As I mentioned from my review of Hakata Yamaya in Torrance, I had taken a few days in Los Angeles after being stuck at home through the holidays. The Los Angeles area has some of the most interesting foods in the US these days, and I wanted to explore it further the 3.5 days I was there.
I went to a few old favourites (such as the aforementioned Hakata Yamaya and of course Il Grano, my favourite restaurant in the world — review forthcoming!), but also checked out a few newbies like Night+Market. Aside from the headache of getting between locations (especially if imbibing), LA is one awesome food destination.
After my offaly-good meal at Hakata Yamaya, the next day I proceeded to another of my usuals. I headed to Back Home in Lahaina. This Hawai’ian place in Manhattan Beach is one of my guilty pleasures, as I miss the taste of Hawai’i so much. I had my usual grindz kalua plate for lunch…mmm, ono…
That evening I headed back to Il Grano for an awesome 13-course tasting (review forthcoming!) that knocked me out a bit (too much wine!) for the next day. I had taken it easy, skipped lunch, and did the aforementioned Night+Market that evening. The next day, having to switch hotels (thanks to the damn Golden Globes), I stopped off at the venerable Marty’s Hamburger stand. I grabbed a double cheesburger and a fire-dog for a nice lunch.
To be honest, the burger was not as good as I had hoped, but the fire-dog was solid. I still think Jack-in-the-Box is the best burger around, with Shake Shack running a close second. In-and-Out is worse than Burger King…
That night I headed to the final seating of the pop-up restaurant Barbershop, which featured the food of my friend Walter el Nagar, who I met at Il Grano. As the nature of a pop-up is not permanency and also experimental, I decided against a full review. Based at the soon-to-be new location of popular eatery AOC, I was greeted with a prosecco to the large communal table by sommelier and host Mario Vollera.
This was a special night, as it was the last seating for this rendition of Barbershop, and it featured what Walter said were the best offerings of the weeks. Of the dishes presented, three really stood out. The risotto, featuring fine carnaroli rice, was spectacular with the surprising sting of licorice (which was stunning with the pairing). The wine pairings were just awesome all night, btw…
Again, let me apologise about the photo. It was dark and I stood by my rule about not using flash, so these are rather edited. The second of the choice dishes that stood out was the spaghetti cozze, in which the shellfish flavour really, really stood out. Awesome full flavours that will just make a shellfish lover drool for more!
And the third (sadly photo-less) was the pork jowl, which was a fabulous piece of meat, tender and smooth. Walter playfully named this dish amatriciana senza pasta… There were some minor misses, such as the opening crudo and the apple pie dessert, but it was a good overall experience. And I am looking forward to Walter continuing to grow his magic to something a little more permanent — after he takes the show on the road! So when Barbershop rolls into your town, definitely check it out!
Finally my last meal in Lalaland was with my mate Simon Majumdar, and he recommended Caulfield’s in Beverly Hills (at the Thompson Hotel). He proclaimed it some of the best cooking in the LA area these days, so we headed there for a feast on Golden Globes night. I usually don’t like to write a full review when dining with other people, especially one with whom you also engage in excellent conversation, so you’ll have to do with this mini-review.
We ran into Caulfield’s maestro Stephen Kalt dining with Bobby Flay and had a quick chat before attacking the cocktails and food. Some of the dishes were fantastic, such as the Iberico presa and the wagyu hash. I love hash, and I love presa, so it was a pretty great duo!
I also enjoyed the burrata pizza and a choice selection of cheese that closed the meal. Caulfield’s is a cozy-but-chic place that features excellent, innovative cooking without the BS that comes with top-ranked restos in that part of town, definitely worth a repeat when I’m back in town.
So as I head out of LA and onto the 2nd part of this trip, it made me think…if food is so endlessly good in LA, what’s keeping me away from this place? Then a Datsun (yes, a Datsun) with no headlights cut me off…and I suddenly remember why I have a love-hate-loathe relationship with Lalaland…
Back Home in Lahaina
916 North Sepulveda Boulevard
Manhattan Beach, CA
Marty’s Hamburger Stand
10558 West Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA
8022 West 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA
9360 Wilshire Boulevard (at the Thompson Hotel)
Beverly Hills, CA