I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Ethiopian food is my all time favorite food ever; if I had to eat one cuisine for the rest of my life this is it! In college, I literally ate at Berkeley’s Ethiopian Restaurant twice a week. So when I moved back to West Los Angeles, the berbere glazed arms of Little Ethiopian comforted my little broken heart.
Awash is located just off the main Fairfax strip—on Pico where parking is infinitely easier. From your prime parking spot, meander behind the black metal security gates into the florescent lit dining room. Ignore the ‘lived in’ quality of the space, although it will send germaphobes running. Personally I could care less: the tables are clean, the bread is warm and the rickety wooden bar is packed with beer drinking Ethiopian men.
In a benign strip mall, on Sunset Blvd, hides a sushi bar that many people refer to as “the best in town!” Saito’s Sushi is walking distance from my prime Happy Hour haunt, Tiki Ti, and has become the number one spot my friends and I hit up after sloshing it up on rum and pineapple and Toro chasers! Er… I realize tropical drinks plus sushi sounds like a terrible idea, but there have been no ‘regrettable moments’ from this mix: A testament to the quality of Saito’s fish—and vegetables. The interior is sparse, a somewhat understated mess, with a simplicity reflected in the sushi.
The day I moved (back) to Los Angeles was wrought with peril. But a cross-country flight, two terrified cats and the abandonment of life as I’d know it could not quash my higher function: Hunger. As vegetarian-orientated as California is, the caliber of the local vegetarian options simply does not compare the echelons of New York. I was ready for disappointment. Fortunately, I was met at LAX by my parents and a Thai Chickin’ salad from The Veggie Grill.
Mandarette is where magic happens. Literally! My friend is totally obsessed with Dexter and spent the whole day on a notable (annoying) looking-up-Michel C. Hall-on-the-internet-bender. We met up for dinner at Mandarette that night and Michel C. Hall walks in with us! He even smiled at her! She turned to stone, starstruck–or having a heart attack– then her face lit up with pure bliss. Needless to say, we “had to” walk past his table all night while “going to the bathroom.” So, if there’s an LA celebrity you’d like to run into, think intensely of them all day, then you too might see them at Mandarette!
But I’ve digressed without even starting. Let’s get to the REAL reason we’re here: FOOD!
It’s great to have friend in high places… or hot kitchens! I got an invite to the preview brunch at Santa Monica’s Areal, a breezy white washed patio with a farm to table menu. Through clenched teeth, the kitchen brags that everything is made from scratch and you can taste it in every dish they put out.
Mobbed every Sunday brunch, many people forget about Larchmont Bungalow when heading out to dinner. At night, this spacious café become a quite sanctuary for a casual meal with friends. The menu is fairly meat heavy, but a pretty hand written board highlights all their NEW vegan options! The obvious choice is the easy to share Vegan Nachos ($9.95). Light and crispy homemade tortilla chips are topped with vegan cheese (Daiya, the best band out there), whole black beans and thin slices of fresh jalapeno. With the perfect amount of salt and heat we could not stop eating the nachos, especially when loaded with the pico de gallo and fresh guacamole.
I love talking about ice cream in the winter… I live in California, so I can! I don’t remember when we, as a people, moved past the standard 31 flavors, but artisanal ice cream is now found in every nook of this country. I’m not a desert person in general—and I’m far removed from those girls who ease their pain with a nibble of dark chocolate or a pint of Häagen-Dazs—but every so often I stumble across an ice cream shop that seems to read my mine!
So, what is Brazilian pizza? If Bella Vista Brazilian Pizza is a good representation, then it is a thin crispy crust with delicate, but a piecemeal collection of toppings. Bella Vista is an homage to the Bexiga neighborhood —AKA the “Little Italy” of São Paulo, Brazil— one of the biggest hubs of Italian culture outside of Italy. I invited the Serious Eats LA MeetUp group to this little spot. Though it doesn’t sound like a particularly excellent example of pizza, the abundance positive reviews intrigue.
I’m not a star chaser. I’m not! Really! But… would I have cared about The Gorbals if not for Top Chef? Er, probably not.
In need for a last minute dinner reservation anywhere downtown, The Gorbals popped up on Open Table so I booked it. Illan Hall wasn’t a favorites on the show, but—much to the chagrin of my school teachers—TV tells me what to do these days.
In the pre-ultrahipsterazation lobby of the Alexandria Hotel an unremarkable door hides The Gorbal’s sparse dining room. Populated with utilitarian wooden furniture and down-lights, it’s a refreshingly quiet space from a winner of a reality television show. Although the unpretentiousness of the space is muddled by the paint-by-numbers predictability of the hostess’ high-waisted jeans and plastic rimmed glasses.
The menu is broken down by animal, with a neat little omnivore section for the likes of me (and you?)! The Pimento Cheese & Corn was sadly out of stock, still we ordered a nice assortment of hits and misses that gave me a clear picture of Chef Illan’s cooking point of view.
Yes, even without the meat.
Our meal kicked off with the Persian cucumbersand clearly not canned Garbanzos Beans tossed with Sesame Oil and Sumac ($8). Wading in a puddle of what I assumed to be watered down sesame oil, the cucumbers were ‘kicked up a notch’ with sumac. Apparently I didn’t know what sumac was before this meal, but I’ll never forget it now! Though the red color implies spiciness, it’s more like a sharp dusting of lemony zest! Fabulous!
This weekend is my dear friend Dani’s wedding but perhaps more importantly, my first ultra vegetarian-friendly wedding dinner! Catered by Heirloom LA, I was lucky enough to attending the tasting a few weeks back.
Kicking off the wedding with inspired tray passed appetizers. The twice-baked potato with crème fraiche are perfectly savory and soft, topped with delicately sharp chives and homemade crème fraiche. But it’s the unassuming yellow disk of lemon polenta that stands out. The chives and wild mushroom ragu atop a crispy lemon polenta cake are an unexpected bite of acidly citrus that is thoroughly addictive!