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Los Angeles | MM Travel Guide | 14

 

Last week, I just got back from a trip to Los Angeles. Due to the popularity of my New York City post, I decided to compile a list of notable places I visited during this trip too. This has also been a great opportunity to break in my Leica T, which I’m starting to learn how to work with. I’ll probably report in a few months with a long term review.

 
 
 

Rather than taking a plane and feeling miserable, I decided to drive down to the city all the way from Seattle. Going down features some stunning scenery with the Redwood Highway being the most memorable stretch of road for me. The mammoth trees are truly majestic and the roads are nice and curvy, with a fairly high speed limit.

 
 
 

The change in scenery as you exit Oregon and enter California is also something worth noting. It feels momentous as you break through the cool shade of the forests and get welcomed by the beautiful beaches and the Californian sunshine. It’s an awesome change of pace after hours of looking at trees.

 
 
 

On the second day of driving, I took California State Route 1 to finally reach Los Angeles. It’s runs along the entire coastline of the state which are easily one of the most beautiful in the country. The stretch of road along Big Sur is particularly scenic though I found it to be tedious to drive due to slow traffic and need for constant braking. It’s brilliant for an hour but gets taxing after a few. It’s hard to deny the splendor of driving along the coastline in perfect weather with the ocean breeze in your hair though.

 
 

 

★☆☆☆
Avoid. Mediocre.

★★☆☆
Good, but nothing exceptional.

★★★☆
Great. Worth purchasing.

★★★★
Exceptional. A spectacular product.

 

$
Affordable

$$
Reasonable

$$$
Pricey

 
 

 

Leica
West Hollywood
★★★★
$$$

The biggest and most impressive Leica Store I’ve ever been to. The contemporary, gallery like layout really does help put context into why it’s been such a powerful brand for so long. I also found the staff to be the friendliest of all the stores I’ve ever been to. It’s easy to find Leica staff that come off as pretentious but everyone here is nice, helpful and simply passionate about photography. The space is beautiful, modern and relaxing and features more rare cameras like the $50,000 Edition Hermès M9-P.

 
 

 

Bulthaup
Beverly Grove
★★★★
$$$

Bulthaup is a German kitchen manufacturer that I’ve always respected. Their LA showroom is tremendously well presented with beautifully curated props that bring their products to life. The space is a great place to seek sanctuary from the outside world of ugly design, with friendly staff that won’t fail to inspire you to refurnish your kitchen, or in my case, earn more money.

 
 

 

Taschen Store
Beverly Hills
★★★☆
$$

A must visit for book lovers. The German publisher Taschen makes some of the best coffee table books in the world with a good chunk of them being design related. Despite being unorganized and messy, they have a good selection of rare books on display in their second floor library too. It’s also notable that Philippe Starck has designed the store.

 
 

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The Getty Center
Brentwood
★★★★
$

It’s hard to comprehend how this place maintains itself by being free to enter. The Getty Center not only houses an amazing collection of art and historical artifacts but is also an impressive architectural achievement. It’s probably the most beautiful location in LA with a quiet, calming environment. It’s astonishing how much this utopian environment contrasts with the chaos of the rest of the city. The museum also offers a spectacular view of downtown Los Angeles and has well kept gardens that are perfect for laying on the grass and chatting with friends.

 
 

 

Opening Ceremony
Beverly Grove
★★★☆
$$$

Located in Charlie Chaplin’s old dance studio, this is a massive store with a huge selection of cutting edge, often times outrageous clothing. Most of the stuff isn’t even close to what I’d wear but it's always entertaining to browse through their unusual curation. The layout is maze-like and a bit uninviting so I personally prefer the smaller and more sophisticated store in NYC.

 
 

 

Muji
Hollywood
★★★★
$

This has got to be the largest Muji in America. A large selection of everything from clothing to stationary, it’s a great place to stock up on essentials. As someone that always orders from Muji’s online store, I couldn’t be more jealous.

 
 

 

Upstairs Bar at the Ace Hotel
Downtown
★★☆☆
$$

Located on the rooftop of Ace Hotel Los Angeles, this place does so many things right. It’s got a nice view, a fast bar, chill ambiance and a pool too. Unfortunately, the drinks are meh. Not a bad place to be if you’re in the area and are on round 2 or 3 of drinks though.

 
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Varnish
Downtown
★★★★
$$

This is going on my list of favorites in LA. A classic cocktail bar that makes top notch drinks that are enjoyed in a dark, smooth atmosphere. The tiny bar is hidden behind a secretive door, only marked by a drawing of a cocktail. Simple, understated and delicious.

 
 

 

Villains Tavern
Arts District, Downtown
★☆☆☆
$$

People have raved about this place to me but I couldn’t get into it. Located in the Arts District, Villains Tavern is dirty, erratic and has an unwelcoming hipster atmosphere which I’m increasingly growing tired of. Worst of all are the mediocre, overly sweet drinks which are all served in mason jars. Seriously? If you serve me an old fashioned in a jar, I’m never go back.

 
 

 

Urasawa
Beverly Hills
★★★★
$$$

Run by Hiro Urasawa, Urasawa is the crème de la crème of Japanese restaurants in the city. The omakase only establishment serves mind blowing dishes that aren’t afraid to step out of traditional Japanese cuisine. It’s quickly evident that Urasawa is obsessed with the nuances of ingredients as he tells you the origin of the caviar all the way down to the soy sauce. Everything from the pickled ginger to the salt is apparently hand made by Urasawa himself and has a level of delicate flavor and sophistication that is simply stunning. Sitting at the bar allows you to observe his precise hands at work from searing the kobe beef all the way to laying down gold foil over egg custard with white truffle. The restaurant is obsessive beyond the food too, with the Japanese cherrywood bars being sanded every night to maintain its silky texture. Brilliance does come at a price though, my bill for one came out to just over $500 after tip. It’s a lot of money but it’d be a shame to not experience it at least once. Unfortunately, Urasawa kindly asked me not to take photos of the food to maintain secrecy.

 
 

 

Bhanu Indian Grocery & Cuisine
San Gabriel
★★★★
$

This is my favorite restaurant in LA, period. Honestly, this place deserves five stars out of four. Located inside a dumpy Indian grocery store, the restaurant portion of Bhanu occupies the left half of their floorspace. The food is a total juxtaposition to interior and is humble, full of flavor, and spice, as Indian food should be. The thali served on cafeteria-style plates with an upgrade to garlic nann is my recommendation from the menu. Entertainment is good too with two TVs playing overly dramatic Indian music videos. Be sure to order a mago lassi too as their water always tastes like it’s from a garden hose. I already miss this place

 
 

 

Bäco Mercat
Downtown
★☆☆☆
$$

Conceptually, Baco Mercat interesting. Serving mostly small to medium plates, the restaurant primarily has Mediterrean influences without being too specific. The portions are great for ordering a bunch and having a family-style dinner which I love. Unfortunately, I found the dishes to be mediocre and predictable in flavor. It’s not a good sign when you’ve ordered a dozen items and can’t remember loving any of them. As my friend said, “The company was better than the food.”

 
 

 

KazuNori
Downtown
★★★☆
$

Ever wonder what well done fast casual Japanese food would look like? This is it, it’s the Chipotle of Japanese cuisine. KazuNori serves quick hand rolls that are loosely rolled to emphasize the crispiness of nori. The rolls are fast, the dining experience too fast paced, but properly tasty.

 
 

 

Umami Burger
Pasadena
★★☆☆
$$

This has been my favorite burger in LA but the Pasadena joint just seemed a bit sloppy compared to other locations. Their truffle burger and smushed potatoes are delicious, just make sure you visit the one elsewhere in the city.

 
 

 

Tsujita
Sawtelle
★★★★
$

Wow. One of, if not the best ramen I’ve ever had. The tsukemen is what Tsujita is best known for with beautiful, chewy noodles, tender chashu and a brilliant, thick dipping sauce that will leave you craving it the next day. This place is so good that it makes me seriously consider moving to LA in the future.

 
 

 

Il Pastaio
Beverly Hills
★★☆☆
$$

This has been my go-to Italian restaurant in LA for a while now. The food surprisingly simple and straightforward for being located in Beverly Hills. It’s not the best I’ve had but it’s always done a good job of satisfying my craving for some pasta. The place is  packed without fail and service is pretty much guaranteed to be poor though.

 
 

 

Julienne
San Marino
★★★☆
$$

A great American breakfast/brunch spot. They have a masterly creme brûlée french toast and do an amazing job with the steak and eggs. See if you can sit in their “library”, it’s a relaxing atmosphere ideal for sunday brunch.

 
 

 

G&B Coffee
Downtown
★★★★
$

Considered by some to have the best iced lattes in America, G&B is unique in that they show pride in drinks that many coffee snobs shy away from. Most places with coffee this good cringe if you ask for a latte and punch you in the face if you ask for a non-dairy alternative. But G&B is best known for their home made almond-macadamia milk that’s sweet and creamy, thanks to the addition of macadamia. It’s very Southern-California but done exceptionally.

 
 

 

Intelligentsia Coffee
Pasadena
★★★★
$$

Originally from Chicago, Intelligentsia is best known for prolific roasting and quality of beans. There’s an undercurrent of pretentious hipsterism but one must acknowledge that they have some of the best coffee in the city.

 
 

 

Nespresso Boutique Bar
Beverly Hills
★☆☆☆
$$

Nespresso does a pretty decent job of displaying their products but the cafe section of their retail experience just comes off as taking itself too seriously. Why anyone would pay $6 for a latte pulled from a Nespresso Pod instead of going to an actually coffee shop is beyond me. I’ve got to admit though, they do make a pretty mean milkshake.

 
 

 

Okrumong
Koreatown
★☆☆☆
$

Maybe I’m overly picky about shaved ice but I had a hard time enjoying this place. The ice wasn’t nearly as smooth and consistent as I would have liked with a sloppy presentation. I do appreciate how their menu is dominated by classic Korean flavors rather than modern mutations though. Still, the desserts weren’t nearly as good as the hype made it seem and the interior was absolutely filthy with one of the dirtiest restrooms I’d ever seen. Skip this one.

 
 

 

The Pie Hole
Pasadena
★★★☆
$

I’m not a pie person but I’ve got to say, I enjoy this place. Solid pies that aren’t too rich, friendly staff and nice cold brew too. It’s really hard to be this well rounded but these guys make it look easy.

 
 

 

Half & Half Tea House
San Gabriel
★★★★
$

I love this place. The milk tea with honey boba and pudding is to die for. I usually don’t drink boba and would rather go to a coffee shop but these guys have some seriously good drinks that I miss from time to time. Many rave about the brick toast but I didn’t find it all that special.

 
 

 

LadyM
Beverly Grove
★★☆☆
$$

Not sure what happened here but something got lost in translation from New York. Their green tea mille crepe cake is normally worthy of deity status but it just wasn’t as good as some of the NYC locations I’ve been to. The quality of the crepes seems like the major culprit here as they’re seemingly unevenly cooked. LadyM was one of the main reasons I went to LA and I was sorely disappointed.