Take a Bite Out of L.A. Pride
When it comes to creating delicious dishes, having a melting pot comes in handy. In Los Angeles, the influx of Japanese migrants from the mid-nineteenth century on, coupled with the Latino influence just across the border, plus the influx of high-falutin’ Hollywood palates and a healthy number of gays has made Los Angeles an ideal place to tuck into ethnic foods, specialty dishes and food fusion creations that can defy comprehension.
Master Sushi Chef Katsuya Uechi and design impresario Philippe Starck team up to present a feast for the senses, with stunning décor, specialty cocktails, unique rolls and spectacular sushi and sashimi platters. Signature dishes include crispy rice with spicy tuna, yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño and miso-marinated black cod.
Talk show host Chelsea Handler counts the Brentwood location as her favorite, but diners can also visit Katsuya in Glendale, Hollywood and LA Live -- a prime location to grab a watermelon cucumber mojito and watch the parade of stars.
Chef Clarence Wong, aka "Koji," makes this Pasadena hotspot a success by blending tradition with innovation in creative dishes like Hawaiian style poke and stuffed shishito peppers, with a laser focus on sake pairings. Freshness is paramount here, with fresh clams flown in from New Zealand and salmon sushi smoked in-house.
The modern interior features authentic Japanese influences, with a sea blue sake nook at the main sushi bar. Featuring the city’s largest sake collection, Japon Bistro was highlighted in Pasadena Magazine in 2011.
You can’t swing a cat in Tinseltown without hitting a top-notch taqueria, but standing shoulders above the rest is Frida in Glendale. The high-end, artful dining room is perfect for date night, with murals and folk art depicting the splendor of Mexico. Owner/chef Vincente Del Rio cooks up an impressive array of seafood offerings, including half a dozen variations of ceviche and regional specialties like Pescado a la Talla.
Sunday morning brings a lavish mariachi brunch at this pan-Mexican favorite named for artist Frida Kahlo, and frequented by the likes of the Hilton sisters.
La Sandia Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar
La Sandia Chef Richard Sandoval, internationally recognized as the Father of Modern Mexican Cuisine, brings Mexican cooking to new heights at this Santa Monica hotspot. Traditional dishes get a modern facelift, and are served up along with more than 200 fine tequilas and agaves. Recent celebrity sightings include Kristen Stewart and Ben Affleck.
Chef-owner Richard Sandoval blends Asian and Latin flavors at his wildly popular Santa Monica restaurant, Zengo. Awarded Bon Appétit’s Restaurateur of the Year as well as Mexico’s Toque d’Oro, Sandoval fearlessly combines ingredients and cultures to create an accessible menu packed with flavor.
Menu highlights include Thai chicken empanadas; charred tuna wonton tacos with sushi rice, guacamole and mango salsa; and ancho rubbed beef short ribs with wok sautéed mushrooms and dragon sauce.
Chef Akira Hirose melds Japanese cuisine from his Kyoto homeland with the French dishes he learned under renowned Chef Joel Robuchon at Maison Akira, a casual but elegant eatery in Old Town Pasadena. Bring your lover (and leave the kids at home) as you tuck into duck pâté and miso-marinated Chilean sea bass, a crowd-pleaser. Finish things up with the duo of vanilla and Maccha Green Tea crème brûlée.
Consistently rated among Zagat’s top restaurants (and Best Champagne Brunch by the Pasadena Weekly), Maison Akira does fusion in a way that’s not gimmicky.
GAY & LESBIAN
Mud Hen Tavern
Chef Susan Feniger (named the best lesbian chef in the world by Out Traveler Magazine) and executive chef Kajsa Alger have retooled the former STREET location on North Highland Ave. to open Mud Hen Tavern, a new neighborhood bar and restaurant. This cozy gastropub features rustic earth tones, reclaimed wood and a large bar area where locals belly up for American bar food like their famous Kaya Toast, chicken and waffle croquettes, lamb meatballs or a cheeseburger infused with black truffles on a brioche bun with Taleggio.
Craft beers are served cheek by jowl and sans pretension with the French 75 and specialty drinks like the Cynar Swizzle. Grab a bunch of friends and sidle into a cozy booth or communal table, or make a reservation for seating by the fire pit on the outdoor patio. Vegan options abound.
This popular French bistro on La Cienega Blvd. brings to mind a Parisian pied-à-terre with its 2,700 crisp white square feet of elegance and cosmopolitan style. Guests can choose a seat in the dining room or out on the lush gardens of the open patio, a favorite location for West Hollywood gays who flock here for a Sunday brunch of oysters, endive salads and table dancing to pounding house music by the in-house DJ. Regulars rave about Chef Romuald Jung’s menu -- especially the truffle dishes.