It’s been a crazy year for me so far. Not only was I working a lot, but I also was making the attempt of going to a new restaurant I haven’t been to for 52 straight weeks! (That’s a full year folks). I made it to the 26th week, the half way point, and I just can’t go on any further. It’s not the money, but it’s everything else: lack of company, having to curate food lists, the lack of solo dining places, LA parking hell, tapas hell, and getting fat. It sure was a lot of work, so I’ll recap some of my experiences in Los Angeles’ food scenes.
Los Angeles has no shortage to good food, but most often times the best places won’t be found at super expensive places. Korean food in general is a nice staple to Los Angeles due to Koreatown having many affordable restaurants in the area. Beverly Soon Tofu and Myung Dong Kyoja both fit this category (< $20 per person).
A very big disappointment in Korean cuisine was POT for me. Like the Kogi truck, I just never was sold on the founder’s ideas. It really was nothing special or revolutionary. If you want something that really kicks it up, check out “Ondal 2”, which has better flavors – especially with seafood.
Another negative of the Los Angeles scene is the saturation of small dish restaurants. Most of the restaurants I’ve been to were tapas type of places. Picca, Hart+Hunter, Hinoki, Smoke Oil Salt, Red Medicine, and Republique were all very tasty but most likely I probably wouldn’t be back to any of these places unless someone has not been there before.
I’m a big fan of tasting menus in general since I don’t need to selectively pick out things. Scratch Bar, N/Naka, Maude  , and Yamakase were all very good. The chef at Scratch Bar was very friendly, and the tasting was surprisingly affordable, rustic, and good. This is definitely solo diner friendly. N/Naka would be a great place to take a date for a special occasion. I have romanced that thought several times since eating there =]. Maude is one of those restaurants where conceptually it’s very appealing. The thought of having an ingredient of the month drive your dishes for that month alone is very appealing. That means every month will have new dishes and will be a whole new experience. Maude is also solo diner friendly although it’s about 99% couples. On the plus side, they seat you at the chef counter where you can see all the cooks run around making your food. I plan on going to this every month through the end of the year, solo or not. Lastly, Yamakase is by far one of the best, if not the best, Japanese restaurants I have been to in Los Angeles. It will cost you ~$200, but it’s 5 hours of pure bliss. This will probably be a once per year outing for me for some random special occasion.
Moving on, let’s talk about some overrated places. As you know POT was one of them. It simply lacked character and specialty in my opinion. I will never understand why people rate that plus Kogi so highly. The Chicken & Rice place I went to was simply underwhelming. The best part is of course the sauce, but everything else was very abysmal compared to my New York experience. The pictures say it all.
Because I live near Culver City, I tried to go to as many places as I can near the downtown area. East Borough was another place I thought was slightly overrated. The food for the most part was pretty abysmal for the night I was there. I think part of the reason for this was the very undercooked noodles that came out in Phocatini. I did hear lunch is much better though since they will serve banh mis. As an alternate Vietnamese restaurant to this, Phorage is close by and is quite decent.
Lastly, I have to say there is no must go-to place for dim sum. After waiting for 40 minutes for Elite Restaurant, I am going to ignore most common Chinese/Taiwanese cuisine lists. I haven’t eaten many Chinese/Taiwanese places this year simply because I have grown up eating that stuff for most of my life.
I know I have only touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to foods in Los Angeles, so I will still keep blogging about food … just not as frequently. If anything, expect one a month for the rest of Maude.
Time to burn off this gut.