“When Animal opened, the menu was a traditional starter/entrée/dessert format. Now it's all Tapas-style and many dishes include offal. Everything is executed perfectly and the variety of flavors and textures is like a magical journey for the palate. In addition to the pig's ears with chili oil and fried egg you must also have another killer dish on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, Hamachi Tostada."
Animal, 435 North Fairfax Avenue (at Rosewood Avenue); 323-782-9225.
“This is a great lunch or casual dinner spot in Silverlake. It's set up like a cafeteria, and when possible there are food items that are contributed from locals of the community (lemons, spigarello, oranges, etc.) incorporated into the menu. The menu is very produce-centric, so I can really load up on gorgeous veggies as much as I want.”
3823 West Sunset Boulevard (at Hyperion Avenue), 323-663-6885.
“I love it here. A no cell phones sign on the door, absolutely no rolls, only a few tables, hardly any ambiance, and no fuss traditional sushi to match. When I have sushi, I just want simply the best fish without the frills. I can only hope that one day I'll be so successful that I'm closed on the weekends, too!"
Sushi Nozawa11288 Ventura Boulevard (at Eureka Drive); 818-508-7017.
"Clementine is my favorite neighborhood bakery that I don't mind getting in the car and battling 405 traffic to visit. They have an amazing selection of muffins and scones, whole pies and puddings. The chocolate-chip cookies are buttery, thin, and crisp, just like the cookies I snuck into the kitchen to make for myself every weekend growing up. In the spring, owner Annie Miler stocks the pastry display with gorgeous Hot Cross Buns studded with golden raisins. Just heavenly. The savory lunch selection is just as comforting as the pastry counter. Three words: Cold Meatloaf Sandwich. This bakery feels like it was picked up by a mid-Western tornado, transplanted to the heart of Los Angeles, and filled with perfect comfort food and super stylish L.A. people.”
Clementine, 1751 Ensley Avenue (at Beverly Glen); 310-552-1080.
“This Santa Monica Omusubi spot is near and dear to my belly. Omusubi is a Japanese rice ball stuffed with various fillings then wrapped in Nori paper. Sunny Blue is a tiny, cash only, hole in the wall on Main Street. My favorite Omusubi is the miso beef or spicy salmon. With warm sticky rice, salty nori paper, and super flavorful filling made to order, I could seriously eat here several times a day. Another bonus? Omusubi is only about $3 a pop. I also suggest rounding out your meal with their grapefruit frozen yogurt topped with toasted coconut, and a glass of their complimentary barley tea. Yes... rice balls, frozen yogurt, and free tea.”
Sunny Blue, 2728 Main Street (at Ashland Avenue); 310-399-9030.
“The Foundry on Melrose. Eric Greenspan is a madman. His food is the ultimate in creativity and richness. You can go sit at the bar to listen to some awesome live music and enjoy some of the best bar food in L.A. You can also sit out back for a beautiful, fun, romantic dinner outside.”
The Foundry, 7465 Melrose Avenue (at Vista Street); 323-651-0915.
The Tasting Kitchen on Abbot Kinney
“Although I like to say that I’m not nearly cool enough to hang out on Abbot Kinney, I will make the trip to have chef Casey Lane cook for me. I go in and just let him keep creating and cooking until I can’t squeeze another bite down. Their cocktails are insane and the wine list is very unusual and well-priced. I strongly recommend getting a tasting menu with a wine pairing here.”
The Tasting Kitchen
1633 Abbot Kinney Boulevard (at Palms Boulevard); 310-392-6644.
Rustic Canyon Wine Bar
“Evan Funkes burgers on Monday nights are among the best I’ve ever tasted. He is also extremely underrated for his pastas—they're all homemade, fresh, and delicate. You really get an incredible value for the quality at Rustic. Don’t even get me started on Zoe’s desserts! The wine and beer selections are also small but fantastic. You want a fun, romantic date? Go on Monday night, share a big bottle of beer and a couple of burgers, wash it all down with something sweet, and head down to the pier to work it off!”
Rustic Canyon Wine Bar>, 1119 Wilshire Boulevard (at 11th Street); 310-393-7050.
“One of my favorite spots in L.A. is Tara's Himalayan Cuisine, on Venice in Culver City. They do himalayan food which is a very interesting type of food that is more subtle and less heavy than Indian food with its own blend of flavors and herbs. My favorite dishes include the Chicken Sekuwa (a fajita-like combo of succulent chicken and vegetables marinated overnight and served on a sizzling platter), the chicken Momos (a himalayan dumpling which my friend and owner Tara makes daily by hand), the Yak Chilli (yes, I know it sounds strange but it is amazing and delicious), Garlic Tofu and the Chicken Masala (made with an onion based sauce as opposed to traditional tomato base). Tara is wonderful and so friendly, you feel right at home from the moment you walk in.”
Tara's Himalayan, 10855 Venice Boulevard (at Midvale Avenue); 310-836-9696.
“Another one of my favorite exotic food spots is Mariscos Chentes where they do fish and shrimp in the Sinaloan (a region in Mexico known for their seafood) tradition. My favorite dishes here include the camarones diablo that are made with three types of peppers, the sauce is incredibly addictive and spicy, so always ask for more rice. The shrimp culiches are a decadent blend of cheese and jalapenos in a rich sauce that is one of my favorites in the city. Another one I love is the Pescado Zarandeado (which is big enough to share), it's a beautifully grilled fish that's a little charred and crispy on the outside and tender on the inside—the marinade and seasoning is perfection!”
Mariscos Chente, 4532 South Centinela Avenue (at Gilmore Avenue); 310-390-9241.
“Besides some of my other staples like Gjelina, The Counter, Crustacean, and Urth Cafe, I also love all things Thai. The quintessential L.A. place to grab traditional Thai food is Palm's Thai in Hollywood. From their dancing Elvis to their banquet-style seating, this place is not to be missed. All the regular Thai staples are superb here. My favorites are the green curry beef (extra spicy, of course), the pad thai, the pineapple fried rice, pad see ew and their Tom Yum soup—oh so sour and tangy—hits the spot! Palm's Thai is a great place to come with a group of people and order many dishes and share!”
5900 Hollywood Boulevard (at North Cherokee Avenue); 323-462-5073