows us how to eat in a way that’s exciting and stimulating while still being healthy and sustainable. What follows are photos of my lunches there over the past year.
Imagine a giant hour glass filled not with sand but with calories. That’s pretty much a perfect visual for this first year of living in and exploring L.A., eating my way from ocean to desert, hopping from cuisine to cuisine. As I said in my post yesterday, for my budget and interest-level, L.A. has more to offer than New York. You can eat extraordinarily well without breaking the bank. So here, then, are my 10 favorite places to eat here… the ones I’ll miss the most when I’m gone for 3 1/2 months. Are they objectively the best? Not by any means; they’re just the ones I’ll be running back to when the plane lands at LAX in January.
As I gear up to go to New York for three months, I’m starting to check things off my L.A. “first year” bucket list. Korean BBQ was pretty high up there, and in my browser where I have a folder called LaFood and subfolders like “Chinese,” “Ramen,” “Sushi,” “Thai,” there’s a folder that says “Korean” and Park’s BBQ is featured prominently in there. So this past Saturday, I gathered up a group, including our new L.A. transplant friends Jim and Jess and we headed to Park’s in Koreatown.