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Gloria’s Cafe (Culver City, CA) – Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives

May 11, 2010

This spring must be the season for TV appearances! Yes, yours truly has hit the small screen again! This time, I’m not plugging myself but one of my favorite Mexican/Salvadorian restaurants in Los Angeles – Gloria’s Cafe.

If you’re wondering if my 5 seconds in the spotlight influenced my glowing review, then you’ve never had Gloria’s sopa de 7 mares. I wasn’t lying when I said it was my favorite thing on the menu; I would bathe in that broth if I could. The seafood overflows from the bowl, the octopus and the squid are soft and never chewy, the scallops are succulent…

…I think I just made myself hungry.

So here’s my huge congrats to Gloria’s Cafe! You deserve all the publicity you get!

(Read my original review on Yelp.)

Gloria’s Cafe
10227 Venice Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90034
(310) 838-0963
Twitter: @gloriascafe

Gloria's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Nakkara (Los Angeles, CA) – A Feast for Food Bloggers

May 7, 2010

When Kevin of kevinEats invited me to a food blogger/PR dinner at Nakkara last week, I was ecstatic. The opportunity to meet and mingle with Kevin and other Los Angeles food bloggers in person seemed like a fun experience. Plus, I was on vacation – what better way to relax than to eat a good meal with individuals of similar interests?

Of our party of six, I was last to arrive (I’m usually very prompt! I blame my lateness on the lack of metered parking in the area). I walked into the dining room and recognized a few familiar faces – Danny of Kung Food Panda and Diana of Diana Takes A Bite, both of whom I first met through Yelp, and Kevin and Christina of Food Je T’aime, whom I recognize from their online accounts. The last member of our party was Amy of The Roaming Belly, whom I got to know throughout the course of the night.

For this dinner, Nakkara organized a special 13-course Thai inspired meal that showcased a variety of their dishes, both on and off menu.

Nakkara Mieang Kum – Toasted coconut, cashew nut, dried shrimp, diced lime, ginger, Thai chili, red onion, mieng sauce.

We started with the light mieang kum, a lettuce wrapped bundle of coconut, cashews, dried shrimp and lime. They recommended eating it one bite; however, I just couldn’t do it (surprising, I know – I do have a pretty big mouth). Therefore, I think I was table to taste each flavor more distinctly. The bite with the tiny wedge of lime was my favorite – a sharp tart citrus to offset the pile of toasted coconut.

The next two courses – the filet mignon skewer in a green curry sauce and the garlic lamb – were particularly tasty because of the preparation of their respective proteins. A simple dish is so easily ruined by poor meat preparation, but there was nothing to worry about here – both were moist and tender.

The fourth course, a duck spring roll, was reminiscent of Peking duck, especially due to the inclusion of the hoisin sauce.

Big Surprise! – Shrimp, squid, crabmeat, coconut milk, red curry paste.

The Big Surprise had a table consensus of being one of the favorites of the night. A custom created metal serving plate from Thailand was used to serve individual sized balls of crab, shrimp and squid. The red curry and coconut milk were flavorful and helped keep the shredded crab meat moist.

We continued our 13-meal course with two soups for our 6th and 7th course. Similar in taste, the tom kha soup included coconut milk while the tom yum soup was a clear hot and sour broth. Both were typical of soups one would find at any standard Thai restaurant.

If you’ve never had green papaya salad, I would say that the one at Nakkara is a good representation of what a Thai green papaya salad should taste like. I liked the crunch of the green beans with the unripe papaya. Plus, the salad had just enough heat to get your tongue tingling but not overwhelm you with spice.

Crying Tiger – Flame grilled rib eye steak, dried chili pepper sauce.

The Crying Tiger was my other favorite dish of the night. The steak was cooked medium rare (the only way to cook a steak!) and topped with a tangy, peppery sauce. I distinctly remember the dish being served cold, although I’m not quite sure if it was supposed to be that way or if we just spent too much time photographing it.

The last four entrees of this 13-course meal came out, family style, around the same time as the Crying Tiger. The catfish was moist and flaky. The soft shell crab was paired with a rich red curry sauce. The fried rice had just enough beef and shrimp for each member of our table. The seafood pad thai was overflowing with seafood.

Mango and sweet sticky rice.

We ended our meal with mango with sweet sticky rice. Seeing that I haven’t seen many mangoes at the market (granted, I don’t go to the market all that often), I was hesitant about the ripeness of the mango. I shouldn’t have been – these were soft, juicy and sweet, without any gristle or stringiness. It was perfect with the sweet sticky rice.

As you can tell, I had a great time at my first official food blogger/PR dinner. Thanks again to Kevin for putting it together and thanks to all my fellow food bloggers for their delightful company!

Nakkara on Beverly
7669 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 937-3100
Twitter: @nakkara

Nakkara on Beverly on Urbanspoon

Checkers Downtown (Los Angeles, CA) – FOUR Is My Favorite Number

May 2, 2010

I’m an accountant. I know numbers, I can do math. Check it out:

FOUR at the Checkers Downtown
– Only offered on the 4th weekday in week (i.e. Thursday).
– Good for 4 hours, from 4-8PM.
– Four drinks at $4 each.
– Four plates at $4 each.
– Eight (not four!) new things to try.
– Even if you order all four drinks and all four plates, you’re still under $40 before tip.

(See why FOUR is my favorite number?)

I was originally going to wait to write this review until I’ve been four times but I just couldn’t wait. Plus, if I’ve been there twice, for two different weeks, and two is halfway to four and…

…Okay. Enough with the math. Let’s get down to the review.

If Checkers served mediocre food and mediocre drinks for $4, FOUR would still be considered a good deal. But, Checkers doesn’t serve mediocre food and drinks – they serve delicious food and well-mixed drinks, which then makes FOUR a great deal. I mean, check out these two menus and tell me this isn’t a great deal…



From talking to the bartenders, hard alcohol sponsored nights are more popular than the wine nights, and for good reason – Checkers cocktails are really good. This particular Thursday, I had a refreshing cucumber-mint cocktail and their version of a Salty Dog, my personal favorite for the night.

Typically made with gin and grapefruit juice, this particular drink was made with the sponsored Ocean Vodka instead and included a hint of rosemary as well. I liked the slightly tart, very citrusy grapefruit against the salty rimmed glass.

As for food, my first dish – an endive salad – was very similar to one I had at Craft, with its combination of endive, apple and blue cheese and walnuts.

Dish 2/4: Grilled Caledonian Prawn

Of my second dish, the cara cara orange was my favorite component, adding acidity and brightness. I was also happy to see they left the heads on the three large shrimp (the head is the best part!).

Dish 3/4: Halibut Cheeks in Red Thai Curry Stew

My dining companion and I ordered two of every dish except the halibut, which I began to regret after I had a taste. Described as being in a red Thai curry sauce, the curry was actually quite demure – not at all spicy or overpowering as one would expect – and allowed the fish and vegetables to really shine.

Dish 4/4: Braised Kurobuta Pork Belly

Typically fatty and melt in your mouth tender, the braised pork belly was instead crispy, as if it was fried. I expected this to be my favorite that day, but ended up being my least due to the texture issue.


Although hard alcohol nights are more popular than wine nights, that’s not to say the wine night’s aren’t good too. Sometimes you just want to swirl a glass of pinot rather than down a martini.

As previously mentioned, FOUR offers four dishes for $4 a piece. This particular day I just wasn’t feeling the second dish on the menu, a white bean soup with chorizo. Therefore, I only ordered the other three.

Dish 1/4: Caledonia Prawn Scampi

The sauce was flavorful but not heavy and the pasta was cooked al dente. It was supposed to pair with the chardonnay (which I also ordered, pictured above) but I enjoyed the food much more than the wine.

Dish 3/4: Maitake Mushroom Toast

The mushroom toast was a little too rich for my taste. The hearty mushrooms would have been enough, but the mushroom butter was almost overwhelming. Additionally, the toast was lost underneath the piles of mushrooms and was slightly soggy from the butter.

Dish 4/4: Pan-seared Sonoma Duck Breast

The duck was my favorite of the four for this week – I ordered two orders. My first order was spot on – the duck was tender, not dry. The dates were huge (and almost looked like medallions of sweet potato). Out of all the dishes, I felt that this one embodied the wine theme the best.


I know some of you are probably still in disbelief. “…Wait, what? High quality for a low price?” Stop pinching yourself, it’s true. Yes, some dishes may be hit or miss but for $4, you really can’t go wrong.

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Checkers Downtown
535 S Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90071
(213) 624-0000
Twitter: @CheckersDT

Checkers Downtown on Urbanspoon

Cole’s (Los Angeles, CA) – I’m Cole’s Girl

April 16, 2010

I used to be Philippe’s girl. Sawdust on the floors, fiery horseradish mustard, double dipped French dip sandwiches – I would rant about it to my friends, and bring those who were close to visit. But that was a more simplistic time and…well…people change.

I’m Cole’s girl now.

There are so many things I love more about Cole’s than Philippe’s. It’s open until 1:30AM on the weekends, perfect for a late-night bite. The crowd at Cole’s is a little more hip, mainly because of its close proximity to other DTLA hotspots. Cole’s has, not just one bar, but TWO bars (if you include The Varnish). Lastly, Cole’s atomic pickles totally trumps Philippe’s pickles any day, especially when paired with a side of their bacon potato salad.

A spicy crunch…

A smokey bite…

THAT is the combination that I crave late at night.

As for Cole’s French dips, over time I’ve learned to like them. I definitely appreciate the side of au jus, but there are nights I long for Philippe’s sinus clearing mustard. Additionally, their sandwiches aren’t as savory – let’s just say I’ve never craved a Cole’s French dip but I’ve definitely craved a Philippe’s one. However, I find myself at Cole’s on a monthly basis (and Philippe’s?…I can’t remember my last time).

Philippe’s, our time together was sweet while it lasted.
Cole’s, I’ll see you soon.

118 E 6th St
Los Angeles, CA 90014
(213) 622-4090

Cole's on Urbanspoon

The Varnish (Los Angeles, CA) / Copa d’Oro (Santa Monica, CA) – Cheers to Custom Cocktails

April 14, 2010

I’ve had a tough busy season. I’ve been working 17 hour days (one of those days being my 25th birthday), spending my waking hours in a cold, white room and my sleeping hours in an old hotel.

After this is all over, all I want to do is go up to a bartender, look him in the eye, say “I want ____”, and have him mix me exactly what I want.


Copa D’Oro

Ever since it opened more than a year ago, I’ve been meaning to try Copa. I would hear friends describe Copa’s expertly mixed cocktails, great vibe and attractive bartenders and wonder when I would find an excuse to drink on the Westside. Thanks to Victoria of Vixen’s LA Happy Hours though, I FINALLY found an excuse to experience Copa:

Happy Depression happy hour.
$5 drink specials.

Sounds like a good excuse to me!

First two drinks I ordered, the asian pear cocktail and a pisco sour, were from their regular priced drink menu and their happy hour, respectively. Both were well mixed, balanced in flavor, but not quite what I was craving that night. Then, remembering the original stories that lured me to Copa, I decided to order a custom crafted cocktail as my last drink.

I gave the bartender free reign over my cocktail, only dictating that I wanted vodka, cucumber (I’ve had a recent craving for all cocktails cucumber) and some kind of fruit in it. What he concocted was amazing – A combination of lemon, lime, mandarin orange, cucumber and lychee. The inital flavor was refreshing, with the cool cucumber and the bright citrus, but slowly mellowed out to end with the lychee. Everyone who had a taste was caught off guard with the lychee ending – it was deliciously unique.

Copa D’Oro
217 Broadway
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 576-3030
Twitter: @copadoro

Copa d'Oro on Urbanspoon

The Varnish

Pick your liquor, they’ll make you a drink – Bartender’s Choice.

Now I’m a girl who enjoys a surprise now and then (especially when I’m craving a drink) so when I saw that typed on the bottom of the cocktail list, I knew that’s what I would be having that night. I asked for my drink to be made of gin (not my typical, but I was feeling adventurous that night) and was brought the following:

My Bartender’s Choice was a combination of gin, lime juice and honey. Somewhat sweet but still sophisticated, I would have to say that was the most enjoyable gin based cocktail I’ve had to date.

The Varnish
118 E Sixth St
Los Angeles, CA 90014
(213) 622-9999


Like I mentioned before, after this week, all I want to do is a bartender who can mix me exactly what I want. Basically I’m either going to The Varnish or Copa D’Oro…or both. These guys make a damn good drink.