Eatin’ in LA

July 4, 2014 at 7:48 PM Leave a comment

When Jeff needs to work in Southern California, he usually has time to try only one new or interesting restaurant. Often, meals are taken in suburban outposts, quick corporate food spots or classic “rubber chicken” meals at the events in which he participates. The most recent trip was different. Through a series of fortunate happenstance, Jeff was able to try some of the best spots in Tinsel-town. For the most part, it was a good experience.

Prior to this trip, Jeff’s Los Angeles favorite has been MB Post, a gloriously popular spot a few streets from the beach that is packed upon opening and each small plate that arrives is better than the next. A walk back to the car always consists of an argument about the “best” dish. That crown now has some serious competition with Bäco Mercat and Animal.

Bäco Mercat is located downtown Los Angeles. A few years ago, if you suggested an evening in downtown LA, your dinner guest might well have assumed overcooked burgers and twice-baked coffee in the only greasy-spoon still open. Today, the downtown LA scene is vibrant. Downtown living is chic and Bäco Mercat may very well be the epicenter. There was a vibe here that almost forces a good time. All of that is possible because the food is so damned good. Jeff joined his friend, an LA native and together they shared a nice sampling of dishes. Ever seen two grown men fight over vegetables? Caesar Brussel Sprouts and Caramelized Cauliflower could start World War III. The Sriracha in the broth of the mussels at least started a fork-fight and the shared Lamb Couscous might have ignited a new middle-east conflict. Luckily for world peace, the Prosciutto & Fig was perfect for splitting. Bäco Mercat is an LA destination.

How is one to find a restaurant in LA without a name on the building? Simple, look for the valet. It might be trendy to eliminate a name on the storefront and to hire a model-thin, blank expression host, but valets are ubiquitous. None of this maters. The reason we visit restaurants across the globe is because of the food and the food is the draw at Animal. Jeff never sampled Brains and this introduction, with a curry bend reminded him of a cross between Sweetbreads and Foie Gras. The Chicken Liver Toast was crunchy, earthy and great. Larb is a Laotian dish of minced meat and spices. Their Jack Rabbit Larb was a treat as unique as the brain. If you haven’t had Pig Head, get ye to a place that serves it. Animal’s version is memorable. Dessert? Tres Leches, Dulce de Leches! Yea! Sit at the bar here, arrive early and learn the most you can about the menu. Animal is a beast!

Last year, Pizzeria Mozza was picked as the James Beard, Best Chef-West winner for 2014. After a salad, pizza and dessert, he most remembers the salad and dessert. We’re not sure that is the goal of a place with the word “pizzeria” in the title. Lucques may well be the most famous eatery in LA. I enjoyed “Sunday Supper” a set menu dinner that caps the week and offers folks a chance to try one of the most expensive places in the city for a fair compensation. It was good, but did not urge a return for the “Full Monty” on a regular visit. We’re not sure what was missed, but…

His past experiences, combined with this collection of eateries, has provided a good example of the food of LA. It is good, but can’t yet compete with Chicago, New Orleans and New York, or for that matter, Cleveland. That might be surprising to many, but not us! 1142 Manhattan Avenue Manhattan Beach, CA 90266 310-545-5405 408 S. Main Street Los Angeles, CA 90013 213-687-8808 435 N. Fairfax Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90036 323-782-9225 2454 Wilshire Boulevard Santa Monica, CA 90403 310-586-1707 641 N. Highland Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90036 323-297-0101 8474 Melrose Avenue West Hollywood, CA 90036 323-655-6277

Entry filed under: Eatin' Out of Town. Tags: , , , , , .

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