Sunday, November 30, 2008

Day 5- Sasabune, West Los Angeles

Oh Sasabune, how I drool for thee.


12400 Wilshire Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA 90025

Parking: Located inside an office building, there is a large parking lot underneath the building. Sasabune validates as well.

Ambience: Considering that this used to be a Todai, don't be surprised to feel like you're sitting in a slightly fancier Denny's. When you're being well-fed, who cares though.

The food: Omakase is the way to go here. By the end of the set, we were stuffed into a food coma, and about $60/person poorer. You're welcome to stop the chef at any time, but how do you say no to nigiri? The butterfish is fantastic, and I just love the toro. The quality is a notch above Echigo, but as I said, their blue crab handroll is not worth lusting for.

Day 4 - Echigo, West Los Angeles

I never explained why I was pescetarian, did I? I love animals, I'm a friend of the animals. I stopped buying animal skin beginning in high school, and considered becoming vegetarian at the time. I even had my own high school club - Paws, Claws & More! Go me! Back then, I had no idea how to even cook an egg, let alone control my diet. So I cast the idea aside all through college. Then I met Chris at my previous accounting firm, and he introduced me to the idea of pescetarianism. I always thought you could be just vegetarian or vegan, but there are levels and the combinations are endless. I can deal with just eating fish, but I don't think I could do without sushi. I live for food, but really, I live for sushi.

So without further ado, I give you Echigo. Like any true traditional sushi joint, they don't have any fancy websites, or any website for that matter. It's all word of mouth, so here are the words from my mouth. The next few days will be my three favorite sushi venues.

12217 Santa Monica Blvd., # 201
Los Angeles, CA 90025

The location: It's a plain, outdated white building. Echigo is located on the second floor, but it's easy to miss when all you see from the street is a humble "Sushi" sign.

Parking: There is an underground parking lot with ample free parking, but the descend is steep and I'm always scared I'm going to scrape the walls with my car. I prefer to just find street parking.

Ambience: Minimalist. Clean white walls and tiles, with a large window that brings in plenty of natural light.

Reservations: Not required, especially since this is a little known neighborhood gem.

The Food: Echigo is great for their lunch special. It's available Monday-Friday (they open at noon, FYI). For $12, you get 6 pieces of fresh nigiri sushi. The salmon is amazing, and the set is sealed with an amazing blue crab hand roll that's superior to Sasabune's. It's the highlight of a work day. It's the best bang for your buck in sushi town.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Day 3 - Nook Bistro, West Los Angeles

You would never have guessed that wedged between a Chinese take-out place and an upholstery store lied such a jewel. There's also a bagel place, a pizza place, even a newsstand all in the same plaza. Nook Bistro is worth the search. And trust me, it'll be a search, as you'll likely walk right past it without noticing the inconspicious door. Thus far, I've only dined here once, but that was only a few weeks ago. Why we did try it out earlier, is beyond me. It's literally 3 blocks from the bf's place. Yes, right under my nose this whole time! I've been missing out.

Ambience: The inside is nothing like the building's dated and bland exterior. The space is very small, and industrial, quite like any other venue in WLA.

Reservations: Highly recommended. The space hosts a limited number of tables.

The Food: Given that I've only had the food once, and they were all vegetarian dishes, here is the lowdown:

- Shitake & Gruyere Bread Pudding - For a side, it is a good portion, especially for what you're paying. The flavors were right on, and every bite of shitake was something worth savoring.

- Sauteed Brown Rice Bowl - The bf enjoyed this dish, but the sodium level was too overwhelming for my sensitive pallet.

- Nook dinner salad - Fresh and delicious! I'm not a fan of goat cheese, normally I shudder at the thought of anything coming from a goat. This cheese, however, was soft, smooth and creamy. Nook's dinner salad is the only time I'd climb out of my anti-goat anything cave.

Next time, I am saving room for one of their desserts...

Day 2 - Gaby's, West Los Angeles

In Palms, there's a make-shift patio covering the asphalt parking lot and delicious food of Gaby's Mediterranean. If you want great Mediterranean food on the westside, you come to Gaby's. It doesn't hurt that it's one of the best deals in town, either.

Ambience: It's in the parking lot, I kid you not. They sort of spruce up the inside with some LCD's and heatlamps. I love the ambience though - it's loud, not precocious and so energetic.

Reservations: No, but it can get crowded.

Parking: Like anywhere else in Palms, parking's a pain. There is a parking lot that it shares with a bunch of other stores, and the spaces are tight. Street parking is limited, so just be patient.

The food: I was introduced to Gaby's after becoming pescetarian, so I can't vouch for the chicken (although it is halal, and I hear it's tender and juicy). I love the falafel sandwich. I just love falafel, and this love affair of mine began right there at Gaby's. I've yet to find a worthy opponent. I'm not a big fan of their dolma, but that's because I've had the homemade kind. Their house salad is fantastic. They must put crack in that dressing, because I can't get enough of it. And if you know me well enough, you'd know that I am a salad whore.

Day 1 - Spiritland Bistro, Santa Barbara

Let's just start with the best, shall we? I'm going to cut to the chase - nothing beats out my beloved Spiritland Bistro in Santa Barbara. To give a little backstory on this, the bf and I once took the 101 on the way back from a weekend trip to SF just for Spiritland. We could've gone on the 5. We could've saved ourselves the extra two hours by avoiding the detour. We could've eaten more at the wedding reception earlier that day. We could've stopped for a light snack on the way down. Nope, we were racing against the clock to make it to Spiritland before they closed at 9p that Sunday, and we were saving room in our bellies for SPIRITLAND. Oh it was tasty, and worth every sacrifice.

Ambience: Simple and quaint. The restaurant feels like you're inside a small house, adorned with tea lights and miniature vases of fresh cut flowers. Being a few blocks south of the touristy State St. in Santa Barbara, it's a gem that's easily missed.

Reservations: Yes, and suggested on weekends due to the small capacity.

Parking: Street parking, but it's easy to get a spot.

The Food: They describe themselves as serving "organic global cuisine." There's a Mediterranean, Italian, Asian and even Carribbean influence on their menu. I've loved almost every dish I've tried there (and boy there are still so many more I want to try), but here are some of my favorites:

- Carribbean Curried Sweet Potato Soup - light and slightly creamy, just bursting with flavor

- French lentil walnut & wild mushroom pate - An absolute MUST try. This opened up the world of lentils to me (not a bean or lentil fan).

- Venetian Polenta Cakes - The flavors were definitely a surprise, but it's fresh and flavorful.

-Thai coconut curry - Tastes straight out of the garden

- Italian Grilled Avocado & Tomato - Who would've ever thought to grill avocados? Well worth the try, and the dressing is divine.

- Flourless chocolate cake with beet reduction - I'm not a beets fan. Yuck. But when Spiritland pairs it with their chocolate cake, you get a little slice of heaven right there.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

On the subject of food...

An outsider will never understand the meaning of food in our family. We live in this world for food. I blame this on my mom. She is the sole contributor to our, perhaps a tad unhealthy, obsession for all things delicious. No one leaves our house hungry; in fact, no one leaves our house without feeling stuffed to the brim with homemade goodness. I'd never even had a t.v. dinner until my freshman year of college, and even then, I had no idea how to "cook" it. Oh, and it was also my last t.v. dinner. My stomach rejected it, and who on earth thinks it's edible anyways??? My mom's idea of a fun Saturday afternoon is getting us all to participate in 5 whole hours of manual labor. All we had to show for it were 150 scrumptious dumplings (meat and vegetarian versions), made 100% from scratch and with vegetables grown in the backyard. Those dumplings only survive about a week in our house, by the way.

It is with this upbringing that my two siblings and I have a sharp taste for quality. McDonalds need not apply here. So it is to no one's surprise that we only eat out at the best (not to be confused with most expensive) restaurants whereever we go. I do not travel even 5 miles without researching as many choice contendors as possible. I may not know how to apply eyeliner, but honey, I know food.

Therefore, let my restaurant introductions will begin shortly. I present to ya'll, my two week dedication to fooooood!

Monday, November 3, 2008

I always tell myself, "Someday..."

I've always felt like there was more to life than this drab cubical farm life that I lead. Wouldn't life be just so grand? I am once again motivated to keep trying harder to get away. I think the following excerpt from Stephanie Fizer's interview on Etsy just about sums up my goal in life:

What do you enjoy most about not having a day job? Is there anything you miss?
Although it’s taken me a bit to get used to the idea, my favorite thing is being able to do what I want, when I want to do it. It’s empowering to no longer be tied down to someone else’s schedule, and I love that I can work on my illustrations whenever I want, or if I’m feeling crummy I can just curl up with a book and have a bit of time to myself. I certainly don’t miss my day job at all, not even for a second. Part of me misses receiving a paycheck every two weeks and knowing exactly how much it will be, but so far money hasn’t been a problem, so even that doesn’t cause much worry. So far, it’s actually going better than expected. I’m able to pay the bills, take care of my business and still have money leftover in the end.

If you could go back in time before you took the plunge, what advice would you give yourself knowing what you know now?
Just be yourself and make sure you are doing something that you truly love. If you feel passionately about your work, everything else will just fall into place.