Category: Food & Drink

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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Northern Europe meets Southern California

Cultural exploration is part of the American experience, but often as a one-way street. Descendants of German, Scandinavian, and English immigrants revel in flavors from Asia, Africa and Mexico, but the reverse is rarer. Many Americans have only a vague idea of their own ancestral cuisines and dismiss them as bland or uninteresting. While it is true that the spices associated with Northern Europe are less vivid than the pungent flavors of the tropics, there is more variety than commonly realized. You can sample this at Santa Monica’s Warszawa, one of the few Polish restaurants in California. Warszawa is...

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Subtle mastery with a bay view

If you watch a student fencer, you will see that their moves are big – they’ll slash and flourish while a pro moves half as much but hits their target twice as often. Expertise is like that sometimes, quietly perfect rather than flashy. Chef Allyson Thurber has a resume most in her profession could only dream of: she worked with superstar Thomas Keller before moving to Philadelphia’s Striped Bass, L.A.’s Water Grill and Santa Monica’s The Lobster. When I heard she had moved to Beachside, the new restaurant at the Jamaica Bay Inn hotel in Marina del Rey, I...

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Land of the endless brunch

One of the fixtures of resort hotels is the grand buffet, complete with trays of roasted meats, an omelet station and artfully arranged salmon surrounded by condiments and salads. I’m not enthusiastic about buffets; many items are better when cooked to order instead of simmering in a warmer, and jostling through lines for a slab of ham isn’t my idea of luxury. Still, I can’t deny the lure of a long, lazy weekend meal, perhaps with something bubbly to wash it down. If only someone could perfect the delivery system – say, an opportunity to order small portions of...

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