Coming from Vegas, we tend to go for the things we can’t get out here in the desert.
First stop, just up the street from our AirBnb: Fish Grill. We each had the grilled seabass with Med salad – the fish was good quality, but a small portion, and incompetently grilled – the parts that made contact with the grill were all falling apart and torn off from the main pieces of fish. Normally we’re pretty happy with that type of place (simple fresh grilled fish), and really enjoy places like California Fish Grill in the OC, or Pier 76 in Long Beach, but this place didn’t cut it – we wouldn’t return. I guess we’ll try Connie & Ted’s next time. Then off to Mashti Malone for orange blossom ice cream – very flavorful as always. We might have to bring some back with dry ice on the next trip.
Later that night, we had dinner at L’Assiette – their signature steak frites. It was pretty good, but GF liked it better than I did. I found the texture of the sous-vide steak a bit offputting, although the flavor was fine (others have mentioned this issue). The frites were quite good, with a true potatoe-y flavor, but they weren’t noticeably superior to well-executed twice-fried Belgian-style frites – I’m not sure it was worth their 24-hour, 8-step process. The sauce was very tasty though, and getting a divided serving of the steak and frites was a nice touch – as was the little gravy boat with the requested extra sauce. Sorrel soup was good also.
Next morning was a breakfast and pastry quest (for me anyway – SO is not a morning person). Having heard such raves about the Cofax breakfast burrito, I tried one – it was very tasty with good balance and a good combination of flavors. I had the chorizo version, as that’s the only one that includes the smoked potatoes from Bludso’s – I did add bacon though. As for the raves about the green salsa, well, it was plain old green salsa to me. More on the burrito later. Since I was there anyway, I thought I’d try one of Nicole Rucker’s donuts, as someone on FTC said they’re the best in town. Not in my view. I tried the honey sea salt donut, and it was certainly salty (salty pastries are her thing apparently), but as donuts go, it really wasn’t that good. Having previously enjoyed her Mexican Lime and Chocolate Chess pies at Bludso’s, I guess I had high expectations. Some of her donuts (bacon, and a cornflake thing) were pretty, though.
Since I was nearby anyway, I stopped off at Bob’s Donuts in the Farmer’s Market for a plain glazed, just as a donut reality check. Sorry Nicole R., but that’s what a raised donut is supposed to be like – light and airy, not a bready puck. In all fairness though, the Bob’s donut had a slight fried-at-the-carnival taste (old oil?), where Nicole’s offering had a cleaner flavor. Something to be said for quality ingredients.
I then hit Sycamore Kitchen to try a Buttercup, their said-to-be better version of a Dominique Kouign Amann. Sorry sir, only on weekends. So I got one of those salted caramel babkas, a tiny browned butter date cake, and a nice flourless brownie. Meanwhile, SO arose and tried some of the things I brought back from breakfast, although (apart from ice cream) she’s not that into sweets. She also liked the breakfast burrito, but neither of us were impressed with the smoked potatoes in the burrito – they tasted like plain old potatoes to us. If you want good smoked potatoes, try the smoked peewee potato side at Maple Block, with crème fraiche, chives, and espelette. The Sycamore pastries were all very good – the babke was excellent, and SO loved the flourless brownie.
Early dinner at Taix – SO started with the moules, I had the French onion soup, and we each had the braised oxtail special. Moules were excellent, and the FOS was a flavorful classic version that wasn’t too salty as it so often is. The oxtails were pretty tasty, but we wouldn’t order them again. Too much work to get to the meat – it reminded me of picking blue crab. We do love the old-school ambiance of that place though, although we got a funny look from the waiter when we ordered the oxtails – maybe he was trying to tell us something. We usually like pretty much everything we order there.
More ice cream, this time at Carmela. SO had dark chocolate w/cacao nibs; salted caramel for me. It was OK, but their ice cream is far too soft – it almost seemed like something was wrong with their freezer. Maybe some people like it that way, but not us. Also, $5.50 for a single scoop seemed a bit high. We parked across the street at the Gilmore parking, but Carmela didn’t validate. No problem – I just walked over to Trader Joe’s in the same lot, and bought something there to get validated.
Next morning, breakfast at Sycamore Kitchen (eggs benedict and home fries – both good) while SO slept in, then off to Dominique Ansel to pick up their famous DKA. It was good, but somewhat glue-y in the middle. Neither of us thought it was as good as Bouchon’s version.
Off for a mid-afternoon lunch at Hop Woo in WLA, for their Cantonese-Style Steak Filet, which looked exactly as it did in the photo that J_L posted on the DOTM steak thread last month. Not worth the drive, however. Yes, it was tender, but in a rubbery, tenderized, cheap-meat sort of way. As ipse mentioned, you’re not getting filet at those prices, but it was still disappointing.
Since I didn’t eat that much of the Chinese steak, I had an early dinner of goulash at Wirtshaus. I don’t care for spaetzle, and they were kind enough to substitute their fried potatoes with onions. Lots of nice onions, but the goulash itself seemed cooked to death; although the meat was tender, the whole dish seemed dried out, oversalted, and not flavorful.
On the way back I picked up some brisket at Bludso’s for a later meal. Fall-apart tender, but so salty as to be almost inedible. Just Maple Block for brisket from here on in.
Winding up on a more positive note, the morning we left, I picked up breakfast-to-go at Sycamore Kitchen and brought it back to the AirBnB. Another flourless brownie and some excellent breakfast potatoes for SO, and a good chorizo-egg sandwich for me. Finally, on the way out of town, our usual Langer’s curbside pickup of a pound of pastrami and a loaf of rye for the next day at home. Being mid-day, mid-week, it was a pleasant return drive home without the usual weekend traffic.
It was nice staying in the neighborhood near many of the restaurants we went to, and thus avoiding a lot of driving around.
A note on ice cream: I read one of the comprehensive FTC threads on LA ice cream, but opinions on favorites were quite varied. As noted above, Carmela was disappointing to us. I stopped in at Cremerie (Republique’s ice cream shop on La Brea), and tried a sample, and was less than impressed. Good fresh flavor (tangerine), but once again, way too soft. Is this an LA thing? Looking at Salt & Straw’s strange flavors online, we decided to pass, and instead picked up a pint of McConnell’s salted caramel at the grocery store, which turned out to be the best ice cream of the trip (next to Mashti Malone’s orange blossom, anyway). Maybe we’ll try Sweet Rose next time.