Have you ever had the experience of eating at a restaurant, one that you sort of took for granted, and as you’re chewing mid-meal you realize that this isn’t just a good restaurant, it’s a great restaurant, and the whole world should know about it only you don’t want them to because that’d make it harder to get a reservation, even though this restaurant doesn’t take reservations?
That’s what happened to me last night at Hail Mary Pizza in L.A.’s Atwater Village (the village in which I live). In the space that once housed the beloved restaurant Canele, something exciting is happening. I knew it when I tasted the tomato salad, but I also knew it when the pizzas hit the table. Actually, I knew it when I stood at the counter ordering.
I was just about to tell you about this quesadilla at Salazar in Frogtown here in L.A. — I’d just posted the picture — when the room started wobbling and the pictures on the piano started rattling and Winston gave me a worried look and I realized I was experiencing my first feel-able L.A. earthquake.
Wow, that was unsettling! I do feel a little woozy: it’s hard to talk about quesadillas. But I’m going to soldier through, just for you.
I had a very good Cyber Monday, if I do say so myself. My KitchenAid mixer has been in decline every since that time, years ago, that I was using it to knead bread dough and heard a giant BOOM in the kitchen, only to discover it had toppled on to the floor, cracking a tile in the process. Now it looks like Darth Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi, its whole back exposed to reveal stray wires and coils (the cover won’t stay on). The other day I accidentally put my hand on one of those wires and it zapped me. The thing is ten years old and so when I saw Jason Kottke link to a KitchenAid mixer deal on Amazon yesterday, it was if the food gods were smiling down upon me. I got the six-quart, professional series in Aqua Sky for $220 less than the normal price. It arrives tomorrow.
I may have also purchased a new food processor, a fire extinguisher (you never know!), and two mid-century serving platters on Etsy that weren’t discounted for Cyber Monday, but I was on a roll, so I just went with it. And then, one of L.A.’s most celebrated restaurants, Trois Mec, posted this on its Twitter feed: “We’re celebrating cyber Monday with a deal of our own! Buy for 2 and eat for 4, or buy for 1 and eat for 2! Valid for today only! Email email@example.com for more details!”
There’s this notion that there’s an objective answer to the question, “Where’s the best place to eat in (insert city name) right now?”
Let me be the first to say that I don’t think it’s possible to be objective about such a thing. In fact, I’m planning a trip to Paris right now and listening to all kinds of advice. Many people are telling me about their favorite restaurants and I’m entering them into Google and though the menus look excellent, sometimes I just look at pictures of the restaurants on Google images and don’t get a great vibe. That’s enough for me to set that place aside, even if the food’s spectacular. Atmosphere matters just as much to me as the food (Craig too). That’s not true for everyone, but that’s true for us.
My friend Toby spent a summer in Bologna during college and over the past few weeks (months?) he’s been talking to me about going to this new Italian restaurant in downtown L.A. called Rossoblu that cooks food from the region. “Yes, we should totally go!” I said in that tone that suggests that there’s a good chance this will never happen. Mind you, I love Toby and I loved the idea of going to a new Italian restaurant in downtown L.A., but the logistics seemed a little tricky. For starters: driving downtown, that’s not fun. Plus I make a lot of pasta at home, did I really need to pay for it at a restaurant? And reading about it online, it sounded very heavy (fried bread? lots of meats and cheese?). But then it was Toby’s birthday and I said, “We should go to Rossoblu!” in a tone that suggested I really meant it. So last night, we finally went.
Recently I became friends with an Amateur Gourmet reader named Peggy who works in T.V. out here in L.A. and who comes from a Taiwanese family. Over the course of our first lunch at Pizzeria Mozza, she casually mentioned that her family frequents the San Gabriel Valley (home of some of America’s best and most authentic Chinese restaurants) and that she’d be happy to show me around there the next time we met up. “We can even go to a Chinese supermarket!” she added and that was like the moment when you pull the handle of a slot machine and all the bells and alarms go off and coins start pouring out. As you all know, I love visiting unfamiliar supermarkets.
It’s a bit of a struggle for me to spend a fortune on sushi. Don’t get me wrong; I really like sushi, but I’m perfectly happy eating the $12 sushi sampler at Jinpachi for lunch in West Hollywood. Craig, on the other hand, is a major sushi enthusiast. He loves the stuff and, if given a choice between an elegant eight-course meal at a palace of fine dining like Le Bernardin or Jean-George vs. an omakase dinner at a well-regarded sushi restaurant, he’d pick the sushi every time.
Is it possible to go to Paris with your friend Diana, eat yourself silly, then come back from Paris to L.A. only to have a French meal just as good as, if not better than, anything you ate 6,000 miles away? The answer is yes and it happened at Petit Trois where Diana and I went for lunch last week. This place is a marvel, one of the best restaurants I’ve been to anywhere in a long time. Don’t believe me? Prepare to be wowed.