Daikokuya – Los Angeles

If you’ve walked along first street in Little Tokyo, your attention has undoubtedly been drawn to the yellow awning of this Ramen joint by either the delicious smell emanating from it or the cluster of people waiting for their turn to indulge in this restaurant.

img_5315I am admittedly addicted to tonkotsu ramen and I tend to like comparing ramen by their plain ramen with no added spice. At Daikokuya I usually have the Daikoku ramen and request the richer kotteri flavor. It is a broth rich in flavor and creamy in texture.

img_5316No self-respecting ramen restaurant should leave gyoza off the menu. I would advise you not to miss the gyoza here because they are among the best I’ve tasted. However, I would wait a minute or two before biting into them because they are served extremely hot. So take your time, find your favorite angle, and take your photograph!

My final comment will be to order yourself a sake or a refreshing can of Calpico to wash down all the deliciousness!

Le Petit Paris – Los Angeles

Step into a little bit France in Downtown Los Angeles and take in this beautiful multi-level space complete with a lovely grand staircase. This restaurant feels decidedly French without trying to hard…just ignore the Eiffel Tower motifs. Despite the huge dining space,  there is enough intimacy at each table appropriate for a date.   velvet chairs at these small round tables–reminiscent of a lounge or café in Paris–and adorned with a single long-stemmed rose lit by candle light. The music was refreshingly not Edith Piaf–I love her, but it would have been too cliché.  I wasn’t paying attention to the music at first, to be honest, but then I heard the wonderful piano melody from Yann Tiersen’s Comptine d`un autre ete – l`apres-midi. It pulled me away from the food and conversation and then I noticed the DJ responsible for the music selection. My mind was transported and just wanted to sit there and people watch.

If the music and space prove insufficient to transport you to France, I assure you the food will. Excited for the meal, I started with their Lanson Black Label N/V Champagne as they brought the amuse bouche. The next item were wild Burgundy escargots dressed in garlic, parsley, and butter. The texture of the escargot was great and the butter mixture was pure heaven. I couldn’t help but use the bread to soak up the remaining butter after all the escargots were gone. These were beautifully paired with a 2015 Domaine des Brousses Sancerre

With no more bread or buttery deliciousness left to soak up, it was time to order a a 2013 Jean Royer, Chateauneuf du Pape–a nice wine in expectation of what was to come. We ordered the roasted beef prime rib and bone marrow medium because my friend won’t indulge in my rare preferences; however, our prime rib was brought tableside to be sliced and it was delightfully undercooked (so French!). Our server took my friend’s portion back to the kitchen to cook it just a little longer, so it worked out for both of us. To accompany the meet, three sauces were brought out: pepper, bearnaise, and blue cheese. All were good, but I will always have a preference for anything pepper and this sauce was pure deliciousness. Potato gratin and green beans were served as sides.

Desserts were the molten chocolate lava cake with salted butter caramel sauce and the crepes Suzzette flambéd with Grand-Marnier. Both desserts were delicious, but if I had to pick one I would go for the flambéed crepes as they had the more unique and delicious flavor. The only drawback is that they were the least photogenic of the two.

After concluding our dinner we were invited to explore the upstairs areas. These areas are utilized for busier weekend nights and are also available for special occasions. All in all, this was a wonderful dinner experience and I hope to return soon to see what their menus and ambience are like during the earlier hours of the day. For now, I know were to find a little bit of Paris next time I suffer from a small case of wanderlust.

Sora – Los Angeles

A wonderful sushi-dining experience on the sixty-ninth floor of Los Angeles’ newest and tallest building offering spectacular views of the City of Angels. This restaurant is part of the Intercontinental Hotel portion of this LA tower that opened in late June 2017. Dining spaces include the Sushi bar; along the sushi conveyor belt with views of the city; and more intimate semi-private booths that also offer great views. Unless you’re on a romantic special occasion, I would recommend sitting at the conveyor belt since you are facing the windows: it offers the best views of the city.

The sushi was quite delicious and I don’t think anyone can come away disappointed–unless you’re trying to be a snob and compare this with authentic sushi bars in Japan or other highly reputable ones. If you compare it to other conveyor belt sushi places, I think you’ll find this to be among the best.  The prices are comparable to other sushi places in the area and you’ll find you won’t be breaking the bank. The staff was very friendly and went out of their way to make our night special as we were celebrating two birthdays: they brought us each a glass of champagne to celebrate.

For the best experience, I would recommend going about forty-five to thirty minutes before sunset to enjoy the view of the city as it transitions from day to shimmering night. To go to the restaurant you’ll have to go to the Intercontinental Hotel’s lobby on the seventieth floor and from there descend to the sixty-ninth floor. Reservations are available on OpenTable.

Of other note, there are lovely private dining rooms available in case you’re entertaining the idea of hosting larger groups (see photos below). I haven’t the occasion in mind yet, but I’m tempted to make one in order to wow a few people with a private dining experience framed by spectacular views.

Tim Ho Wan – Hong Kong

I’ve been told that there is no Dim Sum like that of Hong Kong, and that among the best here is the Michelin-starred Tim Ho Wan. It has now expanded to multiple locations within the city and is opening locations around the world. In 2009, chef Mak Kwai-pui (former chef at three-Michelin-starred Lung King Heen) opened its first location in Mongkok. This location in 2013 was moved to Olympian City which is where indulged in this wonderful meal. If you’re price-conscious, don’t let the Michelin-star scare you away as it is billed as the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world.

My experience of dim sum prior to Hong Kong has been limited to Los Angeles, but given the great dim sum found in Los Angeles I consider myself qualified enough to weigh in on the quality of this type of food. Tim Ho Wan is undoubtedly the best I’ve had anywhere and I hope they open a location soon in my hometown. There was nothing we ordered that I wouldn’t have again, and my favorites were the Baked Bun with BBQ Pork (do not miss this one), vermicelli roll stuffed with BBQ pork, and the glutinous rice dumpling.

The ambiance of this restaurant is casual and relaxed. This is the place I would want to go to first after getting off a sixteen-hour flight from Los Angeles. However, no reservations are accepted here, so you will have to put your name down and wait for about 20-30 minutes to be seated (depending on party size). I had trouble knowing when I was being called due to the language barrier, but you’ll be happy to know the menus are available in English.  Check off the items you want to order and flag down a waiter: we spend about 10 minutes waiting for a waiter to approach us before we realized how the locals were doing it.