The Best Things I Ate in 2015

Branzino, Maré

Los Angeles has been a phenomenal place to eat for the duration of 2015. In fact, it’s been really hard to keep up with everything going on in all parts of the city, but what a great problem to have. Better food is available in more neighborhoods, helping raise the standard of dining out in all parts. Hopefully all parts, anyway. We do have our native Roy Choi, doing what he can to make sure such positive change reaches otherwise forgotten neighborhoods, with his and Daniel Patterson’s project, LocaL.

But for all the Fig & Olives of the see-and-be-seen L.A. dining scene, there have been some indisputable favorites of mine to rise to the top. I see 2015 as the year we’ve surpassed the huffing and puffing about authenticity and what that even means for all the history and diversity we have in this city. It’s been exciting to taste how we’ve moved beyond all that to a place and time where chefs can confidently make their mark using flavors from all over the world as their paintbrushes.

So read on, and get to it. 2016 is just around the corner:

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Links: e*starLA Elsewhere in 2015

Catch & Release, Marina del Rey

Apologies for not updating the blog, but here’s a post to push its revival into the New Year. Here I come, 2016! This week, I’ll be posting a round-up of sorts on 2015 and noteworthy dishes at noteworthy restaurants.

In any case, feel free to catch up with a few of my freelance articles, and my comments forthwith, that I wrote for other online publications the latter half of 2015 here. Also, a plug to follow me on other social media channels, which I’ve been updating pretty regularly: Instagram, Twitter, and eventually Snapchat (@estar_la)!

Happy reading. I’ll catch you guys with another 2015 update tomorrow.

Bánh Mì My-Tho
304 W Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA 91801

Phorage
3300 Overland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90034

Catch & Release
13488 Maxella Ave
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292

Langer’s Delicatessen
704 S Alvarado St
Los Angeles, CA 90057

Wexler’s Deli, GCM
317 S Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Old Country Cafe
2 E Valley Blvd #1e
Alhambra, CA 91801

Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village
250 W Valley Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776

Zankou Chicken
5065 Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Talking ABC’s The Taste and Petit Trois with Vanessa Lauren and Ludo Lefebvre

Ludo Lefebvre and Vanessa Lauren

If you’ve been following the third season of The Taste on ABC, you’re familiar with contestant Vanessa Lauren of Team Bourdain. Eliminated on last week’s semi-finale (ep. 6), Vanessa has somewhat since defected to Team Ludo – in the sense that since taping this season’s episodes, she’s been in Ludo Lefebvre’s kitchens at Trois Mec and now Petit Trois. I sat down with Vanessa Lauren and Chef Ludo the other day in anticipation of The Taste finale, which airs tonight.

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First Taste: Terrine, Whether For Dinner or Brunch, is a Delight

Charcuterie at Brunch

There have been a lot of openings as of late, and I’ve been lucky to catch a few, because it’s led to some not-so-surprisingly stellar food already enjoyed in the new year. Terrine was no exception during both visits I made: One dinner and one brunch, one week in from when these respective services were launched. Los Angeles has long-awaited this latest venture from Managing Partner Stephane Bombet and Chef Kris Morningstar, most recently of LACMA’s Ray’s & Stark Bar, and the early results show that the restaurant is actually living up to all the buzz.

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Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese Serving Up Classics and Much More

The Classic with Tomato Basil Dip

As April and thus, National Grilled Cheese Month, comes to a close, I have come to realize that: 1) This classic sandwich needs no one to vouch for its deliciousness the rest of the year, and 2) Who has time to keep track of the celebratory day or month of every food in existence, anyway? (Oh right: Thank you, PR pitches.)

After all, the sandwich has had its own Invitational here for years on end, to somewhat sadly conclude this year as we food enthusiasts find other foods and combinations of food to fawn over. But let’s not forget that as there have been multiple storefronts dedicated to cupcakes and only cupcakes, for a very long time, dedicated grilled cheese slingers has also become a thing.

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Fresh, Fall Cocktails Launch at Crossroads

Cause for Alarm, Parisian Standard, Lady From Shanghai, Forever Young

Now that the restrictions that come with a vegan diet fail to faze him, Jeremy Lake, in his second cocktail menu since Crossroads has opened, made efforts to advance the drinks even further and towards a healthful mindset. And if any restaurant in Los Angeles has been successful at reframing how a diet with no animal by-products is viewed, it’s Crossroads. Everything here is delicious – without mention of the usual apologetics – and the new fall cocktail menu is no exception.

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Spring Cocktails in Full Bloom at Comme Ça

Basil Blush – White rum, strawberry, basil, balsalmic, built over ice

While we’ve gone back and forth for awhile, the weather has gotten pretty warm and I’m sure that it’s here to stay. Well, besides June Gloom in a couple weeks, that is.

But it’s hard to argue that Los Angeles is the place to be in Spring, and Comme Ça, fresh off their remodel, is the perfect place to celebrate and clink glasses. They’ve got quite an impressive cocktail menu that has been out for a couple weeks. Looks are deceiving, because while the Basil Blush, for instance, looks like your typical strawberry-basil cooler, it actually packs quite a punch thanks to its freshly muddled ingredients and tasty, spicy white rum.

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BEP Kitchen Vietnamese Brunch Surfaces Every Other Sunday at Franco

Chao Sang

These days, it’s not exactly hard to find a pop-up around town. So when on the look out for one, unique themes and meal times will catch my eye more than others. Good thing Chef Connie Tran is launching her centrally located Sunday Vietnamese brunch pop-up on Melrose.

It’s a refreshing survey of her style of Vietnamese dishes. Because sometimes, you just want to go beyond a bowl of pho, and for multiple courses. And the option to BYOB is always a great way to go.

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Pingtung Brings Pan-Asian Café Favorites to Melrose

Neighborhood Hot Spot

It’s curious that Pingtung is called an “Eat-in Market,” the “market” designation perhaps being a way of propping up the Asian goods that lie on overhead (to me) shelves along the sides of the deep-drawn cafe. Though I have a few guilty snack pleasures such as Yan Yan, Shrimp Chips, that clear, Japanese soda with the swingy little ball, Calpico and the like, I’d make the trek to 99 Ranch, Mitsuwa or Zion if I wanted to go Asian grocery shopping. (I’m trying to cut down on the snacks, much less MSG-laden ones, anyway.)

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The Great Los Angeles Walk Hits Melrose on Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Great LA Walk: Washington Blvd (2009)

Mark your calendars, walkers, runners, bikers and proud Angelenos. You won’t want to miss the Great LA Walk this Saturday. It’s a 17-mile walk from Downtown LA to the Pacific Ocean. It’s a way to say, “People DO walk in LA.” It’s a day-long appreciation of this city, whether you’re stopping for lunch, walking through one of countless urban enclaves, learning little-known facts about a historical landmark or stopping in to see a shop you’ve never even heard of before. Let’s be honest: It’s also bragging rights.

And this year, it’s a way to really get to know Melrose Avenue.

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