While we’re on the topic of doughnuts and “Best of…” lists, any roundup of Los Angeles’ best would be remiss to exclude Primo’s Westdale Donuts. Celia and Ralph Primo purchased this failing doughnut shop on a whim for $2,000 back in 1956. The impulsive decision turned out to be a perfect fit for the couple, who nursed the shop back to health and transformed it into a doughnut destination.
Today, deep-fried dough seekers, like me and my girl Stassi, descend upon this homey mom and pop shop to fill up on the city’s best buttermilk bars and cake doughnuts. Thank goodness for serendipitous business ventures!
Though Primo’s hours aren’t as limited as those of Chicago’s Doughnut Vault, it’s important to show up on the early side to avoid any disappointment. Doughnuts are only made once a day—once they’re gone, you’re out of luck.
When The Astronomer, Stassi, and I arrived at the shop sometime before noon, the selection was still intact. Whew! Cake Donuts are priced at $0.80 each, while “Fancy” doughnuts go for $0.95.
After a lot of hemming and hawing, we finally settled on a crumb-dusted cinnamon roll (The Astronomer’s pick), a maple bar (my pick), a maple-glazed cake doughnut (a unanimous must), and an old-fashioned buttermilk bar (another unanimous must). While the yeast-risen specimens weren’t light and airy enough for our liking and were a touch too oily, the cake doughnut and buttermilk bar really kicked some serious butt.
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Feeling hungry after attending a talk by Michael Dukakis ’55 at a rare gathering of Los Angeles-based Swarthmore grads, The Astronomer and I sought out proper sustenance nearby. Our first choice, Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle, wasn’t serving their signature ramen or tsukemen at this hour, and our second choice, Seoul Sausage Company, was closed on Mondays. Thus we meandered down Sawtelle into Soba Sojibo, one of the neighborhood’s newest additions.
Serving cold and hot house-made buckwheat noodles, as well as a slew of classic izakaya bites, Soba Sojibo is the second outpost of the Japanese chain in Los Angeles. A branch in Torrance popped up a few months before.
While The Astronomer perused the hot soba selections, I had my heart set on the cold stuff this evening.
We nibbled on deep-fried soba bits as we waited for our respective chilled and steaming bowls of noodles.
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There’s a ramen renaissance happening in Los Angeles, and Takehiro Tsujita’s namesake ramenya is at the center of it all. Located in the Little Osaka neighborhood of West Los Angeles, Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle is a branch of Nidaime Tsujita, considered one of Tokyo’s best noodle houses.
It’s absolutely impossible to choose between the restaurant’s two signature offerings, ramen and tsukemen, so come with a fellow noodle lover who’s open to sharing. It’s important to note that both dishes are only served at lunchtime.
The Hakata-style tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen is slowly simmered for 60 hours, which results in a viscous, milky broth that sings the song of swine. While it may have been a touch excessive to layer on a few slices of chashu (braised pork) atop an already porky broth, it was the right thing to do in this situation. A “seasoned boiled egg,” perfectly runny in the center, was also added for good measure.
After slurping my way around town, I’d say that this bowl is the holy grail of ramen in Los Angeles.
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It just so happened that Lien and I supped at Sotto the same day that Jonathan Gold’s glowing review of the restaurant hit news stands. Using his article as our personal crib sheet, we loaded up on lardo, passed on pizza, and saved room for a cannoli. From beginning to end, it was a memorable and delectable meal, one that continues to linger in my mind even though weeks have gone by.
Chefs Steve Samson and Zack Pollack opened Sotto earlier this year along with restaurateur Bill Chait. The two previously worked at Pizzeria Ortica together and established it as one of Orange County’s top restaurants.
Here, at their first Los Angeles restaurant, the focus is on southern Italian fare. The menu includes Neapolitan pizzas, handmade pastas, and lesser-known regional specialties.
My date consulted with the sommelier for her wine pairings this evening, while I reached for the cocktail menu. I started with “Dem Apples,” a perfectly autumnal creation with bourbon, fresh pressed apple, Clear Creek pear eau de vie, fresh lemon, and cassia-infused honey ($12).
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Earlier this summer, I was tasked to photograph the food at Chef Ricardo Zarate‘s newest restaurant Picca. In exchange for a suite of photos, a friend and I were treated to dinner on the house. Considering how tough it is to score a reservation and the accolades surrounding the food, it was a more than fair trade in my book.
I’ve been sweet on Chef Zarate’s brand of Peruvian fare ever since dining at Mo-Chica, his first venture downtown. With Picca, he and his partner Stephane Bombet have created an energetic cantina serving modern Peruvian cuisine with a Japanese flair. There’s also a lively bar mixing up cocktails masterminded by Julian Cox.
The restaurant was barely three-weeks old when my friend Danny and I came in for dinner. Chef Zarate, who was recently named Best New Chef in America by Food & Wine, was calmly expediting at the pass.
The restaurant was insanely packed this evening, and we ended up having to wait nearly an hour for our table to open up. To pass the time away, Danny and I sipped on some pretty pink cocktails including the Martin Ricky ($11) and the Rhubarb Sidecar ($11). Real men drink pink.
The long wait was more than worth it when we were seated smack dab in front of the robata grill. Sous Chef Brian Huskey provided the evening’s entertainment with smoke, flames, and all sorts of skewering.
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