Yamashiro Hollywood

Samurai roll

Truffle hamachi

Scallop ceviche

Yellowtail and Serrano pepper sashimi




*** (3 stars)

Yamashiro is one of the neatest, most magical spaces in LA. I’ve been coming here for decades for the spectacular view, and the tranquil Japanese courtyard in the center of the building. On each visit, I am amazed at what a great spot it is, and equally amazed that the food never lives up to the promise of the location.

On this visit they were out of: sparkling water, 9 out of ten types of sparkling wine on their wine list, one type of chicken, and Kirin beer. I was beginning to suspect we’d wandered into Monty Python’s cheese shop.

But they did have (nearly) all of the fish on their sashimi menu, and we tried most of them. They were all fine–okay fish quality, and good sauces. Maybe it’s just that we’d been to Sugarfish for lunch the day before, but this sushi was not remarkable, just serviceable.

Our waitress was nice, although totally unfamiliar with the wine list, and seemed a bit shaky on the food, too. Maybe the focus of the business is on selling the fishbowl-sized fruit drinks; they were certainly doing a lot of that.

Still, I’ll no doubt go back. I always do. There’s no place quite like it.

Yamashiro Hollywood
1999 N Sycamore Ave
Hollywood, CA 90068
(323) 466-5125


**** (4 stars)

It’s about time Orlando had some authentic Cajun food. Pointe Orlando seems an unlikely location, and this upper deck location seems cursed, but so far Lafayette’s is doing a lot better than the former succession of tenants.

The large space is divided into four dining areas that feature three bars. Live music is featured in the evenings, but if you don’t want it quite so loud it should be possible to sit a fair ways away from it.

The menu features Cajun classics such a Po’Boy sandwiches and Jambalaya. Note, however, that they’ve applied a twist to some dishes. The Jambalaya, for example is made with angel hair pasta, which sounded awful to me. Fortunately our server, who was from Louisiana suggested getting it made with dirty rice inside. Great call! It was the best jambalaya I’ve had outside of New orleans. The food is pretty mild, so be sure to ask for that bottle of hot sauce if you like it spicy.

There are also non-Cajun dishes such as chicken wings, but I wasn’t too impressed with them. The cheese grits, however, were delicious.

There’s a decent selection of beers and some wine. Service was extraordinarily friendly and helpful. This place definitely is filling a much needed niche.

9101 International Dr
Ste 2220
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 917-2870

Tin Roof

**** (4 stars)

I was expecting this place to be more like a sports bar, given the decor, but I was pleased to find many tasty and healthful items on the menu in addition to the heavier food.

I tried the Shrimp Coctel (which is really ceviche) and the Tuna Tataki. Both were excellent. The shrimp were tender, and the lime marinade contained just enough tomato that the dish earned its unusual name. The tuna was definitely sushi grade, and could be eaten with a fork or folded into the lettuce to make three nice wraps. The bed of slaw was appropriately tangy and fresh tasting.

Others in my party had a salad with chicken, which was good, quesadillas, which got mixed reviews, and a chicken sandwich that turned into a bit of a slippery mess but tasted good.

Service was friendly and attentive, and out party of eight was served quickly at lunch (although we were one of the the few tables seated; presumably after the grand opening things will pick up.)

Tin Roof
8371 International Dr
Ste 100
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 270-7926

The Plaza Live

***** (5 stars)

Best live performance venue in Orlando mainly because of decent acoustics in the theaters and reasonable sound levels. The seating isn’t the most comfortable, but when you go to a concert you want to hear it clearly, and this is about the only venue in town that guarantees that.

The Plaza Live
425 N Bumby Ave
Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 228-1220

The Attic Door

**** (4 stars)

Since Winter Park’s revival, Plant Street has become a wonderland of interesting bars and restaurants with live music. Of all the bars, The Attic Door has my favorite ambience, like being in someone’s living room. Lot’s of funky tables, chairs and couches, all mismatched, moderate lighting and noise levels, and talented singer/guitarists create a wonderful place to spend an hour or the whole evening.

The only downside is the food, which is pretty limited and not that great. In particular, the pretzels and beer cheese dip is a secret family recipe that should have remained a secret. Skip the food an enjoy the very reasonably priced wines and beers while enjoying the cozy atmosphere.

The Attic Door
28 W Plant St
Winter Garden, FL 34787
(407) 877-0266

Chopin Theatre

***** (5 stars)

This is a funky, eclectic space with an upstairs reception and bar, and then a larger parlor in the basement, all a preview to a basement theatre that’s low on frills but very professional.  The show we saw had excellent talent and first rate stagecraft. Definitely a good (and surprising) place to see some creative theatre.

Chopin Theatre
1543 W Division St
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 278-1500

Metropolis Performing Arts Centre

***** (5 stars)

This is a superb performance space. The stage is a semi circle, somewhat between a conventional proscenium setup and a thrust stage. The seats are pretty narrow, but comfortable. The show we saw was The Last Five Years, a fairly rare musical. The two leads were excellent, and the male lead belongs on Broadway. The six piece orchestra handled the complex show with great aplomb. I’ve seen the show four times, and this was by far the best production I’ve encountered. In fact, imaginative directing made this better than the Broadway version. Despite being a very long trip from my home, I’ll definitely return when they produce another show of interest to me.

Metropolis Performing Arts Centre
111 W Campbell St
Arlington Heights, IL 60005
(847) 577-5982


***** (5 stars)

There’s a reason why SPACE is the artist’s favorite venue. Time and again they say how special it is, with a sounds studio for practice and recording, a lovely green room for before the show, amazing acoustics, and a caring staff. As spectators we derive a benefit from these same things, because the artists are always at the top of their game as a result.

I’ve seen at least a dozen shows here, and the sound has been great for every one. The cocktail table seating can get a bit crowded, but it’s nice to have table service and a place to put your drink.

You can also take a drink and a pizza in with you if you order one at the Union Pizza company out front, and they have a more extensive list of beers. Or have dinner first, and then go back for the show.

Great venue!

1245 Chicago Ave
Evanston, IL 60202
(847) 492-8860

Ravinia Festival

*** (3 stars)

A wonderful concert venue with nice restaurants and great ambience both inside and out.

Unfortunately the audio upgrades made in 2013 have rendered the rock concert audio unlistenably loud. Even with earplugs, the sound in the pavilion is unbearable. Because the quiet numbers sound fine, it is quite clear that driving the subs to absurd levels is what has muddled everything up. This ruined all eight concert we attended during the summer, and in one, where our seats were in the front to the side we were driven from our seats.

In contrast, the classical concerts, which are largely unamplified, sound great.

Ravinia Festival
200 Ravinia Park Rd
Highland Park, IL 60035
(847) 266-5000

World of Beer

**** (4 stars)

This place is about beer, not food. I sat outside on a lovely evening and tried a Young’s Double Chocolate Stout from a bottle. It was excellent. It took a while for my server to show up, but once she did, she was friendly and efficient. I also had one of their enormous pretzels, which was pretty good, although I would have preferred it with a sampling of mustards rather than just one.

Although the list of beers may seem overwhelming, they are clearly labelled as to origin and style, and the list is online, so you can plan before you go. If you’re into beers, this is a great place to sample them.

World of Beer
1601 Sherman Ave
Evanston, IL 60201
(847) 328-3688