Best of LA

I was  in Los Angeles for about 36 hours (6-21 to 6-23-2017). While my time there was short I made sure to eat allll the things. Here’s a round up of what I had, including both fine dining and some cheaper eats.

Bestia

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This industrial-chic hot spot in downtown LA’s Arts District was absolutely packed when I arrived at 9:30pm on a Wednesday. Yet despite the crowd and din of conversation the vibe was buzzy and electric rather than overwhelming.

I was early (of course) and initially sat at the bar. I was told by the bartender that there’s a wait for those seats so I sort of lingered in the corner until my seat was ready. This place is definitely a scene but the staff was still really personable and later my waitress would sing the praises of working there.

I was seated at the chef’s counter, which meant I was perfectly positioned to watch Chef Ori Menashe do his thing. He was nice enough to come around and chat with me for a bit, which I really appreciated. Chef told me he was excited about all the fresh new items on the summer menu and recommended the apricots and cream dessert (made by his wife and business partner Genevieve Gergis).

Menashe’s mother is Moroccan and his father is Turkish so while Bestia is Italian he said he cooks mainly middle eastern cuisine at home. It’s no shock then that his new restaurant opening in roughly three months will be middle eastern, although it will be his first time cooking that cuisine professionally.

Salumi (porketta corto with radish, pickled cucumber, dill, salsa verde; black pepper Lambrusco salami; grilled bread with ‘Nduja and date puree; speck). Oh god was this good. It’s on the menu for 2+ people but if you ask they’ll make a single serving. The porketta itself was good but the accoutrements really kicked it up a notch. I could eat the salami literally forever–not too spicy, not too salty, just perfectly balanced. The ‘Nduja was a great balance of fat and the sweetness of the date puree. Finally, the speck was like a very mild prosciutto without the sometimes off-putting fat taste, just smooth and buttery.

Spaghetti Rustichella (dungeness crab, citrus, calabrian chili, thai basil, onion seed). I live in Maryland and I don’t know that I’ve ever had crab this fresh. You could really taste an immediate light citrus flavor, which balanced nicely with the oil in the sauce. The paste was perfectly al dente.

Perazzi (aperol, amaro, lemon, prosecco, orange oil). Damn this was a good drink. Its dominant flavors were citrus and prosecco, which is obvious reading the ingredients. Think lemon mimosa and then drink about 10 of them.

Apricots and cream (sweet cream ice cream, almond macaron, roasted apricot caramel, clotted cream). This might just be the best ice cream I’ve ever had. It was just out of this world creamy. The macaron was definitely almond-y with a texture that was light yet somewhat sticky in a nice way.

Cassia

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Describing Cassia is going to be difficult because I loved it so much I’m at a loss for words. The decor, the staff, and the food were all absolutely outstanding. As you can see in the picture above, the palette was all white marble, polished concrete, lush green plants, and warm lights. I want to live here.

On the left is Chef Bryant Ng and on the right is Maitre d’ Ralph Waxman. Given how popular this restaurant is I was honestly surprised how warm and welcoming they were. These gentlemen understand what makes a good restaurant great, namely making guests feel like you’re really hosting them rather than just serving them. This, my friends, is how it’s done.

Thai basil margarita (tequila, thai basil syrup, lime, preserved kaffir lime salt). Initially this tasted like a really good regular margarita but once I tore up the Thai basil garnish it really took it up a notch.

Kaya toast (coconut jam, butter, slow cooked egg). This was a gift from the chef and absolutely delicious. It almost tasted like coconut French toast, especially when you dipped it in the egg.

Chopped escargot (lemongrass butter, bacon, herbs, tandoor bread). This was really good. It had the garlic and butter flavor you expect of escargot but in a novel presentation that was really fun.

Grilled pig’s tail (Bibb lettuce, herbs, fish sauce). OH. MY. GOD. This was SO GOOD, like beyond good, like new favorite food good. I think it was the tanginess of the marinade combined with the fish sauce but this had an amazing, slap you in the face kind of flavor that I love.

Vietnamese “sunbathing” prawns (Fresno chiles, garlic, Vietnamese hot sauce). These were not surprisingly spicy and tomatoey.

Whole grilled sea bass (tumeric, dill, lime). This was delicious and then somehow got better. The flavors were salt, butter, and a little lemon, which sound simple but were fantastic.

Vietnamese pot au feu (short rib stew, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, bome marrow, grilled bread, bird’s eye chile sauce, walnut-mustard). Obviously the marrow was amaze. What’s funny is this had an intensely familiar flavor I couldn’t place, which was a combo of pickled onion, beef, and fennel. Finally I realized it kind of tasted like a Reuben!

Kon Loh Mee (egg noodles, Chinese broccoli, ground pork, pork belly, char siu). This was also a gift from the chef–thanks Chef! It had a dark almost nutty flavor or fermented garlic. It also sort of tasted like tsukemen.

Gjusta

Between the wood floor, wood cases, and wooden fridge, this place had a very rustic feel yet totally fresh at the same time. There were soooo many scrumptious looking things to choose from including prepared foods and dry goods like granola. I tried two things but there were about 20 I was interested in.

Multi-Grain Porridge (nut milk, peach, raspberry, cherry). Oh man was this good. I’m an oatmeal gal (erryday, erryday) and this was similar but so different. The grains were black and white quinoa, millet, and farro, which gave it a crunchy texture almost like husks or mustard seeds. The flavor was interesting as well: a little savory almost salty with mint and basil in addition to the sweetness of the fruit.

Toast of the day (pumpernickel, tomato confit, burrata). This was great. The heartiness of the bread contrasted nicely with the delicate–and delicious–toppings. There were also toasts I didn’t try with almond butter and cherries, as well as smoked salmon and cream cheese. Next time!

Tsujita

Tsukemen ramen. This was fun. The starchy noodles are cold and you dip them in a hot broth, that’s so dense and viscous it’s almost like gravy. The flavor was so savory and delicious (not to overuse umami but super umami): there was a seaweed flavor, great pork bits, a soft boiled egg, and really flavorful bamboo. Pro-tip: the restaurant is cash only, it’s pretty hot inside, and there’s usually a wait (10 minutes for me) so be prepared.

Kogi BBQ

Short rib taco and chicken taco. I actually walked over to this food truck four blocks away while I wanted for my seat at Tsujita. I had taco appetizers and man were they good. The truck is Korean so both tacos had a sesame and chili flavor profile. The ribs were tangy and almost sweet while the chicken was more smoky; both were topped with shredded lettuce.

MJ Cafe Express

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I think these little macaron ice cream sandwiches are just adorable. I had the green tea (far left, pink with green ice cream) and the strawberry (middle, green with light pink ice cream). They weren’t mind-blowing but definitely fun and right next door to Tsujita so perfect for dessert.

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