Monday, January 10, 2011

Three days in Los Angeles

We spent the last weekend in LA, so that B could attend a conference. I had not been looking forward to the visit — we hadn't been in Berkeley in more than a month, and I just wanted to go home, and I've heard more bad than good about the LA. I shouldn't have feared: the city is fun, and, more importantly, Los Angeles has some of the best food in the country (a fact that I had read, but didn't appreciate).

Our flight down on Thursday was delayed due to weather, and so B missed his main meeting. After checking in to the hotel, the Renaissance Hollywood at Hollywood and Highland, in, you guessed it, Hollywood (a nice, expensive hotel, where we got a good price because B has family who work for Marriott), we drove to West Hollywood to go to an Indian restaurant ("Surya") that Lonely Planet recommended. Unfurtunately, Lonely Planet Los Angeles is sorely out-dated — although the book is in a recent printing, most of the information seems to be accurate to about five years ago. In any case, Surya has closed, and is now a burger joint. Fortunately, next door is Robata Jinya, a fun and extremely popular Japanese grill and sushi joint. The fish was fine, but what you should go for are the grilled vegetables, which are delicious. Before dinner, we wandered through the nearby Farmers Market at the Grove shopping plaza. The market is open-air and open daily, but at least in January doesn't have a lot of local stuff.

On Friday, we slept in, and spent the afternoon hiking to the Hollywood sign (carrying a camera that was out of battery power). We stopped at a supermarket for breakfast supplies for the next two days, and then walked from the hotel to Palms Thai, on the edge of Thai Town. The restaurant, a Lonely Planet recommendation, was tasty if mostly west-coast standard fair. (The website is gross, though.) It filled up, so I'm glad we got there on the early side. As our act of spontaneity, after dinner we bought tickets to see the tour production of Hair, which was fun but not as good as the movie (they changed and dramatically simplified the plot, romanticizing Hippiedom and making the piece into little more than a very fun progression of songs).

Saturday was our day downtown. B stopped in at his conference, and then we did a walking tour of LA, roughly following the guidebook. Particularly worth seeing are El Pueblo de Los Angeles (the old town; you might as well check out the architecture at the train station while you're there), the two Museums of Contemporary Art, and absolutely go wander through the Public Library, where the murals are amazing. We had one of our very best (and cheapest) lunches, at Grand Central Market, a supermarket-sized place with a roof but no walls, with a mix of prepared food and grocery vendors. We went to the Mexican seafood joint in the middle of the market, and had fish tacos and ceviche tostada. You should absolutely go, and pick up a bottle of wine at the liquor store there, because the best dinner downtown is BYOB.

The best dinner downtown is Colori Kitchen, an amazingly good Italian restaurant, with good service. We arrived about ten minutes before they opened at six (dinner Wednesday through Saturday, lunch Monday through Friday), which turned out to be vital: we were the only couple to get a table without a reservation before about 9:15 that night, and we saw them turn away other diners. So make a reservation. We began dinner sharing the phenomenal Burrata, which was very fresh and served over tomatoes. Then we each had a plate of one of the specials: fresh spinach pasta with a sauce made from ground duck and kalamata olives. For dessert, I had their "cheesecake" (nothing like a New York cheesecake, but delicious), and B had the panna cotta. Colori, though, is another example of Lonely Planet is out of date: they think the place is cheep, and it isn't.

Sunday was our last day. We spent most of the day at The Getty, beautiful and worth a visit. (The food is fine museum fair, but nothing to write home about.) At the airport, we had better-than-expected (it was perfectly serviceable — keep your expectations low) tuna sandwiches and large glasses of white wine at the bar near gate 73, and then shelled out the extra money to board the flight an hour earlier than scheduled. It's good to be back in Berkeley.

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