Around the World Without Leaving LA

There is much more to LA than sunshine and Palm Trees! Having been “locked down” in Montana for almost ten months, we were seriously craving some authentic ethnic food. That is not to say Montana doesn’t have its fair share of tasty spots, but LA has it beat.

Our oldest son has been living in Los Angeles for more than a year, and he is a very enthusiastic foodie, so we put ourselves in his able hands as far as picking the eating itinerary.

Our first stop after we finally got settled at the hotel (read about my impressions of the Hotel Bel-Air here) was Taste of Tehran in Westwood. Westwood is sometimes referred to as Tehrangeles owing to the large Iranian- American population, and Taste of Tehran is supposedly one of the best places to indulge in fresh and tasty authentic dishes. One bonus for me, plenty of vegetarian and gluten-free choices.

Currently, due to Covid, all sit down dining in LA restaurants is outside. In Taste of Tehran’s case there were many tables set up in the alley alongside the restaurant. We ordered inside, with some guidance from the staff, and then found ourselves a table and waited for the parade of dishes to begin.

The Persian Quinoa Salad as well as the Mast O Khair (yogurt with cucumber and dill) were light, refreshing and satisfying.

Next came the Tahdig with a vegan stew on top. This was not light and refreshing, but it was very satisfying! The rice had a good crunchy crust.

The Shirazi Salad was the perfect complement to the Tahdig. The lemony dressing cut right through the oily rice.

The meat-lovers chose the Shish Kabob Soltani to get a little taste of everything. They were stuffed (and happy).

I was not quite as full after dinner, and had room for some Persian Ice Cream from Saffron & Rose which was located just up the street. The shop had a very long line down the block, so we knew it was going to be good. The ordering system was very efficient and the line moved quickly.

Many of the flavors were exotic and tempting. Chocolate is always a given (though the dark chocolate had traces of gluten, so I was advised to stick with Nutella, no problem there), and after much deliberation I decided to pair it with Orange Blossom. The combination was a winner.

My son (his cup was on the right) settled on Pink Rose and Cucumber. He proclaimed it delicate and tasty.

The following day was a tour of Asian specialties, and the first stop was Huge Tree Pastry, a Taiwanese spot in the San Gabriel Valley (Monterey Park to be exact) known for its Fan Tuan (breakfast treat) among other things.

Keeping in my mind we had already enjoyed a large breakfast at our hotel, it was time for round 2. First we had to order a Taiwanese donut. It looked a bit like a churro, and was devoured quickly.

To wash it down my son ordered a small cup of hot homemade soy milk, another specialty of the house.

Finally, the piece de resistance, Salty Fan Tuan with purple rice. It is similar to an inside out sushi burrito, complete with egg, pork floss, and mustard pickle. I nibbled the rice on the outside, which was good and sticky, my husband ate all the rest. There was a steady stream of patrons lining up to get their morning fix.

Next stop was Mian Noodle House, right down the road, and renowned for their Szechuan noodle dishes. There were two lines, one very long line for people picking up their orders, and another for people waiting for outdoor seating (set up in a corner of the parking lot). We waited about 15 minutes before a table freed up.

The menu was a QR code (as were many we encountered in our food exploration). You can get a good sense of the menu here. While my guys were perusing the choices, I set off for some Bubble Tea.

There were actually several choices for Bubble Tea shops in the small shopping center, but I decided on The Alley, a chain of Bubble Tea Parlors that started in Taiwan, but grew quickly with outlets opening all over the US.

I decided on Cocoa brown Sugar Deerioca Milk Tea with homemade Tapioca pearls. Indulgent and sublime. I returned to the table just as the noodles were delivered.

The Crispy Minced Pork Noodles were a home run. Chewy, spicy, and oily.

The Hot & Sour Noodles were indeed hot and sour, but the mung beans were a little distracting. They were a runner up. I was just content with my Bubble Tea.

From the San Gabriel Valley we decided drive to Silver Lake, which was filled with young hipsters enjoying the sunshine. An exciting new addition to the neighborhood is a brand new Erewhon Market which opened just a month ago. I am not alone in being totally obsessed with Erewhon. It is just the greatest market of all time (especially for healthy food aficionados).

Literally, just let me move right in.

After the thrill of Erewhon we rested up for a much anticipated Italian dinner at Alimento in Silver Lake.

The set-up outside was quite inviting, spreading out along the sidewalk. The menu was accessed with a QR code, but I have reproduced it here. It was so appealing we ended up ordering much of the menu. The server was helpful in stressing dishes we shouldn’t miss, including the Chicken Milanese Sandwich, the Chopped Salad and the Spaghetti.

Photographing outside in the dim light was a little tricky, but hopefully you can get the sense of the deliciousness of this Chicken Sandwich. We dined with my son, brother and sister in law, so there were many people fighting over a taste.

We ordered two chopped salads, one without meat for me, and bonus- the croutons were chickpea based and gluten free!

The Sprouting Broccoli with miso and hazelnuts was also a winner.

Again, forgiving the lighting, the Spaghetti with Crab was deemed delectable. There were many other dishes that were eaten before they were photographed. The Farro in particular was outstanding. I would absolutely recommend Alimento. From what I understand, it was one of the first real high profile spots in Silver Lake, opening in 2014, and it is still going strong.

After a good nights sleep and a yummy breakfast at the Bel-Air we set out for a day in Malibu. Along the way we walked along the beach in Santa Monica in hopes of burning some calories. There was little traffic on the PCH, and we arrived in Malibu quickly. We were planning on lunch at The Farm on the Malibu Pier, but after walking around the Malibu Country Mart we needed sustenance sooner rather than later. Trying to be a real local, I couldn’t resist ordering an Acai (Buddha Bowl) bowl from SunLife Organics and eating it outside in the sunshine.

The Buddha Bowl was an ideal light lunch. There is nothing better than peanut butter and chocolate hazelnut butter mixed with smooth blended acai and granola. Perfect!

We did make it to the Malibu Pier, and we will add Malibu Farm to our itinerary for the next time we return.

After a generous dose of sunshine and ocean views, Cocktail hour was held outside at the Bel Air, where I enjoyed one of the best Negronis I have had outside of Italy.

Dinner was planned at Theia, a restaurant that actually opened its doors during the pandemic. We met the owner when we checked in for our reservation, and he couldn’t have been nicer or more enthusiastic. The outdoor space was filled with groups of smiling diners, so we were looking forward to a satisfying Greek-themed meal.

The brief menu included many Mediterranean favorites.

Our selection of Mezze included Tzatziki, Hummus, Baba Ganoush and Pita.

Of course, a Greek Salad was included in our order. The dishes came out quickly, and were very good.

My husband and son both ordered the Lamb Burger. Two thumbs up.

I had an assortment of veggie sides, including this sad looking plate of spinach and garlic topped with feta. While it wasn’t pretty, it was tasty! Theia was good, not great, but it is still new. For a Monday night the restaurant was very busy, so they must be doing something right! The upbeat attitude of the owner might have something to do with it. I would give them another try.

Our final morning in LA was spent in Venice, checking out Abbot -Kinney. It was a bit the worse for wear since the last time we visited, specifically the streets were filled with trash, and there were several empty storefronts. It made me sad. It made me even sadder that we got a parking ticket for parking on the wrong side of the street during the Street Cleaning time (we didn’t see the sign), when there was clearly no cleaning going on!

We couldn’t resist one more trip to breathe in the essence of the Venice Erewhon before it was time for lunch.

The Rose Venice has always had an expansive outdoor area, so we thought it would be an ideal spot to grab a bite before our flight.

There is plenty of space for social distancing at The Rose.

My son and I settled on a salad in an attempt to be virtuous. It was fresh, but not satisfying at all. It was bland and just eh. The setting was nice, but I would not rush to return.

I was craving something more after lunch, so we walked over to Gjusta, which is really where we should have dined. Their patio was filled, and their menu looked delicious. I was sorry I didn’t think of it sooner.

As a consolation I ordered a small container of Chocolate Avocado Pudding. Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it! It was fudgy and hit the spot.

Alas, it was time to go to the airport and head for home. LAX was very quiet, and the Delta Club was all but empty. Due to Covid, the amenities were a bit pared down, but they did have a tower of Nissin Cup Noodles which brought a smile to my husband’s face.

Our brief trip to Los Angeles accomplished all that we hoped! A short Covid-safe vacation, a hefty dose of sunshine, and a chance to indulge in a wide array of cuisines including Persian, Taiwanese, Chinese, Italian, Greek and classic Californian. I have a real love for Southern California, and can’t wait to return and explore many more delectable spots.

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