Longtime Santa Monica Pier staple, SM Pier Seafood, has officially re-launched as The Albright. After 35 years, the family-owned and operated restaurant has passed down from mother to daughter and has undergone a complete revamp - including an updated menu that reflects the new owner's commitment to using fresh, locally sourced food - and the addition of an extensive craft beer & California wine program. The restaurant is now run by Yunnie Kim Morena, whose parents opened the original location in 1977 upon emigrating to the U.S. from Korea.
The menu’s focus takes a fresh, locally sourced, approach to classic items that one would hope to find on the Pier. The Albright’s culinary program features everything from Spicy Seafood Soup and Kumamoto Oysters to Whole Fried Tilapia and a massive salt-water tank of live lobsters, crabs and prawns, one of the few places on the Westside with this offering. Classic favorites include, Mussels and Fries, Grilled Black Tiger Shrimp Tacos and Corn Dog Bites. Seasonal specials will also be available daily.
In celebration, The Albright will be offering a '77 throwback menu on Thursday, January 16th, to honor prices from 1977 (the year that the original location opened). Items will include:
Live Lobster & Crab: $19.77
Bud Light: $1
The Albright is located at 258 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401.Public parking is available on the Pier or in adjacent lots. Additional information is available at www.TheAlbright.com.
Kai Lobach's “baby” is Currywurst, the hole in the wall sausage restaurant on Fairfax Avenue that he opened a few years ago and is fighting to keep alive and well. Small, compact, and beautiful as it is, it has not had the proper attention it deserves! Maybe it’s because in Southern California we don’t appreciate sausage stands. They are a common site, though, in Germany and are as popular and ubiquitous as Mickey D's here in America. We don’t think in terms of sausages for lunch…or dinner…and not too much for breakfast anymore, truth be told.
No, when making a lunch plan, sausages, (pork, chicken, or veal), served on a delicious homemade brioche bun, with a choice of different sauces on the side, (including my favorite aoili mayonnaise) doesn’t come readily to mind. But it should, the way Curry Wurst makes it! Served with excellent French fries on the side. My Heaven. The French fries are so good; in fact, they could be the main act.
Kai Lobach goes way beyond interesting and catapults risk-taking to new heights. He also seems to be quite fearless, but I suppose one has to be to lead a life guided by passion. Make that plural…passions.
Kai is a chef who has his own event planning business one could call celebrity driven or sustained. Born, raised and schooled in Germany, and having attended European culinary institutes, it would be natural to assume that food and cooking are his main passions. But haven’t we all been taught, assume nothing. Or, as my growly teen puts it, assuming makes an ass out of you and me. Collecting art and what he lovingly refers to as his “baby”, take first position.
Part of a growing trend to serve Chinese food with locavoire sourcing and an attention to healthy choices, Chi Lin off the Sunset Strip (9201 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood CA 90069, 310/278-2068) pays homage to the spirit of Chinese cuisine with upscale versions of classic dishes like Peking Duck, soup with steamed dumplings, tangerine beef, tofu with pork and stir fried clams.
Tucked away just off Sunset Boulevard next to the much larger restaurant, Rivabella, the entrance to Chi Lin is marked by a bordello red neon sign suggesting forbidden treats and dangers are inside.
Chi Lin is a restaurant for special occasions. The dining room is perfect for a romantic liaison with a new friend or to celebrate the love of your life on an important anniversary. A hostess in a clinging black leather dress, cut mid-thigh, will lead you to your table in an intimate dining room.
Rows of lights hang down from the ceiling, their dim rays illuminating not so much the room as the essence of the space. The mirrored walls reflect the ceiling lights to infinity. Tables and booths allow for comfortable seating. The waitstaff is attentive. The menu accommodates omnivores, pescetarians and vegetarians.
Except for a short stint on the Westside, I've spent over 20 years living in the Valley. And I love it. I really do. Yet, since I became more of a "foodie" a few years ago, I have been consistently disappointed with our lack of finer dining choices. We have excellent Mexican, burgers, pizza and sushi on every block of Ventura Blvd., but it's a wasteland when it comes to trying to find a place with a decent wine list, upscale decor and innovative food that doesn't cater to hipster millennials who are more concerned with being seen than with what's on the plate. Every time I read about a new place opening I held my breath in anticipation that my prayers would be answered…only to have them dashed by another gastro pub or taco joint (no offense).
So imagine my delight when Girasol, helmed by Chef CJ Jacobson, a two-time Top Chef contestant, was moving in to my neighborhood. The space located just outside Tujunga Village has been many different restaurants over the years none of them seemingly able to succeed for very long, so here's hoping his team can make it stick. They certainly transformed the building, pushing the sunflower-theme in a very modern, slick direction with an amazing layered metal ceiling and gray-brick tiled walls. It's like eating inside a metal sculpture. It's super cool, but not in a cold or unwelcoming way. You could really impress a first date by bringing them here.
The food mirrors the atmosphere and tastes as good as it looks. There's no real theme per se, just seasonal, creative fare that showcases the locally-sourced ingredients with a few unusual touches thrown in here and there to keep your palate engaged. Big Ceej is friends with many of the regional farmers, so expect the menu to change pretty regularly with the night's specials being as "in-season" as it gets. Thankfully he's cooking in California so his options are pretty varied.
I love breakfast. Pancakes that taste like cookie dough at Hedley's, Huevos O'Groats, I'll even drive to Ventura for the chorizo skillet at Golden Egg or go to Barney Greengrass in New York for nova, onions and eggs. So I was excited to try Tart, the cute cafe next to the Farmer's Daughter hotel on Fairfax.
It's adorable inside. Quaint, cozy, the owner, who looks like Yosemite Sam, bouncing around in an apron, like someone's dream of what a breakfast place should be. So I didn't mind that we got seated right next to the door on a particularly chilly Angeleno day. And I didn't even mind that it took almost a half an hour to get our coffee. It was Saturday, and they were busy. But the coffee was burnt and watery. Like it was scraped from the bottom of the dispenser.
I returned it and ordered a cappuccino to compensate. It took twenty minutes to arrive AND it came with lipstick smeared all over the mug. Not mine, by the way. I sent it back, and suggested that since it had been forty five minutes and there was no sign of our food, maybe we should abandon ship...
My friends weren't having it. They'd waited this long and we were starving. So we waited. And waited. And waited. A concerned bus boy finally came to check on us. When our food finally did come, it was a disaster. I honestly don't know where to start.
Sometimes it pays to be in the right place at the right time. In the case of the epic, pre-opening meal I got to enjoy at Trattoria Neapolis last week, I just happened to be at home to get the call. Our friends think we eat out all the time, but our "foodie" cred is mere illusion. Yes, we like to eat well when we go out (who wants to get dressed up and fight traffic for a mediocre meal), however, to us the wine/beverage program is just as important and finding places that are impressive on both the food and beverage sides of the menu are rare.
I knew nothing about this new Pasadena eatery before I stepped through the door. I was suitably stuffed and excited when I left. The space is sophisticated, yet inviting, with many different areas to choose from - the bright and airy Garden Room, the cozy booths in the bar area, the semi-private upstairs balcony and my favorite the brick-walled wine room. It's an impressive space with many touches imported from and evoking Italy in a modern way.
It has been a 10-year labor of love for restaurateur Perry Vidalakis who traveled all over the Italy and the United States researching how to blend his love of Italian food and style with the life and style of Southern California. Most of the menu is familiar, yet the execution - by Chef Bryant Wigger - utilizes techniques and local ingredients that put his own fresh spin on the traditional fare.
I really needed a night out. Life has been conspiring against us lately, but it could be worse. Tired of being homebound and cooking three meals a day, I was desperate for a a little culinary magic. When a friend called with an invite to the opening night of Little Beast, I jumped at the chance like a drowning person needing a life raft.
This new restaurant was one of her clients, so I figured it had to be good. She's a produce broker and has never steered me wrong. All I knew about the place was that the chef, Sean Lowenthal, was, until he opened this place, the sous chef at Chateau Marmont for a couple of years. It was good enough for me.
Their goal in converting the old Larkin space, a quaint, early 1900s Craftsman house, was to create a dining spot in Eagle Rock to rival the foodie joints found in the more tony neighborhoods to their west like Silverlake and Los Feliz. Their mantra: seasonal, modern, progressive. I don't really know what that means when it comes to food, but after sampling the menu, I know that whatever you call it, Little Beast has raised the bar on this section of Colorado.
Westside fans of the Loteria Grill at the Farmers Market who lamented the long drive into LA can now enjoy Loteria's freshly made Mexican food right here in Santa Monica in the old Gaucho Grill space.
When Jimmy Shaw, owner/chef, was setting up his first restaurant at the Farmers Market, Loteria could have been nothing more than another fast food restaurant in the maze of stalls. But Shaw's graphic design in that confined space stamped Loteria Grill as smart, hip and stylish.
In the new space on the Promenade, Shaw was confronted by the realities of a difficult space.
Gaucho Grill had its fans but the restaurant on the Third Street Promenade was famously dark and claustrophobic. Shaw's solution to that limitation was to knock down the front and back walls.
Before Trois Mec opened, being able to claim you attended one of Chef Ludo Lefebvre's infamous LudoBites pop-ups was sort of a badge of honor amongst Angelenos. An elusive and super cool experience that you couldn't stop talking about, even if it made your foodie friends more than a little jealous. The locations were somewhat off the beaten path, the food completely unexpected, at least for newbies to the world of haute cuisine like me. The community vibe and air of excitement while dining, palpable. What makes this new endeavor of a permanent space even more exciting is his partnership with Animal owners Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo. I've only have the pleasure of eating at Animal once, but it was as exciting and memorable as any LudoBites. When it comes to fine dining with a twist, no one in LA is doing it better than these three.
While this is a partnership - Jon and Vinny have two other restaurants to run - this is Ludo's kitchen. Located in a strip mall on Highland in a converted pizza joint - they still haven't changed the Raffallo's sign - it's not much to look at from the outside. Yet once you cross the threshold and are welcomed with a hearty "Bon Soir!" by the whole staff, you know you've come to the right place. All the great things about LudoBites have been carried over to Trois Mec, but somehow it feels different. More refined, yet more relaxed. Since it's a permanent space, the frenetic nature of having to prepare the food in three hours is gone, but the intensity in the kitchen, the "just make happen" attitude has not diminished one bit.
After experiencing Trois Mec twice, once very early, once after it officially opened, I have to say his food is better than ever. Simpler in a way, though just as inventive with the complex flavors he's come to be known for. It seems cleaner and more vibrant, taking the essence of an item and cranking it up to 11. The presentation is beautiful as well, each course served on a different piece of pottery or antique French plates, designed to showcase just that particular dish.
La Sandia Mexican Kitchen and Tequila Bar shares the top floor of Santa Monica Place with half a dozen other restaurants, the Food Court and the Market.
You'll recognize La Sandia by the crowded patio and open air bar, offering over 200 tequillas, half a dozen margaritas and Mexican beers, Mojitos, Capirinhas and Sangria pitchers.
The front part of the restaurant is dominated by the busy bar scene, especially at Happy Hour. With generously extended hours Sunday-Thursday from 4:00pm-9:00pm and Friday 4:00pm-7:00pm, Happy Hour appetizers are $3.00 (shrimp ceviche, a choice of quesadillitas, tacos, empanadas and sliders, chicken wings and bbq pork ribs), margaritas $5.00, Mexican bottled beer $3.00, daily specials Mondays-Thursdays and $5.00, "bottomless" bowls of guacamole.
Walk past the bar and you enter the restaurant with a dining room in a plaza style expanse, dominated by a retractable ceiling, a large fountain with four, smiling cherubs and upholstered booths with plush seating.
by Lisa Dinsmore