Category Archives: *West LA

Churros Calientes

11521 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(424) 248-3890
 
churroscalientes.com
http://www.yelp.com/biz/churros-calientes-los-angeles
 

Ever since our Europe trip to Spain last year, my friends and I have been scouting for a Spanish-style churros place in LA.  So we were really excited to see that there’s a highly-reviewed one in West LA!!!  Churros Calientes is a very small place, easily missed if you’re driving along Santa Monica Blvd.  We went on a Sunday and it was pretty easy to find metered street parking in the area.  We went at the perfect time, because we snagged the last table — can’t imagine how crowded it must be normally; I think it fits 12-15 the most inside.  There are just a few tables, with a few bar seatings.

Besides churros, Churros Calientes also has a small menu of soups, salads and bocadillos (Spanish style small sandwiches).  As we came here after lunch, we didn’t get to try them.  Next time!

 

Look for the sign and the al fresco seating!

 

The bar seating area – as you can see, the place is pretty narrow….

 

We liked the handprints along the wall!

 

The churros con chocolat!  An order comes with 6 pieces of the churros with a small cup of the chocolate.  Very close to the ones at Chocolateria San Gines in Madrid, except the chocolate at Churros Calientes has a bit of almond flavor. The hot chocolate was rich and chocolatey, without being overly sweet.  The churros were light and crunchy.  We went for the original but you can also order filled/topped churros (chocolate, strawberry, guava, etc).  Yummy!  $6.75

 

The coffees at Churros Calientes are actually quite good as well!  The café con leche aka latte came in a large mug.  $4

 

Enjoy a leisurely afternoon, with some churros con chocolat, coffee and soothing flamenco music!

Kate Mantilini

9101 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

(310) 278-3699

http://www.yelp.com/biz/kate-mantilini-beverly-hills

http://katemantilinirestaurant.com/

 

I’ve been to Kate Mantilini’s a few years ago for an alumni networking lunch and had a pretty good impression of the food.  But, since LA has so many diverse offerings, I haven’t been back until one of my friends said that she had a Groupon.  So, dinner was decided.  🙂

Surprisingly, there is ample street parking near Kate Mantilini’s.  The meters are free after 6pm.  However, for those of you squeamish about street parking, valet parking is also available. On the night that we dined, the restaurant was pretty packed, so reservations are recommended.  Service was very friendly and our waiter kept checking on us throughout our meal.  He  entertained us with the restaurant’s history, some new potential menu items and even let us sample some dessert!  It was quite a memorable meal.

 

Seafood linguini with pesto — this was one of the daily specials, so not sure how often they have this.  Since I still have a bit of shellfish allergy, I informed our waiter, who immediately said that it was not a problem.  He had the kitchen substitute the prawns with extra seafood!  There were lots of clams, salmon, mussels and squid.  The seafood was perfectly cooked and the pesto sauce was garlicky and flavorful.  Awesome!  $22

 

The hobo steak — is basically grilled meatloaf with sauteed kale and mashed potatoes.  The meatloaf tasted so good!  Our waiter even made us his secret hot sauce to accompany it.  Yum!  $18.50

 

Homemade lemon icebox pie — this was so good!  Light and tart~  $6.95

 

Our waiter treated us to this dessert – apple cobbler with cinnamon ice cream.  The warm apple cobbler had a vanilla sauce.  The cinnamon ice cream tasted like horchata.  Both were really tasty!  $8.50

K-ZO

9240 Culver Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232

(310) 202-8890

 

http://www.k-zo.com/

http://www.yelp.com/biz/k-zo-culver-city

 

I found this great spot while perusing through the menus during the last DineLA event back in July.  Although reviews were really great, I wasn’t expecting much, since c’mon, how great can sushi be on the Westside when compared to Little Tokyo or South Bay?  But I’m happy to say, it quite blew me away!

The restaurant is located right next to the Trader Joe’s in downtown Culver City.  Parking is easy — just park in the same structure as Trader Joes, first 2 hours is free if I remember correctly.  There is limited sushi bar seating, and the restaurant is not big by any means, so reservations are recommended.  Service was quick and friendly.  Food was so good that I went there twice during DineLA week!  🙂

 

 

So here’s what I tried for the DineLA dinner prix fixe ($45):

Loved how the hot tea is served in a pot!

 

Spicy tuna crispy — spicy tuna on baked brown rice cracker .  The rice cracker was a bit too dense, but the spicy tuna was really good.  Supplemental appetizer $7.

 

Oyster Half Shell with Uni & Caviarfresh oyster in half shell topped with sea urchin and caviar (2 pcs).  This was so luxurious that it’s almost sinful, although I couldn’t really taste the caviar.  I didn’t think uni would go well with oysters, but wow, yum yum yum!

 

We also got a albacore salad to share.  6 large slices of tuna with garlic ponzu sauce.  This was very tasty!  $18

 

Assorted sashimi – salmon, maguro and albacore tuna.  The salmon was one of the best I’ve had — just melted in my mouth!  All the fish was really fresh.

 

Lobster roll with asparagus wrapped in soy paper.  The lobster tail is just for show — the meat is all in the roll already.  This was good but not as mind-blowing as the uni oyster or the sashimi.

 

Dessert – I think this had to be the show-stopper!  There was so many ingredients in this dessert, it was almost insane.  It’s vanilla ice topped with taro sauce, mochi balls, fresh mangos strawberries and blueberries, slivered almonds, and finally finished off with 2 Pocky sticks.  The combo worked though and it was awesome!  Not sure if they have this all the time or if it was a DineLA special…

 

And here’s the DineLA lunch prix fixe ($25 per set):

Started off with some miso soup.  Miso soup is miso soup, not bad.

 

Lunch set #1

First course – crab sunomono – crab with cucumber and seaweed in sweet vinegar sauce.  Pretty refreshing.

 

Second course:  deluxe sushi assortment — unagi, shrimp, whitefish, yellow-tail, salmon, albacore and maguro nigiri with a popcorn shrimp with asparagus roll.  I tried a few of the sushi and they were really good!

 

Lunch set #2

First course:  seafood tempura — salmon, whitefish, shrimp and calamari.  The tempura was crispy yet light.  Loved it!

 

Second course:  Chirashi — I think the picture pretty much says it all — it’s an assortment of salmon, shrimp, albacore, whitefish, salmon egg, spicy tuna and egg cake on a bed of sushi rice.  The fish was very fresh and the portion was generous.  Delicious!

 

Can’t wait for the next DineLA to start in January!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lawry’s The Prime Rib – DineLA

100 N La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

(310) 652-2827

 

http://www.lawrysonline.com/lawrys-primerib/beverly-hills

http://www.yelp.com/biz/lawrys-the-prime-rib-beverly-hills

 

DineLA restaurant week is always a great time to try out restaurants.  I remember going to Lawry’s a few years back and had a great experience there, but it was pricey.  Their DineLA dinner menu looks awesome this time, and is a great value compared to the normal menu so it gave me even more reason to go back.

 

Lawry’s can seat up to 500 (yes it’s one big place), but it can get crowded.  So make sure to make a reservation!  Also, I think it’s valet only for parking ($6).  Once you’re in the restaurant, you most likely have to wait  5 – 10 minutes while they seat the parties who’ve arrived ahead of you.  But never fear – in anticipation of hungry diners, Lawry’s has a waiting/welcoming lounge with complimentary meatballs and freshly fried potato chips.

 

Here’s the dineLA menu:

 

You get the idea.  So here’s what we ordered:

The Original Spinning Bowl Salad – it is tossed table-side.  Watch as your server drizzles the dressing while the salad bowl spins!  The salad is very fresh and the dressing (kind of like a tangier and lighter version of thousand island) is delicious.

 

Complimentary bread is freshly baked – crusty on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside.  The way bread should be!

 

Yorkshire pudding – it comes with the meal and is great to soak up the au jus from the prime rib.  Mmmm…

 

2 types of horseradish to accompany the prime rib:  regular horseradish and whipped cream horseradish.  The whipped cream version is a lot milder.  Both are really great with the prime rib!  Btw – horseradish is like wasabi, just not green…

 

The star of the meal:  prime rib!  The meat cart is rolled to your table, choose the doneness of the meat and the meat is sliced table-side.  Mine was done medium.  Besides the mashed potatoes, you can choose another side (creamed spinach, creamed corn or  buttered peas).  The prime rib is melt-in-the-mouth delicious!  All of the sides were really great as well.

 

Broiled Nova Scotia lobster tail – the lobster meat was a bit too salty.  Other than that, it was ok.  Prime rib is definitely the winner.

 

You can choose any dessert from Lawry’s regular dessert menu, as part of the dineLA promotion.  This is the warm chocolate fantasy cake with Haagen-Daz vanilla ice cream.  The cake is warm and oozing of chocolate.  It’s perfectly balanced with the vanilla ice cream.  Rich but not too sweet.  Even though we were so full, we had to make room for this!

 

NY style cheesecake with brandied cherries. The cheesecake was good but the warm chocolate cake definitely stole the show.

 

I can’t wait for the next dineLA to go back to Lawry’s!

Bouchon

235 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Neighborhood: Beverly Hills

(310) 271-9910

 
 
I finally had the chance to try out Bouchon recently, to see what the hype is all about.  I still have to go back to try the famous fried chicken dinner nights – that’ll be one day soon!
 
Bouchon is in Beverly Hills, right next to Hotel Montage.  If you’re going for lunch, it’s 2 hours free parking.  Other wise, it’s $5 flat fee after 6pm.  It was a little confusing to get to the restaurant.  First you take an elevator from the parking garage to the ground level.  Then, walk across the courtyard, and take another elevator (next to the Bouchon Bakery), to get to the actual restaurant.
 
Bouchon hails itself as a French bistro, but it’s actually pretty fancy inside.  However, the restaurant does try to live up to the bistro-ness, by having menus that were unusual, with the daily specials listed on boards on the walls.
 
The menu
 
 
The freshly baked bread & excellent butter – compliments of the house
 
 
Pistachios also came with the bread
 
 
We selected a few starters.  This is the escargot – it’s a bit unusual from the normal presentation, since it’s escargot on puff pastry.  But it works! The escargot is red wine braised with garlic butter.  Yummmm…  $18
 
 
Another starter – salmon tartar with eggs and capers  This came with crouton bread.  We loved the colors, but it was a bit hard to scoop up the salmon and eggs, to spread it on the bread.  Great texture though!  $16.50
 
 
Duck salad – crispy duck skin with arugala and pear.  Pretty refreshing, although there’s not much duck skin. $16
 
 
Thon a la Nicoise – big eye tuna with new crop potatoes, lettuce and hard boiled egg.  The tuna was delish!  $38
 
 
Truite Amandine – Idaho trout with almonds    The trout was really fresh and the almonds greatly complimented the fish.  Mmm…$27.50
 
 
Gigot d’Agneau – roasted leg of lamb with crispy polenta and corn succotash.  I had a bite of this and thought it was only ok.  $33
 
 
No trip to a French bistro is complete without steak frites.  The steak was gooood!  $37
 
 
We also ordered dessert.  The lemon tart was really tangy!  But it was refreshing, to end the meal.  $9.50
 
 
The pot the creme didn’t look like much, but the taste blew us all away.  Rich creamy vanilla goodness, yum!  The accompanying cookies were good too.  $9

Jinya – Ramen Bar [Now Closed]

2208 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Neighborhood: West Los Angeles

(310) 481-0977

This is probably my current favorite ramen place around the Sawtelle/Olympic area.  Tops Tsujita in my opinion.  I’ve been waiting since last September (when it was supposed to open) ’til June (when they finally opened) to try it.  Why, you ask?  Because Jinya is listed as one of the best ramen places in LA by LA Weekly.  I went on a Saturday for lunch, and surprisingly there was not much of a wait (maybe because they just opened so not many people knew about it).  It’s located in the same shopping plaza as Starbucks, Champagne Bakery and Marshall (which has the parking structure), so parking was pretty easy.
You can add $4-$5 to your ramen to make it a combo.  So I added the crispy chicken (karaage) and salad for an extra $4.  These came ahead of the ramen.  The chicken was nice and flavorful and crispy, yet still juicy.  I like!
Tonkotsu spicy – you can choose the level of spiciness.  It’s pork broth with chunks of pork chashu, cabbage and spicy bean sprouts.  It’s pretty thick broth, but good spicy flavor.  $8.55
Jinya tonkotsu – pork broth with pork chashu, spinach, cabbage, dried seaweed and fried onion.  It also comes with the seasoned egg on the side.  The broth is milky white, which means they’ve cooked it for a LONG time.  Rich broth but didn’t taste greasy.  Yummm…  $9.55
Close up of the pork chashu – I thought it was going to taste fatty, but it was melt-in-your-mouth goodness!!!  I wonder how they cook the chashu…
Tonkotsu original – the only difference between this and the Jinya tonkotsu (as far as I can tell) is the seaweed and seasoned egg.  So if you like your ramen with an egg, go for the Jinya tonkotsu.  $8.55
I see the recent yelp reviews haven’t been too kind to this place, so will have to make another trip soon to get a more accurate review!
UPDATE:  Went back on 9/8/12 for a second visit, this time for dinner.  It was as good as the first time.  I ordered the curry with the ramen this time, and the curry was also really good!

Jinya – Ramen Bar

2208 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Neighborhood: West Los Angeles

(310) 481-0977

 
 
 
This is probably my current favorite ramen place around the Sawtelle/Olympic area.  Tops Tsujita in my opinion.  I’ve been waiting since last September (when it was supposed to open) ’til June (when they finally opened) to try it.  Why, you ask?  Because Jinya is listed as one of the best ramen places in LA by LA Weekly.  I went on a Saturday for lunch, and surprisingly there was not much of a wait (maybe because they just opened so not many people knew about it).  It’s located in the same shopping plaza as Starbucks, Champagne Bakery and Marshall (which has the parking structure), so parking was pretty easy.
 
 
 
 
You can add $4-$5 to your ramen to make it a combo.  So I added the crispy chicken (karaage) and salad for an extra $4.  These came ahead of the ramen.  The chicken was nice and flavorful and crispy, yet still juicy.  I like!
 
Tonkotsu spicy – you can choose the level of spiciness.  It’s pork broth with chunks of pork chashu, cabbage and spicy bean sprouts.  It’s pretty thick broth, but good spicy flavor.  $8.55
 
Jinya tonkotsu – pork broth with pork chashu, spinach, cabbage, dried seaweed and fried onion.  It also comes with the seasoned egg on the side.  The broth is milky white, which means they’ve cooked it for a LONG time.  Rich broth but didn’t taste greasy.  Yummm…  $9.55
 
Close up of the pork chashu – I thought it was going to taste fatty, but it was melt-in-your-mouth goodness!!!  I wonder how they cook the chashu…
 
Tonkotsu original – the only difference between this and the Jinya tonkotsu (as far as I can tell) is the seaweed and seasoned egg.  So if you like your ramen with an egg, go for the Jinya tonkotsu.  $8.55
 
I see the recent yelp reviews haven’t been too kind to this place, so will have to make another trip soon to get a more accurate review!
 
UPDATE:  Went back on 9/8/12 for a second visit, this time for dinner.  It was as good as the first time.  I ordered the curry with the ramen this time, and the curry was also really good!

Cakes! Cakes!! And more cakes!!!

My birthday was a few months ago already, but I’ve been meaning to post up all of the wonderful cakes that I had eaten in honor of my birthday.  So finally, here’s a post dedicated solely to the birthday cakes!

Special thanks to my family and friends, who went through great effort to make sure that no cake and bakery was duplicated.  The cakes were all my favorites!!!  🙂

 

Cake #1:  Milk ‘n’ berries from Porto’s

3614 W Magnolia Blvd
Burbank, CA 91504
(818) 846-9100
 
 
 
 
Like the name suggests, it’s similar to a tres-leches cake, except that it is also filled with mixed berries and topped with whipped cream.  Mmmm….
 
 
Cake #2:  Mango mousse from JJ’s Bakery
 
2370 Crenshaw Blvd
Torrance, CA 90501
(310) 328-6668
 
 
 
One of my all-time favorite cakes.  It’s several layers of rich and creamy mousse mixed with several layers of moist cake.  The mango flavor is not overpowering and not too tangy.
 
 
Cake #3: strawberry shortcake from Angel Maid Bakery
 
4542 S Centinela Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90066
(310) 915-2078
 
 
 
Fresh strawberries and cream are sandwiched between two layers of moist cake.  The result?  Yummy deliciousness.  You can choose the toppings on top of the cake.  This one is with mixed fruit.
 
 
Cake #4:  strawberry tiramisu from 85C Bakery Cafe
 
Diamond Jamboree Shopping Center
2700 Alton Pkwy, Ste 123
Irvine, CA 92606
(949) 553-8585
 
 
 
 
If I remember correctly, this tasted more like a strawberry mousse rather than a strawberry tiramisu, but it was good nonetheless!  Every time I go to 85 Degrees, I usually just make a bee-line for the freshly-baked breads.  I’ve been missing out on the cakes!
 
 
Cake #5:  sesame cream puff ring from Patisserie Chantilly
 
2383 Lomita Blvd
Ste 104
Lomita, CA 90717
(310) 257-9454
 
 
 
 
This was basically one giant cream puff, filled with sesame cream.  It was the most unusual birthday cake I’ve ever received.  The crust was light and crunchy.  The sesame cream filling was wonderfully bursting with sesame flavor, and enhanced the taste of the puff.  Yum!  On Chantilly’s website, this is called the Paris-Brest Sesame.

Blockheads Shavery

11311 Mississippi Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Neighborhood: West Los Angeles

(310) 445-8725

 

Finally, there is a Taiwanese snow shaved ice place in West LA!  No more trekking to Rowland Heights to Class 302 just to satisfy more cravings.  ^ ^  Thanks to Connie H for posting the pics on FB and spreading the word!  This place just opened a little over 2 months ago and there’s a long line out the door every time I’ve been!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Taiwanese snow shaved ice, the ice itself is flavored (yes, so it’s a block of flavored ice being shaved) and the texture is smooth, like snow (hence the name).  You’re then free to choose toppings like mochi rice cake, pudding, red bean etc.  To finish it off, condensed milk or other kinds of syrup is drizzled on top.

At Blockheads Shavery, you start off by choosing the flavor of the ice, followed by the 30+ different topping choices, then the drizzle. For those of you who are overwhelemd by all the choices, there are some popular combos listed under the “Favorites” section.

Word of warning – they do run out of flavors and toppings, so do your best to get there early.  I’ve tried the green tea, black sesame and strawberry (tastes just like strawberry ice cream!) are all excellent.  Recommended toppings:  boba, rice cake, egg pudding.  I think all three are made fresh daily.  Portion size is pretty big.  One regular size shaved ice can be easily split among 2-3 people.

 

The menu – the flavors and toppings change depending on the day

 

Green tea shaved ice with red bean and rice cake, drizzled with condensed milk.  $4.50

 

Black sesame shaved ice with rice cake.  The black sesame flavor is so good!  And I’ve only seen it here.  🙂   $4

Angel Maid Bakery

4542 S Centinela Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90066

(310) 915-2078

Hours:

Tue-Thu 8 am – 6:30 pm

Fri-Sat 8 am – 7 pm

Sun 8 am – 12 pm

http://www.yelp.com/biz/angel-maid-bakery-los-angeles

 

This is one of the few Asian bakeries on the westside.  It’s small and not in an Asian area of Culver City at all.  We love their cakes and desserts, and usually whenever there’s a birthday, this is where we come.  It’s better than JJ’s Bakery!

The cake flavors we usually get are strawberry shortcake (they use real strawberries!) and chocolate chiffon.  We’ve also tried strawberry mousse, mango mousse (seasonal), german chocolate, chocolate pudding and all have been great.  This bakery uses whipped cream instead of frosting (so it’s not too sweet) and the cake itself is spongy, not dry.  Be aware though, they sell out of cakes pretty quickly so the only way to ensure you’ll get a cake is if you place an order 2 days in advance.  Also note the hours – it closes earlier than most bakeries, especially on Sundays.

 

Strawberry shortcake with special floral design.  8 inch cake runs about $24

 

Slice view of strawberry shortcake