Last night The Monster was delighted to be included as a guest at the 25th anniversary Zagat LA Awards. Held at WP24 in the Ritz-Carlton downtown with fantastic views citywide, the awards celebrated the best of LA dining both past and present. The Monster had the opportunity to talk with Tim and Nina Zagat, rub elbows with chefs and proprietors of the city’s finest spots and nibble on WP24 hors d’oeuvres . He also got an early copy of the newest LA Zagat Guide which is always a bittersweet moment. While The Monster has eaten at every restaurant in the 2011 Guide, the 2012 Guide promises new and exciting restaurants. And of course The Monster plans on hitting each and every new restaurant and reporting back.
Some interesting stats to consider, the first LA Guide published in 1987 had only 370 restaurants (that’s not much more than a year of eating for this Monster) while today there are 2,027 places listed. And while many restaurants come and go, some of the best of 1987 may sound familiar…Michael’s, Katsu, Spago and The Palm all were lauded back then and continue to flourish today. A few notables no longer with us include the venerable L’Orangerie, Rex II Ristorante and Mon Kee’s. As for the newest winners crowned last night…
A counter order fast casual on Pico, Colony Cafe is beachy in its blue and white decor with pictures of old time LA lining the brick walls. It features a comprehensive menu of breakfast and lunch salads, sandwiches, burgers, dogs and wraps with enough on order to satisfy picky eaters.
With both indoor and outdoor seating and a healthy to-go business, Colony Cafe fills a need when fast but tasty food is required.
On a stretch of Venice populated by a gay bath house, a high school and a lot of stores you have no reason to stop in is this casual sandwich and salad stop featuring high end ingredients at reasonable prices. With a small indoor seating area and a covered outdoor area in the back, this is a quick lunch stop for the area Dilberts who are sick of Subway (and on this day speak in bizarre, cultish language, but more on that later).
Mar Vista isn’t a food haven so Earl’s Gourmet Grub’s opening saw long lines and so-so service. The food has continued to be delicious and the service has improved allowing it to flourish. The Monster returns on this day terribly hungry.
Mark your calendar, the show featuring The Monster will air this Saturday, September 24th beginning at 11 am on KCRW, 89.9 FM. Listen in and let The Monster know what you think. The first person to heap praise and adulation in the comments (or pan The Monster, that’s cool too) will get a FTM t-shirt!
Red Medicine opened in a most inauspicious way when the restaurant not only booted LA Times restaurant reviewer S. Irene Virbila out after making her wait for a table but also then took a picture of her which spread like wildfire over the internet after they published it. Some threatened to boycott the restaurant while others found it nothing more than mildly amusing and looked past it.
The Monster checked it out at the time and had a good enough meal but didn’t feel the need to rush back. A recent visit has swayed him as the dinner on this night is a delicious and ingenious look at Vietnamese cooking and beyond.
Torrance is ugly. The Monster knows this because Mrs. Monster refuses to use Google Maps or Mapquest for directions. Instead she likes to call a restaurant and ask for directions which has never worked and on this trip leads us to Rancho Palos Verdes. Awesome. So now we backtrack through the whole of Torrance to reach our destination. And Torrance is super ugly. But super ugly often equals super great food. The Monster is hungry and wants to hit up Mariscos El Salto and see how it stacks up to Marsicos Chente.
Finally arriving at the correct nondescript strip mall The Monster’s about to put a hurting on some Mexican seafood. It’s a decidedly ugly place, with the requisite mural on the wall (mountain with a rainbow!), the mirrored wall (look, it’s me!) and the television playing NFL football (trifecta!). That the jukebox plays at an insane level, like Chuck E Cheese loud and the flies divebomb you only add to the certain je ne sais quoi. That The Monster’s camera is completely dead only rachets up the annoyance level.
The Monster’s grandmother Lee Blumenthal was the kind of improbable success story that television movies were once based on (when they made television movies). A German Jew, she lost most of her family to the holocaust and arrived in America not knowing a word of English. Taking a factory job, she refused to leave the floor for lunch breaks or even to go the bathroom for fear of losing her employment. Her foreman told her (with a smile) if she did not take breaks she would be fired.
She ended up teaching herself English at night, sending herself to and graduating from Northwestern before owning and running a successful furniture business after her husband’s untimely death. Along the way she raised two successful children one of which is Mama Monster. With all of her accomplishments, Lee Blumenthal could not cook and anything she tried to make (undubitably boiled in a bag or dethawed from the freezer) you could be sure would provide you with new levels of tastelessness. And that was on a good day. The Monster started thinking about her as he travels on Lufthansa Airlines. The flagship air carrier of Germany. And for one evening, the home of The Monster’s dinner.