334 S Main St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Dining date: 3/7/14
I’ve only visited Cheviot Hills’ Sushi Zo a couple of times, but both times I’ve concluded that it was a top-tier sushi place in Los Angeles. So, I was very excited to hear chef Keizo Seki was opening up a downtown location in the Medallion Apartments at 4th & Main. While downtown (particularly Little Tokyo) has a few good sushi spots, I wouldn’t say there is anything really special. There are, of course, some good deals (Sushi Gen) but no destination sushiyas where I feel it’s worthwhile for someone to drive in from outside of greater downtown. Zo is really the first high caliber omakase-only, sushi-dedicated restaurant to open in downtown LA (Q Sushi opened up nearby shortly thereafter and is also cut from the same cloth).
While Zo opened in September, my first visit was just earlier this month – way overdue. The omakase menu runs in the mid-$100 range for around 25-30 courses (it varies depending on what is available).
Din Tai Fung (Xinyi)
No. 194, Section 2, Xinyi Road, Daan District
Dining date: 2/10/14
Din Tai Fung (Zhongxiao)
No. 218, Section 4, Zhōngxiào East Road, Daan District
Dining date: 2/6/14
A visit to Din Tai Fung was an absolute must for me while in Taiwan. In fact, I think it’s on a lot of tourist itineraries as the restaurant has a devoted following from all around the world. I was first introduced to Din Tai Fung’s xiaolongbao (and its oft-overlooked rest of the menu) when I moved to Los Angeles and have thoroughly enjoyed them ever since.
Din Tai Fung, which actually started as a shop selling cooking oil, has a number of locations in Taipei. I was able to try two of them – one near where we were staying in the Zhongxiao Dunhua area and the original location. The original location was crowded with tourists (the vast majority from throughout Asia), all eagerly waiting to dine where it all started. We arrived just after opening on a Monday morning to find a handful of people waiting. It was perfect timing as crowds came soon thereafter; by the time we left the restaurant, dozens waited outside for a seat.
The menu at both locations was significantly more robust than what I had seen in Los Angeles. All of the usual suspects were there – some small plates, soups, noodles, soup dumpling xiaolongbao, and both sweet and savory baos; however, Taipei locations seemed to have more options in each category. Most notably, there were a number of xiaolongbao options I had never seen before. Between our two meals, we dined on some old favorites and some new ones.
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
Bellavita Mall 5F
No. 28, Song Ren Rd, Xinyi District
Dining date: 2/9/14
I’m not sure how it really originated, but I’ve made it a point to dine at Joel Robuchon’s L’Atelier wherever there is one where I’ve traveled. My first visit was to the original Paris location seven years ago now (a restaurant that has maintained a top 25 spot in the highly-subjective Pellegrino Best Restaurants in the World list all these years), and have visited locations in Las Vegas, London, Tokyo and now Taipei.
The decor at this location, located in the upscale Bellavita mall, is very similar to the others – red and black color-scheme and an open kitchen surrounded by bar seats. We dropped in for a leisurely weekend lunch; fixed menu options range from 1260NTD/~42USD up to 2880NTD/~96USD. We each ordered different menus and I went somewhere in the middle.
The Factory Kitchen
1300 Factory Pl Ste 101
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Dining date: 2/25/14
The Factory Kitchen, opened four months ago, is one of the newer entrants to the still-hot downtown food scene, particularly the Arts District. It joins Drago Centro, Bestia and Maccheroni Republic as Italian restaurants to open up in the area in the last couple of years.
The Factory Kitchen has a strong LA Italian pedigree with front of the house Matteo Ferdinandi (CUT, Drago Centro) and chef Angelo Auriana (Valentino) partnering up on the restaurant. Generally, reviews have been positive early on. A lot of people have been comparing this restaurant to neighborhood darling Bestia; given I’m such a huge fan of Bestia, a visit here was definitely in order. There are a number of similarities between The Factory Kitchen and Bestia including they (obviously) both serve Italian fare and share a similar price point, but they are distinctly different in menu and vibe.
Raohe Night Market
Shilin Night Market
Tonghua/Linjiang Night Market
Dining dates: 2/6/14, 2/10/14, and 2/11/14
Like a lot of cities in Asia, Taipei is famous for its street food. Everywhere I went, there were plentiful restaurants and street vendors selling whatever their specialty was. Seriously, food was almost everywhere, indicative of Taiwan’s dining culture which is rooted in these affordable, quick eats. The night markets, with its concentration of food/shopping options, were a great opportunity to eat my way through it.
I had the opportunity to try three of Taipei’s largest night markets – Raohe, Shilin, and Tonghua/Linjiang. Dining in these night markets were often a hectic proposition, so I ditched the DSLR – all of the photos in this post were taken with my iPhone. This picture-heavy post recaps my experiences in all three of these markets.
Taipei 101 85F-1
No. 7, Sec. 5, Xinyi Rd.
Dining date: 2/9/14
Shin Yeh is a restaurant that I came across a lot in preparation for my visit to Taipei from friends, bloggers and various news articles. It offers an upscale take on Taiwanese food and the restaurant group has a number of locations in Taipei, Singapore and Beijing. The best views, and one of the nicer ambiances, is at this one on the 85th floor of Taipei 101. While the original location (also in Taipei) is cheaper, this figured to be a unique opportunity to dine at (or near) the top of one of the tallest buildings in the world.