Near Century City there is a building that only houses restaurants with five letter names that have two of the same letters in a row. It is there that my friends and I dined at Sotto, which finds itself below Picca. ‘Twas a night of the first ever Summer Restaurant Week by DineLA, but these plans had been made without Restaurant Week in mind, so that kind of just turned out to be a bonus…for some people, because I decided to stick to the real menu.
On a drunken evening in Osaka, I vaguely recall punching buttons on an old school lotto-style machine at a ramen restaurant. The result was some of the most delicious drunk food I have ever eaten. Fast forward to 2012 and Tsujita continues its stranglehold on the ramen scene of Little Little Tokyo in West LA. Yet, it is not alone in ramen. Tatsu sits just down the road and has taken that machine concept I encountered in Osaka into modernity.
After my team posted a huge victory in our rec basketball league, we decided to grab some burgers to celebrate. This led me to San Francisco Saloon, which is not located in San Francisco at all, but rather in West LA and has been serving LA since 1934. The place is more sport bar than saloon and actually has a good sports bar vibe. The burgers are named for LA and San Francisco sports teams like the Giants and the Trojan, with a few non-sports names like Hickory to join them.
A couple of weeks ago, The Backyard Bite invited me to The Burger Culture Clash, sponsored by Stussy (which apparently still exists) and Plan Check. Plan Check, by the way, is a sort of new (since February) restaurant in West LA with Chef Ernesto Uchimura of Umami Burger fame. As my love of burgers, especially those of the umami variety, I jumped at the opportunity.
Although I arrived alone, I was not the only lone eater. Just next to where I was seated, I met e*star LA and we decided to share a meal called loneliness, because it’s better than eating alone. We made quick friends over our respective blogs and Midwestern roots, then got to work at dissecting the special menu, which Plan Check will be featuring for the next month if anything tickles your fancy.
Have you ever looked upon a meal and thought it was just too pretty to eat? It happens to the best of us, and to be perfectly frank, a pretty-looking meal is often disguising a lack of flavor or creativity. So when my buddy and I decided to head to Tsujita LA in West LA for lunch, I was a little concerned that their claim of “Artisan Noodles” would make for a pretty meal, but little else. But when we showed up and found an obscenely long line of people waiting to get a taste of the noodles, I thought again.
Over in West LA, there is a burger place called Hamburger Habit. As I habitually consume burgers, the place sounded just perfect for me. The exterior of the joint loudly displays an award given to it by KABC as the best burger in Southern California. The interior is also full of awards, but unfortunately the most recent date back to the Clinton Administration. Still, I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. Did Hambuger Habit start churning out terrible burgers or did they just get left in the dust by newer LA burgers?
You know what’s great? Sausage. You know what goes great with sausage? Beer. So what does Steingarten, a recently opened restaurant/bar in West LA, have to offer? That’s right, sausage and beer. But not just any sausage and beer, sure they have your generic bratwurst, buckwurst, Polish and Italian sausages, but similar to Wurstkuche, they like to get exotic. With rabbit, venison, alligator and elk, these are truly some sausages to be reckoned with and not for those with a weak stomach.
For a while now I have been trying to make my way to Hole in the Wall Burger Joint. Hidden behind Winchell’s Donuts in West LA, it is certainly not an easy place to find, which I suppose is how it got its name, but also likely contributed to my taking so long to get there. Hole in the Wall is essentially the same style as The Counter, where you make your own burger. Upon entering the restaurants, there is a small table with slips of your options, along with a stand showing their specialty burger of the day. There are also a ton of signs telling you that the place doesn’t take credit card. They have an ATM if you need one, but it’s best to pick up money beforehand to avoid paying those extra charges.
After a long trip abroad, full of dumplings, rice and steamed buns (which were all delicious), all I wanted to eat upon my return was a burger. But not just some fast food burger, I could get that anywhere. No, I wanted the kind of gourmet burger you can’t really find outside of LA. Fortunately, my prayers were answered as we went to dinner at The Six Restaurant in West LA. Named after The Society of Six, some crazy California painters, The Six has a pretty simple gastropub style interior with some pretty good beers on tap. Fighting jet lag, I opted out of the beer and set my eyes on the burger.
For a little post-tennis victory Japanese treat, I headed to Asahi Ramen in West LA with my vanquished tennis foe to get some…ummm ramen. Now don’t be fooled by the name of the restaurant, as it apparently has nothing to do with delicious Asahi beer. Confused myself, I took the liberty of looking up Asahi on the old interwebs and found that Asahi is the name of about ten different towns and cities in Japan, so for the name to carry over into both beer and ramen isn’t that surprising. Anyway, enough with geography and economics, let’s get to the food.