Jonathan Gold's 99 Essential L.A. Restaurants

Here's a list of 99 more L.A. grub spots, compiled by The LA Weekly's JG, the ultimate grubber. Check out his picks: 99 Essential L.A. Restaurants


LA Times' latest EATING OUT List

Mmm... let's get our grub on! Check it out!


Universal Hilton

After reading the Madame Matisse posting, do a 180 degree turn and you'll have the Universal Hilton sunday brunch Boo-Fay. Maybe it was because it was Father's day, but the place was crowded. I mean you have to use your chinese "lack of personal space" skills just to walk around. It had a distinct Las Vegas feel to it. Maybe it was all the chinese and filipinos that were eating there.

Foodwise, it was good. Not the best brunch I've ever had, and not the worst.

There was a huge seafood table with dungeness crab, king crab, stone crab, lobster, shrimp, oysters and seafood pate. While you think this is the high price item, you could almost skip it. The oysters on the half shell were not good, the king crab and lobster were till partially frozen and watery, the dungeness crab was okay, but I'd rather have mine hot with ginger and onion, shrimp, well it's boiled shrimp and I like peel-and-eat shrimp.

Next to the seafood table is the sushi area. Once again, it sounds good on paper, but you want to stay away from this too. They have salmon, halibut and tuna sashimi on a giant platter. Sashimi and giant platter shouldn't be said together without the word NOT somewhere in there. They also have the custom handroll. I guess that's okay, didn't get one.

In the another room they have traditional salad stuff, didn't get it, and other cooked chinese/asian dishes. Beef and broccoli, kalbi, potstickers..... in this room is the freezer where you can get the ice cream truck special. When I first went in they had individual Haagen Daaz cups, dibs and other assorted treats. When I went back a second time, they only had half melted snickers ice cream bars, ice cream sandwiches, strawberry shortcake bars, and butterfinger bars. Tip, go early and have ice cream first. There was also a dessert table which I did not partake in.

Next to the sushi station there was a pasta bar where you can choose your sauce, pasta and toppings and a guy puts it all together. Didn't try this one either, filler.

Across from the pasta bar is the mixed bag table. You have roasted fingerling potatoes, mac & cheese, some pasta dish, siu mai, haw gow, pastries and breads. I had the haw gow and siu mai since Allen likes that. I didn't eat much since Allen took the haw gow from me, ate the filling and returned the wrapper back to me. The joys of being a parent.

Next to the mixed bag table is the meat carving station. You have your prime rib, turkey, ham, lamb and.....roast pork, with the crispy skin. I only had to roast pork. Tip, ask the meat carver guy to only give you the skin. The hoisin sauce and green onions are right on the table. I meant to go back for more of the meats, but I didn't get a chance.

Across from the meat table is another mixed table. More breads and pastries and drinks. There was a hot chocolate urn, which I wasn't sure it was 100% hot chocolate. It tasted like there was some vanilla and maybe something else. Sort of like the mexican champurrado without the cinnamon. There was also an orange juice and apple juice dispenser on the table.

Outside in the atrium area is a grill station. They have ribs, steak, hamburgers hot dogs, some sort of sausage and lamb chops. I had the sausage, okay, needed more spices, it might have been good in a bun with mustard and onions and peppers, but I wasn't going to go for the filler. That's what they want you to do. I didn't have any ribs, I wanted some, but some people don't know buffet etiquette. I saw people with a huge pile of a single item on one plate. I know they might be sharing with the table, but at least save some for the people that are behind you. I had to go back a couple of times just to get the lamb chops. I'm glad that I did. Very good. Not gamy at all and nice and tender.

Going back inside, there's another dessert table. Your usual tarts and tortes, but this one also had a chocolate fountain. Once again, it sounds good in theory, but just think of all the people that are sticking their fingers and other things in that chocolate fountain. I was waiting for my turn when the lady in front of me was just grazing right in front of the fountain. Dip, shove it in her mouth, repeat.

Farther down the hall almost to the ballroom area is the breakfast food table. You have the make your own omelet/eggs/crepes/waffles and your usual breakfast buffet fare of sausage, bacon, ham, home fries and eggs benedict. When I came back with a plate of omelet, bacon and sausage my mom admonished me to get stuff that I usually don't get at home. I did, I never get to eat 5 strips of bacon AND sausage at one time at home.

I would rate it a 5 out of 10 experience. Maybe if it wasn't so crowded I would give it a higher rating.

Cafe Sierra at the Universal Hilton
Sunday Brunch: 10:30-2? (Don't believe the website that says it begins at 11:30)
$34.95 adults (before 11am, $5 off), $9 kids (3-9), we had to lie about Allen's age for the first time.


Madame Matisse

My best friend Tonkhero has been raving about Madame Matisse since I've met him two years ago... and finally, I paid homage to the Madame today.

Located on 3536 W Sunset Blvd in Silverlake, across from the St. Francis of Assisi mural, Madame Matisse is a small, simple and quaint restaurant in the center of hipster-ville. So even though the patrons are a little yucky, the service is quite the opposite: down-to-earth and sweet. The menu reflects the service as well... a concise list of sweet and savory brunch entrees. You think with a name like Madame Matisse, you would have a menu filled with overpriced items and gratuitous descriptions in faux French. Instead, you have the Matisse Corned Beef Hash and Eggs:
I love love love corned beef hash and, thankfully, this dish of the Madame's was no disappointment. Because the hash was mixed with onions and green onions, it tasted healthier and more interesting. The texture of the hash was sticky too, and didn't crumble like some other hashes I've had. I believe the sticky texture helped with the seamless absorption of the runny eggs. By the way, I apologize if the picture above looks gross... I mashed my eggs before I remembered to take the photo. When the waitress brought my dish out, I got too excited and ahead of myself... sorry.
Kathy Jue ordered the Madame's special french toast, sausage and eggs. Since I'm not a french toast kind of gal (unless the toast is soaked in egg batter overnight), I couldn't really tell you if it was good, but Kathy said it was excellent. I tried a bit of it, and I have to admit, it was indeed tasty. The Madame added this orange flavor to the toast, which makes it much more interesting than the standard french toast. The sausage was real good, albeit a bit too spicy, but the eggs were on the bland side. Not bad still. Overall, it was a very nice experience.

* We also had a star sighting at Madame Matisse -- Michael from Lost. We do not know his real name. He had brunch with his white wife and biracial pre-teen daughter. I thought about snapping his picture for Joe Mak (a die-hard Lost fan), but the corned beef hash arrived and, well, you know the story...


Senor Fish, redux

senor fish
Originally uploaded by illewminator.

here's a photo to accompany the Senor Fish review from August 2004. Pictured here is the taco lunch special: 2 tacos (choose your meat filling), rice, beans, and a drink for $4.95... or was it $5.95?? either way, it's still a deal. Oh, and someone else's burrito is pictured on the top right. Either of these choices are the biggest bang for your buck. Try the shrimp or scallop burrito. mmm mmm mmmm!!!

Wonton Time

wonton time
Originally uploaded by illewminator.
Following the logic of fellow GrubClubber "NuttinButGlutton," I suppose Wonton Time could be categorized as a "Hong Kong Regional Specialty" -- except for the fact that this is some damned good wonton soup that satisfies your wonton cravings every time.

Wonton Time is an outpost of a Hong Kong chain, and that's all they do: wonton and various combinations of wonton with soup, noodles (the thin egg noodles pictured or the thicker rice noodles), handmade fish balls (pictured in soup), and sliced beef. You can also get green veggies (like chinese broccoli, but not quite... it's the one that looks like chinese broccoli but tastes more like a cross between it and bok choy).

These are no ordinary wontons... these are like wontons on crack. They are humungo... each one probably contains at least 3-4 whole shrimp inside. And the fish balls are not really balls at all; since they are all hand-made, they're more like the shape of what you get when you squish play-doh in the palm of your hand while making a fist. And, even though I am not ordinarily much of a fan of the fish ball ouevre, these are some tasty fish balls. Not at all like the rubbery, fishy-smelling things that come out of the freezer section, these are freshly-made, delicately flavored, tender, and perfect in the soup when they soak up the tasty broth.

Speaking of the soup, I like to get the wonton, noodles (either egg or rice... depends on my mood), and fish ball combo in the soup. The other option is to get all the ingredients on a plate and the broth served to you separately in a bowl (as shown at the top of the picture). Kind of like how at Daikokuya, you can get the ramen separate from the broth. Frankly, I just don't see the point of separating everything, since having everything together in the broth makes ties all the flavors together. But, hey, I'm the one who likes to put everything on my plate together in a sandwich, so that may be just me... Lastly, top everything off with the delicious chili oil concoction and you'll soon be a fan, too.

Located in the mall anchored by the Starbuck's on the NE corner of Garfield and Valley, Wonton Time is worth seeking out. But be forewarned that it is teeny tiny in there and I think they close rather early (maybe 8 or 9pm). But a bonus is that afterward, you can always walk over to the Shau May franchise (I think this one is called Kang Kang) and get yourself a shaved ice for dessert.

Food Trends

I saw this in the LA Times today.

The Show Dogs of Summer

That's right, corn dogs are the food of the future.

I am so on board with that one.

I predict an all stick food movement. After that, edible bowls.


Singapore's Banana Leaf

Although the Farmer's Market is one of my favorite places in LA, I was getting kinda bored with the market's favorites: the crepes from the french place owned by Filipinos; the po-boys from the New Orleans joint; the nachos and chilaquiles from the Mexican place; and the Brazilian food that always cost me an arm and a leg because I can never accurately eyeball how much the items on my plate weigh...

Singapore's Banana Leaf has revived 3rd and Fairfax in a big, delicious way. I've been there for a total of three times now, and I still crave more. This food blogger also agrees!

Pictured above is the Mee Goreng Indo Style -- savory Indian pan-fried noodles served with two satay sticks and a fried egg on top... for $8.50! This is my ultimate favorite.

For an appetizer, I recommend the Roti Paratha, a grilled Indian bread served with vegetarian curry dipping sauce. It tastes so fresh and so light, you can't tell how fatty it probably is. It's wonderful, and fun to share.

The only other items I've tasted were the Laksa Soup (spicy coconut curry soup with rice noodles, tofu, bean sprouts and homemade fishcake) and Tuna Sambal (solid white albacore tuna sauteed with garlic, onions, tomato and ginger, and served with rice and vegetables). Both entrees are huge. You can save the leftovers for another meal. Double the pleasure, double the fun!

I would attempt to try more entrees, but I'm addicted to the Mee Goreng pictured above. I mean, look at it! With the egg on top and two (not one, but two!) satay sticks make this the perfect dish!



Last Thursday we had a team lunch at work and picked up food from Mamita. It's a peruvian place sandwiched between the BMW dealer and the Mercedes dealer. Talk about bringing down the property values.

I had Pescado a lo macho. Fried fish filet topped with sauteed shrimp, squid and octopus, served with rice. It's similar in seasoning to the saltado de mariscos. It had the onions and the tomatoes and the soy sauce based sauce, except for one difference, instead of french fries, you use breaded fish filet. Point for cake right there. I like the french fries and all, but come on, it's fish and about the same price as the saltado. At about $10.95 it's not a cheap lunch, but it's good.

714 S. Brand Blvd
Glendale, CA 91204
Wed-Thurs: 11:30-8:30
Fri-Sat: 11:30-9:30
Sunday: 11:30-8:00
Closed Monday & Tuesday

Costco Food Court

I can't believe that there are enough people that don't know about the costco food court that there would be a need to run an article about it.

Seattle Times article

Leave it to Debbie Downer from the American Heart Association to say that a slice of pizza is probably enough for two people. Come on, the last time I went to the costco food court, Allen ate a slice of pizza on his own. He is a big kid and all, but he's not 3 years old yet. Hopefully I'm not growing one of those fat kids, but I'm just saying.

Question: Has anybody ever ordered the chicken bake more than once? At $2.69 is it almost two hot dogs good?

Vietnamese Regional Specialty

Somewhat of an inside joke among the Lew family, but _____ regional specialty has come to be known as somewhere that serves one dish of something that you have no desire of eating.

I came across this article in the LA Times just last week.
Vietnamese Regional Specialty

Like any good article, the first sentence tells me everything I need to know about this place.

"In a dining area barely bigger than a lunch truck, Kevin Tran presides over the counter and dining room of Vinh Loi Tofu, a Vietnamese vegetarian café and tofu factory in Reseda. "


Now add the words "celery bar" and you can be sure that I won't be within a 2 mile radius of this place.

I'm all about trying places out before passing judgement, but really. Come on. Read the article and tell me I'm wrong by not wanting to go to this place.

Tip Top Meats

I don't know where to begin with this.


When I die, I don't want clouds, a harp and pearly gates. I want to go to Tip Top Meats in Carlsbad.


Okay, on the surface it's a meat market with a vast selection on smoked meats and sausages. They also have a large European grocery product section. Words do not do this place justice. Come on, there's about 9 linear feet of bacon. From your thick sliced bacon, thin sliced bacon, slab bacon, double smoked bacon, single smoked bacon, hungarian hot bacon......then you move on to the smoked ham hocks, smoked pork loin, smoked pork butt........then you have the smoked turkey wings, drumsticks, breast, necks........ don't even get me started on the sausages. Bratwurst, breakfast links, bockwurst, frankfurters......drool.

I'm not a beer drinker, but the amount of european beers they have on stock is astounding. Then there's all the european chocolates. Mmmmmm.........

You can also get any european condiment or sauce you have ever had on your european trips. Not that I would know, but i can imagine what it would be like. Say you want curried ketchup. they got that. Remoulade sauce. Maggi sauce. HB sauce. They got it. The only thing missing is a great cheese and butter selection, but the meats more than make up for that shortcoming.

They also have a restaurant attached to the market. Maybe it was because we were there around 3pm and only blue hairs eat at that hour, but the restaurant area looks like somewhere old people eat. One thing to know is the Big John Breakfast. It's served from 6am-12pm. For $5.98 you get 3 eggs any style, home fried potatoes, toast and get this ALL THE MEATS YOU CAN EAT. This includes bacon, sausage, polish sausage, bratwurst or ham. They're not messing around here. Most places give you all you can eat of the cheap stuff, like pancakes, or toast, but not Tip Top Meats, they don't mess around with the all you can eat swine products.

Tip Top Meats
6118 Paseo Del Norte
Carlsbad, CA 92009
Open Daily: 6am-8pm
Located just off of Palomar Airport Road across from the Red Roof Inn.


Taco Zone

Located at Alvarado and Montana in Echo Park (adjacent to the parking lot of Vons), Taco Zone is THE BEST taco truck in Los Angeles. Hot, juicy tacos, burritos, quesadillas and more. Open late. Fuckin cheap. Good vibes. Very excellent.


Dusty's - Silverlake

dusty's crab burger
Originally uploaded by illewminator.
After hearing so much about Dusty's, when I finally went I was very pleasantly surprised that it did indeed live up to its hype for being a cool, laid-back, yet highly presentable (meaning date-, parent-, and/or in-law-worthy), neighborhood bistro. And I can vouch for this quality for both daytime brunch and for evening dinner.

Dusty's features a French-inspired menu with several omelet and crepe options for brunch. On the day I went with 3 friends from brunch, I opted for lunch and selected the crab burger pictured above. What it was was a giant crab cake in an oversize toasted bun, served with tartar sauce, lettuce and tomato and a humongo serving of excellent french fries. The crab burger was probably 1.5x the size of a hamburger. On a really hungry day, I could probably finish it, but would then be comatose afterward. (On this day, I cut it in half and took the other half -- along w/ half of the fries -- home. It was even pretty good the next day.)

dusty's frisee salad

We also ordered a frisee salad, topped with a generous portion of lardons and a poached egg, with a vinaigrette dressing. The lardons are like chunks of bacon cubes, not too salty and cooked to a dense, chewy consistency. When you pierce the egg and let the yolk combine with the vinaigrette, what you get is a yummy, creamy, rich dressing all over your slightly bitter frisee and lardons... mmm.... Those French people know how to eat their salad.

For dinner, I've had an excellent escolar special, which was a delicious white fish topped it with a mango salsa. I've also tried the lamb chops with a balsamic reduction... quite delicious. For dessert, I've only had room to try the chocolate souffle, which requires a 20 min. wait time, but it's so worth the extra wait. It comes out piping hot, light and fluffy, so good you'll probably burn your mouth trying to eat it as fast as possible.

Located on busy Sunset Blvd. in Silverlake, Dusty's offers valet parking, which I only used when I was there on a particularly rainy night. Otherwise, being as opposed to valet parking as I am, I usually just try to find a spot on the north side of Sunset.


jollibee hamburger
Originally uploaded by illewminator.
More popular in the Philippines than McDonald's and "Home to the Pinoy Heart Anywhere in the World," Jollibee is quick & cheap Filipino comfort food that can be conveniently found in the food court of the Eagle Rock mall (on Colorado, just east of the 2 fwy -- and, as a sidenote, soon to be The Filipino Mall, anchored by Target and Robinson's May on each ends and also containing a Magic Microphone karaoke kiosk and a Seafood City supermarket coming soon). Several other locations can also be found, always in da Filipino 'hoods, of course.

But onto the grub... as pictured above, my friend Calvin ordered the hamburger steak plate (complete with white rice, mushrooms, and brown gravy) and some noodle entree, called something like palotok(???). I got the 2-piece fried chicken meal pictured below (also comes w/ white rice and gravy). We also got the ube (purple yam) boba slushees (only $1 add-on w/ the combo meal!) and I got a peach mango pie for dessert.

jollibee chicken

I was not much of a fan of the padunkadunk-thing -- it was those thin, white vermicelli noodles topped w/ ground chicken and shrimp and coated w/ some sort of fish sauce. Calvin ate it in about 3 sec. flat, before moving on to the hamburger steak. Although the gravy was salty, I must admit it was pretty tasty atop the plain burgers and rice (throw in a fried egg and you got a hawaiian-style loco moco!). My friend chicken was pretty good, too... better than KFC. The ube slushees were nice and frosty with decent boba at the bottom.

jollibee pie

But the real standout item, IMHO, was the peach mango pie (there's also a banana pie that I'll have to try another time). Remember how, back in the day, before they probably got sued from some stupid white woman, McD's would deep-fry their apple pie so that the filling inside was so hot it would burn the roof of your mouth when you took that first bite?? Well, Jollibee took a page out of that manual because their pie is deep-fried just like the McD's pie used to be and is even packaged in that same ovoid cardboard box w/ the flip out tabs on the ends. Since I have eaten many a McD's hot apple pie in my day, I knew not to bite too heartily into this pie -- and it was a good thing, too, as the delicious peach-mango filling was piping hot and oh-so-delicious!!! You could taste both the mango and the peach -- two great flavors that taste great together. I would go back again and again, just for that pie...


Paella por favor

My craving for paella from the last several weeks was finally fulfilled at Restaurant Spain in Silverlake (1866 Glendale Blvd., 323-667-9045).
The verdict? Unfortunately, the paella wasn't great. It's hard out here for a pimp... er, i mean paella...

We ordered the Paella de Mar, which was a seafood medley that consists of little crab legs, mussels, clams, fish, shrimp and squid. The look was right but the texture was all wrong. The rice was dry and flavorless, and nothing was particularly special about the taste of the seafood. In fact, the seafood tasted too seafoody, like someone forgot to clean the shells or something. I tasted the sea.

I hate to admit this, but the paella is better at La Paella, a joint on San Vicente close to the Beverly Center. I despise going there, however, because the entrees are expensive, and the patrons are old stuffy rich white people. Unlike La Paella, Restaurant Spain has down-to-earth service and un-pretentious customers.

Despite the grubby mini-mall exterior, the interior was cute and clean. They even sold Spanish products at their deli! Look:

I think the key is tapas. The prices are reasonable and the plates are large. We ordered Embutidos Variados, a mix of salami, prosciutto, cheese and olives. Not awesome, but delightful.

And the sangria was good too... but then again, I never met a sangria I didn't like. Cheers!


Honey's Kettle Fried Chicken

Hello Grub Club Members,

This is the newest member, DYY, writing about one of America's favorite pastimes: FRIED CHICKEN. But this time, it's fried like how Chinese people fry their chicken -- light, golden, crispy and ultimately superior (but without the venerable little pieces of feather still remaining). At Honey's Kettle Fried Chicken in Culver City, you will never stick your teeth in a piece of breast and eat crumpling bits and balls of batter.

Although the menu has a variety of items, including their speciality, deep-fried krispy katfish (you know it's serious when words that begin with C are spelled with a K), I only tried their chicken and, unfortunately, no sides. I actually already ate dinner, and stopped at Honey's Kettle only after we weren't swift or smart enough to get advance tickets to see Omen at Mann's Theater. Now that the 6/6/06 will officially end in about an hour, I doubt I will make another trip to see the movie. BUT the night was salvaged when Joe Mak and I ordered one Honey's Kettle chicken thigh for $1.70 and shared it. It was delish! Perhaps 666 ain't so unlucky after all? The devil ain't the only one singing yummy in my tummy.

9537 Culver Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 202-5453

GC members, thank you for including me. It is an honor.