Los Angeles’ Silly Little Secrets.

DTLA
Here we see one of Los Angeles’ many “mini cities” that, when clustered together, make up one big city. Not sure who the urban planner was for LA, but its weird to me how everything is so spread out. 

In pre-celebration of the birth of MSM, Saturday night was filled with joy and magic that unveiled all sorts of secrets that Downtown LA has to offer. It began with an adventure to Takami Sushi and Robata, a sky-top sushi bar with soaring views of LA, followed by a secret tour of a mysterious spherical penthouse, ending with a dance at the brilliant best kept secret in the city.

Takami Sushi and Robata: TADA!

 

Takami
Nope. This is not Japan! Its Los Angeles! Grabbed this striking photograph from google images. The view from the top makes the experience at Takami Sushi all that much better. Gorgeous. Almost fantastical/SciFi, right? Straight out of Lucy

One thing I adore about MSM is that he knows I have food allergies and other eating restrictions, so he always thoughtfully sends me a link to menus days before we visit an establishment, giving me ample time to a. figure out what I want and b. speak up if there’s nothing I can eat. When I first saw the menu for Takami, my eye went straight to the glorious title The Endless Summer (my favorite season!). I couldn’t wait to try this refreshing sounding concoction of vodka, watermelon, mint, and a spritz of ginger ale. Once on the premise, I immediately ordered a Cucumber Gimlet. After all, isn’t it a woman’s prerogative to change her mind? Crisp and not overwhelmingly sweet or acidic, the gimlet was delicious. MSM ended up with The Endless Summer, which was exactly as it sounded, yummy. I highly recommend either.

Takami Robata  is actually three restaurants that share a dining area. This being said, there’s no way to plan the arrival of courses since the food is plated as the different kitchens prepare them, and there is no communication between kitchens. Sharing each course is the best plan of attack. Neither of us had been here before so the menu was our oyster, so to speak.

We decided to start with the shishito peppers (I LOVE THESE) and buttered scallops served on the half shell. You really can’t go wrong with shishito peppers.  I have never not liked these at any restaurant. I assume they must be difficult to mess up. The scallops…..OMG…..like butter! They actually tasted like buttered popcorn. A hint of sweetness balanced perfectly with salt and cooked to a precise texture, not too soft, not rubbery.

scallops
Enough with the chicken already! Lately I’ve been slighly obsessed with Scallops. They are packed with an abundance of lean protein and can be cooked in so many exciting new ways. At Takami they are grilled with butter and served on the half shell. Beautiful and Yum!

Next we shared the Angus filet, zucchini, and asparagus Robatas (basically kabobs). All of these were amazing. Just the right amount of spice. Nothing over-whelming. The veggies were juicy and had the correct amount of crunch. The meat….Voila! MMMMM.

At this point I was actually close to full but we continued with the Lemon Albacore Roll and a Spyder Roll. I was a little underwhelmed by the spyder roll  because I had to remove the mayo inflicted crab meat. What a travesty. The Lemon Albacore was FANTASTIC. We also had a plate of ahi sashimi with jalepenos that I almost didn’t want to review because no one does this like Nobu so its not really fair to judge. I will say I recommend avoiding this sashimi dish because the literal CHUNKS of tuna were SO BIG it seemed to be prepared for a giant!

 

lemon albacore
The Lemon Albacore Roll was divine. The lemon with zest attached was a brilliant way to enhance the flavors in this delicious roll. 

The staff of the restaurant was interesting. Our actual waitress, perhaps new, didn’t seem too versed in the menu and when I told her I had a soy allergy she said “remind me as you continue to order”. Really? Then she brought the peppers to the table with soy all over them. hahaha. Luckily my allergy isn’t anaphylactic. There was another person there whom I’m not sure was a waiter or a host or what but he was fun, funny, and fantastic. Not to mention he sported the most amazing mustachio I have ever seen. We enjoyed his banter. The ambiance is very “club” like with a touch of fancy (the out door tables especially ring “high end” to me ) yet almost like a “fancy in the airport” vibe. I loved observing the other patrons at their tables. Such a great mix of people in Down Town LA, as opposed to the homogeny so often seen in Santa Monica. There were fat women and skinny women and extremely effeminate men and macho women and macho men, and HUGE men and tiny men and all types of outfits….you get the gyst. It was great and kind of felt like we were in another country or at least a different state, making Takami a nice little escape.  The view from the rooftop of this trio of conjoined bars is nothing short of spectacular.

Breaking mid dinner we walked along the patio seating and looked out over LA. Our curiosity was sparked regarding one very high round penthouse in the near distance. No one at the restaurant seemed to know what this was so MSM took it upon himself to find out.

The Sheraton VIP Lounge: A view from the top.

SheratonDTLA
I’m not sure why, but in the right hotel lobby, I feel like a Queen or Princess. I was surprisingly impressed with the lavishly decorated interior at the Sheraton Downtown LA. 

MSM used his vampire ways to convince the doorman at The Sheraton DTLA to not only explain the secret behind  the round building perched atop the hotel, but to also give us a private tour! Sadly the story gets less interesting from here….its a VIP lounge for Sheraton card holders,  similar to an admiral’s lounge at the airport. Half the “lounge” is an eating area where breakfast and dinners are served. The other half is a gym. A very nice gym. Though it was sort of “whatever” up there, it was another incredible view of our glorious LA.

Sheraton Lounge VIP
The hotels of DTLA seem to have really stepped up to the plate, taking their part in the city’s attempts at renovation and re-gentrification.

Cana Rum Bar: The perfect hideaway for a dark and stormy salsa dance 😉

CanaThisWay
The actual Cana lounge is hidden in an alleyway, but visitors can’t miss it! 

 

The next and final step of our adventure is, in my opinion, seriously one of the best kept secrets in LA. At first approach this bar feels like one would need a secret password to cross the velvet rope. In some respects you do, as this speak-easy type bar is a members only club. Don’t roll your eyes though, because the low 25$ membership price-point (that allows you two guests with each visit) is SO WORTH IT! Live bands or DJs every night, this is a dance club heaven but with a Cubana lounge vibe. There’s a cigar room out back with open beams. Literally, open beams- no glass. Sticking with the theme of the night, I just loved the variety of guests enjoying the ambience. The music was fun for dancing, the decor reminiscent of a Caribbean pirate ship, and the drink menu is vast and full of both unique fun rum concoctions and traditional pirate faire. I can’t recommend this place enough. If your itching for a little bit of Havana in your life, this rum bar is the spot to go.

cocktailListCana

barTender_Cana
A little bit of Cuba on my mind….and  perched on this bar tender’s head!

What the heck to wear while adventuring in DTLA on a fair weather night:

SO….as per usual MSM insisted I not wear my heels. At some point I’m just going to have to suck it up and wear them so he can see that I do not, in fact, complain of pain while meandering somewhat aimlessly in heels on date night. Believe it or not, I DO own some comfortable stilettos that are both sexy and functional. However, this  particular Sat was especially a celebration for him, so I decided to wear flat boots which ended up being a great idea. I was just the right amount of warm and definitely comfortable.  Also I loved the Mod look of my ensamble.

 

Jill_Cana
To be honest, I don’t think my bag is a great pair with this dress. The textures aren’t working together well for me. I need to ask Danielle what she would have suggested. I think she’s been pushing me more to try and make my own arrangements. I am getting better, but this one seems off….Dress: Alice and Olivia Bag: YSL Jacket: Vince Boots: Stewart Weitzman 
bootsDTLA
I was ultimately grateful for not wearing high heels! I feel like these Stewart Weitzman boots worked well. They kept me warm, I still felt sexy, AND I was able to walk for miles!

Down Town Los Angeles has really been growing in a good direction. So may exciting new galleries, shops, and eateries popping up left and right. My favorite is the little alcoves where amour can hide to sneak in some secret kisses ;). Très Parisienne not to mention perfect for the upcoming Valentines Day weekend. Or for any other weekend a couple may want to venture out. Je viens de l’adore quand LA aime l’amour. I adore when LA loves love!

Happy Valentine’s Day ya’ll! I know its hokey and contrived, but instead of spitting at it, why not embrace the craziness by reveling in the idea of loving life!

xoxo

QJ

QJ

It must be in the air.

SaltAirCard
We were both very excited to try something new.

As the music roared and voices filled the room, MSM and I stood at the rear of the restaurant, perfectly positioned fitting “just so” into the human puzzle behind the bar. The mirrored wall to the left containing inscriptions of “today’s fresh oyster” selections reflected a reality to us- this place was extremely crowded to the extent of claustrophobia and the chances of us getting seated any time soon were getting slimmer by the minute. What at first seems to be an extremely cute eatery was turning into a personal hell. Starving and in pain (I made the wrong choice of wearing my five inch healed Alaia booties designed to wear directly from the Taxi to a seat at a table), we started making deals with ourselves. “If we’re not seated in five more minutes, we’re leaving.” Then five minutes would pass. “Ok in TEN more minutes we are out of here.” Perhaps too hungry to actually think of another place to go, I’m not exactly sure what kept us there. We had a reservation at Salt Air at 8:30 and arrived at 8:27. As I have mentioned before, MSM has no belief in being fashionably late and unfortunately in this situation it would have been advantageous to be so. We had already been waiting 35minutes but the people at “our table” were “lingering” despite paying their bill. OK I get it. I actually love embracing that French attitude towards dining; slowly moving through each course, truly enjoying the conversation and in-person contact with your diner-mate (as opposed to the american style of getting it over with and running out so the next person can sit). Obviously the ramifications are great, considering obesity in France is significantly less than here. However, at this moment, in my painful albeit extremely gorgeous booties, I was wishing I could ignite my inner Vampire and compel the hostess to seat us (yeah- too much Vampire Diaries).

After a 38 minute wait, a DIFFERENT two top cleared and we were finally seated. Ahhhhh. My feet! WHOOT! I was ready to celebrate my new found lack of pain, not to mention feed my empty stomach and fuel my dizzy body.

WELCOME TO SALT AIR:

SaltAir
The ambience at Salt Air was interesting. My first response upon arrival was “how cute!” This restaurant definitely attracts an elite crowd.

THE AMBIENCE:

As previously mentioned, Salt Air is really cute. The front patio is ensconced in twinkle lights and has limited seating, all at small french bistro style tables. The coziness continues inside with minimally embellished white washed brick walls, an open high beamed ceiling, and small tables strategically placed. A few, maybe three, larger tables are sprinkled through the room to accommodate parties of 5 or more. Two large billowing plants hug the front door and creep up to the ceiling, adding beauty and probably acoustic padding. The music is loud but fun and though one can not hear conversations around the room, there is no problem hearing the people or person at one’s own table. Perfectly private but open. Can’t ask for more.

The age group was, I’d guess, young professionals 30+. One table of extremely well dressed (Hermes handbag and a fur coat clad) twenty somethings sat in the center table that accommodated their party of six. We are in LA after all. But they seemed an anachronism to me amongst the rest of the array. A few parties of more sophisticatedly aged couples were also there. Hip 60 year olds drinking rose. This was refreshing to see.

THE FOOD:

After our long wait we were both curious if it was going to be worth it, and I’m happy to say that yes, it mostly was.

MSM ordered a lemonade first. Non-alcoholic. I am extremely picky about lemonade, as I prefer something more tart and less sweet. My father taught me the art of lemonade creation using freshly squeezed lemon slices and just a hint of sugar- perfectly tart. I can’t stand the ones that are so sweet they actually send a shooting pain through your teeth into your brain. This one’s sugar to lemon ratio was precise and delicious.

First Course:

TomatoSoupSaltAir
I can’t say enough good things about this delicious stew-like tomato soup! Comfort food to the extreme, I highly recommend it.

The infamous tomato soup.

Holy hell. Yeah. A pitcher of dense condensed pulp of tomato is poured into a bowl of frothy cheddar foam creating the most fantastic tomato soup. Perfectly paired with three husky home-made croutons (not so crunchy to scrape your mouth) and a basil leaf topper, this soup is definitely worthy of its world renowned status. The rest of the food here was pretty good, but this soup alone would be the one thing to call me back. The lunch menu includes this soup with a grilled cheese and bacon sandwich. Looking forward to a day of decadence comprised of this meal.

The Mushroom Toast.

This is a delicious thickly sliced toast with a light smear of ricotta topped with caramelized onions, pan seared mushrooms, and thin slices of Jalepeno. It shys in comparison to the tomato soup, but is very tasty. We actually used the toast to clean up the remaining un-spoonable drops of tomato soup, delicious!

MushroomToast.jpg
I throughly enjoyed the mushroom toast. The jalepeno gives it a needed kick. Dipped into the tomato soup…..bam! So good.

Main Course:

As per our waiters suggestion we shared the baked snapper over a bed of pureed butternut squash, topped with minced sweet potatoes (lightly fried) that looked like a hay stack. Our veggie of choice was the roasted broccoli with purred cauliflower and a chimichurri sauce.

SnapperSaltAir
The snapper was an interesting combination of foods and spices. The flavors did play well off one another, but the overwhelming amount of cardamom made just a few bites enough for the evening.

The snapper was flavorful but I was a bit overwhelmed by the cardamom and tired of it quickly. The broccoli on the other hand was fantastic. Lightly grilled, its texture was soft with a crispy exterior. I recommend making a meal of this and the tomato soup.

The wine selections were nice here. I paired my main course with a nice Rose from Cote Du Provence, which delicately enhanced the flavor of our meal.

 

Desert:

DesertMenu_SaltAir.jpg
I don’t feel the need to return to Salt Air for a full dinner. However, the wine selection was great. I think it would be fun to come back for a nice glass of chilled desert wine and dessert. I’d love to try the Monkey Bread. PS notice our lavishly manicured nails from this past Saturdays fun date day 🙂

I chose the “fruit selection”, expecting a nice sweet but healthy bowl of fresh berries. Alas, when the desert arrived it appeared I had guessed wrong. Hahaha. The fruit selection was actually a delightful pear and pomegranate tart topped with honeycomb and a side of thinly sliced brie. MSM enjoyed the brie with the tart, explaining that the cheese made the dessert more creamy and smooth on his palate. I preferred my bites without the brie. Don’t get me wrong, I adore brie (I mean its cheese made with Champagne?!  Hello!? How could I not love that?!), it was just a bit too rich for my needs at that time.

DessertSaltAir
Everything about this was delicious, from the home made heavy whipped cream to the honeycomb on top. The fruit was succulent and the pomegranate seeds added just a nice amount of crunch.

What the heck to wear to a grandiose restaurant in Venice Beach:

Despite my inability to stand for a long period of time, I felt appropriately dressed. Cocktail attire or a dress would have felt too elaborate. The key to Venice, I think, is finding an outfit that is somehow magnificently stylish but in a sneaky way. Think effortlessly chic. Here’s where knowing Danielle really came in handy.

AlexanderWang
While we prepared for our evening out, MSM continued to go through his inherited record  collection. We’ve been having so much listening to all of his grandfather’s albums, learning about the bands/musicians, and deciding which ones to sell and which ones to keep. One a night, until we get through them all! (some are terrible! hahaha)
ShoeShot_Alaia
These Alaia booties are gorgeous but definitely NOT meant to stand in for more than five minutes! 
BackPatioSaltAir
Relaxing on the quaint front patio at Salt Air. Jacket: Red Valentino  Top: Alexander Wang  Coated Skinny Jeans: J Brand  Booties: Alaia  Handbag: St. Laurent.

Overall I liked Salt Air. I enjoyed my time there with MSM. We even found ways to laugh about the initial faux pas on their part regarding the delay with our reservation. I have two grievances: I feel they should have offered us a free glass of wine or dessert to make up for the time delay. Its one thing to have a lag regarding a reservation, but anything over fifteen minutes, I feel, should be made up for in some way. Otherwise, whats the point of making a reservation? Second, though the food was good I’m not so impressed that I feel the need to try anything else on the menu – other than maybe the Monkey Bread dessert (but only because I’ve made that camping and I’m curious to see/taste Salt Air’s rendition). I feel we chose well and ate the best things they had to offer. With that being said, the ambiance was fun and the music was good; I could definitely return for dessert or lunch /brunch for another bowl of that preposterously remarkable soup!

xoxo

QJ

QJ

 

 

 

To Jillian on her blankety blank birthday

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Happy birthday to me! Flowers and card from my beautiful cousin.

Remember that Michelle Pfeiffer movie from 1996? To Jillian on her 37th Birthday? Well, I never actually saw that movie, but I like the title so….

My birthday month has come to a close. Such an amazing month it was! Especially the last week, when my actual birthday fell. It began on Monday night when the show I just wrapped had a premier party at The Parlor in West Hollywood (I’ll review that another time) followed by dinner at Summer Buffalo with some cast mates (another review for another time- but WOW that food was good!).

Spago

SpagoHeadertk2

Initially we had planned on celebrating my actual birthday dinner (on my actual birthday) at Maude, Curtis Stone’s restaurant. At 300$/person (without drinks) for the “November Truffles” theme, we decided it would dip too much into our Italy fund, so, at my bosses recommendation,  MSM decided to treat me with reservations at Spago, home of Wolfgang Puck.

Back in the day Mr. Puck revolutionized the Los Angeles food scene with  Spago. He decided he wanted to create an affordable menu based on food that was indigenous to LA and fit the LA healthy lifestyle. So Spago was born and healthy contemporary LA eating was put on the map. High maintenance orderers finally had a place to nourish their souls!  MSM and I had never eaten there before, so we were thrilled to try something new.

Ambiance

Bar1
“Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman” – Coco Chanel

When you first go into Spago, you are in the bar. There’s a small lounge area with sofas and chairs and then the bar itself. Upon entering, the atmosphere feels rich but approachable. This area is nicely lit with dim over heads and candles. The hostesses are friendly but professional.

From what I could tell there were two main dining areas. The main room is a well lit indoor space with contemporary paintings decorating the walls. MSM mentioned in passing that he wished it was more dimly lit. I, however, was excited to be able to see the menu without using my phone flashlight (embarrassing age giver-awayer- I know, not a word but gets the point across). The other dining area is an outdoor garden which looked very romantic with trees and twinkle lights (my favorite!). I was a little jealous we weren’t out there, but whatever, where we sat seemed more tailored and luxurious.

meandKath
My Cousin, Katherine, and I enjoying our first visit to Spago. I am so grateful Katherine and her husband could join us. I love spending my actual birthday with family. Its so important to me. 

Most of the patrons at Spago, I hate to say it, were probably around 70 years old. I’m sure this is true because the place has been around for 30+ years and was SO ridiculously famously popular back in the 20th century that those visitors are still meeting there thinking its cool. Why is that? Like how come some people get stuck on things? Same hair cut for 50 years or clothing. Lord don’t let that happen to me!

Hilarious story- As I walked towards the restroom one woman, she must have been about 75, grabbed my arm and said “honey! Could you get me a glass of water? My leg is cramping. I can’t make it to the bar.” I’m pretty sure she thought I worked there (due to the average minimum age). Of course I helped her! And I told her to remove her stunning Jimmy Choos’ because they were the cause of the cramp. OMG 5″ heels almost killed me at blankety blank, how the heck is she wearing those at 70?? (and please let me be able to do the same without the leg cramp!).

soup
Once seated, the waiter brought us each a shot of mushroom soup. Delicious and soul warming.

Even though we were most definitely some of the youngest ones there, there was a mix of ages ranging from 30-80 and it didn’t feel stuffy AT ALL. It was lively inside. Fun. Lots of laughter and joy. I can see why its still listed in the top 3 restaurants in LA.

What to eat

AHi
The most ridiculously amazing spicy tuna on crispy rice I have EVER had. Eye popping good!

Answer: Everything. I can’t even tell you how AMAAAAZING the food was here.

We started our adventure with an aperitif shot of Wolfgang’s cream of mushroom soup. Hello! Can I have a carafe of that please??

Next we shared an appetizer of  spicy ahi in a crispy cone; Mr. Pucks rendition of spicy tuna on crispy rice. OMG. There are no words. Seriously. One bite and we exchanged that look that only “that look” can describe. That “holy S*** this tastes amazing” look. It was like a symphony of flavor that all blended so well together yet stood tasty on its own as well; a symphonic poem of food.

After the heavenly tuna cones we shared an endive salad (delicious) and a Bolognese pasta that was TO DIE FOR. Both exploded with flavors; their own symphonic poems in our mouthes.

menu
Every single appetizer, salad, and first course that we tasted at Spago was incredible. A starburst of flavors in the mouth!
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I was SO excited that the special on my birthday was Veiner Schnitzel! It was as if they did that just for me! The breading was a bit dry, but the presentation was gorgeous. 

For the main course I was (sadly) underwhelmed. My favorite food in the world is Weiner shnitzel. No, NOT the hot dogs. The actual dish that originated in Austria. Now, the first time I had ever eaten Weiner Schnitzel was in Baden Baden, Germany, so I may be a bit overly critical when an american chef attempts to correctly make it. Back in Baden Baden I sat with my father under the enormous oak trees. I was 13 years old. Long wire-y haired dachshunds frolicked in the park across from us. As the kliener vogel (little birds) sang their songs and my dad and I laughed about our day, the waiter served us our Veiner Schnitzel. I remember my father exclaiming “wait til you try this, Jilly, its my favorite!” He taught me how to squeeze the lemon over the veal, and then stir the spatzel into the gravy. We each took a bite and I remember the moment it hit my lips and the flavor explosion that followed. So delicious. And we sat there, in silence, enjoying our food and Germany. So many unspoken moments with my father where I truly felt loved and accepted as me. I so miss him. Anyways, I digress…. They say food is experience, and I do believe that one reason I love this dish so much is because of that moment when I first tasted it.  So back here at Spago, the chef had huge shoes to fill and I’m sad to say he failed. It was dry and not so great.

desert
Desert was so yummy. Triple chocolate with raspberry sauce and lemon gelato. It looked so good we didn’t even stop to take a photo!

BUT….the desert resurrected my taste buds. Delicious combinations of citrus and chocolate…..HOLY COW it was yummy! And the four of us (my cousin and her hubby were with us) were serenaded by our waiters rendition of Happy Birthday. Of course our waiter was a dancer and an actor and a producer and a singer….the list goes on. We do live in LA, right?

 

What the heck do you wear to Spago?

So I was really nervous because I went here straight from work and had no time to do my hair. It was up in its usual work bun. It was to my relief when I walked into Spago and literally half the women there had their hair in a bun!

The dress is mixed. I mean I bet you probably could get away with wearing Jeans and gorgeous shoes with a swanky top. However, I would never. I think I would call the dress here upscale casual. I was excited to wear the new coat that I bought for my birthday. Danielle found this GORGEOUS gem ON SALE 🙂 YAY!

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Coat: Red Valentino  Booties: St. Laurent  Skirt: Chloe  Top: ALC

So began the my birthday week. Off to a great start! Next post- our trip to San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles wine tasting….

Bon Apetit! And thank you MSM for such a wonderful dinner! :*

xoxo

QJ

 

QJ