Category: Food & Drink

Dining on the Thai-Californian border

“Thailand has five major culinary regions, each of which has separate ecosystems and cultural influences,” explained my host in the city of Chiangmai. “The Northwest, Northeast, South, the capital region around Bangkok and California.” There was something odd about one of those, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Wait, California? Yes, he explained, the Los Angeles Thai community had come up with so many recipes that restaurants have opened in Thailand serving California-style Thai food. Locals consider it a foreign cuisine and enjoy the novelty. Traditional regional Thai food used to be a hard sell in California...

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Southern strategy on Abbot Kinney (Restaurant closed after this review was published.)

I recently spent three weeks in the “Old South” and experienced all that is good and bad in that region’s cooking. The best elements of that cuisine are the blended flavors from patient, slow cooking: dishes like collard greens with bacon (in North Carolina, salted pig tails), black-eyed peas in chicken stock or Savannah-style crab stew. The downsides are the heaviness and unhealthy nature of many dishes, which had me longing for a simple salad after a week. Southern cuisine is ripe for reinvention, for a lighter, healthier version that is still true to the spirit of the cuisine....

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This neighbor can cook

It used to mean something when a renowned chef opened a casual bistro. At one time it was a rebellion against formal ideas, and later a statement about the virtues of simple food by someone who had mastered the fancy stuff. Today it just means that a chef has thoughts about how to create modestly priced dishes with style, and can appreciate a lively, casual atmosphere as much as anybody else. An example: Next Door, the bar/bistro that shares a kitchen with Josie, an adventurous market-driven restaurant in Santa Monica. The menu at Next Door fits the gastropub category...

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Side street Greek: Aliki’s Taverna

The main streets around Los Angeles International Airport aren’t particularly promising for ethnic cuisine – lots of places catering to the tourist and office lunch crowd, but few destination restaurants. However, the side streets in Westchester have some hidden gems – an excellent Thai restaurant, an eclectic Middle Eastern place, and most relevant to this review, a world-class Greek taverna. Aliki’s looks unpromising from the outside – it is located in a corner of a motel, right where you’d expect to find a boring coffee shop. The first clue that something more interesting is going on is right inside...

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Wine, candlelight and greenery

“I didn’t know there were this many complimentary adjectives in the English language,” I mused to my spouse, as I looked at the menu at Cafe Gratitude in Venice. With the exception of wines and beers, every item on the menu has a name that is a short affirmation – among the salads alone are “I am festive,” “I am liberated,” and “I am fabulous.” It’s earnestly kitschy but oddly endearing, to use a few adjectives that didn’t make the cut. Café Gratitude is the most interesting of the places I’ve visited on Rose Avenue, which says something given...

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