Never Leave LA

Reconceived – LA’s 3 new culinary twists

“Life moves pretty fast,” Ferris Bueller told us. Nowhere is that more true than the L.A. dining scene. OK, that’s probably not true, but it really serves the purposes of my article here, so I’m not going to, like, retract it or anything.

Camerones al Mojo de Ajo

Camerones al Mojo de Ajo at Cocina Condesa. (Courtesy photo)

Like pop-up restaurants, bursting on the scene before pulling the inevitable Houdini act, the brick-and-mortar world is nearly as equally ephemeral. And like the ever-changing menu item of the moment, chefs move on, concepts rebrand and, sadly, doors close. It can be difficult to keep up (fortunately for you, dear reader, you stay abreast of such breaking news by following EatWriteLA on all of his social media platforms and by reading LaLaScoop religiously).

So, to get you up to speed on the cutting edge of the culinary scene, here is the latest from around the city:

  • Glendale: A new casual dining spot on Brand, from one of the most revered names in sushi.  
  • Studio City:  A new executive chef, along with lunch and brunch options from the hottest Mexican joint on Ventura.
  • Santa Monica: An entirely new concept from a formerly exclusive hot spot along Ocean.  

K Ramen

Katsuya Glendale has expanded to include a new casual concept at The Americana at Brand called, “K Ramen. Burger. Beer.” The extension is everything you’d expect from Katsuya, from the visually striking decor to the artfully composed Japanese dishes. (The patio view of the shopping district is stunning, by the way.) It also has an off-the-charts level of service you’ve come to expect. What you might not expect is that you’ll still have cash in your wallet at the end of the evening, as nothing on the menu is priced over $15.

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The K Ramen burger with bacon and avocado. Decadent? Yeah. (Photo by Scott Bridges)

As for that menu, it features a variety of ramen dishes, of course, such as a lobster ramen with golden chives, green onion and marinated egg. The pork ramen, though not spicy, is so savory and robust, it’s even better. 

But as the name indicates, burgers are also essential to the concept, and to prove it, there’s a half-pounder topped with a spicy mayo, tomato and caramelized onion. You’ll also find the widest array of Japanese beers around, to wash it down.

And there’s also a selection of what is probably the hottest new trend in town, poke, served over aonori sesame rice. You’ll want to try the spicy creamy tuna K Poke.

The small bites are also required eating. Get this: tater tots with duck fat drizzle. It’s true.

And for dessert, one of L.A.’s favorite ice cream brands: Coolhaus. It’s served by the pint, so indulge in some salted caramel bliss. Tomorrow be damned. 

Cocina Condesa

Mexican street food elevated to high art. That’s what’s in store at Cocina Condesa in Studio City, and with a new executive chef and expanded hours, it’s enough to bring a tear to your eye — and if doesn’t, the roasted habanero salsa with pineapple will.

Carnitas Tacos

Cocina Condesa’s carnitas tacos. Authentico! (Courtesy photo)

The house-made guacamole, made with Hass avocados, cilantro, red onion, lime and sea salt is everything you expect from a place with this level of authenticity. The salsa flight, meanwhile, is a fantastic showcase of flavor.

There’s a selection of salads, for instance, the Pollo Ranchero, which make Cocina Condesa a perfect lunch locale. But the star of the show is the taco. They come two per order in house-made corn tortillas, but can also be served in Boston lettuce leaves.

The Al Pastor is a personal favorite, with tender pork loin, aji amarillo chile, avocado, caramelized onion and grilled jicama slaw. The cerveza-battered camaron is another tastebud energizer, composed of crispy beer-battered shrimp, avocado sauce and papaya-jicama slaw. And among the larger plates, the chile relleno is the best in the Valley. Toss in some fried plantains and street corn, and you’re in a south-of-the-border paradise, if only in your mouth.

Exec Chef Eddie Garcia is steeped in Mexican culture, and has been honing his craft since he was 16, and has studied under the likes of Susan and Mary Sue of Border Grill fame. He’s also worked at Silverlake’s Malo’s and City Tavern in Culver town.

Mixologist David Rubin’s diverse selection of cocktails can be hit-or-miss, but when you discover one that hits, it hits like Tyson. His seasonal ingredients and bold flavors pair nicely with the menu, and offer refreshment from the heat. Nothing embodies that more than the spicy mango margarita. His take on the classic Paloma is also a refresher, blending tequila blanco with Squirt, fresh grapefruit and lime juices and just a pinch of salt. The tequila and mezcal list is extensive, so consider a flight… or two, if you’re ubering.

41 Ocean

Once a members-only club nestled into a speakeasy-esque location along Santa Monica’s Ocean Avenue, 41 Ocean is now accessible to slobs like you. The club still exists in some form, and there’s a private poker room you won’t get to see, and movie deals are made after hours, but you can eat here in the meantime. The live music can be heard by fancy people and regular people, alike.

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41 Ocean’s cocktails are literally smokin’. Or is that just the Santa Monica marine layer? (Courtesy photo)

Chef Patrick Florendo’s menu is sparse in the best way, with nothing that goes astray. His creativity is evident, turning spicy tuna tartare into tacos, with crispy shallot, ginger, chili and fresh cilantro in crunchy taro shell. Keeping with the taco theme, he also serves a golden potato taco.

And to keep things interesting, the menu features a “Steak of the Day.” One thing that doesn’t go off the menu, and for good reason, is the pan-seared Branzino, which plates as great as it tastes. I’m a sucker, however, for the Southern-fried chicken, and if I my arteries clog up 20 years too young, it will have been worth it, so save your breath, I don’t want rescuing.

And on a similar subject, my liver, let’s talk about cocktails. The signature cocktails are few, but well-crafted. The 41 Mule is a favorite, although, being the stickler I am when it comes to my booze, it would be nice to see the restaurant spring for some copper freakin’ mugs. I mean, what are we, animals?

K Ramen

702 Americana Way

Glendale, CA

Cocina Condesa

11616 Ventura Blvd.

Studio City, CA

41 Ocean is — if you can’t figure out the address, you can’t go

Santa Monica, CA

 

Scott Bridges, writer

Scott Bridges is an L.A.-based journalist who has worked as a police-beat reporter, a community newspaper editor, and a food and travel writer. He currently works as a freelance writer, contributing to The Huffington Post and Bizjournals.com, among other sites. He is a native Californian who lives on the Westside.

 

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