Sunday, August 18, 2013

Best eating in LA

Heading to Los Angeles, or want to be thanked by someone who is? Reprinted courtesy of Kia Ora magazine, here's my definitive list of the best places to eat and drink:

Where to begin 
True, LA isn’t the world’s most walkable city, but if you’re based in the right place, you’ll find plenty to eat on foot. We stayed at The Orlando (, a wonderful boutique hotel in West Hollywood metres from the famous deli Joan’s on Third (, where celebs queue next to civilians for coffee, pastries, cheese and other pleasures. A couple of blocks east is the Farmers Market (, a great place for tasty, affordable lunch options – Short Cake ( was our favourite, but with almost 100 different restaurants, grocers and shops to choose from you won’t have trouble finding somewhere to refuel before an afternoon of retail therapy at the famous Grove shopping mall next door.

Eat the street 
But yes, you’ll need a car, because so much of LA eating is spread amongst the neighbourhoods. If you’re lucky you might even find dinner on the way to the restaurant: food trucks like LA institution Kogi Korean BBQ ( are all the rage – follow them on Twitter for daily locations. Expect to pay around $2 for a short rib taco. Pink’s Hotdogs ( hasn’t moved in 73 years, but follows the same principle of classic street food done well. Pink’s is an LA institution – the walls are packed with famous photos singing its praises, and it’s where Bruce Willis proposed to Demi Moore. Look for the lines of people outside, all of them looking quietly chipper to be standing in the most famous queue in the city. For low fuss food in a more upmarket environment, try Street ( It’s cool but accessible, and features the best street food from around the world – don’t miss the house toast, with coconut jam, dark soy and egg or the Croatian Apple Fritters (think pimped-out donuts). And if you love that tasty, small-plate style make sure you book a sunset table downtown at Perch (, a rooftop cocktail bar with stunningly good food and 15th floor views across Los Angeles – they have big plates too if you decide to stay for dinner.

Small World 
Most of the planet’s best food is represented somewhere in LA: try sushi in Little Tokyo, dumplings in Chinatown, or eating with your hands in Little Ethiopia. Nyala ( is regularly voted best Ethiopian in the city and offers tasty, cutlery-free meals – just rip off a bit of the sour injera pancake and scoop up your stew like the locals do! Thanks to a large and vibrant Mexican population, LA is blessed with good food from south of the border. Two of the best examples are in The Valley, just beyond the Hollywood Hills: Casa Vega ( is a family-run restaurant where stars like George Clooney and Jennifer Aniston enjoy the comfy leather booths and dim lighting. Loteria ( up the road offers even more traditional Mexican – try the slow cooked beef taco (named one of the top five dishes in the world by Bon Apetit) and wash it down with a dangerously drinkable tamarind margarita.

Room service 
One of the things which sets LA apart is the quality of its hotel bars and restaurants. One of our favourite meals was at Public Kitchen in The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (, where bread is baked to order in cast iron trays, and the bar is swarming with genuine Hollywood bombshells. The chef makes heroes of unsung vegetables like kale, radish and lettuce – turning them into little taste symphonies on a plate. Pasadena’s The Langham Huntington ( is a beautiful, historical building offering luxury accommodation and all sorts of culinary pleasures – The Tap Room is the place to be for the young and fabulous, and fine dining The Royce was last year named one of LA’s two best new restaurants – Chef David Feau has his own garden on site, allowing him a ‘Today’ and ‘This Week’ section of the menu which changes with the harvest. The Langham’s afternoon tea was voted ‘Best in LA’ – time your visit for Sunday’s special “Chocolate Tea”.

Whole lotta love 
Healthy, wholefood eating is a big movement in LA – you’ll be amazed at how much flavour the superfood superchefs can eke out of plants, with innovations like beetroot reduction, miso glaze and cashew cream. Try truffled edamame dumplings at the incredible True Food Kitchen ( in Santa Monica, or pop into Real Food Daily ( for a cucumber lemonade – the perfect detox tonic before you head back into the Hollywood night.

Off the beaten track 
Culver City is home to Lukshon (, the hottest restaurant in the city right now, where a team of chefs create South Asian small plate masterpieces like Isaan steak tartare and Szechuan chicken pops. Sit at the kitchen bar and watch them slave while you eat, then pop next door to the famous Father’s Office (, an upmarket pub serving great craft beer and LA’s best burger. For Kiwi-standard coffee, visit Silver Lake or one of the other Intelligentsia ( outlets – Mena Suvari was one of the people queuing out the door when we arrived, and with good reason: they’re considered the best coffee roasters in the world and, best of all, they know what a flat white is! Manhattan Beach is right next to LAX, so maybe wait until your last day to visit MB Post (, a fun buzzy restaurant with great food – imagine Auckland’s ‘Depot’, but without the long wait for a table. Order the brussel sprouts with macadamia, sage and Emmenthal, and embark on a new love affair with that much maligned vegetable.

Sweet treats 
Try Sweets for the Soul ( home of ‘LA’s best brownie’ – the ‘Obama’, with white and dark chocolate chips, is recommended. Tommy Lee Jones favourite Bottega Louie ( downtown has a great sweet counter if you’re downtown for dinner (go the Hazenut Crème Brulee with raspberries). But save room for Magnolia ( – directly opposite the Orlando and credited with starting the worldwide cupcake craze. Speaking of which, I couldn’t write a whole story on Lala-land without giving you just one thing to roll your eyes at – Sprinkles ( in Beverly Hills has just launched its ‘Cupcake ATM’, where locals can now get their red velvet fix from a machine, 24 hours a day. Say it with me: “only in LA”.

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