Part two of our meals in Los Angeles is right here, right now. From classic Italian to fusion American and dozens of delicious oysters in between… Karrie and I got a great glimpse of the food scene in Los Angeles and we’re excited to return for more! Join me now as we revisit some delicious, delectable, and yes, calorific meals. 🙂
Dames That Do Dinner: A Game of Seen & Be Seen
6300 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
Cuisine: Japanese | Price: $$$ 1/2 | Food: 4.5/5 | Service: 4/5 | Ambiance: 3.5/5 | Noise Level: Loud
With Rihanna (or a weird uptempo dance versions of Mumford & Sons songs) blasting in the background, the dark (dark!!!) room engulfing us, and Sofia Boutella & Robert Sheehan (see above, right) sitting at the table adjacent, Katsuya is hip, happening, and the place to be. Our first dinner in Los Angeles immersed us completely in Hollywood life, and it hit us, our tastebuds, and our wallets. With a $35 sashimi box, delectable foie gras robata, and a(n unpictured) lobster dynamite roll running $23, the fresh seafood and killer cocktail combo make for a delicious (and expensive) Friday night.
Given the drought in California, all our servers made a point to mention that they can’t just freely refill water at tables in an effort to conserve, so we had to ask for water whenever we needed a refill! Weird to get used to, but they were always so apologetic about it (fair enough; it goes against one’s training!). Though our order was initially done up wrong (they delivered the sushi assortment, not the sashimi), it was quickly rectified as soon as we pointed it out.
Though it wouldn’t be the place I’d go if I wanted to have a proper conversation with my dinner companion, it’s definitely a place for good food and even better people-watching.
8897 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
Cuisine: Italian | Price: $$$$ | Food: 5/5 | Service: 4/5 | Ambiance: 4/5 | Noise Level: Loud
The place is so old school that it doesn’t even have its own website. But… if you have food this good and reputation this solid, you don’t need a fancy website or OpenTable. Sure enough, when we arrived for dinner, the place was packed, and those who walked in without calling ahead (weeks ahead) were left with either a long wait or sore disappointment.
Family run-and-owned, Madeo’s patriarch (a sweet looking nonno) walks around the room, greeting each table like they’re in his own home. He and I carry on a conversation in half-English, half-Italian, and he takes my order. When his son checks in on us (he looks much more like the guy officially running the show) and we mention his father took the order, his wary, “You… are you sure about that? He… okay then…” response, gave us a laugh, but never did I once worry that we weren’t going to be cared for. From the bread service (with olive oil and balsamic, naturally) at the beginning to my cappuccino at the end, the atmosphere, service, and vibe of the room felt very familial. Of course, I couldn’t help but imagine some Soprano-esque types holding court in the corner of the room (and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did), and the line “Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes” may have crossed my mind once or twice… but that only added to the experience (in my head).
The food, on the other hand, was just to die for. There was no fancy plating here, no crazy dry ice presentation or anything… just the food, shining through at its very finest. Beautiful burrata salad, delicate spinach ravioli, mushroom risotto, and succulent lamb… with a gorgeous glass of Barolo alongside. This was Italian food perfected by years of tradition, repetition, and experience. Of course, that isn’t to say that nouveau cooking isn’t something to be embraced, or that tradition shouldn’t be subverted (one day, I’ll visit Osteria Francescana, I swear it)… but sometimes, the old way really is exactly what you’d wanted.
After a hug and a handshake and a greeting of “Buona Pasqua!” we were on our way, and we rolled into bed with full stomachs and happy hearts. Madeo doesn’t look like it has any intentions of getting on social media, or getting a website, or taking reservations any other way but by phone… and you know what? It works for them. You do you, Madeo. You keep using your Comic Sans. And you keep giving us the best classic Italian food in town.
The Church Key
8735 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
Cuisine: New American | Price: $$$ | Food: 3.5/5 | Service: 4.5/5 | Ambiance: 4.5/5 | Noise Level: Moderate
Recommended to me by my friend and colleague Christine, I was absolutely excited to dine at this restaurant. The aesthetic is gorgeous. Exposed ceilings and walls, graffiti on the fireplace and by the washrooms… the vibe is industrial and modern but still warm (imagine walking into a lived-in, comfortable Crate & Barrel).
The food – they describe it as “New American” – was a melting pot of cultures and flavours, all tied together with a distinct down home American cookin’ flair. By far the stand out for me was Chef Ryan Ososky’s specialty – Pierogies with Apple Butter, Aged Gouda, Crème Fraîche and Chives (can be seen in the main photo above, left, second from top). As of this writing, the menu’s been updated with the seasons and the dish is now served with Peach Butter. We also had some delectable Kusshi oysters, Dungeness Crab Crepes with Smoked Scampi Hollandaise… but as you can see we had a lot of little dishes too.
Aside from their a la carte menu, The Church Key also has “dimsum” carts – every few minutes, servers make rounds pushing trolleys or carts with little bites. We had everything from Peanut Butter Short Ribs to their version of Shrimp Cocktail to homemade Salami Hot Pockets! With the dimsum, they just keep track using a stamp system (seen in the centre of the main photo) and add up the total at the end. My favourite bit was the frozen cocktail — this server came by pushing a Pan Am airlines food trolley, and with some dry ice magic made a freezie/freezer pop-esque cocktail for Karrie and I… absoutely delicious and slushy.
While we had a lot of winners (I want those pierogies again, please), a few of the dishes were hit and miss for me. The sushi roll, for example, had yummy flavours, but the rice was steamed to the point that it was one gelatinous block as opposed to being individual grains, and some items (like the short ribs) would have been amazing served hot, but because they were on the trolley, were room temperature / cold, which I found somewhat detrimental to the dish. I love the dimsum concept, though – we could have happily noshed on dimsum all night and not order a single a la carte dish… perhaps some things just work better than others with that service style.
It was great to meet Chef Ryan and I absolutely want to go back for more on my next visit! I’ll have to try some of their killer cocktails next time, too. In the meantime, I’ll just have to keep dreaming about those pierogies.
1401 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA
Cuisine: Japanese | Price: $$$ | Food: 4/5 | Service: 4/5 | Ambiance: 3.5/5 | Noise Level: Moderate
After a long and gorgeous day spent at the pier and on the beach, Karrie and I made our way to Sushi Roku for dinner. Packed to the brim, we were fortunate that they could squeeze in a deuce that arrived with no reservation!
Given our great luck with oysters over the days prior, we had some more again here – fresh, sweet, and perfect. The grilled salmon with mash & seaweed was perfectly cooked, but the most decadent bit of it all was the hamachi-wrapped foie gras with black truffle and gold leaf (above, top left). Melt in your mouth amazingness.Yes, Karrie and I have been quite spoiled on this trip in the foie department… and it won’t be the last time we have it either!
Service was quick and pleasant, but one thing that bothered me was that the tables were quite close to one another (so close that the guy next to me and I bumped knees at one point), and I could listen in on their whole conversation.
Ultimately, we couldn’t help but go to another Japanese restaurant. Much like the Pac NW, California too is spoilt for choice seafood-wise and that really shone through with the food we had. A lovely last dinner in California!
Conclusion: The LA food scene – while perhaps not Michelin-filled like NYC or Chicago – is still filled with quality at every turn and price point, and it’s only continuing to grow more and more. From fresh and bright salads to hearty, rich and decadent pasta, LA has most certainly got you covered. Indeed, dinner also seemed to be just as much about who you were with, who you saw, and what you heard as much as it is about the food itself — fortunately the quality didn’t lack!
Next time on The Shortcrust: What the heck did we do in Los Angeles for five days? Stay tuned to find out. 🙂
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The #JKTravel2015 Series
Post #1: Los Angeles – Where We Stayed
Post #2: Los Angeles – Where We Ate: Brunch Edition
Post #3: Los Angeles – Where We Ate: Dinner Edition (You’re on this page right now!)