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Once we got settled in, we drove over to James Beach (60 N Venice Blvd, Venice, CA 90291) where we intended to have dinner but in the end, we went across the street to Plancha (2024 Pacific Ave, Venice, CA 90291) for tacos. James Beach has many reviews and is known for their fish tacos and made famous from the movie I Love you Man featuring Paul Rudd. At Plancha, I ordered the Tiger bowl ($6.95USD) which consisted of garlic tiger shrimp and the contents of a burrito.
After dinner, we decided to drive over to LACMA (5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036) to see the Urban Lights by artist Chris Burden. His installation is located at the Wilshire Boulevard entrance of the LACMA and consists of lamp posts that at one point in time have lit the streets of Southern California before being restored and installed in that one location. We spent a lot of time here just taking photos and just hanging out. It’s a great atmosphere to be in with friends.
After a late night, we drove over to Hermosa Beach for surf lessons. My friend JP created a website called GOJPGO that makes exploring LA so much more accessible with helpful tips and advice. My group wanted to go for surf lessons and JP had recommended us to go with his friend Kawika at Pier Surf (21 Pier Ave Hermosa beach, CA 90254) and we were not disappointed. 8 of us took part in the 2 hour surf lesson that Kawika along with Ryan another instructor took us to the beach and taught us the basics before hitting the waters. The waves were perfect for beginners and they explained to us that the waves are about 5-10 miles per hour and we want to reach that speed to catch a wave. It was a tiring but a very rewarding experience for sure and we definitely recommend them!
Right beside Pier Surf was Hooked where we ordered Poke bowls. You can customize your own bowl and I decided to go with a large ($12,50USD) with Kelp noodles, spicy tuna, sunomono cucumber & fish roe. If I were to go again, I would change my base to rice as the kelp noodles texture was strange and a little too tasteless for me. Otherwise, the poke was tasty with a little kick of heat to it. We ate and recovered from our surf lesson and just laid out on the beach for a few hours before a few of our friends headed to LAX to head home. I couldn’t leave the beach without getting myself a acai bowl. As the gang napped on the beach, I walked over to Paradise Bowls (1246 Hermosa Ave, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254) and got myself a mini $6.95USD (the small is massive) Guava Pipeline acai bowl (blended acai, banana, mango, guava juice with strawberries, bananas, granola and honey as the topping) delicious.
After a little more time lounging on the beach, we packed up and drove back to our Airbnb area in Venice beach but not before stopping off at Trader Joe’s to pick up some groceries and also my favourite – Unsulfurated Dried Mangoes – sad to say my other favourite – dark chocolate edamame beans have been discontinued!
After everyone showered, we drove over to Little Tokyo for dinner and dessert. Since we arrived late, we went for dessert first at Mikawaya (Japanese Village Plaza, 118 Japanese Village Plaza Mall, Los Angeles, CA 90012) for Ice cream mochi. I fell in love with ice cream mochi 7 years ago from this place. The Ice cream mochi is fresh and comes in multiple flavours that rotate through. They are about $1.30USD ea but well worth it. I had the Pistachio, Guava, Toasted Almond & Raspberry (my favourite). Once we finished devouring these tasty pieces of heaven, we walked across the street from the plaza to the well known yellow awning ramen restaurant – Daikokuya (327 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90012). I fell in love with this ramen place 7 years ago and to this day, I still think this place makes the best ramen (and I’ve been to Japan before). It could be an overstatement but the line outside proceeds me and from memory, the broth, the atmosphere, the taste still lingers and just makes it my top notch choice for best ramen I’ve ever eaten. With a group of 9, we walked in to write our name down and waited outside as they slowly went down the list. Trust me, it is worth the wait. I ordered the Combo meal – Daikoku Ramen with beef bowl ($9.95 USD for the regular ramen) and that is more than enough food. The ramen on it’s own is filling enough and you can also customize it with their special broth (Kotteri flavor from the back fat extracts). The soft-boiled egg just adds to it.
With our trip to Trader Joe’s and going across the street to the dollar store, we gathered enough ingredients to make a big family style breakfast that consisted of coconut pancake mix from TJ’s, cookie butter ice cream, cookie butter, eggs, bacon, bananas, grapes, apples, cereal and beer. It was a great bonding experience and also a great use of the outdoor patio we had.
After breakfast, we all went to Venice Beach and of course one of the main attractions ( I could’ve just stayed there all day) was the Venice Beach Skatepark. Not only were the locals out in full force skating, a few did intricate tricks which were great to see front row centre. We also walked over and tested our ability at the free muscle beach which consists of a few bars and rings. You can also pay $10USD/day to use the actual outdoor Muscle Beach gym but looking at the equipment, everything was wrapped in saran wrap and not my cup of tea.
Our main group then said our goodbyes to Susan and Kevin and off we went to drive east of Los Angeles to Joshua Tree. We made a stop at Toys R Us that detoured us south before heading east. Since we didn’t go according to our original plans, we started our drive to Joshua Tree really late and we got stuck in traffic. We made one more stop at In-N-Out (well done fries and a animal style cheeseburger are the way to go). What is so mystifying and entrancing are the wind turbine fields. The drive does get a little windy as you drive through mountains. Once we arrived by the main Joshua Tree visitor centre (which was closed when we arrived) the sun was starting to set. We drove in and stopped off on the side of the road to climb some rocks and take photos of the trees. Our end goal since we didn’t really have a chance to hike especially with the remaining light was Key Views Road which is the highest point in the national park that overlooks the park and the city. We took in the remainder of the sunset and light before laying down on the ground and gazing up into the sky as it darkened and the stars glistened and covered the sky. Incredibly sad that I wasn’t able to spend the day there and hike. I also hear and have been recommended to check out Cholla Cactus Garden.
After taking in all the stars and the vastness that we were surrounded by, we made a run for it back to LA. Koreatown was our end point for dinner at Tangji Gamatang (3470 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90020) for a family style meal with our group before calling it a night.
I travelled to Seattle for a weekend trip (2 days, 1 night) with my friends Christian, Joanne, Yolande, Joseph & Stanley. We rented 2 cars and drove down from Vancouver.
We made it to the border by 9AM and first stop along the way was the Seattle Premium Outlet mall. Nike was on everyone’s mind and everyone left with a pair of shoes. When in the states, you can’t go wrong with McDonald’s for a meal. They had this deal called Feast Mode $10USD (2 cheeseburgers; in our case 3, 20 McNuggets, 2 med fries) that we got which fed 3 people. Seattle’s facade reminds me of Vancouver by the water but the highways and the actual downtown core like Toronto with a mix of New York. We stayed at the Paramount Hotel at 8th & Pine St (Paid parking across the street). Then straight to the Niketown and Nordstrom Rack (Designer goods at non-designer prices).
By the time we were finished shopping, it was already 8PM. We Yelp’ed a couple of places to eat and our first option that was open that late was Taylor Shellfish on Melrose. We walked up Pine St to Melrose St (this area is the Cap Hill neighbourhood) and walked into the establishment. It is not meant to hold big parties and is first come first serve on seating where you pick an item and they will grab it fresh from their selection. Unfortunately, it was already packed so we left and right beside it was Sitka & Spruce which was recommended that we check out. During the day, it’s a deli/butcher shop in the front and they serve coffee but in the back is the restaurant. The decor was very lovely and somewhat hipster looking. It was also very packed and they said they had multiple reservations however they did recommend other eats on the same street. We finally settled at the corner restaurant called Terraplata. It’s an earth to plate type of restaurant and is open late night. It is very cute corner restaurant with a solid oak door and windows on all sides with a huge bar and long communal table type of seating. I was fortunate enough for my dear high school friend Katrina to join us for dinner. For dinner I had the Quinault river steelhead (cauliflower, harissa, cilantro, pinenuts, salsa verde). Crispy skin and the combination with the cauliflower made the meal. Presentation wise, they plated on these long and somewhat narrow plates which was okay but also at the bottom of their menu, it mentions their meals are made to be shared family style which is not the case.
After dinner, Katrina wanted to take us to Molly Moon for ice cream but it had just closed when we finished paying the bill so next best option – Cheesecake Factory. Pineapple upside down cheesecake for me and I don’t regret a single bite of it. As we were walking along Pike St, we passed by another recommendation – Rumba which is Caribbean dining.
The rain never stopped falling during our visit. But it didn’t stop me from exploring. We walked over to Pike Place Market (Similar to Granville Island and St Lawrence Market) with the booths for fresh farmers market, meats, flowers, jewelry etc. We grabbed lunch at Pike Place Chowder for bread bowls – I grabbed the smoked salmon chowder and we all found a place to sit and eat where we were accompanied by a dog from one of the stalls. We also saw the first Starbucks that also had a huge line. Katrina recommended we try some Russian pastries at Piroshky Piroshky. I had the Cinnamon cardamom twist. A rainy Sunday but otherwise a fun little walk and great food.
Our last stopover before heading north of the border was to Trader Joes (2410 James St, Bellingham, WA 98225). I absolutely love this store and if I had one closer I would’ve bought so much more from this store. I loaded up on the Unsulfurated Dried Mangoes and the Dark Chocolate Edamame Beans because they are that good. We made it back in to for some good old volleyball and to the usualy spot for late night pho – Pho 99.
If we had time, we would have like to try these restaurants that were highly recommended:
Cafe Habana is very tiny establishment with so much character. 3 people in total – We sat by the front window and ordered ourselves 2 orders of the Mexican Corn, a Cuban and a Chicken Diablo sandwich. The corn comes with 2 per order so I took one for the team and ate 2. All the food was fresh and flavourful and we ate every single morsel off the plates. The corn alone is enough to make you want to come back for more.
This restaurant is located within Bryant Park and hidden gem behind the New York Public Library. It is a great place to people watching. Bryant Park Grill is a American, European steakhouse. It is a little pricey but the food is delicious. I chose the clam chowder to start and for my main I chose the Kumquat Grand Marnier Duck breast with confit leg. it was absolutely mouth watering and ended off the meal with a sweet and savory crepe filled with apple and ricotta cheese.
Chinese cuisine made using fresh ingredients before your eyes where you can get a plate of BBQ Pork or a noodle in soup that is the most satisfying anytime of day. The wonton noodle soup hits the spot.
North Dumpling is literally a hole in the wall but they sure pump out some delicious and cheap dumplings. Whether you are craving fried or steamed – the filling options include pork & chives to vegetable. What’s even better is that you can get 10 dumplings for under $2USD! You heard right. You can see they are being freshly made over the counter as a team of ladies are making magic with their hands. The sesame and scallion pancakes are also delicious items to add to your meal and for all the food, you won’t break your wallet.
A staple ramen spot in the East Village that also offers a roster of dishes such as fried chicken meal. The Noodle Bar also serves slushies and soft serve. They have been quite successful that they have expanded into multiple locations such as Ssäm Bar, Ko, Ma Peche, Fuku and Nishi to name a few. They have even expanded up north to Toronto.
Brasserie Les Halles serves up classics using French techinques. They are known for their escargots and their steak frites for only $22USD. This restaurant is the origin of where Anthony Bourdain once started. Reservations are highly recommended.
East coast version of In-N-Out. Fast food chain that serves up burgers & frozen custard. Multiple locations around and yes there are lines. When it gets busy, they give you a buzzer to let you know when your order is ready. The Peanut butter shake is my GOTO and I have it every chance I get.
I found this treasure when I lived in Los Angeles. This is the best grocery store for anyone who wants good quality items for reasonable prices including organic and all natural ingredients. It is a College kids dream or anyone on a budget type of grocery store similar to Whole Foods.
Yaki Taisho is an Izakaya located in the heart of St Marks Place – Between 3 people, we ordered Takoyaki (this was just right), grilled squid, a set of skewers, Unagi roll and the Duck sashimi paired with a delicious plum sake.
I lived in Pasadena for about 3 months back in 2010 and this was my saving grace. Price and quality can’t be beat here. The ultimate grocery store for the college kid and for everyone else whose on a budget and who wants to shop at a cheaper version of Whole Foods. Trader Joe’s has their own line of products that can range from food to even cleaning products. Organic or not, the food is great, fresh and plentiful. NYC is one of the only place on the east coast to have these beautiful stores and every time I go, I make an effort to stop by to purchase their amazing snacks; specifically their unsulfurated dried mangoes and dark chocolate edamame beans that I have grown addicted to. The atmosphere is fun with their employees sporting hawaiian shirts and each store has a plastic lobster hiding around. There are usually tons of sampling going on inside the store but I’ve heard that if you want to try something that isn’t being sampled, you can ask an employee and they can open one up for you. They also sell their own line of reusable totes and I still use mine till this day for everything.
Order off their main menu or order off their “not-so secret menu” the fast food chain is quick and tasty. It has that retro vibe to it and is the west coast equivalent to Shake Shack in the east. Animal Style is a burger of your choice with hand-leafed lettuce, tomato, a mustard cooked beef patty; add pickle, extra spread with grilled onions OR if you want to opt for it, you can get all of that on your fries. My goto meal here is usually a double double (2 patties, 2 cheese slices) and animal style fries. Pictured below is an “animal style” cheeseburger with fries.
Run by the talented Christine Moore and her team, this little cafe & bakery shop has amazing quality food for a reasonable fare. Their menu has a good selection for brunch, lunch and dinner. Catering is also available here which we used multiple times during my time there. I don’t think I’ve had anything on their menu that I didn’t like. My favourites were the old fashioned turkey – $9.50USD (oven roasted turkey, comte, aioli, mixed greens, tomatoes on whole wheat) and their Dal Bowl – $10USD (brown rice, curried cauliflower, garlic, spinach, chutney, tofu, raita and yellow lentil dal). This shop is also great for pastries, local goods, gifts and their homemade sea salted caramels and marshmallows are mouthwatering. A must stop if in Pasadena!
Located on Meridian Ave. and El Centro Street next to the Gold Line South Pasadena Station.
Near by the Trader Joes on Mission St, this farmers market opens Thursdays year-round from 4-8 PM. Local vendors selling a large variety of local goods and local produce. It’s a great community event that sells products such as Kettlecorn, tempah, to handmade soaps just to name a few.
A landmark of South Pasadena is Fair Oaks Pharmacy & Soda Fountain and yes it still is used as a pharmacy to this day. On the corner of Mission St and Fair Oaks Avenue, this establishment has been running since 1915 under another name. The Pharmacy is now state of the art and the soda fountain still in its prime to make their homemade malts, ice cream floats and milkshakes. The ambiance is still that classic vintage feel so take a sit on a stool by the counter or slide into a booth for your taste of the past with their tin ceilings and honeycomb tiles. I got a grape ice cream soda and a turkey bacon avocado sandwich.
Another landmark – Fosselmans has been a staple name in Pasadena since 1919. In 1974, they moved shops to its current location in Alhambra. Their ice cream is homemade and was recommended by a local who said it brought back memories of childhood for him. They offer coffee and sandwiches in addition but the ice cream is definitely the highlight of this place (their ice cream can be purchased in multiples places). It’s the perfect solution for a hot sunny day. I got myself a black raspberry milkshake and it was amazing! – Cash only!
So good that I came back again. I ordered #3 which was beans and cheese torta that included avocado, jalapeño, mayo, and some other things I can’t remember. I paired it with a pineapple soda and I practically inhaled it. There was also a place she mentioned called Father Nature which serves really healthy but really good or as the sign says lavish panini’s and next time I’m in the area I will definitely try that out.
My all time favourite place for ramen – hands down. This place is where I recommend everyone to goto if they are ever in LA. Daikokuya isn’t hard to miss with its yellow awning and usually with a line out the door. I’ve been here twice and will be back the next I’m in LA. If you have a large group, you will have to wait to be seated as the restaurant is more on the smaller size but cozy with decor of vintage coca cola ads from Japan. If you are eating alone, you can be seated at the counter and watch the magic happen as ramen is made and sent out. I had the Daikoku Ramen $8.50USD which is the specialty ramen and it was SOOO GOOD. The broth is like no other that I’ve had. – Cash only!
If you like ice cream mochi, you gotta go here! Mikawaya, is 105-year-old confectionary company known for inventing mochi ice cream which is located in Little Tokyo. In recent years, it was privately sold to a firm but still produces the same loved confectionaries they always have made. This shop sells Japanese ice cream & sweets and specialize in various flavours of mochi but the piece du resistance is their mochi-lato which are ice cream mochi. I have a huge thing for mochi especially ice cream mochi and this place hits the spot! I’ve eaten so many but ones that I always got were green tea, raspberry cream and mango and they were so divine. For just around $1USD each, they were the size of hackysacks and just leave a smile on your face. I can’t wait to go back for more.