Bucato

Holy five week hiatus.

Did you guys think I forgot about you? I hope not because it’s impossible for me to forget about food.

No, you guys have been in the back of my mind with every new restaurant I’ve tried and every annoying cheeseless dish (at least six) I’ve had to order.

It’s been a busy last month. My excuses include but are not limited to a couple trips (hola Cabo!), a new job, and this new guy that now runs what used to be my social life…

grass1Since I can’t figure it out, you guys tell me: how am I supposed to sit down to write with these eyes looking up at me 24/7?

(Turns out all it took was a couple glasses of Grenache and a little puppy Benadryl.)

Between the above + life’s normal pleasantries (shout out to that post-Mexico flu that nailed me within 24 hours of returning to US soil, you’re the best bro), you’d probably imagine that it took a pretty impressive restaurant to pull me out of my blogging slump.

And you’d be right. So, so right.

Last Friday night I got a couple of our friends together for Ryan’s birthday at a new Italian spot in Culver City – Bucato. And I gotta be honest… this place was 100% Ryan’s call. I typically never seek out Italian restaurants because of the impending amount of special requests I’ll have to make / cheese I’ll have to politely decline.

But none of this was a problem at Bucato. Beautiful, delicious, happy tears-inducing Bucato.

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sample bucato dinner menu

The upside of this post: Since we had six people at dinner, and Bucato is a small plates menu, we literally ordered almost everything on the menu. (Three of the six of us were men, don’t hate.) The downside: I didn’t take many pictures, so you’ll have to just trust me on my brief-but-honest reviews…

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Batard w/ goat butter and ash salt

Yummmmmm ash salt. Pro Tip: you MUST start with bread at an Italian restaurant or you’re wasting your time/withering away.

  • fried cauliflower: Okay, we ordered two of these. The fact that we “had” to get two tells you how good it was. Lightly-breaded cauliflower with pine nuts and a pool of olive oil – HOLY CRAP – I could’ve eaten a mixing bowl of this stuff.
  • treviso salad: greens w/ honey dates, capers, and pine nuts (PS: I think this salad was called the “dandelion greens” on our menu, but since I don’t have any photo evidence, just go with it.)
  • sprouting broccoli: served w/ garlic, pickled chilis, and pecorino romano. I ordered the pecorino (CHEESE) on the side and didn’t hear one complaint from the table, so there’s your excuse to do it when you go.
  • cavatelli: served w/ duck ragu and pecorino crotonese. I didn’t try this one since cavatelli is a heavy cream pasta, but the other five nearly fought each other for the last bite.
  • striped bass: served w/ english peas, ramps, fava beans, and artichokes. Non-dairy and non-existent after three minutes on our table. AMAZING. Also, still not sure what a ramp is?
  • pacific blue prawns: served in a green garlic salsa verde. Basically three bites of juicy prawns in a garlicy-pesto sauce. Delicious but a little too pricey for what you actually can get your hands on to eat.
  • jidori chicken ‘in porchetta’: served w/ fingerling potatoes, charred onions, and dandelion. This one is non-negotiable – YOU MUST ORDER. This chicken is by far the best chicken I’ve had in LA. Simple, juicy, flavorful… and fingerlings…
  • rib eye special: 10 oz. of manly meat steak w/ fried potatoes. The men went nuts over this while the ladies focused on the second bowl of fried cauliflower.
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strascinati w/ ragu toscano and pecorino staggionato

The strascinati was one of the more popular order choices at Bucato, and for a good reason… I’m guessing this reason is because it’s delicious, but I personally just died over the smell. It. smelled. so. perfect. Candle companies should really jump on the pasta candles.

My peeps: avoid this even though it smells like heaven. Covered in stinky pecorino cheese and not worth ordering it without. Save your pasta pass for the orecchiette below.

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octopus w/ shelling beans, castelfranco, and roasted tomato

GET THIS OCTOPUS OR YOU WILL BE A SAD PANDA. Dairy-free, the beans are awesome, and the roasted tomato sets it offffffff. Going back solely for this octopus and  will definitely order three plates for myself.

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orecchiette w/ sausage sugo, sprouting broccoli, and fermented chilis

Yes, I tried the orecchiette. And yes, it was FANTASTIC. Another popular dish, light on the cheese (for pasta) but heavy on the spice. They’re not kidding around with the chilis. My mouth was on fire from just two bites, so I wonder how much my buddy who ate half of it felt the next day?

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spicy pork belly meatballs w/ roasted tomato, parmigiano reggiano, and arugula

Didn’t have the spicy pork belly meatballs, mostly because I was full and partly because it’s covered in Parmesan. (Mostly because I was full.) Didn’t hear any raves reviews but also no complaints.

Side note: both the hostess and our waitress were great. Very helpful with the surprise process. Brought us out a complimentary dessert and the candle to go with our wine-drenched birthday song medley (it did NOT sound good or in the least bit synchronized).

Ryan's Bday3These smiles 100% brought to you by Bucato, that lemon cake (barely pictured), and the multiple bottles of Pinot and champagne.

Website {at} www.bucato.la/

Find Bucato {at} 3280 Helms Ave., Culver City, CA 90034

Reservations {at} (310) 876-0286(310) 876-0286

Open {at} Sun-Thurs: 5-10:30pm; Fri-Sat: 5-11:30pm
                 Brunch: Sat-Sun: 10am-3pm

AKASHA

How do you guys feel about lists?

I love lists.

But before you write me off as an up-and-coming serial killer with a weird list fetish, hear me out.

Tangible lists… Writing one out, crossing stuff off it, completing it. Lists give me a sense of (I’ll admit, mostly false) accomplishment. To-do lists, bucket lists, Christmas lists, “The List” – if you know what I mean. All types of lists.

Except maybe a hit list. Yeah, steer clear of those. And for sure don’t get caught with one.

PS: Ryan, if you’re reading this, I’m only joking about “The List.” Of course I don’t have one of those…

Here’s one of my favorite types of lists: a list of restaurant specials.

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Akasha specials

Another list I love: a wine list.

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Akasha bar

But my favorite type of list? A Food List. I know this is definitely a Fat Kid Friday-type of confession, but my LA Food List (conveniently written on an iPhone note) is what finally got me to start this blog. Well, that and an encouraging friend or two, plus a bottle of Pinot (or two). But my sacred iPhone list played a large role.

Living in LA means as soon as you mark a place off your list, you have to add one, maybe two others. New bars and restaurants pop up overnight in this city, so shrinking my list is nearly impossible. So I thought, I should write about this… this challenging, no-end-in-sight list I’ve started.

Which leads me to AKASHA, a spot that’s been on my list since it’s birth in 2011. Located in downtown Culver City, this place is a duel threat: hip coffee shop by morning/day, restaurant by night. AKASHA is big on local, organic, and sustainable ingredients, down to the wine and vodka (not kidding).

I knew I’d like this place as soon as I had to make that “Sorry, we’re going to be 15 minutes late” call to the hostess and instead of being rude, she said “No problem! Take your time. And drive safe!”

I nearly fell on the floorboard.

Parking at AKASHA is a bit tricky, since there’s no valet (insert Cher Horowitz joke here), and street parking can fill up early. There’s a parking garage on the street behind the restaurant, though, if you need a last resort.

Going off of the menu’s sustainable theme, the interior of AKASHA is made up of restored steel, wood, con­crete and brick arches while the decor is kind of 1970s-modern with awesome string lights throughout.

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Keeping with our tradition of never sitting where we’re supposed to, we opted out of our (overly-cozy) two-top and headed to the bar. The bartender – a lady bartender – ended up being one of my favorite drink slingers yet. She was funny, knowledgeable, and fast. She must’ve made my drink in 20 seconds flat.

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the akasha + grenache/syrah

I went with the akasha (crop organic cucumber vodka, pineapple & cucumber juice, martini style) while Ryan went for a glass of red. So classy, that guy. He sipped his vino while I downed mine in what felt like four large sips. Actually, it may have been five.

The menu is a mix of large and small plates, comfort food and Asian-fusion.

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albacore poke w/ togarashi plantain chips

Mmmm, the albacore poke: avocado, toasted nori, sesame seed, togarashi plantain chips, and tamari-shallot dressing. I could’ve had three more orders of the ahi and at least 50 more of those plantain chips. Oh yeah.

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grilled wild shrimp w/ papaya salad

The grilled wild shrimp: grilled papaya salad, chili peanuts, and lime. Basically a spring roll without the sticky rice paper. And bomb shrimp.

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saffron seafood risotto

Ryan ordered the saffron seafood risotto (with scallops, shrimp, calamari, mussels, clams and sea bass) because he loves to taunt me. My peeps: no matter the restaurant, risotto is loaded with butter. Have one delicious/creamy bite then move right along.

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punjabi mung beans & rice w/ caramelized onion flatbread

I went with the punjabi mung beans & rice, which came with vegetables, caramelized onion flatbread, greens, tomato chutney, and raita. I chose this 99% because the lady next to me had just ordered it and 1% because I had to know what mung beans were. My peeps: don’t touch the raita – it’s just fancier sour cream.

Other popular dishes were the tandoori spiced chicken wings, skillet macaroni & cheese, and the star anise braised short ribs.

For my peeps, there’s plenty of dairy-free options. If you’re into seafood, the bartender said the pan-seared sea bass is butter-free and the best in Culver City (take that for what it’s worth). Or the spiked turkey burger without cheese. With a side of sweet potato fries. This is mandatory.

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house made dairy-free peanut butter chocolate chip ice cream

When do you ever see dairy-free ice cream on a dessert menu? It’s a unicorn among the cheesecakes and loaded ice cream cookies of the dessert world. Also, never, ever turn down a dairy-free dessert that has the words “peanut butter” in the title.

Actually, never turn down peanut butter.

Website {at) http://akasharestaurant.com/

Find AKASHA {at} 9543 Culver Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232

Reservations {at} (310) 845-1700

Open {at)
Dining Room:
Mon-Thurs: 11:30am-2:30pm; 5:30-9:30pm
Fri: 11:30am-2:30pm; 5:30-10:30 pm
Sat: 5:30-10:30 pm
Sun: 10:30am-2:30pm; 5-9pm
Happy Hour (at the bar):
Mon-Fri: 2:30-7pm
Sat: 4-7pm
Sun: 2:30-7pm
The Cafe:
Mon-Fri: 8am-5pm
Sat: 9am-5pm
Sun: 10:30am-5pm

Wood & Vine

I know this will come as a surprise for some of you (especially those of you who know my DVR queue), but I went to a musical last Wednesday night. 100% willingly. With projected singing and matching costumes and jazz hands.

But before you start to think more of me (or less, depending on your original evaluation), it wasn’t Wicked or Jersey Boys or – God forbid – that new Green Day musical.

Side note: isn’t a musical about a band just a concert? Hey, Green Day, I’m no industry genius… but I’m pretty sure if you aren’t selling concert tickets, the next step isn’t a full-blown musical theater production.

Because you can’t get a Playbill until you’re inside the lobby, here’s my proof of attendance:

TBOMGod bless you, The Book of Mormon. And you, South Park creators. You guys are too good to us.

I had been waiting almost three years to see this show and was giddy about it coming to Los Angeles’ Pantages Theatre. Seriously, hilarious. The most offensive and obscene musical we’ll probably ever get to experience. 

But everyone knows the first rule of going to a musical (I just made these rules up, and there’s only one rule) is that you absolutely cannot show up without some type of alcohol in your system. And that goes for any type of show: musicals, concerts, movies with musical-esque components (think: Pitch Perfect). I say one drink for a movie, two for a concert, and three+ for a musical… if you’re general outlook on musicals matches mine.

We chose to adhere to my rules at Wood & Vine, an old-school Hollywood-style restaurant directly across from Pantages on Hollywood Blvd. Having never been there before I was pretty impressed with my choice, since the first thing you see when you walk in is the long bar and hardworking bartenders.

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Musso & Frank-style bar

The two-story Wood & Vine‘s seating varied throughout: tall tables and chairs on the lower floor and leather couches on the upper floor. Back behind the bar is an outdoor patio with several heat lamps, a wall with a movie projection, and a square firepit. And despite the amount of people inside the restaurant, table candles and low lighting made the restaurant feel surprisingly intimate.

Drinks: Well, I only have one picture of a martini. I had two. I promise. I just figured you guys didn’t need two photos of the samel liquid ammo.

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hello gorgeous

Even though I wanted three more, we ordered three appetizers to start – the truffle chips, the sundried tomato & basil hummus, and the NOT PICTURED green lentil salad with medjool dates.

No excuses for the missing picture. I was starving and sometimes these causalities are unavoidable. Especially when I’m a martini deep, and medjool dates are involved.

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truffle chips

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sundried tomato & basil hummus

Wood & Vine‘s menu has a lot of small plates meant to share, but since Ryan and I tend to not go for the same entrees (can you blame him?), we stuck to our own guns for these. After going back-and-forth between the chicken & waffle and the baked gnocchi for 20 minutes, he decided on the gnocchi mostly because of the large burrata crumbles.

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baked gnocchi w/ potato and beef cheeks

I originally wanted the octopus, but our waitress said they were sold out for the night. What can I say, I have great taste. She suggested the steamed mussels as another dairy-free option but then offered to have the chef make the pan seared scallops without butter/nix the corn puree. And I’m biologically unable to turn down scallops ever.

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pan seared scallops w/ red quinoa

If I’m being 100% honest, I would’ve gone with the chicken & waffle with sage butter. Or the agnolotti. Or the mac & cheese.

Okay, if I’m being 100% honest, I just want to go back when I’m not 1,000% lactose intolerant. Watch out when that happens, Wood & Vine.

Website {at) http://www.woodandvine.com/

Find Wood & Vine {at} 6280 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90028

Reservations {at} (323) 334-3360

Open {at) Mon-Thurs: 5pm-midnight
                 Fri: 5pm-midnight
                 Sat: 5pm-2am
                 Sun: 3-10pm

Herringbone Los Angeles

Ahhhh, Valentine’s Day.

Singles Awareness Day.

Or, my favorite, Galentine’s Day.

Whether you loved or hated last Friday, you still had to eat. And if you weren’t eating at Herringbone, I feel a little sorry for you.

…unless you got a new pair of JIMMY CHOOs or Louboutins or some pair of expensive heels, in which case I don’t want to hear about it.

It’s not usually my thing to go out to dinner on Valentine’s Day because 1) LA traffic is the worst, 2) you inevitably get sat next to (or on top of) several other couples, and 3) prix fixe menus are awful. If you don’t believe me, last year we stayed in and made dinner for breakfast. It was easy and delicious and allowed me to perfect my champagne-to-OJ ratio.

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last year’s Vday dinner with our other love: carbs

…but that was before Brian Malarkey opened his first restaurant in Los Angeles. Ever since I had the fries + housemade tomato jam at Searsucker in San Diego last fall, I’ve been a huge fan of Chef Malarkey. He’s had his hands in several of my favorite restaurants, including the newly-opened Herringbone Los Angeles - his seventh restaurant in the US. You might recognize him from TV, if you’re a fan of Bravo’s “Top Chef” (he was a season three finalist) and or ABC’s “The Taste” (he’s one-fourth of the judging panel).

After an interesting Uber ride up to West Hollywood that may or may not have included a couple roadies, we got to the Mondrian right on time (shockingly) for our 8:30pm reservation. The restaurant is indoor/outdoor and honestly just completely gorgeous.

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private dining table

The interior is filled with chandeliers, cypress trees, and ocean-inspired decor while the exterior features several fire pits, tree arches, and comfy couches.

Herringbone1And even though the restaurant is on the ground level, the view of the city is incredible.

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window view of the LA hills

As expected, the hostess – bless her heart – tried to sit us at a tiny two-top table in between two other couples.

Herringbone7We both looked at the table, immediately turned to scope out the (empty) bar, and silently agreed that we weren’t above bar seating on Valentine’s Day.

I mean, how romantic.

Herringbone9That was probably one of the best audibles we’re ever called because the bartending staff was awesome. And nailed our martinis.

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round one: martinis

Herringbone is one of those restaurants where you can spend as little as $30 per person or – just as easily – 10x that amount. The menu ranges from oysters and lamb & salmon tartar to a new york strip and beet & swiss chard pizza. The prices are all over the board depending on what you’re in the mood for.

Turns out I was in the mood for the entire board…

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whole fish ceviche w/ sliced red jalapenos

…and apparently I’m really into fish heads these days.

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wood fired octopus w/ yams and salsa verde

This octopus was so good, we got two orders of it. YAMS, people, YAMS.

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stone crab claw

Somewhere between the crab claw and second order of octopus, we managed to fit in another round of cocktails.

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round two: vodka & basil lemonade + snake in the grass

I can’t say no to housemade lemonade, and he just really liked the name of his drink.

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calamari w/ chorizo aioli

The calamari is breaded in squid ink, not burnt to a crisp.

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“SD in LA” fries

Oh man, those fries… they smelled unreal. I wonder if people would buy a candle that smells like carne asada/cheese fries because I am interested. Full from the other forty five plates of food, Ryan only managed a couple bites. “They’re just as good as they smell.” Cool, thanks for the review, you’re the best Valentine ever.

Two other popular choices were the seared diver scallops (with crispy sweetbreads, parisian gnocchi, persimmon, and sage) & the pork belly (with wood roasted sunchoke, manila clam, calvados jus, and green apple). I’d be careful of both of these dishes, though, if you’re lactose… it’s easy to sneak butter or cream into entrees, especially the scallops’ gnocchi pairing.

Next time we’re in West Hollywood, I’m definitely go back to Herringbone for a plate of that octopus and to try a skinny jenny (vodka, housemade ginger beer, bitters, lime). I’m telling you, even if you aren’t a cocktail person, you have to try one (or two) at that bar. Not only is the drink menu loaded with options, but the bartenders are creative and like to impress.

And if you really need another excuse to branch out, Herringbone‘s corkage fee is $40.

So, yeah, try a cocktail.

Website {at) http://www.herringboneeats.com/los-angeles/

Find Herringbone {at} 8440 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069

Reservations {at} (323) 848-6000

Open {at) TBD

Día de Campo

Dia de Campo1That picture should say it all.

But since I have a couple minutes and not much makes me happier in life (particularly at dinner time) than Mexican seafood… here we are.

Oh man. This place was good. I had been looking forward to checking it out since early January. And nothing’s better than when high expectations are actually met – especially in the kitchen. Well, their kitchen. On my table. That they own.

Día de Campo calls itself a “modern surf lodge” – and I don’t know when those surfers had time to perfect those squash blossom quesadillas or crab guacamole, but I dig it.

Just a block off the water in Hermosa Beach, the menu is a mix of Los Angeles-style Mexican food and fish house/raw bar favorites. Think: a surf shack with empanadas and chicken taquitos.

We got to Día de Campo last Saturday night about 20 minutes early for our 9pm reservation. (Side note: I’m beginning to realize just how big of a personal motivator food is for me these days considering I’m only ever early for dinner reservations.) Inside the entry is a little lounge area with leather couches and chairs and low-sitting tables, perfect for either happy hour or a post-dinner drink + change of scenery.

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Dia de Campo12Check out Costas up there just spreading the joy of Russian pinkeye with the residents of Hermosa Beach.

Maybe it was their opening weekend buzz or just the long communal tables in the middle of the restaurant, but Día de Campo is a social place. Everyone was chatting. People at one table leaning over to talk to another table, whether they came in knowing each other or not. Even I felt like I needed to socialize. And I’m (arguably) one of the least social 23-year-old in LA.

Dia de Campo10Since my preferred form of restaurant socializing (or any public location, really) is ordering drinks, we opted out of squeezing next to the guys on the leather chairs drinking scotch to grab some bar seats. The bartenders were attentive and friendly; again, this might just be a front for opening weekend’s first impressions, but I’m willing to go back and test them anytime.

Dia de Campo11Ryan (Mr. Predictable) ordered a beer while I (Ms. Wild Card) got a claremont, one of their handcrafted cocktails that’s made with cucumber-infused grey goose, lime, cilantro, and chartreuse.

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the claremont

Be careful on this one. It doesn’t feel strong while you’re drinking it, but it’ll sneak up on you. But I guess when I’m having two (or three) drinks, I can’t really warn you guys about one. So, in that case, go nuts. And try a passion over function while you’re at it. This one, made with serrano peppers, acai, tequila, and passion fruit, was coming out to tables by the trayful.

We sat toward the back of the restaurant by the open kitchen and wood-fire grill. It’s like we went camping but instead of s’mores, we had running water and a salsa trio.

Dia de Campo8Now, let’s eat.

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homemade tortillas and salsa

Mmmmm… homemade tortillas. Two corn and two flour.

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guacamole w/ dungeness crab

I’ll never be able to go back to regular guac. Día de Campo, you’ve created an even bigger guac monster.

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scallop ceviche w/ yam and corn nuts

Corn nuts in my ceviche… are you kidding me? Where do I sign my lease?

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lamb taco and carnitas taco

Ryan’s taqueria tacos.

And for the grand finnnnaaalllleeeeeee………

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whole market fish w/ all the fixins

Our whole market fish (I named her Beyonce shortly before I took a picture with her head and dipped her body into mole sauce) was a red snapper and dairy-free and delicious. My favorite dish of the night. And those sides… I know it’s only 10am, but I could really go for that Mexican fried rice right about now. It physically pains me that this place isn’t next door to my office.

My only complaint about Día de Campo is that my stomach wasn’t big enough to try more. I can’t wait to go back to sit at the raw bar and order some oysters and the habanero-salted jellyfish. One of the best parts (for me) about eating seafood-Mexican vs. traditional Mexican is knowing I’ll have a mess of cheese-free options. Unlike regular Mexican food, seafood isn’t usually cooked in butter or loaded up with cheese and sour cream. Much less to steer clear of.

But if you can eat dairy, I demand you 1) go to Día de Campo tonight, 2) order the chocolate duck quesadillas and mexican street corn, and 3) GET THE CHURROS. They’re coated in chili lime sugar and come with spiced coco sauce and what else do you need to know?

Website {at) http://diadecampohb.com/

Find Día de Campo {at} 1238 Hermosa Ave., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254

Reservations {at} (310) 379-1829

Open {at) Mon-Wed: 5-10pm
                 Thu: 5pm-12:30am
                 Fri: 3pm-2am
                 Sat: noon-1am
                 Sun: noon-9pm

POT Bar at The Line Hotel

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“pot bar” in mylars

I’d been excited to check out POT Bar since the minute I heard Roy Choi was behind it.

And by excited I mean chatty. Very chatty. In the two weeks leading up to it’s opening, I don’t think I ordered a cocktail without bringing up POT to anyone who would listen. And two weeks is a lot of cocktails.

Choi is a genius. One of my favorite chefs in the city. The mastermind behind restaurants like Venice’s Sunny Spot and Culver City’s A-Frame (one my very first DWA reviews), he also gave us LA’s famed Korean taco truck Kogi BBQ. As if that wasn’t enough star power, Choi decided to partner with another genius for POT - a cocktail genius, Matthew Biancaniello.

The man behind Plan Check and Library Bar, Biancaniello is actually considered a “cocktail chef” (you can’t make this stuff up). He’s known for his multi-ingredient cocktails that mash up fruits and veggies and beyond. Matt specializies in, um, exotic drinks. The ones you can usually chew. For example, page one of his POT menu (note the ingredients for the “Original Cocktails”)…

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pot bar menu

POT, the lobby bar inside Koreatown’s new boutique The Line Hotel, sits right outside of the hotel’s soon-to-be-revealed Pot Restaurant. The hotel itself has been open for guests since early January while the food components are still being worked on: the “produce garden” canteen Commissary (also by Choi), a bakery, and Pot – the aforementioned Korean hot pot-style restaurant.

POT hard-opened last Wednesday night, so I gave it a couple days to smooth out and went right after the Clippers game on Friday night around 10-ish. The bar seating was ample, and guests had started to sit in the circular booths built out for the upcoming restaurant.

I had read in a couple of Choi’s interviews that he wanted the bar space to be just like a “high end bar in Seoul,” and even though I’ve never been remotely close to South Korea, I got it. The bar itself is wide and hexagonal, surrounded by Asian-style stools, and host to everything from Mexican candelas and squirt guns to an array of street vendor snacks. Drinks are created and served next to bins of plastic mini-army men. Gold mylar balloons that spell out “pot bar” sit inside the top of the bar.

Now, enough talking…

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hops cocktail w/ sweet potato

My first cocktail: the Hops - one of Biancaniello’s “original cocktails” – is made with Anchor Distilling Hop Head vodka and either carrot juice or sweet potato juice. I consider myself trendy, so I went with the sweet potato. And man does it pay to be trendy.

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singapore sling + flaming hot lay’s

Ryan ordered that Singapore Sling, but he didn’t order the Flaming Hot Lay’s. I’ll explain those in a minute.

One of my favorite bar activities is challenging the bartender. Especially if he/she acts 1) confident or 2) bored. Our guy seemed more than up for a skills test, so I told him that I like dirty martinis and to surprise me. What I ended up with I could’ve never guessed…

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bartender challenge: dirty capstone martini

His Dirty Capstone Martini was made of candy cap mushroom-infused vodka, durian fruit bitters, fortified wine, and an orange peel. It was interesting, strong, and (since the durian bitters are custom made for Pot) exclusive.

Right around that time Ryan pointed out that Choi was walking around the bar, talking with guests. Several drinks in by this point, I didn’t feel weird at all chatting him up and congratulating him on the new place. And bless his heart… he was so kind. Once he heard we were fans of A-Frame, he went behind the bar and grabbed us some of those Seoul-inspired snacks: that bag of Flaming Hot Lay’s and a mangos tabasqueno chile pop - aka, a caramel sucker with a chili coating. Aka, fire-on-a-stick.

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mango tabasqueño chile & hops cocktail remnants

So from what I can tell, Seoul is the capital of sweet drinks, spicy snacks, and freebie knickknacks.

POT4

fuzzy navel

Speaking of sweet drinks – drink #4. The fuzzy navel. By far the drink I was most excited about trying. Muddled kumquats, passion fruit, peach and apricot liqueurs, and topped with dried peaches… are you kidding me? It was light years away from the schnapps and Minute Maid concoction that I (vaguely) remember drinking in college.

POT3

four and out

After the fuzzy navel, we noticed it was 11:30, and we were getting hungry for more than just Staples’ popcorn and mouth-melting snacks. We decided to call it a night and agreed we’d go back soon for a Long Island Iced Tea (before you mock, POT‘s version is made with mezcal and blood orange gin) and the buzzed-about White Russian (candy cap mushroom vodka, cream, and Kahlua foam).

Okay, well, Ryan can get the White Russian. I’m fine sticking to the non-creamy cocktails I can half-drink, half-chew.

Gotta hand it to Choi… not many guys could (successfully) get away with this cocktail lineup. And even less could get away with naming it POT.

POT7

Website {at) http://www.eatatpot.com/

Find POT {at} 3515 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90010

No reservations, but just in case you want to chat {at} (213) 368-3030

Open {at) Sun-Wed: 5-11pm
                 Thu-Sat: 5pm-2am

The Misfit Restaurant + Bar

So I don’t know if it’s all the sinus medicine or the gallons of tea and honey I’ve had in the past week, but I’m extremely energized to write lately. Sometimes about sports (check out GuysGirl.com) but mostly about food. So it’s either writing an extremely overdue blog post or attacking Yelp for the rest of the night, and Yelp is too overwhelming after dinner cocktails.

I decided to take this time to review one of last year’s (aka December’s) pre-holiday dinners. I’m completely calling myself out right now, but I went out to eat like 20 times in the three weeks before I left to go home for Christmas. And between work and holiday events and Christmas lights, there was no way I could review every one of those restaurants. But here’s one… a good one.

The Misfit Restaurant + Bar in Santa Monica is one of my favorite spots to grab dinner during the week. Unless I’m going for brunch on the weekend (which is awesome by the way, bottomless mimosas heyyyy), I try to go only on weeknights because it’s by Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade and can be a wait on the weekends. This is purely because they don’t take reservations, and I’m usually not mentally prepared to wait to eat even 10 minutes on a Friday or Saturday night.

We went on a Sunday night after catching a movie and were lucky to get seated within 15-20 minutes. And in my book, that 15-ish seating window is ideal… it’s the perfect amount of time to make friends with the bartender/make sure your usual is established, in case you decide to visit the restaurant again.

And as much as I like their bar, I think my favorite part about The Misfit is the decor. It looks like an old-time study (think the library in Beauty & The Beast) behind the bar, and the entire restaurant is dark wood and dimly lit. Almost like a modern Western-style bar but less country and more urban.

The Misfit1

the misfit all dressed up for Christmas

And the staff is great. No matter who you have. I’ve been there for a handful of occasions, and each person is better than the last. They know the menu inside and out and can go beyond the “these are the specials” and “this is how our menu works” spiel. And trust me: this. hardly. ever. happens. Especially in Santa Monica.

Since The Misfit is just down the street from the weekly Santa Monica’s Farmers Market,  they do a great job of including seasonal items on the menu. But they do it without the staff throwing it in your face that they’re “farm-to-table” or “seasonal artisans” or whatever else restaurants are calling themselves these days.They let the menu speak for itself, which is a strategy I wish more restaurants would rely on these days.

Speaking of seasonal items, our first order was one of my favorites (and probably super yuppie sounding), sunchokes – aka, Jerusalem artichokes. The waitress pretty much sold me when she mentioned it came with a spicy vegenaise (fancy term for a vegan mayo), meaning me and my peeps could dunk our heads into a vat of it and still be stomach-ache free.

…Not that I suggest dunking your head in anything, ever.

The Misfit5

sunchokes + vegan chipotle dip

The sunchokes were awesome, and they paired well with my traditional after-movie (or pre-movie or during-the-movie) dirty martini.

Oh yeah… the drinks. The Misfit‘s drinks are much cheaper than anywhere else around the Promenade. Most of their speciality cocktails are just $10 and are always strong.

Told you this staff is this best.

We also ordered the chickpea wraps, tuna tataki, and bbq salmon – all of which are dairy free and surprisingly awesome.

The Misfit3

chickpea wraps w/ smoked almonds, pickled apple & housemade sambal

The Misfit‘s dinner menu is mostly small plate-style, so you can easily order three or four things (if you’re on a date) or more (if you’re with a bigger group or just a really hungry couple) to share.

The Misfit4

tuna tataki w/ daikon sprouts & dry roasted edamame

Other good dairy free options: mussels, oysters, and hamachi crudo (order the full size on this one). If you’re up for special orders / actually enjoy salads for dinner, go for either the shredded kale + quinoa salad or the lgo café brussels sprout salad – just make sure you order both of these without the cheese(s). Also, order the brussels sprout salad with the optional pancetta..

Rule of thumb: always order the optional pancetta.

If you’re only allergic to dairy milk, order the bacon-wrapped dates. They’re wrapped with goat cheese, not cow cheese, so most of you should be in the clear here.

The Misfit6

bbq salmon, scottish w/ arugula

If you’re with a non-lactose, encourage them to order the misfit burger. I’ve heard pretty unreal things about this grass-fed burger, namely (and I’m serious on this comment) that it “tastes like it came from God’s own butcher shop.”

Or, when in doubt, just get their housemade shoestring french fries (think McDonald’s but hand cut, skinnier, and slightly less greasy). They give you a HEAPING pile of these guys. I promise that you can eat half of the plate and not see any noticeable progress. You’ll leave with a to-go box and a grateful stomach.

Did I mention that, after dinner, you get fresh-out-the-oven chocolate chip and sea salt cookies? Because you do, and they are freaking fantastic.

If you don’t have time for dinner, The Misfit‘s happy hour is one of the best in Santa Monica. Beer specials and half-off all $10 cocktails until 7pm – aka, a perfect (and cheap) excuse to fit in your pre-movie dirty martini. What you drink during the movie is between you and the size of your handbag.

Website {at) http://www.themisfitbar.com/

Find The Misfit {at} 225 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401

No reservations, but just in case you want to chat {at} (310) 656-9800

Open {at) Mon-Wed: 12pm-12am
                 Thu-Fri: 12pm-1am
                 Sat: 11am-1am
                 Sun: 11am-11pm