Visiting LA? Need to Eat? Here are 3 Spots Not to be Missed

 

The best restaurant I hit up while in LA last week was The Exchange (416 West 8th Street) at the new Freehand Hotel in DTLA.

  • I had lunch there so can’t vouch for dinner but the Tunisian Sandwich (tuna conserva with preserved lemon, hardboiled egg, potato, olive & chili morita) was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten. They also serve harissa and a house-made green sauce that is sublime.
  • Besides the food, staff is great (ask for Keisha).
  • Finally, the look and ambiance of the entire hotel is wonderful.

Note: While I recommend coming to DTLA for a night out, I would not stay downtown unless I had a very specific reason to do so. Even with a Whole Foods across the street from the Freehand, it still feels sketchy and I would not want to wander around outside.

Read on below for more favorites (as well as a few misses).

Felix (1023 Abbot Kinney, Venice)

The hottest new spot in Venice from chef Evan Funke, is getting all kinds of raves (including from Daniel Humm who was there last week based on his Instagram).

We managed to snag two seats at the bar last Saturday night. I’m not sure it’s the absolute best Italian food I’ve ever had but definitely worth checking out for the scene if not necessarily the food.

Here’s what we ordered:

  • Started with Sfincione bread. We were convinced we’d only eat half but the whole loaf disappeared. It comes straight from the oven, it’s a little salty and there’s olive oil involved. Highly recommend.
  • We also had the octopus tentacle – at $25, a little spendy for my tastes.
  • We shared two pastas: the cacio e pepe which was fantastic and the pappardelle with ragu Bolognese was good but I’ve made better myself.
  • For dessert, tiramisu (delish!!)
  • Of course, we started with cocktails: the Beekeeper (similar to a Penicillin) and a Cutloose which looked amazing served with half a passionfruit.

Getting in without a reservation.

  • They open at 5:30 and have bar seating for drop ins.
  • You MUST get there by 5pm latest and make sure you stand right by the door. If you wait on the benches, at least 10 people will get ahead of you in line.
  • Once inside, head straight for the tall bar stools right ahead of you and sit down (don’t ask!). Do not sit on the lower seats or at the small tables by the window. That foyer area fills up and you will be crammed by all the people standing around you waiting.

Our seats at the bar with great bartender

Pasta chef

Open kitchen – chef Evan Funke was just to the left on this pic

Beekeeper on left, Cutloose on right

Sfincione – served warm, dusted with sea salt, olive oil and rosemary

Grilled octopus tentacle

Cacio e Pepe (Photo credit: Felix Restaurant/Instagram)

Tiramisu

 

Gjusta (320 Sunset Avenue, Venice)

Everyone is raving that this is the best new spot for breakfast/lunch in LA. It comes to us from the same peeps who gave us Gjelina (which I loved my one time there).

So here’s my take.

  • I LOVE the vibe and the ambiance.
  • The wait is ridiculous – 40 minutes to take my order and another 30 to get my sandwich.
  • I’d wanted to try the Tuna Conserva sandwich (similar to what I had at the Exchange) but they were out so I had the grilled veggie sandwich. Meh!! Nothing to write home about.
  • Again, vibe here is first-rate…deserves another chance.

Sandwich at Gjusta – meh!!

Gjusta – ambiance and vibe are amazing!!

 

Restaurants I wanted to get to but not enough time:

  • Manuela at Hauser & Wirth
  • Kismet
  • Journeyman (Atwater Village)

 

Places that miss the mark:

Destroyer (3578 Hayden Avenue).

This is chef Jordan Kahn’s accessible breakfast/lunch spot in Culver City. Supposedly Nordic but it feels like a mid-2000’s molecular gastronomy experiment.

I had a beet salad that was covered in frozen, powdered horseradish and for dessert, a frozen chocolate pudding covered in powdered, frozen matcha. Not a fan.

Note: Kahn is the chef who just opened Vespertine ($250 for tasting menu of food described as “from a time that is yet to be,” and “a place of shadows and whispers.” Infatuation gave it a 3.2 (out of 10) rating

Exterior view – Destroyer

Open kitchen/Prep area

Menu is projected on the wall

Beet salad with the frozen horseradish cream

Chocolate dessert with matcha powder

Surprisingly tasty

Vespertine Bldg across the street from the Destroyer

 

 

Rosaline (8479 Melrose, West Hollywood)

This is chef Ricardo Zarate’s new Peruvian restaurant. It’s good – one or two dishes were VERY good – but feels like a work in progress.

  • Service still very glitchy
  • Dishes come out too randomly e.g. several of our appetizers came out as we were finishing dinner
  • Every menu item has just one too many ingredients or twists in preparation
  • Adding a 20% mandatory tip when the service is so disorganized is a turn-off. Our waiter definitely did not deserve this kind of tip.  And another question, what is his incentive to dial up his game when he gets 20% for providing such abominable service?

In the former Comme Ca space – hard to recognize

Cocktail was amazing – smoky mezcal concoction

Aceitunas: Tasty and GREAT PRESENTATION. This was a winner!!

Kampachi ceviche with baja california amberjack, aji pesto, charcoal oven roasted sweet potato, aji limo lime dressing

Beet Salad: with ricotta spread and burrata

 

Republique (624 S. La Brea) for lunch.

All my friends have raved about Republique ever since it opened. I checked it out for lunch.

  • The kale salad was disappointing. But the crème brulee bombolini (donut-like with a caramelized sugar top and filled with a custardy crème brulee) was divine!!

Note: Republique’s co-owner/pastry chef Margarita Manzke recently opened Sari Sari, a Filipino food stall, at Grand Central Market. I dropped in after my lunch at the Exchange and tried the buko pie – WOW!!! One of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten.  Highly recommend if you like coconut.

Space is lovely

Kale salad

Next time: try the icecreams?

Republique’s new filipino food stand at Grand Central Market

Buko Pie – amazing!!!

 

Cafe Bora (450 S. Western Avenue)

This Korean ice cream and dessert spot in the  new Square Mixx food mall serves the MOST GORGEOUS looking desserts but every one misses the mark in terms of taste for my palate. Everything is icy and the sweet potato flavor tastes like lavender or rose. But still worth checking out for the presentation if not the flavors.

Does this not look amazing???

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