This is the place. I’ve been in L.A. for two years, stalking my way around the San Gabriel valley, slurping noodles at Tasty Noodle House and tearing into salted egg yolk pastries at Sea Harbour. Secretly, I was looking for a place that would put our favorite New York Chinese restaurant, Grand Sichuan, to shame. The only thing that was in the same ballpark was Chung King where I went with Zach Brooks last year. It was ok, but it didn’t blow me out of the water. I’d pretty much let go of the idea of supplanting Grand Sichuan since most of my San Gabriel experiences were Cantonese. Then, last week, I met up with Ganda and Zach for lunch at a place that Kat Odell recommended during my podcast: Chengdu Taste. And the rest, as they say, is history.
There are many cheesy, self-helpy things to say about going outside of your comfort zone and eating unfamiliar foods from unfamiliar cuisines as often as possible. Lately, though, I’ve come to realize that adventuring on the scale of Jonathan Gold and Robert Sietsema or, for that matter, Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern has to be in your blood; as much as you might push yourself, if you’re not drawn to experience new and exotic taste sensations, there’s not much that’s going to change that. Me? I’m somewhere in the middle. I like to break out of my routine, for those cheesy, self-helpy reasons, but would I prefer to eat a good roast chicken instead of drinking cobra blood in Indonesia? Why yes, yes I would.
Imagine being 27 years old and on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard when you find out that your relatively new restaurant in downtown L.A. has just been named by Bon Appetit the “Best New Restaurant in America 2013.” That’s precisely what happened to Chef Ari Taymor in August and his restaurant Alma is now on the lips of every food-obsessed person in the city (maybe even the country).
Being the wily person that I am, I immediately reacted to the news of Alma’s award with a jaunt over to OpenTable where I booked the earliest reservation I could: dinner for 4 on Saturday, September 7th at 9:15 PM.
Last year, an article came out that I immediately bookmarked. It was on AsiaSociety.com and it was written by a man named David Chan who ate at over 6,000 Chinese restaurants in America to determine the best. His list of the 10 Best was notable because all of the restaurants were in California, mostly Los Angeles. As he explained, “More wealthy/professional Chinese settle in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas, and they demand, and can afford, a higher quality of Chinese food.” #2 on his list was a place called Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant and last week, I made plans to lunch there with my fellow food bloggers (and former Clean Plate Club guests) Ganda Suthivarakom and Zach Brooks.
The weirdest thing: we moved to Atwater Village, right next to Glendale, only a few weeks ago. When our New York Times weekend subscription kicked in, I eagerly opened the magazine, as I always do, checking out the food column before attempting (and failing at) the puzzle. To my total amazement, Mark Bittman’s column celebrated a restaurant not in New York or even Connecticut…it was a restaurant in California, but not just anywhere in California: GLENDALE. Right down the street from us. 7 minutes away according to Google Maps. I nearly fainted with surprise.
When I lived in New York, my body was composed of 90% hummus. That’s because I lived close to Hummus Place on 7th Ave. and I’d go there a few times a week for lunch (see this post). And though I’ve attempted to recreate a Hummus Place meal for dinner here in California, it never hits the spot in quite the same way. Which is why, last week, I found myself seeking out a west coast alternative. First place to check out: The Hummus Bar & Grill in Burbank.
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).