My family went for a glorious trip to California last week. It was a trip to celebrate some major milestones in our lives and an excuse to enjoy each other’s company.
And, you know what that means, right? Just think – 7 days, means 3 meals a day, which means a whopping TWENTY ONE meals I get to eat out on this vacation! Did I say, glorious?!!!
While my stomach is relieved that the vacation is over (as it craves some oatmeal, salads, fresh-pressed juices and other healthful things), I am taking this opportunity to re-live the thrill as I report on the hits and misses of this trip. Hopefully you will find it a useful list for your next visit to California (ie: San Francisco/Los Angeles metro areas).
There were three places that completely knocked my socks off with their fabulous food, genius chefs, friendly welcoming staff and remarkable ambiance:
- Cassia in Santa Monica is a MUST for anyone who loves bold vibrant flavors of south east Asia. There were so many strokes of creative genius in this menu. The feel of the food for most part was somewhat rustic – but the flavors were incredibly refined. My favorite dish here was the Vietnamese Pot Au Feu. The Gilled Spicy Lamb Breast was a close second. And be sure to start with the Raw Spicy Scallops – it is sure to invigorate your taste buds as you wait for the main course to arrive.
- Night+Market in West Hollywood was conceived by chef Kris Yenbamroong (Food & Wine Magazine’s Best New Chef 2016) and has topped many a “Best Of” lists. Heck! Likes of Rene Redzepi, David Chang and April Bloomfield have made it a point to dine here. Incidentally, it is also Gwyneth Paltrow’s favorite spot for spicy, yummy Thai food! ‘Nuff said?
- Gjusta in Venice CA was not even on my radar when I went on this trip. Until a sweet friend messaged me on Facebook and said I MUST visit this place and that I should “trust her” on this recommendation. She was SO RIGHT! LOVED this cool bakery/cafe/deli with its fresh baked goods, its fantastic industrial chic vibe and its yummy savory and sweet treats! So now its your turn to just TRUST ME on this one!
The three places that I had seriously high hopes for – but they didn’t quite live up to my expectation. They were not all failures mind you – but sadly they weren’t total wow’s either. 🙁
- Petite Crenn in San Francisco, is a delightful eatery by the world’s best female chef, Dominique Crenn. Chef Crenn brings homestyle cooking from Brittany in form of a tasting menu at this restaurant. Everything was delicious and well prepared. Everything was technically flawless. Yet at no point did I feel compelled to utter, “Wow”. I have to say though, that the Gnocchi with wild mushroom sauce was my favorite dish there! The multi-course tasting menu was priced at $87 per person without wine pairings – as compared to its sister restaurant Atelier Crenn which charges close to $300 for its tasting menu minus the wine pairings. After all is said and done, I am glad I experienced chef Crenn’s cuisine because I went there to celebrate a female chef (which is rare) and her accolades.
- In Situ at MoMa San Francisco is a very unique and fascinating concept restaurant. Just as the MoMa museum is a collection of iconic art pieces by iconic artists, this restaurant serves iconic dishes by iconic chefs from all around the world. The team of chefs under the leadership of chef Corey Lee recreate each dish with great precision. So if you have not been able to grab a reservation at any of the world’s most famous restaurants -not to worry…. just visit In Situ and taste the dishes that made those chefs and restaurants famous. For me, the concept failed because taking a dish out of a tasting menu – and offering it on this type of a menu makes the dish lose its original creator’s context and point-of-view. So the whole meal was a total disconnect for me. I did enjoy the desserts though (I guess that is one course that doesn’t necessarily need to have a context).
- I had heard so much about Tartine bakery and Bar Tartine in San Francisco for so many years. Sadly, Bar Tartine is now permanently closed. But the owners/chefs have opened up another fun bakery/cafe called Tartine Manufactory in Mission District. I loved the vibe here! It was clearly a popular place… the long lines to get in and grab a table are an everyday occurrence. I really wanted to LOVE their food – and everything sweet and savory I tried here was good but, once again, not wow! So bummed!
Finally, here are three specific restaurants that I would go back to, for their one specific thing on the menu.
- Slut at EggSlut in Venice California. Damn! this stuff is good! It’s a coddled egg on top of puréed potatoes – topped with chives and gray salt and served with a side of baguette slices! Sounds so simple, but its one of those things that you wonder – it is so incredibly good, how come no one thought of this before. When the egg and all its liquid goodness blends with the potato puree …. mmmm…. its pure heaven!
- Kogi Taqueria in Los Angeles by the one and only Roi Choi is one of those iconic places in LA area. I believe Roi Choi and his Kogi BBQ food truck (a fusion of Korean and Mexican food) started the whole food truck craze in the nation. And the one dish that I will order every time I visit is: Calamari Taco! Bursting with tremendous flavor – this stuff is downright addictive!
- Bhel Salad at Juhu Beach Club in Oakland California by chef Preeti Mistry, was a fun presentation of a dish that brought back many happy memories from my childhood in India. Bhel is one of my most favorite Indian street foods… and this version had the perfect kick of spice and textural contrasts that make this dish so irresistible.
So, tell me! Did I inspire you enough to wish you bon voyage and bon appétit?