Visited your wonderful city for the past few days:
Right after landing, some street tacos before our dinner at Felix. Yes, that's way too much onion and I scraped most of it off. Al pastor, tripas, carne asada all hit the spot. I'm not sure of the name, if there is one - it's not a truck, just a picnic table by Centinela.
Felix for the first night:
The Sfincione (foccacia) was great, quite pillowy; Polpette de Maestra Alessandra was pretty good, the meatballs themselves were moist (made of prosciutto and mortadella) but the salsa verde was maybe a touch dry, more like a thick paste; Diavola pizza was very good, with a good char whose smokiness was very nice with their bright pomodoro; Rigatoni all'amatriciana was excellent; as was the Orecchiette w/ sausage sugo and broccoli di ciocco. Their tomato sauce is very addictive.
This is a fun spot with some great food and we'll be back. My pictures are way too dark.
We were in downtown for the next two days:
Little Sister for lunch:
Overall, we were pleasantly surprised. Ma la beef tartare was pretty good, reminiscent of Yukhoe but perhaps a touch sweet; Saigon lemongrass beef vermicelli with chili-lime and the beef and tendon banh mi were pretty good; but our favorite was the bright and complex pho banh cuon. The herbs are very fresh and their fish sauce was dialed in just right.
A very quick drink at Seven Grand after MOCA and The Broad. "Gold Rush" cocktail for happy hour (bourbon, lemon, honey) - not bad, but only $6.
Sushi Gen for dinner (no pictures). Not the best one can do in LA (in the US, I think there's probably about ~4 tiers higher), but a fairly casual spot that can be pretty comfortable and can hit the spot if you go in with the right expectations. I think it's a bit above Hide Sushi in Sawtelle but a clear step down from somewhere like Nozomi in Torrance. We decided to try this since we were in Little Tokyo and the wait for the sushi bar wasn't bad at all. ~20 pc for ~$100/pp. I probably won't be back anytime soon, even if I don't regret trying it. I get that it's an institution, but there are clearly better sushi-yas in town from a technical standpoint, such as...
Q Sushi for lunch the next day.
We did a very quick "Wakaba ($75) - 11 piece" lunch omakase that was very good. Chef Hiro-san had just brought out a fresh pot of rice, and his skill is palpable. In fact, the wild kanpachi sashimi with onion sauce was probably the best bite of my trip. The akami with su-miso seemed like an unusual combination, but the sauce had an underlying citrus element that worked with the tuna's mineral flavors. The rice is quite firm, but the proportions and mouthfeel were otherwise right on. I thought it worked well with the shimaaji, whose softness was a nice contrast to the rice, which commanded focus. I wasn't expecting to be served ikura, since it's out of season to my knowledge, and the house-marinade was quite faint, but the nori is superbly crisp.
You're served 11 "pieces," but 2 of them are 3-piece sashimi dishes.
Bluefin akami sashimi with su-miso sauce
Kanpachi sashimi with onion sauce
Shimaaji (striped jack)
Madai (sea bream)
Akami (lean tuna)
Toro (fatty tuna)
Masunosake (king salmon)
Ikura gunkanmaki (salt marinated salmon roe)
Uni gunkanmaki (red sea urchin gonads, from Santa Barbara)
Kasutera-style tamago (egg omelette, in the style of Castella cake)
Shibumi for dinner.
We did the food omakase and I had the beverage omakase, too. The space is chill (I like the music, but YMMV), the staff is friendly, and I like that they take some chances with some dishes. The 9-10 plate omakase is reasonable at $90, and is a mix of the ala carte menu and a couple small delicacies. The best dish, in my opinion, was the Grilled Heritage Pork marinated in koji for a week, served with daikon pickled in amazake. It was nice with the Minato Tsuchizaki Yamahai nama genshu, a high-alcohol unpasteurized sake, and together there was a good mix of funk, umami, and sweetness. The cheesecake with candied pear and late harvest tokaji was very nice, too, and I liked that one could taste the rice in the "rice cream."
Pizzeria Mozza in Newport Beach for lunch while visiting some friends/family.
Nothing new, but certainly competent and savory and we didn't know what else was in the area. The pizza crust was very puffy but crunchy and well-done.
Gwang Yang for dinner.
I still have a preference for Park's, but Gwang Yang is up there. Their kimchi-jeon is chunky and well-crisped, less doughy than that at Park's. Yukhoe is a touch sweeter and spicier, too. As far as barbecue goes, it's on black charcoal and it's very good. We had the bulgolgi (Gangnam style, light marinade) and marinated galbi.
Luv2Eat for lunch.
Jade noodles, duck and pineapple red curry, grilled pork with chili lime sauce, hat yai fried chicken. Great stuff, and spicy (we ordered it "spicy," and they really mean it)! The grilled pork was our favorite, and the duck curry was awesome, too. Chicken was a bit dark and heavy, and the sticky rice was a touch hard, but this is some great Thai food and I'm excited to return for more of the menu.
Rose Cafe for dinner with friends (no pictures).
The new Rose Cafe is a fun spot, the food a bit bold and eclectic but overall pretty good. You're here more for the scene and fun of the space, but there's something for everyone and it's competent. The pastas were tasty though a bit strange (wakame spaghetti with uni butter, crab, pickled jalapenos, yuzu; pork, artichoke heart, and truffle raviolo - yes, one, but it winds around like a snake). Miso hangar steak with charred treviso was good, brussels with onsen egg and dashi predictable but good, scallop crudo with cucumber and yuzukosho vinaigrette were ok, but the baja shrimp cocktail with poblano salsa verde and cherry tomatoes was probably the best dish. Cocktails varied, but their pineapple-rye drink ("Algonquin") goes down like juice.
New York later this month!