Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Izaka-Ya (Los Angeles)


We anticipated Izaka-Ya could be one of our favorite meals of the trip, we initially planned to spend my birthday there, but when parents wanted to squeeze time in on my birthday, we switched things up and changed reservations for another day. The following day, we found ourselves hungry after a day spent strolling around Venice Beach and the heavy sounding food at a nearby restaurant and a too experimental menu at another restaurant didn't make our stomachs grumble, we decided to cruise down to Mid-City and check out Izaka-Ya one day early.

Mentioned in Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop Los Angelese City Guide, we asked several locals who agreed and thought we would really like the original Katsu-Ya, but after reviewing their various restaurant menus, we opted to try Izaka-Ya. Good thing we switched things up because this restaurant was so loud and the beginning to our dining and yelling in LA. Since we didn't have reservations for this night, we waited a few minutes and was seated at the sushi bar, which we were excited to sit back and watch the sushi chefs crank it out. Their sushi was seriously gorgeous.

Sushi Set-Up

The first dish we ordered was the Sauted Kabocha with Garlic Butter Soy Sauce. A rich and starchy start to our dinner.

Steamed Kabocha with garlic butter soy sauce $5

We specifically decided on Izaka-Ya because the menu seemed more diverse and not sushi focused, but we couldn't resist and ordered the shima-aji. This was silky deliciousness.


One of my favorite Japanese dishes is miso cod and Izaka-Ya's was heavenly. Silky and soft meat coupled with crispy sweet salty skin - truly terrific. The picked ginger sprout was a surprise and immediately we fell in love. Only the white part is edible, which we learned by trying to chew it to the tip, it was that good - tender, briney, sweet and spicy. The soft texture was a delicious surprise.

Miso Cod

We ordered two items off the specialty list. The first to arrive was the kiwi scallops. As you can imagine the soft texture and mild flavors of both the scallops and kiwis was light and refreshing - fruit and seafood together was a very unique experience and I thoroughly enjoyed this dish. Mike, on the other hand, thought the kiwis were overpowering, making the scallop simply texture in the dish.

Kiwi Scallops

Next came our Soba Noodles. This traditional cold noodle dish was a perfect minimal carb edition to our meal. The dipping broth was a flavorful counterpart and absolutely delicious.

Okinawa-Style Soba

Our final dish was a specialty item of Fried Spinach and Seared Toro, or the roast beef of the sea. This dish was hearty, to say the least. The crispy fried spinach with the hearty seared toro was rich, savory and decadent. I enjoyed the first few bites, but was quickly overwhelmed by the richness of the dish. Mike, on the other hand, loved it, his favorite dish of the night.

Fried Spinach

Izaka-Ya was really good, everything we expected, but did we keep the 7pm reservation for the following night? No. There's just too much goodness in LA. And was it the best meal we had in LA? No, we experienced that the next night at a restaurant that happened to be just up the street.

8420 W 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Monday, April 29, 2013

Venice Beach, California

Venice Beach Murual

Oh how we loved Venice Beach and it's "let your freak flag fly" attitude, relaxed beach vibe and tourist trap mentality. Nothing, and everything, is for show here. When soliciting advice from locals about what to do in LA, a suggestion was to rent beach cruisers and ride the bicycle-only path from Santa Monica all the way down to Redondo Beach. We didn't end up renting bikes, but we will add it to the list of to-dos for next time because it looked like a great way to see the different beach areas.

Venice Beach Bicycle Path

We stuck mainly to the boardwalk, did a bit of shopping, soaked up that incredible sunshine and people watched to our hearts content. What a great beach area to have for tourist and locals alike.

Venice Beach BoardwalkGraffiti Bomb MurualLisa the Swinsuit SupermodelGingerbread Court ShopsOn the Waterfront CafeVeniceThe BoardwalkBoardwalkUsSunny Venice BeachSun and Palm Trees

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Farm Shop (Los Angeles)

Farm Shop Entrance

After our somewhat over-the-top Las Vegas trip and decadent Caribbean birthday dinner, we were looking forward to that fresh California cuisine Los Angeles is known for. So we headed for the charming Brentwood area for a farm fresh lunch at Farm Shop

Farm Shop Market

We mistakenly hit up the restaurant, and it's tiny little parking lot, during lunch. We waited patiently as what seemed like an unfair number of people (with reservations) were seated before us. But that was ok because the Brentwood Country Mart was filled with numerous upscale shops, including the adorable Farm Shop Market.

Farm Shop Goods

After the hostess apologized for the wait, which lasted a whole 30 minutes, we were seated with a fantastic view of Ted Danson and his beautiful wife Mary Steenburgon. Mike tried to take pictures of me with them in the background, they came out sharp, but I came out blurry. Their interactions with each other were adorable.

Farm Shop Celebrity Stalking

By the time we were seated we were so hungry we quickly scanned the menu for something we could order immediately, which was the avocado hummus ($12). This was so good, made with sunflower seeds, we were completely smitten with this dish. Especially after we requested the dip come with a vegetable instead of the flatbread, and a plate of colorful shaved baby carrots arrived. So delicious we bought avocados and sunflower seeds when we got home to try and make this ourselves.

Avocado Hummus

I was craving eggs, but since it was technically lunchtime there were no omelets or eggs, potatoes & toast in sight, so I ordered their farm fresh egg salad ($14.50) and a side of smashed potatoes with local olive tapenade ($6.50). By utilizing the freshest, local ingredients there was no fuss, no muss to the food and they were absolutely delicious. Exactly what I was hoping for.

Egg Salad PlateSmashed Potatoes & olice tapenade

Mike just couldn't resist the description of the Farm Shop's house made pastrami sandwich with brasised kale ($16). This didn't look like much of a sandwich, but we could only finish half and ate the other half on the way to the airport, which held up well and just as good days later.

Pastrami SandwichMike

After our terrific lunch we headed out to explore more of LA and fell in love with the incredible boulevards of Brentwood and the lush trees that lined them.

Brentwood StreetsLA Trees

Farm Shop was the quintessential LA restaurant - airy, bright, fresh, clean and even had celebrities to look at.

Farm Shop
225 26th Street, Suite 25
Santa Monica, CA 90402

Friday, April 26, 2013

Sunny Spot Birthday Dinner (Los Angeles)

For my birthday dinner we celebrated at Roy Choi's Caribbean inspired eatery Sunny Spot in Venice Beach. We were hoping to experience Mr. Choi's magic fusion touch with his take on Caribbean food, and we also wanted curried goat and mofongo, we wanted to eat Puerto Rican mofongo! Sadly when we arrived we learned curried goat is a specialty dish and not on the regular menu - boo! Sunny spot did have great cocktails, and more importantly, they had Ting on tap! Two Tings and Tangeray please!

Sunny Spot

Upon being seated, we were told it was Happy Hour all day, so decided to start with 4 appetizers: papaya & mango salad ($6), Cuban nuggs - pork terrine, prosciutto, provolone, jalapeno ($5), what a jerk! wings ($6) and the muh-f k'n mofongo ($8) We needed something to slop-up the mofungo, which consisted of ripe plantain, bacon, fennel, garlic, red stripe beer, white rum, vegetable stock, fresh herb and ginger oil and they brought us freshly fried plantains, needless to say everyone at the table collectively let out a YAY!

Mango & Papaya SaladCuban Nuggs - Pork Terraine, Proscuitto, provolone, jalapenohabanero marinated, jerk spice wingsMufungoPlantain Chips

To be completely honest, the mofungo was unmemorable, other than the fried plantains. The Cuban nuggs, what a jerk fried chicken and mango salad were absolutely scrumptious, so we were excited about our main courses. For the entrees the 4 of us ordered the Baby Back Ribs ($22), Jamaican Roasted Lamb ($18) and the Half Jerk Chicken ($17). Each came with yellow salty rice, black beans and coleslaw.

Orange Chili Garlic Baby Back RibsJamaican Roasted LambHalf Jerk Chicken

After the stellar start with the appetizers, other than the underwhelming mofungo, the entrees simply fell flat. The sauce on the fall off the bone, but yet very dry ribs and the roasted lamb tasted exactly the same, which would have been fine if the sauce was good to begin with. The jerk chicken was dry and needed better seasoning, the skin and char was perfect, but the marinade wasn't very good so the chicken was boring and nothing to write home about. We would suggest using more lime juice to open up the meat more.

After the disappointing entrees we were hesitant to try dessert. I even put my camera away, but my mom wanted a palate cleanser and we love coconut creme brulee. Sunny Spot served theirs with a lime tarragon syrup, coupled with the creamiest creme brulee, the combination was dynamite. We loved it, and in the end there was a sunny spot. 

Other than the disappointing main courses, our dinner at the sunny spot was just that - sunny. We wish it wasn't so chilly out or we would have happily had our meal on their patio. We won't completely write-off Roy Choi's other restaurants or his fusion taco trucks, but we won't be seeking them out either. There's just too much goodness in LA.

Sunny Spot
822 W Washington Boulevard
Marina del Ray, LA, California

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Birthday Lunch & Southern California Beach Time

After birthday celebrations with my siblings in Las Vegas, we rented a car and drove across the desert to Los Angeles where we met up with both sets of parents for more birthday celebrating. We had lunch at a delicious Vietnamese restaurant, Chateau Brodard, then we checked out one of Southern California's sunny beaches - Huntington Beach.

If you have been keeping up with this blog, you know we have complained about how terrible the Asian food is in Portland, especially Vietnamese, so we were very excited to have a nice healthy lunch of traditional Vietnamese food.

Chateau Brodard Roll Appetizer Plate
{Chateau's Special Spring Roll Sampler with Roasted Duck, Soft Shell Crab, Seared Ahi Tuna and Pork Rolls, each with its own sauce}

ME's Shrimp Rolls
{Pressed Shrimp & Rice Noodle Thread Plate - huge portion and oh so good}

Vicky's Pork & Eggroll Noodle Bowl
{Grilled Pork & Eggroll Noodle Bowl}

Ba's Chicken and Fish Soup
{Fish & Chicken Noodle Soup}

Mike's Hu Tieu
{Hanoi Style Smoked Pork Noodle Soup}

The GirlsOur DadsMom & I

I was so busy catching up with everyone that I completely forgot to take a photo of my charred vegetarian noodles and Mike's dad's Vietnamese beef stew (which he lapped up every last bit with a baguette).

Next we hoped in the car and headed out to Huntington Beach for some of that terrific California sunshine and sand. We walked up the chilly and windy pier, did a little bit of shopping at the sidewalk sales along Main Street and was fortunate to be there when the Farmer's Market started.

Huntington Beach Sun WorshippersHuntington BeachHuntington Beach from PierHuntington Beach SurferLA in the DistanceHuntington Beach PierWalking along Huntington PierAnneThe ReiversMike & his MomAnne & Mike's MomParents walking along the pierParents on the windy pierBA on the pierParents on the PierBoth Our DadsAnne on the PierHuntington Beach Main Street

Mike started this annoying habit of photographing me taking pictures and this is the result.

Photographing of Photographing - Huntington Beach-Resized

It was a lovely day, the weather was absolutely perfect! I was so lucky to be able to spend time with both sets of parents on my birthday, a real treat.