December 2018 Weekend Rundown

They are.

I really do love this place.

Junior Chowhound

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Meiji (Costa Mesa)

Fried Squid

Shabu Beef Udon

Grilled Mackrel

Kakuni Bowl


After a family evening at the Los Alamitos Race track, we hopped over to Katella Deli & Bakery for pastrami on rye. My favorite is their “Special” hot pastrami, coleslaw, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing on fresh rye. Garnished with fries and their unlimited house pickles…it was a great comfort meal after a chilly night at the track.
Side note…we were not that successful betting on the ponies. Fun evening nonetheless.

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Catching up on some dinners…

Michael’s Santa Monica

One of the Westside institutions that we’ve never visited until now, Michael’s Santa Monica always felt like a place your parents or grandparents might want to go. The menu never seemed that interesting, but reading an article a few years back from LA Weekly, it was interesting to hear that so many of our established L.A. Chefs came out of Michael’s. Chefs Jonathan Waxman, Mark Peel, Nancy Silverton (of our beloved Pizzeria Mozza, Osteria Mozza, Chi SPACCA fame), Sang Yoon (Father’s Office, Lukshon) and many others.

Then we heard about Michael’s hiring Chef Miles Thompson - the young rising star Chef who started cooking at 13 years old and was formerly of Allumette - to revamp the menu; Jonathan Gold talking about some interesting cooking (as well as a few other reviewers); and it started to sound like a place to try.

We finally made it to Michael’s Santa Monica about a month before Chef Miles Thompson announced his departure.

Spring Ahead (Tito’s Vodka, Lime Leaves, Peach, Strega, Ginger, Orange, Barrel-Aged Bitters):

Decently balanced, a nice punch of Ginger and Orange balanced by the Peach and Bitters.

One thing that felt apparent from the moment we stepped in: Michael’s Santa Monica felt very much like an old-timer’s country club; or a place that had membership privileges. We overheard what appeared to be the manager, along with numerous servers, greet multiple guests by name, along with “Welcome back, [insert name].” “How are the kids?” etc.

All of that is fine, if it didn’t factor into one’s dinner experience if you weren’t part of that club, but unfortunately it did. Quite literally, after our server took our order (after a good 10 - 15 minutes after being seated), we never saw him again for the entire evening(!). :expressionless: :frowning: But more on this later.

Buckwheat Sourdough Bread (Toasted Barley Butter):

This was served room temperature / cold. :frowning: According to the busboy / expediter (who was not our waiter), it was baked in house. Thankfully it had a deep, earthy aroma and good grain flavors in every bite. The Roasted Barley Butter was delicious as well. :slight_smile: If this was served warm / toasted it might’ve been even better.

Squash (Guajillo, Blueberry, Salsa Verde):

Visually it was a bit shocking and not that appetizing at first. However, taking a bite, and this turned out to be the Best Bite of the Evening! :blush:

It sounds rather crazy on paper, but somehow Chef Thompson managed to make it work: The Squash was tender, beautifully roasted, and the hit of Blueberry (not overly sweet, but enough natural sweetness), mixed with his Salsa Verde (that looked more like a Mole Sauce), along with a bit of spicy heat from the Guajillo Chilies combined together to create something that was delicious. :slight_smile:

Peruviana Beans (Black Sesame, Cherums, Chile Oil):

This was a little less successful than the amazing Squash dish, but still OK: The Peruviana Beans were a larger variety, earthy, a bit starchy and having an almost “al dente” quality about them. The Cherums and a bit of heat reminded us of the Squash idea, but it just didn’t combine as well.

Duck Confit (Cucumber, Nectarine, Vietnamese Mint):

I’m always on the lookout for a great Duck Confit dish. Chef Thompson’s version arrives with slightly crisped skin, tender meat, but it was too salty. :frowning: The bite of Nectarine for some sweetness helped to break things up, but if the sodium was reduced a bit, this would’ve been much more enjoyable.

Pappardelle (Rabbit Legs, Porcini, Thyme):

This was a fresh Egg Pasta and arrived tender with as much bite as a perfectly cooked version could have. The Rabbit Legs meat was fine, and the Porcini and Thyme worked well here. Overall a tasty dish, but it had us craving Drago’s Pappardelle with Pheasant and Mushrooms.

Michael’s Santa Monica turned out to provide an interesting look at Chef Miles Thompson’s cooking, but it felt almost anachronistic, with the more progressive, almost wild new takes on flavors and food from the young Chef, contrasting sharply with the old-school vibe of Michael’s (from the decor and ambiance, down to an almost country club / members-only feel at times).

But the most egregious aspect was the horrendous service: As aforementioned, after our server took our order (and he didn’t show up for a good 10 - 15 minutes after we were seated), we never saw him again the rest of the evening. :frowning: We did spot him a couple of times walking to other tables, in rather long and familiar conversations, laughing with the guests and serving them food, etc. For our table, various busboys / expediters from the kitchen showed up to bring our food. We had to wave and get the attention of busboys to get us refills on drinks, or clear our plates away. We even saw our server hang out near the bar area chatting it up with the bartender or other servers (and we tried to get his attention, but somehow never did). This turned out to be the 3rd worst service experience we had at a restaurant in 2018 (yes, there were 2 others that were even worse). :frowning:

And now that Chef Thompson is gone, there’s no reason for us to return.

Michael’s Santa Monica
1147 3rd St.
Santa Monica, CA 90403
Tel: (310) 451-0843

Hock + Hoof (Hock and Hoof)

Hock and Hoof sounded like a really interesting, creative cooking space that made dishes right up our alley, so we couldn’t wait to try it.

Walking in, it’s a fast-casual concept, where you walk up to the bar to order, take a number, and then grab a table.

Burrata, Asian Pears, Watercress, Osmanthus Honey:

The Burrata was wonderfully creamy and the use of Asian Pears with some Watercress was great. However, there was just a bit too much Honey, and when combined with more sweetness from the Asian Pears made it skew a bit too sugary. :frowning:

Fried Chicken + Pandan Egg Waffles, Fried Eggs, Maple Syrup, Coconut Reduction:

At some point, @TheCookie’s reminder crept into my brain, but we couldn’t help but note:

This is nowhere near as good as Howlin’ Ray’s. At all. :cry:

The crust was soggy, greasy, and oversalted. :sob: One of the worst Fried Chicken preparations we’ve had recently, and the trying to combine it with an overly sweet HK-style Pandan Egg Waffles, Maple Syrup (more Sugar) and Coconut Sauce made it really unappetizing. :frowning:

Jalapeno Hash Browns:

Soggy, oil-drenched, with no crispness at all in the Hash Browns (like it was sitting in a pile, pre-cooked already). :frowning:

Braised Beef Tongue, Jalapeno Hash Browns, Balsamic Onions, 63 Degree Egg:

The Beef Tongue was merely OK. Meaty, firm with a bit of chew, it was also a bit too salty, and it lacked any textural contrast with the soggy Hash Browns underneath. If the Hash Browns were actually crisped and crunchy in parts, and the dish wasn’t as salty, this might’ve been a nice Brunch offering.

The only mastery on display here was in this picture hanging on the wall (@JeetKuneBao). :wink:

Hock + Hoof (Hock and Hoof)
517 S. Spring St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Tel: (213) 279-9983


Orto looked like one of those spots that could either be a tourist trap (sitting close to 3rd Street Promenade), or a hidden, relaxed Italian spot for great food. Walking in, we were warmly greeted by a gentleman who we later found out was the owner. Interestingly, he was not only seating all the guests, but he was the bartender(!) mixing drinks the entire evening. It definitely felt like he was working multiple roles to keep the restaurant operating smoothly.

Via Tokyo (Kikori Whisky, Yuzuri, Asian Pear Nectar, Organic Sage, Martini Style):

This was unbalanced, with too much Whisky and even looking beyond that, the flavors just never combined into anything pleasing.

Bread Service:

Sourced from local bakeries, they were served cold / room temperature.

Tagliere dell’Orto (Daily Selection of Italian Premium Cold Cuts and Cheeses, Farmers Market Organic Vegetables):

This was OK. Having put together a few Charcuterie plates at home over the years, it felt like all of the ingredients (sans the seared veggies) were gotten from various sellers and thrown on a plate. It also makes you appreciate the Housemade Charcuterie from places like Republique.

Roman Mule (Aperol, Bitters, Lime Juice, Ginger Beer, Organic Basil, On The Rocks):

Unbalanced again. :frowning: Just boozy and it felt like a nice idea on paper that was not well executed at all.

Insalata dell’Orto (Farmers Market Warm Asparagus, Wild Rucola, Cherry Tomatoes and Truffle Oil):

The Asparagus and Wild Rucola with the Cherry Tomatoes worked. The Truffle Oil was unnecessary and an unfortunate addition.

Cavatelli Tartufati alla Norcina (Umbrian Black Truffles, Black Head Italian Porcini Mushrooms, Sausage and Red Cow Parmigiano):

This was enjoyable, with the mix of Truffles, Sausage and the Cavatelli Pasta combining together in a good way.

Penne alla Bolognese (Wisconsin Black Angus Meat Ragout):

Their Bolognese Sauce was fine, but lacked the depth and deep satisfaction of versions at Pasta Sisters, Felix or Bulgarini Gelato. But the Penne really didn’t match that well with the Bolognese compared to a good Tagliatelle.

Scaloppine di Pollo al Limone (Mary’s Organic Chicken Scaloppine in Lemon and Capers Sauce):

This was sadly mediocre. :frowning: Overcooked Chicken, overcooked Potatoes, in a pretty straightforward Lemon and Caper Sauce.

Orto felt like a safe, neighborhood Italian spot with middling execution on many of their dishes, but with prices that match or surpass many better Italian restaurants. There wasn’t much that we tried that made us want to return.

502 Santa Monica Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Tel: (424) 433-8100


That’s how I felt about Nerano on Little S.M. in Beverly Hills. Sorry for the strike outs @Chowseeker1999.


I remember the good ol’ days when fries weren’t even an option at Tommy’s, just a bag of chips.


Really? Not even Fritos like in Texas? I didn’t think I would because they looked frozen from a bag, but I really like the fries!

Depends on location. Last time I was at the OG tommy’s, still no fries. No shakes either…

When the Los Angeles nights turn subarctic, where else does one go but to BULGARINI GELATO.

Dear god that sweet man is still firing on all delicious cylinders.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for pasta, but fortunately, we had time for gelato + focaccia. He has about five different pear flavors right now, all of which are tops. The seasonal chesnut is worth the price of admission. Macadamia gave me Maui flashbacks. And the pistachio is still in a league of its own. There may not be crying in baseball, but there are tears of joy in the gelato game.

And holy smokes. Y’all weren’t messing with the focaccia. Wonderful crunch with a fluffy interior, and whatever olive oil he is using is too blessed to be stressed.

This is one of my top five places in LA.


Haven’t had much time to post lately, but met a friend at Mizlala a few days ago for dinner. This was our second visit. Ordered the hummus with fried artichokes, lebneh with feta, fried calamari, garlic shrimp, the brussels sprouts and the short rib tagine. We weren’t fans of the shrimp - way too garlicky (and we both love garlic) and there was a strange paste (bean maybe?) under the shrimp that just wasn’t pleasant. Didn’t finish the dish. The tagine was delicious - perfect for the cool weather. The calamari was great — lightly battered and not oily at all.

I wish they didn’t do the mandatory service fee in lieu of tip though - service was really spotty.

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Happy New Year 2019 from Madrid! ¡Disfrutes las doce uvas!


Was wondering about Nerano because it is very near my office, but something always held me back and now I know why. Thanks for the intelligence. P.S. I think Nerano may be owned by the people who own that horrible Italian restaurant in the Century City mall.

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Oh wow, ok. Nice looking spot. I took some pictures and planned on doing a report at some point. They did or still do have cool guest chefs sometimes. But on their own I was not impressed.

Oh wow! Tamales?

My husband just told me he ate 9 Double Chili Cheesburgers at the OG Tommy’s when he was in the 8th grade during a family eating contest.


I dined at Nerano more than a year ago, fully intent on doing a review. It’s a nice location and space, but…

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Holodets has to happen every NYE for us

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Till next year