Sunday, April 21, 2013

Second Thoughts: Los Angeles

I am predisposed to hate L.A.  I have been a few times and I cannot say in any of those times that I had a remarkable time.  Atrocious traffic aside, I found the city uninspiring and void of any local flavor seductive enough to make me spend money and time in this overrated place.   I’ve always seen it as incomprehensible, unrelatable, and unpalatable in so many accounts.  I’d rather go somewhere else.

By volition not entirely my own, I had to spend a few days in downtown L.A. for work.  I went with a plotted escape plan to San Diego for the weekend making the idea of L.A. a bit more bearable.  But after spending a couple days in this notorious city I have conditioned myself to loathe, and this will be a tough pill to swallow, I actually found that downtown L.A. is not too bad.  I actually, *gulp*, like it.

I don’t think I’m alone when I say that travel, food, and culture are often juxtaposed.   I don’t necessarily travel for food alone, but I find that a place resonates with me more if I am able to experience that place – on a plate.  Many times, I remember a place not only for the inherent and the obvious, but also for the complete feeling of satisfaction over mind-blowing food eaten amongst locals.  Like how dining at a place called Les Remparts in Bouillon, Belgium where not a word of the menu translated from a pocket dictionary.  It drizzled the entire time we were in Bouillon but remembering a meal at Les Remparts, how it was my first ever experience of real French food, makes the memory of that place so warm and fuzzy.  Or how eating amazing savory and spicy pad thai in Southern Thailand like none I’ve had in my life before is one of those vivid things I remember of my solo sojourn to a remote island to camp on the beach.  Or how the exquisite Italian masterpiece of Alessandro of Posada Margherita in, of all places, Tulum, Mexico, has had me daydreaming of a return to the island since (I’m going again in May and I cannot wait). 
Food is part of what makes memories of travel indelible. 

And food is L.A.’s saving grace for me.

And while this post is not meant to be a dining guide at all, it demonstrates the possibilities.

[Bottega Louie, 700 So. Grand Ave.]

[Mendocino Farms, FIGat7th, Figueroa & 7th]

[Industriel Urban Farm Cuisine, 609 So. Grand]

[Dong Il Jang, Koreatown] 

A young-ish Korean girl professed that this is her favorite restaurant in Koreatown and she's been coming here since she was little.  Rule of thumb: Eat where the locals eat!

The spread
I wagyu.  I really do. 
The finale: kimchi rice
Aside from the food, I was also impressed by the beautiful greenbelts and gardens around downtown, especially around the museum district.  This was all a surprise to me.  Actually, more of a shock.

The Walt Disney Concert Hall designed by Frank Gehry

And in my aimless wanderings, I saw that the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater Company was performing that evening at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, next to the Walt Disney Concert Hall, so I did not give it a second thought and saw the brilliant performance.

I cannot say that I'm already planning my next trip back to L.A., but I will say that in the next opportunity to travel to the City of Angels, there won't be any arm-twisting involved anymore.

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