2 End of Summer Trips: Los Angeles & Philly [Restaurant Report]


Last updated: October 28, 2014

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In the last week I took two trips, one locally by car to Pennsylvania, and later flew to LA for work. On both trips I made sure to taste as much as possible from the local kosher restaurants, and may have gained some weight in the process.

Here’s my kosher restaurant report based on my meals, with some longer reports to come on some of these kosher eateries to come in the near future:

PHILADELPHIA:

SUNDAY:

I was finally able to visit Citron & Rose, now renamed C&R Kitchen, in Bala Cynwyd, a Philadelphia suburb. The restaurant’s interior is beautiful and welcoming. My appetizer (pretzel w/beer mustard) was delicious whereas my main (steak) was overcooked. My wife’s app (chicken soup) was lacking and her main (salmon) was good, but not amazing. The plating was nice, the ambiance is very nice, but I’m hoping they up their game with some dishes considering their higher than average prices.

Later that evening we visited Burger.Org in Center City Philly. I had visited the original location back in 2011 and was extremely disappointed. (Read more on that here). I was willing to give them another chance considering their newer location had been around for a few years. The only thing I can say is that my original instincts were correct. Burger.Org disappointed again. Restaurant was dirty. Burger was overcooked (they replaced it). Ordering process was very disorganized. Only reason to eat here is because there’s a lack of meat kosher options in downtown Philly. Mama’s Vegetarian falafel is infinitely better and around the corner. Skip this place.

 

LOS ANGELES:

I’ve been to LA many times for work over the past 10 years, but typically dined at the lower end restaurants in town and wasn’t particularly impressed. Last year I made a quick stop in LA on my way to San Diego and tried Mexikosher which I loved, and went back again last week.

 

TUESDAY:

My first stop in LA was Pat’s Restaurant where I met a cousin for dinner. While the restaurant isn’t beautiful, it’s quiet even when packed with diners. All of the dishes we tried were tasty and well cooked: Sliders (app), Bronzino (main), and Salmon (main). The service at Pat’s was extremely attentive and made sure to constantly refill our iced teas (something I am not accustomed to at most kosher restaurants). My cousin attests that in the 10+ times he’s eaten there over the years, he’s never had a bad meal. Based on this experience alone, I believe him.

WEDNESDAY:

The next day was jam packed, hitting 3 great kosher restaurants before, during, and after the work day. For breakfast I visited Delice Bakery, an old favorite of mine from years ago when I used to work for StandWithUs in LA. Their French breakfast specials are amazing: eggs any style, croissant / baguette, salad, and juice / coffee. Their croissants make me drool. If I wasn’t interested in trying new places, I’d eat there for breakfast daily.

For lunch I brought coworkers with me to Mexikosher. They knew little about kosher and were impressed with the authentic Mexican flavors Chef Tanabe has put in this fresh but fast food restaurant. I ordered the 3 Tacos main with Birria & Carne Asada steak. Tasty and flavorful. The only true Mexican kosher restaurant I’ve tried to date. Been hearing amazing things about their burger. Definitely trying it next time. (Since my 1st trip to Mexikosher, Chef Tanabe has won 2 of TV’s best cooking shows: Chopped & Top Chef. Impressive!)

For dinner I met with friends Drew & Rachel Kaplan (Rabbi & Director of the Hillel in Long Beach, CA respectively) at Ditmas Kitchen & Cocktail Restaurant. The design and ambiance of the restaurant was funky, modern, and the nicest I’ve seen in LA. Fellow Jewish blogger, Rabbi Eli Fink, was also at Ditmas and came to our table to make some recommendations, which we proceeded to order: Smoked Tomato Soup & Corned Beef Tongue, which came with a fried egg on top of the meat, layered on top of a brioche bun. Spot on choices. The restaurant is also known for its bar and mixed drinks, which Drew & Rachel had raved about and ordered seconds. Other appetizers ordered and shared by the table were the Lamb Sliders, Tuna Tartare, Tony’s Fries (a plate of French fries smothered in guacamole, pico de gallo, and topped with machaka chicken – interesting, but I prefer my fries untopped other than salt with a side of some dipping sauces). Both the lamb sliders and tuna tartare dishes were executed well and served beautifully.

So it was at this point, before I had decided on ordering a main dish, where things got interesting. Someone at the restaurant must have recognized me because a string of complimentary apps (“compliments of the chef”) started arriving at our table. First to the table was the New York Pretzel, then the Pico Grande sushi roll, followed by Broccolini, and finally Onion Rings. The pretzel was good, but not as good as the one I had tasted earlier in the week at C&R Kitchen. Pico Grande included spicy tuna, yellowtail, and avocado, in a deep-fried tempura batter, topped with sweet sauce. It’s the type of roll where the textures and flavors come together really well. While the onion rings were solidly good, the Broccolini stole the show for me. It’s something I never would’ve ordered, but was absolutely delicious in a balsamic sauce reduction. I typically don’t like balsamic anything, but this was amazing.

Entrees ordered by the table included both the Prime Rib and the Short Rib, and needless to say those plates were clean by the end of the meal. By the end of the meal, I was impressed by Ditmas’s attention to detail in the food, restaurant design, and service. It’s definitely a place I would go back to with friends, for a business meeting, or a date.

 

THURSDAY:

For breakfast I tried Bibi’s Bakery Cafe, a clean, deliciously smelling Israeli-style bakery in the heart Pico Blvd. I ordered their Israeli breakfast special which includes 2 eggs any style, any bread, and either cream cheese or butter for $8. Was a bit surprised that it didn’t come with OJ or coffee. It was good nonetheless, but I still prefer Delice. They also carry many different styles of bread/baked goods like pita, flat breads, and Jerusalem bagels, which are particularly good.

I met an old friend for lunch near my company’s office in Santa Monica at Real Food Daily, a kosher certified vegan restaurant. The restaurant was surprisingly large, busy, and lots of options on the menu. Being vegan, the menu was entirely pareve but most dishes were intriguing and I wanted to taste a few. I settled on one the specials: quesadillas with a mango salsa and guacamole topping (asked for it on the side), with a side of grilled plantains. Both the quesadillas and the plantains were delicious and I polished off my plate. One concern that affects myself and others in my predicament: seemingly more than 50% of the menu had dishes with cilantro (Cilantro tastes soapy to me). Otherwise, I definitely recommend having lunch here when in the Santa Monica area.

For dinner I had to decide between Shiloh’s and La Gondola as I have never eaten at either. Facebook & Twitter friends recommended both and with the flip of a coin I ended up at La Gondola, and was not disappointed. Having dinner with friends, the 3 dishes that highlighted our night were: the stuffed artichoke appetizer (really really delicious), the best appetizer of the week: Candied Bacon (bacon-style pastrami, fried in brown sugar, served with a mango jam — insanely good), and the restaurant’s famous BBQ Ribs. The ribs were solidly good, but it was not the best I ever had. The best I’ve ever had were those I tasted last year as a judge at the Long Island Kosher BBQ Championship.

FRIDAY:

Just to try something different, I walked over to the closest Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf to my hotel and grabbed one of their to-go breakfast sandwiches in the morning. This is a very similar offering to what I recently had at CBTL in Las Vegas. Sandwiches and other prepared kosher packaged foods are typically restocked daily/every other day. They’ll heat it up for you, which you should definitely request. Overall, good, but not as good as the bakeries on Pico Blvd.

For lunch I headed to Fish Grill, which I had never eaten at before despite all of my prior trips to LA. The menu options compare very closely to Fish Plate in Cedarhurst (5 Towns), NY. I love Fish Plate and eat there all the time, and if I lived in LA, I would probably frequent it too. The Grilled Ahi Tuna was well cooked, but could’ve used more seasoning, however the brown rice was a delicious side. Fish Grill’s access to fresh Pacific fish definitely gives it a leg up on the quality of fish I’m able to get in NY, but for my dish I do wish the seasoning was a little stronger. I look forward to going back and trying some of the other fish dishes.

I ended up spending Shabbat in the “La Brea” / Hancock Park area of Los Angeles with 2 avid YTK readers and contributors, Alon & Estee. Thank you for your warmth and hospitality. Looking forward to welcoming you both to NYC. :)

 

Overall, my trip to LA was filled with tons of kosher options (so many more places than I even had a chance to visit), nearly all were delicious and satisfying. Sad that I wasn’t able to visit one of the best kosher restaurants in the country on this trip: Tierra Sur in Oxnard, CA (about 90 minutes north west of LA). Next time.  [For more pics, check out & follow us on Instagram!]

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