Hakkasan (Beverly Hills, CA)

Hakkasan Beverly Hills
233 N. Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Dining date: 9/28/13

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Hakkasan’s Beverly Hills location opened last week, the latest of three West Coast openings in the past 10 months. This location didn’t open with nearly the splash as the last one (club/lounge/restaurant in Las Vegas), but with the same standards in food that’s awarded the chain Michelin stars in New York and London. I dined at the Las Vegas location in May and thoroughly enjoyed it; I’ve been awaiting this outpost’s opening in order to try more.

Hakkasan’s always sought a fine balance between serious dining and a hip, trendy culture. Its Beverly Hills location, across from Scarpetta and Bouchon, promises to be fairly scene-y already attracting the attention of celebrities around town. Even on this evening, paparazzi were hanging out outside the restaurant awaiting glimpses of anyone worth taking pictures of. I’m always skeptical of the see-and-be-seen restaurants, but Hakkasan seems to have the pedigree to meet the needs of those who are there for the atmosphere and those that just want a delicious meal.

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Connie and Ted’s (Los Angeles, CA)

Connie and Ted’s
8171 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90046
Dining date: 8/4/13

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Connie & Ted’s was one of the most anticipated restaurant openings in LA this year, opened in June. Having made a name for himself at downtown’s Water Grill and his Michelin two-starred Providence, Michael Cimarusti’s name has become synonymous with high-quality seafood in the fine dining space. With Connie & Ted’s, Cimarusti takes his upscale cooking background and relationships with high-quality purveyors into a more casual, more approachable restaurant inspired by New England seafood shacks.

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Maru (Santa Monica, CA)

Maru
12400 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Dining date: 8/15/13

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Maru opened a couple months ago in Santa Monica (on the border of Brentwood), a relocation of a restaurant in Valencia. The man behind the food is chef Jason Park, who mixes the Japanese/Korean influences of his childhood into his classically trained cooking background. A wide variety of sushi and sashimi is offered (which the restaurant self-describes as ‘world-class’), as well as an extensive menu of his Asian-influenced Californian cooking. Desserts are a big part of the menu as well and could stand on their own (as Park’s recent opening of dessert shop Ramekin in Los Feliz earlier this year is proving).

I’d heard good things about the restaurant early on and was invited in for a tasting. On the menu on this evening was a small sample of sushi and sashimi, as well as a good glimpse into Park’s cooking.

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Shibucho (Los Angeles, CA)

Shibucho
3114 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90057
Dining date: 7/24/13

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My friend and I decided to get dinner together with two particular stipulations: that it be sushi-centric and that it be a place neither of us had been to. Finding it difficult to find the ideal restaurant that fit these needs, we turned to Yelp for help. Shibucho ended up being the choice due to its 4-star rating and proximity to downtown. While we should’ve been suspicious of the only 52 Yelp reviews at the time of dinner, Shibucho sounded like a pioneering hidden gem. It’s been serving traditional sushi (no California rolls) in a very unexpected location (Westlake) for 37 frickin’ years (pre-dating Matsuhisa by over a decade). We figured it had to be doing something right. Wrong.

After the meal, my friend said it was the worst meal of the century. I’m not ready to make that claim, but I haven’t yet thought of a worse combination of experience and cost in the past 12.5 years. It was that bad.

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ink. (Los Angeles, CA) [2]

ink.
8360 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90069
Dining date: 8/7/13

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Michael Voltaggio’s ink. was one of the biggest restaurant openings in 2011; I visited the restaurant twice on its opening weekend but it took almost two years to make my next visit (not counting my visit for the 5×5 collaborative dinner last year). While the restaurant’s popularity has cooled a bit since then, it remains a popular choice for Voltaggio’s modern American cuisine. While Voltaggio’s cooking has a strong fundamental base in classical cuisine, he blends a restrained molecular gastronomy flair which he developed during his time as chef de cuisine of The Bazaar.

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Ramen Burger (Los Angeles, CA)

Ramen Burger Pop-Up
Osawa
77 N Raymond Ave
Pasadena, CA 91101
Dining date: 9/8/13

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Keizo Shimamoto’s Ramen Burger is America’s latest food mania since debuting just over a month ago. Shimamoto has served his burger a few times at Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg, generating extremely long lines comparable to the cronut. Already, it’s inspired other restaurants across the country to create copycat versions in order to capitalize on the buzz. This past weekend, the Ramen Burger made its West Coast debut in a limited release (~500 burgers at Torrance’s Mitsuwa Saturday and ~300 at Pasadena’s Osawa Sunday). Even though the event was announced just a few days before the weekend, word spread very quickly and people came out for the burger…big time.

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Saturday’s event had some of the longest lines I’d seen in LA for a food item with an estimated 1,200 people attempting to try the creation (many more were likely deterred upon seeing early images of the line). I decided to attend the Sunday pop-up in Pasadena; luckily, those lines weren’t nearly as long. Still, the wait-time for a burger was multiple hours, the majority spent in the sun on a day where temperatures approached the low-90s. The pros brought lawn chairs and umbrellas, making themselves comfortable for the long waits.

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