If You’re Going to Spend The Money…

Don’t regret it. Just put the money down, enjoy or learn from the investment, and move on. Cut your losses and figure out how to move forward. There’s no point at all in tarnishing a good evening by despairing about dollars and cents. Live the good life.
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10 Favorite Restaurants in Los Angeles

Before departing Los Angeles, I am visiting as many friends and favorite local spots as possible. When people ask what I will miss about Los Angeles, I tell them three things: friends, movie screenings, and food. I take comfort in knowing that other cities have great food, but I will definitely miss the following ten local spots the most and recommend them all. This is not a food critic’s ranking by any means; these places carry for me unforgettable experiential or cultural value beyond the plate. They may not all be the best in town, but I promise you: they are damn good and will show up in my dreams.

1. Twenty Five Degrees (Hollywood, American) [website] [menu] [yelp] [map]
As far as I’m concerned, the best-valued burger in town (the most food and highest quality for the price). Located inside the Roosevelt Hotel on the Hollywood strip. Open 24 hours, $15-$30 per person. Killer cheese plate, beat salad, Guinness milkshake, sweet potato fries, and garlic parmesan sauce.

2. The Bazaar by José Andrés (Beverly Hills, Tapas) [website] [menu] [yelp] [map]
José Andrés takes Spanish Tapas and small plate dining to a whole new level by experimenting with molecular gastronomy and other modern culinary methods to create some of the most inventive tastes and textures I’ve ever put into my mouth. Expensive and swanky as hell, but a fantasy nonetheless. $50-$200 per person. Last I checked, $16 valet. Located inside the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills.

3. Kogi BBQ @ The Alibi Room (Culver, Mexican/Korean) [website] [menu] [yelp] [map]
First popularized by their food truck armada, Kogi BBQ also serves an expanded menu from the back kitchen of the Alibi Room bar. Like most bars, you must fight for a seat and order at the bar – but it’s totally worth the hassle. The Korean short rib tacos or breakfast burritos are always good; I strongly recommend the Pacman Burger, tofu & citrus salad, and Vegan Sesame Leaf Tacos. Decent cocktails, too. Stay current with any weekly specials that sound delicious. $12-$25 per person.

4. Palms Thai Restaurant (Hollywood, Thai) [website] [yelp] [map]
I crave their Panang Curry and Chicken Pineapple Fried Rice all the time. Some of the best Pad Thai I’ve ever had. Big menu, haven’t really ever been disappointed. Far less traditional (and probably less healthy), but so very delicious. Very fast service, quite the operation. Karaoke Thai Elvis is always a treat. $9-$18 per person. Cheap valet lot or unmetered street parking.

5. Elite Chinese Restaurant (Monterey Park, Dim Sum) [website] [menu] [yelp] [map]
The best valued dim sum we could find. Large menu that you can order fresh from (no carts). Astoundingly affordable and always filling – the most glorious food comas I’ve ever had. Recommend you get there as they open in the morning to beat the rush (dim sum is traditionally a breakfast food). $8-$14 per person.

6. Crown of India (Hollywood, Indian) [website] [menu] [yelp] [map]
The best Indian food I could find for a very reasonable price. Solid lunch specials with vegetables, rice, and naan. The dinner Thali special is plenty enough to split with another person and comes with two vegetables, rice, salad, and naan. Chicken Coconut Curry is revolutionary. Hole in the wall, decent service. $9-$16 per person.

7. Legend Noodle (Rampart Village, Vietnamese) [website] [menu] [yelp] [map]
Best Pho I’ve ever had and insanely cheap. Enough said. $7-$14

8. Grub (Hollywood, Breakfast) [website] [menu] [yelp] [map]
I am too cheap to eat breakfast out, so it’s a big deal that this place made this list. Their “sweet & sassy” thick cut bacon cannot be beat. And the Ooh La La Egg Sandwich cannot be described with words. The blueberry lemonade or homemade ginger ale will refresh you in ways you’ve never been refreshed. Everything is good here, including their alcohol and lunch menu (an unrivaled list of BLT sandwiches). $10-$20 per person.

9. Western Doma Noodles (Koreatown, Korean) [yelp] [map]
Run by a sweet little Korean lady, this place feels like Korean home cooking. Amazing side dishes, uncanny dol sot bibimbap, delicious ox tail soup, and amazing galbi stews. Know your Korean food or bring a Korean; otherwise, this may intimidate you. Bonus points and dishes abound if you try to speak Korean with the owner. $9-$20 per person.

10. Daikokuya (Little Tokyo, Japanese) [website] [menu] [yelp] [map]
The best ramen I’ve ever had. According to Japanese friends, this competes with the real thing. Cash only, long waits, and meter parking – but worth the fight. $11-$16 per person.

Gluttony

Jeonju bibimbap

The only redeeming quality of Los Angeles for me is the food. To commemorate great friend & culinary buddy Allison Walsh’s escape from Los Angeles, we embarked on a dining campaign this weekend to hit as many local favorites as possible before she moves to Washington DC. In 36 hours, we experienced swanky fusion street food, pub-style dessert, home-style Korean, Middle Eastern ice cream, and a Chinese Dim Sum breakfast. Below is a list of our samplings:
 
Alibi Room (Kogi BBQ)


Stout (Hollywood Burgers and Beer)


Western Doma Noodle (Korean)


Mashti Malone (Exotic Ice Cream)


Elite Chinese Restaurant

The Unspoken Rules of Dining Leftovers

Your meal, your leftovers.

If dishes were shared, whoever picks up the bill wins the leftovers.

If the bill is split, split the leftovers.

If the leftovers will not split easily, award them to the paying party that ate the least.

If both parties paid and ate the same amount, volunteer to surrender the doggie bag under the condition that you will irrevocably win the leftovers next time.

Really important, I know. Far too many people skirt the issue, and I wanted to set things straight.

Small Plate Dining

I was raised to spend money on two things: travel and food. The latter I do everyday and with zeal. I love food more than almost anything else and treat it like a religious hobby.

 But like everyone, I appreciate a good deal. Dining out does not always carry a high value proposition over cooking at home. I cannot rationalize spending $12 on an Italian pasta when I can make it with ease at home for $3. I can, however, rationalize spending money on a multi-course, ingredient diverse meal that is too grocery-list intensive, time consuming and costly to prepare on my own.

 It is feasible on a normal night to prepare at most three dishes for a meal at home. I expect at least that many when going out to eat. The conventional American orders one entree when dining out. Unless it took 24 hours to prepare or imported some exotic ingredient from a land very far away, I often cannot justify spending double digits on a single entree. At the very least, I need to share entrees with other people. The more, the merrier!

 Small Plate Dining.

TapasJosé Andrés is often credited for bringing small plate dining to the states. More common in Europe, small plate dining embraces the “a little bit of everything” philosophy by offering many dishes too small to sustain an entire meal. The result? You order multiple dishes per sitting and make an entire meal out of appetizer-sized portions. Antipasti and tapas are common on menus and in wine bars where sampling and tasting is a virtue. If you order correctly, you end up with a broad culinary experience nearly impossible and far too expensive to replicate on your own. I will not hesitate to drop three figures on a meal if it presents a large dynamic range of flavors and diverse composition of ingredients.

 Research your nearest tapas bar. Show your taste buds a party!

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Image by Ana Ulin, via Wikimedia Commons.

Ideation 101: How to Engineer an Idea

I’m not a creative guy. Many are far more expressive, imaginative and original. To those people, ideas come naturally – they just appear out of thin air. Not for me. And not for most. But don’t worry, there’s hope!

My best subject in school was Math. I see the world in variables and treat every problem as an algebra equation. 2x = 4, so x=2, correct? Find the common denominator and you discover the path to your solution. Putting two and two together. Straightforward.

So it is with the birth of new ideas. Bring two concepts together, find the common denominator between them, and discover inspiration for your new idea. Birthing an idea is a lot like birthing a child – it takes (at least) two parents to tango. The gene pool of one merges with the gene pool of the other and a derivative, yet completely unique person is born. Two merged cells evolve into a very complex organism. Two merged concepts can evolve into a very complex idea.

Try this exercise:

Step 1.  Pick your least favorite subject in grade school.

Step 2.  Pick a hobby you enjoy.

Step 3.  Put them together. Be inspired.

I did not enjoy history and enjoy dining out. Together: history dining? Now that’s a fun idea – a timepiece dining experience? Your server as your historical tour guide? A several course meal tracking the evolution of a dish through time? I could go on!

The trick is not finding root inspiration – we all have interests and disinterests, the world around us. The trick is accepting two different ideas can relate to each other – and identifying how they relate. The more dissimilar and specific the parent ideas are, the more difficult the connection becomes – and the more unique the new idea can be! Stick with it, keep analyzing. You will strike gold. With enough practice, the association between two random ideas becomes virtually automatic.  

The practical application of your newborn idea is the hard part. Ideation 201 anybody?