#24 - Shunji

For Danny's birthday, I transported him to Japan via Pico Boulevard, just off of the 10 freeway off ramp. I'm talking, of course, about the magical hut that is Shunji. We did omakase for the first time and it was a remarkable experience. I have no idea what half the things we ate were, and it's probably best done that way. For instance, I'm aware from reading all the reviews online that one of the things we ate in the appetizer plate was cod sperm. I knew what it was going into it, so I just ate it as fast as possible. Danny didn't know and I made sure to keep it that way till way after dinner. He ate it, loved it, and told me he thought it must be some sort of mashed potatoes.

Overall, the experience was phenomenal. I loved everything put in front of me, and the nigiri's were the best I've ever ever had. Remarkable! And this comes from a couple who reveres Hama Sushi beyond all others as THE BEST. But these nigiri were something new and special without a doubt.

Hard to say my absolute favorite dish of the night, but if I had to, it would be the black cod soup. Holy moly, I was blown away by the sweet, flakiness of the cod and the umami of the broth. Maybe it was because I was still suffering a tad from my cold, I know not, but I promise you that this soup absolutely blew me away.


#48 - The Tasting Kitchen

The food and upstairs atmosphere are top notch. You really must go here if you have not yet been.

I do know the very first time I came with Danny that we left a little disappointed. I remember that we didn't seem to get as many courses of food as the people around us seemed to. So after much debate, I ended up writing to the restaurant and airing my grievance. When I told them everything we got, they apologized and said that definitely wasn't enough and someone must have made a grave mistake. They then sent me a voucher in the mail. I want to say it was for the price of one meal.
So we went back and I do remember the next time having entirely too much food (in a good way!) that we left completely stuffed.

So, while it's been so long I can't possibly tell you what to order, I will say to go for the tasting experience and you should not regret it! Although, looking at their menu offering online just now has me wondering - do they do the tasting menu experience anymore?! God, I hope so, otherwise what's the point of the name of the restaurant!!


#42 - The Bazaar

Went here for tea time brunch a few years ago. The tea tray was thourough, interesting, and good. But nothing overly special to recall. Moreover was about the experience as a whole which was very delightful.
I need to return to actually try the regular restaurant.


#36 - Pizzana

Pizzana was a long time coming in my neighborhood. I soon heard of JGold's glowing reviews and reviews of basically everyone else in this city whose food voice matters. They all loved it. I couldn't believe that a pizza joint with celebrity names and a Sprinkles Cupcake backer would be getting such positive and high quality reviews. I had to try it! Since we live in the neighborhood, it was easy enough to go there, put in our name, and go back home while we awaited our almost two hour call back. Of course we didn't actually go home, we went to Bar Toscana for drinks.

Once we arrived back, we noted that the hostess looked just like Reese Witherspoon. I noted this on my yelp review, to which someone replied to me that this was in fact Reese's daughter! She was gorgeous, but seeing a girl that I remember being born as my service provider made me feel really old!

We were sat at the Pizza bar. This is the best seat in the house. I've sat in another seat since and had a much less pleasant experience! The pizza bar is mesmerizing. You watch the people making the pizzas work with such precision and discipline. My favorite part is probably watching them move the pizzas around the oven quickly for an even cook. You get to see which toppings go on which pizza and in which order. It's fabulous.

Here's everything I've had so far:
-Carciofi Arrostiti: charred artichoke heart, fried baby artichoke, toasted pine nuts, parmigiano, lemon, olive oil
-Funghi: italian crema, fontina, shiitake and oyster mushrooms, caramelized onion
-Carborina: san marzano dop, squash blossom, burrata, cherry tomato, gremolata
-Chocolate cake: simple, but so perfect.


#6 - Spring

Spring is this amazingly huge space filled with pastel colored chairs, french country mode style accents, and plants galore. The roof is a greenhouse style skylight roof very high up, and the only negative I could find about the interior is that the trees are fake. Oof.

I was happy about the food choices here, the wines by the glass, and especially the dessert. I do wish that they had a vegetarian tasting menu. But overall, I was happy with what we ordered.

This beet and burrata salad was to die for. Seasoned just right!

I could have done without this eggplant caponata. It was fine, but nothing to write home about.

Danny went with the wild boar pasta (which I couldn't eat - so nice of him, right?) He really enjoyed it.

I had the mushroom risotto. Good dish all around. Flavorful, creamy but not too rich. Liked it.

Had some early grey tea. Can't go wrong there!

Ah, the chocolate dessert. This was the best thing of the whole meal!


#70 Rosaline

Did you know that Chef Ricardo Zarate's latest restaurant Rosaline is named after his mother? How sweet is that? I love Peruvian cuisine and cocktails and I love Rosaline on Melrose.

The interior is fabulous too. Important to me as a designer, but also really helps with the overall ambience, as does great service, which we had, despite a guaranteed 20% tip.

Good thing I'm pescetarian, because the Peruvian diet is fish heavy, and I certainly didn't mind.

The ceviche menu is on the back of the cocktail menu and our waitress was great at her job - she talked us into the tiradito de corvina which is ensenada sea bass, amazonian charapita chili, and tamarin yuzu walnut dressing. It comes out as four pieces of the slightly torched sea bass with some roasted nuts, fried garlic, and these little tiny, citrusy, yellow pepper that you are told are really hot and that your should eat it the same time as the fish.  I found them very lovely and not at all to spicy, but the perfect complement to the fish.

But first, the cocktails!

Pisco Sour

Then these amazing veggie dishes!

And finally, for the big reveal: The grilled branzino. It was truly delicious. The sauce, the charred veg on the side, and the tender, juicy fish itself. O.M.G. Get this dish!


#34 - Broken Spanish

Here's a case of tasty, innovative food but an overpriced menu and uncomfortable space.

But the food is really good, I swear!  Just make sure you are seated in the front room, not the dark and drafty back room.

Fall squash tamale with yogurt, pomegranate, and chile manzano

Chile Relleno with poblano, potato, kale, lemon, soubise.

Scallops (literally only 2 of them for $28!!!) sunchoke, mole blanco, hazelnut, grape.


#31 - Michael's

I'll admit, I didn't know about the Santa Monica institution that is Michael's restaurant. The night I made a last minute reservation and told friends and colleagues about it, everyone else seemed to know that they'd recently gotten a new chef and changed the menu up. So who knows what it was like before, but I'm really into their current menu (February 2018) I want to try out their happy hour too, specifically their daily $1.79 cocktail from 5:30-6:00pm only.

The restaurant itself is quite a surprise. I had already been told they have a nice courtyard, but that is an understatement. The whole restaurant completely opens up to this giant, plant and tree filled outdoor space, with a few steps down.

Burrata with tangerine, marinated cauliflower, and sour plum

Black lentil with cabbage, sunchoke, and curry leaf

Cavetelli with braised shiitake, english peas, and parmigiano-reggiano

Sea bass with bonito-rosemary agile, spiced carrots, and turnip


#27 - P.Y.T.

My best friend since 9th grade was visiting for the weekend so I gave her the 101 List and asked her to let me know where she wanted to eat. PYT was at the top of her list specifically for the menu item: hand torn pasta with shishito peppers, cilantro, mint, and poblano cream. Which we ordered. And it was freaking delicious.

We had an 8:45 reservation and spent the evening chatting, drinking wine, and sharing some amazing dishes. We closed the place out. Such a cute little place it is too. And the super vegetable forward menu has me dying to go back for more.

Potato Chapati Bread with Argental-berbere cheese, turmeric yuzu butter, and Rancho Gordo bean hummus.

Roasted cauliflower (sorry, no longer on the menu online, so I can't remember all the ingredients.)

Hand torn pasta with shishito peppers, cilantro, mint, and poblano cream.

Gianduja mousse & rice pudding with chocolate shavings and hazelnut


#5 - Taco Maria

A Jonathan Gold Top 5 pick in a Costa Mesa shopping center?! First off, where the heck is Costa Mesa and how do I get there?

Lucky for me - who never ventures into The OC - that I was running the Surf City Half Marathon this past weekend and had a friend visiting (and running) who was ready to eat some good food. So we were stoked for the Prixe Fixe brunch at Taco Maria after the race.

I made the reservation for 12:45, unsure how long it would take us to complete the race, get to our car, and get cleaned up. Turns out, we were ready and at Taco Maria around 11:30. They only had a spot available at the bar for the three of us that early - which was NO problem as we got to see how the cooking in the kitchen went down. Best seats in the house if you ask me!

Between the three of us, we got to try everything on the brunch menu, including the mimosas and coffee. All was delicious. Here it all is, prepare yourself to salivate.

cara cara orange mimosa

coconut poppy seed granola, yogurt mousse, passionfruit jam

molletes: grilled bread with refried beans, queso fresco, and huitlacocha butter
strawberry and cream oatmeal

mimosa #2, strawberry hibiscus

buttermilk pancakes with bananas two ways, creamed butter, and thyme syrup
chilaquiles with chile cascabel, fresh cojita, fried egg, mushroom chorizo

brioche with avocado, poached egg, and dashi hollandaise


#28 - Guerrilla Tacos

A completely new, small menu every day coming from a nondescript food truck just steps outside of my apartment and/or grad school door. This was the story of my life back in 2013-2014 when I was at SCI-Arc and drooling over Guerrilla Tacos on a weekly basis.

Chef Wes Avila is killing the gourmet taco game. I only hope when his storefront finally opens that the quality isn't lost, like what happened to Eggslut, RIP.

Sadly, I haven't had much opportunity to eat from Guerrilla since moving to the West Side, but you better believe on the rare occasion that I find myself in proximity to Guerrilla Tacos, that I partake. Even if I've already eaten, one taco is enough to quench my thirst.

Items tried as of July 2014:
-grilled calamari taco--my least favorite, but it was still good
-roasted golden beet taco- OMG.  How is this sooooooo good?  I have no idea what kind of crack they are putting in this to make it so freaking flavorful, but I could have eaten 10 of these.
-Duck egg torts without prosciutto.  Since I'm vegetarian and they were out of all their veggie items except a mushroom taco,  I really wanted this torta for the duck egg and everything else on it, sans prosciutto.  They complied and added mushrooms to it (since I asked that the price be lowered if the prosciutto wouldn't be required)  So, no lower price--this one was $10--but I'm incredibly glad they made this substitution for me.  It was served on top of a croissant with queso fresco, avocado, and chili de arbol.
-waffles, available on Sundays only.  I don't like waffles much, so I didn't love these, but purely for the reason that I don't like waffles.  Everyone who does love waffles loves these.
-Finally, going back to the first thing I ever had: Roasted corn quesadilla with Oaxacan cheese, momotaro tomatoes, avocado, shishito peppers, fried hen egg, burnt tomato chile, & McGrath greens, also $10.


#98 - Mayura

I love south indian cuisine. Give me a dosa any day. Indian lunch buffet? Yes please! Mayura does it all.

Since I hadn't yet tried an uthappam, I decided to go for it. It did not disappoint! I had the paneer and peas uthappam and found it to be really filling. I like the two soups/sauces that come with it too.

This will be my new go-to Indian place.


#19 - Republique

Dinner here was delicious. Danny and I spent a good 2.5 hours here and never felt bored or hungry. The atmosphere is great. Yes, it's expensive. But when the food is this good, I really don't mind. And I do mean REALLY good.

We were late to our reservation, but I called ahead and they kindly saved our seating. We were seated within a few moments of giving our name to the host.

As an creator of spaces, I absolutely love the look, feel, and overall vibe of this restaurant. Our seat was right in the middle of the action, but it didn't both husband or I. The only possible downside I saw of anything was that they give you those tiny little water glasses and a wine bottle full of still water at your table (all totally fine, love it) BUT there is always someone there to top off your water, which is a bit distracting when you are trying to have a good conversation with your partner. That's it, everything else about Republique is perfect. Just, for me, I don't like someone topping off my water constantly. I can do it myself!

"Eggs on toast" which is soft scrambled eggs and Santa Barbara uni. The varying temperatures and textures on this were really intriguing. I liked it. I felt maybe it could have more variation in flavor, but I was in it for the experience of trying something totally new to me, and it gave me that.

Goiai Burrata Crostini - oh wow. This was fabulous. I'm not quite sure that I got the butternut squash, but it was topped with a kind of kumquat/apricot jam. So good. You can't go wrong with burrata and their bread - which by the way - is amazing and I want more of it every day of my life.

Potato and Leek Beignets - you better believe I had been eyeing these on the menu since first making a reservation here. And now that I've had these scrumptious little pillows of deliciousness, I am dying to learn how to recreate them. More on that later. For now, I promise you, you HAVE to try these babies. They are stuffed with gruyere and sat atop a to-die-for horseradish aioli. Be careful, these suckers are hot. But you also won't want to wait till they cool down!

Cauliflower. I always order the cauliflower on the menu. It's basically how you judge a restaurant in 2018. This one was roasted perfectly, don't forget to dive down to the bottom of the bowl to scoop in some of that lime yogurt. Overall, a solid cauliflower dish.

Butternut squash agnolotti. O.m.g. It was great. So sweet and creamy, and yet savory and complex. It was gone before our bread arrived and we had to shoo away a busser trying to take the bowl that we HAD to sop up the remaining sauce with that brilliant bread.

Don't you dare skimp out on dessert. They have an incredible assortment. I went with the brown butter almond cake with citrus-raspberry sauce, and thyme ice cream. Thyme. Ice cream. Yes, that is a thing and it is effing marvelous. The cake is made to order and worth every last penny. I also enjoyed tea with my cake.

Danny just wanted to try one cheese. Order one cheese is probably the best deal in the whole restaurant. It's $6 and comes with a ton of pieces of fruit bread, pot of honey, and a pot of apricot preserves. Score. This one was Jacob and Brichford's "ameribella"

Bravo République. You do food well. I can't wait to return for brunch to experience the gorgeous space soaked in sunlight (and to try your ricotta toast, quiche, burrata toast, etc. etc.)