Where: Father’s Office in Santa Monica and Culver City
Must-Order: Burger, regular fries, sweet potato fries, chef’s special appetizers
The Verdict: In any city there needs to be a quality, reliable grub ‘n pub. A place where you can retreat when you’ve had a bad day, down a few pints of beer and scarf down a big, fatty meal. Santa Monica and Culver City has that place: Father’s Office. In Santa Monica, the gastropub is small, low-key, crowded and casual. Culver City offers a more spacious environment with the same delicious menu, although still crowded and casual.
Come in and peruse the beer menu offering a copious selection of lagers, ales, stouts and ciders. And after you’ve enjoyed a few pilsners, make sure you order a burger and fries.
Father’s Office uses a thick slab of dry aged beef, grills it medium-rare, and plates it neatly on a french baguette with gruyere, blue cheese, baby arugula and a special house sauce. What makes their burgers so remarkable is the elegant take on simple ingredients. All it really is is meat, cheese and greens on bread. But the bread is fresh and crispy on the outside, the arugula is fresh, the cheese is high quality, and only the best beef is used. The result is a burger delicious enough to erase any remnants of a bad day that a beer just won’t wash down.
As for the fries, I’m not much of a sweet potato fan, but Father’s Office fries up a mean order. I prefer the shoestring fries with an extra side of garlic aioli. And if you’re really hungry, make sure you get a chef’s special appetizer, which change fairly often. Last time I dined here I ordered a dozen raw oysters — fresh and cold — and pancetta croquettes, which were salty yet delicate.
Oh, and if you want try your hand at a home-made Father’s Office burger, check out BurgerFiles for a thorough recipe deconstructed by the LA Times’ Test Kitchen and food critic Charles Perry.
Where: The Bazaar by Jose Andres (at SLS Hotel) in Beverly Hills
Must-Order: Philly Cheesesteak (pictured below); Jicama Wrapped Guacamole; Jamon Serrano Fermin; Japanese Tacos; Chocolate Mousse
The Verdict: “What?! You haven’t been to The Bazaar?!” is what my foodie friends exclaim as I sheepishly shake my head. I finally checked the Jose Andres restaurant out for DineLA’s Restaurant Week. I ordered several small plates and though I enjoyed many of the delectable little delights, I have to admit that this isn’t exactly a restaurant I’d be racing to revisit anytime soon. Why? It’s quite pricey, so assuming you fill up an empty stomach and order one cocktail, you can expect to spend about $90 on yourself.
The one item you must absolutely order is the Philly Cheesesteak. Wagyu beef is served atop air bread stuffed with the creamiest cheddar cheese. It’s light and fluffy — akin to biting into a meaty cloud. Also, order the Jicama Wrapped Guacamole. It’s a limey, refreshing Mexican dumpling; thin layers of jicama are wrapped around a hearty scoop of smooth guacamole.
And if you’re a cured meat fiend like I am, you can’t miss the Jamon Serrano Fermin. The jamon is paper-thin, salty, and has just the right amount of leanness and fat. Fold it onto a crostini smeared with a bit of tomato sauce and you’re in for a crunchy, savory treat. I also highly recommend meatlovers get the Beef Hanger Steak; it’s seasoned to perfection and cooked medium-rare. Hanger steak is known for being on the tougher side, but it packs an ample amount of flavor.
One of the most interesting dishes on the menu is the Japanese Tacos. Here, shaved cucumber serves as the tortilla shell, and grilled eel is the meat. Sprinkled on top are bits of chicharron (or pork rinds) and a drop of wasabi.
Where: Alibi Room in Culver City, CA; five trucks drive out to various locations in Los Angeles and Orange County
Must-Order: Short rib tacos; short rib sliders; kimchi quesadilla; Kogi burrito; chocolate tres leches cake
The Verdict: You know those eateries everyone talks about that you simply “must” try? Those places that everyone raves about, literally salivating over? And then you check out these restaurants and it all falls flat to you: the food’s fine; not great. We’ve all had those moments.
But with the Alibi Room / Kogi BBQ you can believe the hullabaloo. Everything is divine. The tacos, burritos, quesadillas and sliders — everything is juicy and top-notch. All the meat — whether it’s short rib, pork or chicken — is cooked tenderly to perfection. You get a nice mix of tangy and seasoned Korean food with limey Mexican flavors.
My personal favorite items are short rib tacos ($2) or sliders ($5 for two) and the kimchi quesadilla ($5). The tacos are served with an elegant Asian slaw; they’re deliciously juicy and adequately meaty. The sliders, just as juicy, offer instead a soft breaded cushion for the meat. Meanwhile, the kimchi quesadilla boasts a spicy kick and just that slight crunch that juxtaposes in texture with gooey cheese. For dessert, go all-out and order the chocolate tres leches cake ($4) — share with a friend so you don’t feel guilty. It’s chocolatey, milky, and even slightly peanut buttery. Soft cake is nestled in a small pool of sweet milk and delicate bits of toffee are sprinkled across the top.
As for the drinks? Pick something off the cocktail menu. I wasn’t satisfied with all the drinks I tried, but my favorite was the yuzu flower. It’s offers beautiful flavor that’s slightly fruity and a lot flowery.
The next time you go back (and you will!) order something new. Chef Roy Choi changes up the specials fairly often so there’s always something new to try. I have yet to order a dish here that is anything short of a culinary masterpiece.]]>
Where: Townhouse Kitchen & Bar in Sherman Oaks
Must Order: Pork belly sliders; hummus; deviled eggs with sriracha; any house beer
The Verdict: I skimmed through some of the reviews on Yelp and much to my surprise, Townhouse Kitchen & Bar got some pretty negative reviews — and I’m still scratching my head about it. Sure, it’s not a gourmet restaurant. Sure, it’s not run by some world-renowned chef. It’s a bar. Think Yardhouse or BJ’s. Certainly, not every dish is fantastic, but I stand by the notion that this place is worth skipping past Cheesecake Factory and P.F. Chang’s at the Sherman Oaks Galleria.
There isn’t any one dish that should be avoided; most of the items are decent. Some of the stellar ones, though, are the Hummus with Pita Chips, the Deviled Eggs with Sriracha and of course, the Pork Belly Sliders. Although they’d be better named “pulled pork sliders,” these little burgers are meaty and full of flavor without being too juicy (or even too dry). With a serving of greasy-enough onion straws, they’re the perfect accompaniment to a glass of one of the house brews. My number one choice is the North Coast Blue Star Wheat beer. It’s sweet and not too hoppy, a great beer to sip on while eating a meal as hearty as the sliders. And for $3 (during the happy hour special), this drink is a steal.
Townhouse Kitchen & Bar offers happy hour twice in the day, one from 5-7pm and another one that starts at 11pm. Stop by for a snack and drink after watching a movie at the ArcLight to properly end a date night or a night out with friends.]]>