12400 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Dining date: 8/15/13
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.
3114 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90057
Dining date: 7/24/13
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.
8360 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90069
Dining date: 8/7/13
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.
Ramen Burger Pop-Up
77 N Raymond Ave
Pasadena, CA 91101
Dining date: 9/8/13
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.
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.
611 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
Dining date: 7/27/13
In three years, Brian Malarkey’s gotten a strong hold of the San Diego dining scene. His first restaurant was this one in the heart of the gaslamp quarter, opened in the summer of 2010. Three years later, he has five different concepts in the San Diego area and four Searsucker restaurants nationwide. His rapid expansion is expected to continue in Los Angeles at the end of this year with his seafood-centric Herringbone concept.
Staying at a hotel on the outskirts of the gaslamp quarter, Malarkey’s still-popular first restaurant seemed like a good choice. Good thing we made reservations; the place was packed on this Saturday evening (and it’s a huge space!) – the dim lighting, loud music, and trendy feel walked a fine line between restaurant and nightlife lounge. I could see this fitting the Hollywood scene.
The Taste 2013: Field to Fork
Paramount Pictures Studios
5555 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Dining date: 8/31/13
LA Times’ The Taste was held this past Labor Day weekend, completing the largest tandem of LA food festivals in back-to-back weeks (with LA Food & Wine). This is the third year of The Taste in its current incarnation (fourth if the LA Times Celebration of Food & Wine is included) and I’ve attended every single year. This year, the festival encompassed five individual events at the Paramount Studios backlot.
The Taste’s events have a number of similarities to LAFW events, particularly the tasting events (large lineups of all-you-can-eat food/drink). One of the main differences is The Taste’s events tend to be more all-inclusive, including cooking demonstrations, wine/cocktail tasting/demos, and various discussion panels in the price of admission. Speaking of price admission, it’s much cheaper ($65 GA to most events with a variety of discounts available), although another big difference is the more LA-centric lineup of chefs/restaurants represented here.