Rao’s – Los Angeles



Seafood salad

Penne alla Vodka


Lemon Chicken

Amazing cheesecake!

***** (5 stars)

Rao’s is tucked away on an unlikely side street in residential Hollywood. It has that magical and now rare ambiance of the red leather booth restaurants of the 1950s.

You’d be hard-pressed to find better Italian food in LA. The meatballs and the seafood salad were great starters, and the Penne alla Vodka was also very good.

But the standout was the Fiocchi, made of Beggar Purse Ravioli, with Ricotta and Bartlett Pear Filling, sauteed in Brown Butter, and dressed with Sage and Dried Cranberries. It was, simply put, the best pasta dish I’ve ever had.

Another number one ranking goes to the cheesecake, served New York style, but with an airy character, elevated by a hint of Amaretto. Amazing.

Our server, Jonathan, was a terrific host, and basically assembled this wonderful menu for us. A great new LA find!

Rao’s – Los Angeles
1006 Seward St
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 962-7267

The Little Door




Sesame Seared Day Boat Scallops, Preserved Lemon Sauce

Chermoula Marinated Grilled Octopus, Preserved Lemon Sauce

Spicy Ahi Tuna Tartare and Shaved Fennel Salad

Patio at night

***** (5 stars)

The extraordinarily romantic ambiance of The Little Door makes it almost a magical dining experience. Divided into many intimate spaces, it feels like you’re dining in a patio, or a forest, or a cottage, depending upon where you sit.

Tuna tartare was a nice starter, but the grilled octopus was even better, extremely tender and flavorful.

The mussels appetizer which my companion had as an entree was huge; she could only eat half!

My grilled scallops were perfectly cooked and accompanied by carrots seasoned with interesting Morrocan spices.

The extensive wine list is extremely reasonably priced.

Service was professional, attentive, and friendly.

The Little Door
8164 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 951-1210




Chili Cheese Naan

Yoghurt puffs

**** (4 stars)

Badmaash is REALLY popular, and therein lies the problem for me. We really enjoyed the food, but it was so packed and loud it was hard to enjoy the experience.

I highly recommend the butter chicken, whether as an entree, or in the samosa appetizers, which were the best item we had.

The place has probably the worst offering of wines I’ve ever encountered, and I’m including coffee shops; not sure what’s up there. Beer is a better bet, but also limited.

Service was friendly and attentive.

108 W 2nd St
Ste 104
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 221-7466

Noe Restaurant and Bar

Popcorn chicken

Tuna tartare

**** (4 stars)

The bar here offers a delightful intimate atmosphere, with live piano music in the evenings, and a nice outside dining area with heaters. The menu is arranged from tinest to largest “small plates” with a wide variety of nibbles to something enough for a full dinner.

There is a small assortment of wines by the glass, and a lot of spirits.

Service was friendly and efficient.

Noe Restaurant and Bar
251 S Olive St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 356-4100



Steak frites

Provencal plate

***** (5 stars)

This is a delightful spot to sit outside downtown, with no noise and a great view. There are heaters and a fireplace to keep warm in winter, and clear glass windbreaks all around.

The menu offers a nice combination of small plates and main dishes. We really liked both the tuna tartare and mussel starters, and my Provencal vegetable plate was excellent.

There is a medium sized list of wines, with about a fourth available by the glass. There is also an extensive spirits list.

Service is friendly and efficient, and pricing is reasonable.

448 S Hill St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 802-1770

Tommy’s Original World Famous Hamburgers


The grill

***** (5 stars)

There’s nothing quite like an authentic Tommy burger. There are imitators all over town, but none of them get it quite right.

There’s something about the flavor of the strange orange glop they call chili that can’t be duplicated. Frankly the stuff might be terrible by itself, but with the slab of tomato, diced onion, and handful of dill pickle slices, it all seems to go together.

Oh yeah, and there must be meat in there somewhere, although who knows what it tastes like.

The fries deserve a shout out, too. They’re not thick or thin, but just fat enough to have a nice crust and soft inside.

Oh, and don’t get that orange stuff on your hands. It never comes off.

Tommy’s Original World Famous Hamburgers
2575 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90057
(213) 389-9060

Shakey’s Pizza Parlor

Pepperoni and basil thin crust 9 inch

Mojo potatoes


**** (4 stars)

I’ve been coming to this location since the 1960s, when Shakey’s was in its heyday, the tables and chairs were wooden planks, and there was a live piano player cranking out honky-tonk tunes, accompanied by “multimedia” in the form of a slide projector!

The planks and piano are gone, but Shakey’s is largely unchanged. There’s a special taste to the pizza here that I really like; I think they use more sauce, and it’s tangy-er. The original thin crust recipe is still crisp and delicious, with just the right amount of chew, and even the pepperoni seems to have a slightly different taste from other places.

One thing that changed–albeit back in the 80s–was the addition to mojo potatoes, and those quickly became a favorite of mine, and still are. Essentially they are thin slabs of whole potatoes deep fried in a concoction that attempts to turn them into fried chicken. Yum.

I’m sad that there are so few Shakey’s left, but I hope this one hangs in there–it was certainly busy the day we visited–because it’s a delightful blast from my past.

Shakey’s Pizza Parlor
6052 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 937-4234


Green tea pudding

Sashimi (second round of omakase)


Corn custard




***** (5 stars)

There are so many sushi places to choose from on the west side of town, but some are over-priced without delivering a truly high-end experience, and others deliver the experience but only if you let the chef boss you around (eat this like this, don’t put soy sauce on that, etc.)

Hamasaku avoids these pitfalls. The atmosphere is laid back, and the price is great.

I was very impressed with the omakase. There are two basic options, a mostly cooked version, and a sushi option. We opted for the latter, and it was a great choice.

Your meal includes an oyster appetizer, corn custard, two separate plates of seven assorted nigiri (14 total), a complex miso seafood soup and dessert. The nigiri was really excellent, with a great variety of interesting fish, and deftly prepared. At $65 for the complete meal, it was a great deal.

We also opted for the $20 optional sashimi course. It was good, too, but frankly it was superfluous, given all the other excellent fish on the nigiri courses.

Note that the wine list is much more extensive than the version on their website.

The place is a bit tough to find, tucked into the inside corner of a strip mall. It’s simply but nicely decorated. It seats more people than you would guess, but even when full the noise level is fine.

11043 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 479-7636

Stan’s Doughnuts

***** (5 stars)

I can attest to the fact that Stan’s has been making the best donuts on the planet for forty years. My favorite is the glazed buttermilk bar, but anything with buttermilk or maple in the title is a winner. I don’t really understand why anyone would eat a donut from anywhere else. I’ve even ordered them shipped to Florida!

Stan’s Doughnuts
10948 Weyburn Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90024
(310) 208-8660

Vibrato Grill Jazz

***** (5 stars)

This is my favorite spot in Los Angeles, and I have hundreds of candidates for that list. I like to go around 6:30 because the opening act is great dining music. It’s usually piano and bass. The place has amazing acoustics, and you can hear every note perfectly, yet still have a dinner conversation in a normal voice.

And what food! Anything beef is great, but I like the tuna tartare, salads, and enjoy the lamb lollipop appetizer as an entree.

Great wine list–although somewhat pricey, there are a few gems. Check out the Opaque Petite Verdot if you like big, chewy monsters.

Vibrato Grill Jazz
2930 N Beverly Glen Cir
Los Angeles, CA 90077
(310) 474-9400