Learn about the Top 10 Los Angeles restaurants I ate at in Los Angeles in 2007, regardless of cuisine or cost. I included two restaurants from neighboring Orange and Ventura Counties. Deal with it. Meals appear by date of consumption.
I celebrated my birthday in style by eating lunch in Bell, where Jaime Martin del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu continue to deliver the most innovative Mexican food in L.A. County. Happily, they’ve no longer confined seafood to Lent. My adobo sea bass fillet was cooked with cactus strips in corn husks, yielding a moist spice-infused fillet. This was a dish that could easily net $30 on the Westside. In the South Central hamlet of Bell, it cost a staggeringly low price of $10.95. Did I mention that the fish was accompanied by tortilla chips slathered with three moles and a stellar orange-hued tortilla soup? Jaime and Ramiro have reportedly developed a blackberry mole to replace their white chocolate version. Unfortunately it wasn’t on the menu during my recent visit, but I did enjoy a fried tortilla purse filled with rice pudding and drizzled with pecan cream sauce.
7. Hamjipark – Koreatown – Friday, November 2, 2007
Hwa Shin Kim and daughter Eunji opened this fashionable offshoot of their bare bones Pico original in 2003. After a delicious meal the previous week, I couldn’t wait to return for my birthday dinner. The high-energy restaurant’s signature dish is barbecued pork spare ribs, which arrive spice-slathered and sticky on a sizzling, onion-lined platter. Incredibly, the superior meal excluded the locally famous ribs. Springy vermicelli noodles joined chile-soaked pan-broiled squid – tender tentacles, abdomen and tail meat – sweet onions, mushrooms, zucchini and red pepper strips. To extinguish the heat, we downed a cool bottle of sweet plum wine.
8. Bashan – Glendale – November 18, 2007 [CLOSED]
In the unlikely locale of Montrose, Chef Nadav Bashan opened a Mediterranean restaurant with wife Romy, who runs the front of the house. Although the couple has only been restaurateurs since September, Bashan can already compete with most of the heavy hitters on the Westside, at a slightly lower price point for the same premium ingredients. Chef Bashan’s approach is highly seasonal, and as a result, he changes the menu every week or two and offers nightly specials based on what he finds in markets around town. Knowing that he previously worked at Providence, L.A.’s top seafood restaurant, I expected big things from his oceanic dishes, and he didn’t disappoint. My visit yielded crisp-skinned barramundi with a phenomenal hash of shrimp, chorizo, Jerusalem artichokes and caramelized cipollini onions. The appetizers and desserts were nearly as successful.
Chef Ludovic “Ludo” Lefebvre’s “eclectic culinary adventure” was available at Breadbar through December 21, offering an opportunity to sample reasonably priced dishes from Ludovic, who built a reputation for creativity at L’Orangerie and Bastide. We started with a plank of rosy-hued Prosciutto di Parma served with dishes of creamy mascarpone and honeycomb. A salad of red, green and purple heirloom tomatoes was topped with a blimp-shaped mass of feta mousse, oregano, shaved onion and pitted Nicoise olives. Fillets of silky smoked salmon were strewn with edible flowers and Petrossian trout roe. The accompanying “tangerine gazpacho” was phenomenal, bursting with sweet tangerine pulp. We had mixed success with the “Foie gras tart, maple syrup, lemon” and “Celery roots veloute, whole grain mustard, Parmesan marshmallow,” but found overwhelming redemption with “Sautéed scallop, curried yogurt, spinach.” One main course combined “cherry tomato aigre-doux, rigatoni pasta, poached lobster in tamarind butter.” The meaty lobster claw was excellent, and the melted mozzarella was a nice touch, but the tomato sauce was overwhelmingly sour. Our second main course incorporated “red fish, broccoli, soy sauce caramel, fennel, blood orange,” featuring a caramelized fillet of fish that separated at the touch of a fork into luscious sheets. For dessert, we bypassed Ludo’s caviar topped panna cotta in favor of a more conventional “milk-shake ‘belle-Helene’ pear.” Ludo paid homage to Auguste Escoffier by preparing a take on the famous French chef’s signature dessert, blending pear pulp into a chocolate milkshake. Not every dish worked, but Ludo’s highs were very high and each course was a conversation piece.
10. Chin-Go-Gae – Koreatown – Monday, December 17, 2007 [CLOSED]
There are only eight dishes on the menu at this dingy Korean restaurant, but the reason to come here is for the first two listings. Yeum So Moo Chim featured chunks of tender goat meat, stir-fried with spinach, chile sauce, and greens and drizzled with sesame seeds. Greens cooked down, infusing vivid goat soup with pleasant bitterness. We stirred traditional dishes of chile paste, sesame oil and black pepper, good for dipping goat meet and feeding into the soup. Our waitress brought out mounds of steamed white rice and tossed them into a fresh pan. Then she added a huge mound of seaweed and spinach chips and poured on the remaining broth, spinach, garlic and goat chunks. Our waitress stir-fried the rice and greens with the goat-fortified broth. The rice quickly got crusty in the pan and absorbed the nutrients of the meat, broth and vegetables. Sensational.