Friday, March 4, 2016

Destination 36: Los Angeles

I was in LA last week giving a work research talk, and afterwards, my colleagues and I took two very, very rare days off and did sightseeing for the weekend! I've been to LA a lot, but usually for work and almost never have time to sight-see, so it was really fun to be a tourist for 36 hours. Of course, this involved significant amounts of food, and I was particularly lucky because my hosts were really knowledgeable about all of the hipster hotspots. :D

The first day, we started off at the all-you-can-eat Indian brunch buffet at Mayura in the Culver City area. I mean, who doesn't want to start their Saturday stuffing their face with deliciously spiced Indian food?! There were yoghurts and chutneys and curries and sauces of all kinds, and all sorts of bread or rice things--gluten free and not--alike to soak up all the goodness with. The sponge-y type bread was one of my favorites: slightly sour, just like a mild version of injera. The brunch comes with a choice of many types of drinks, and I was so pleased when the guy brought out a cup of freshly single-brewed chai for me. ^^ They even have this dessert-type thing, which is ice cream with fruit salad embedded inside, like gems suspended in sweet, orange goodness.

With our tummies pretty much packed to the brim such that I felt sufficiently like Tubbs, we rolled out to start a day of sight-seeing. The first stop was The Museum of Jurassic Technology, just down the street. It's sort of hard to explain the Museum, but I highly recommend a trip if you're one of those people who appreciates tongue-in-cheek eclectic esotericism. I was hanging out with two academics, and so it definitely hit the right nerd buttons.

Then, we headed downtown to LACMA because I wanted to see the Rain Room, but alas! the Rain Room is completely booked. :(  But, walking through LACMA, I got to see Matisse's Le Gerbe in person, so that totally made my day. The piece is totally bigger in person than I thought! Alongside LACMA, we went to see the La Brea Tar Pits, which I was pleasantly surprised to figure out (after all these years hearing the name) that there are actually tar pits there! It's geologically really cool. They've also done a good job putting up explanations and exhibits about the fossils that have been excavated from the tar pits, like the Giant Sloths, which I'm hugging below.

For dinner, my friend took us to perhaps the hippest restaurant I have ever been to in my life: Baroo, in Hollywood. The restaurant sits in a totally nondescript, run-of-the-mill strip mall on a random corner of Santa Monica Boulevard, and is completely unmarked. (Hence, you have to be, like, you know, in the know.) The concept of the restaurant is based entirely around pickled and preserved foods, and at the back of the minimalist restaurant is a wall shelf full of random pickling specimens--grains, fruits, veggies. There's also a huge wall of cookbooks, which I enjoyed scoping out to see where the chef gets his inspiration.

The food was so super yummy, and I thought, very true to the LA maximalist aesthetic of putting a lot of flavors into one hearty bowl. I had the kimchee fried rice, which wasn't your regular kimchee fried rice!--with pineapple-flavored kimchee, a perfectly sous vide egg, crunchy quinoa, and this mysterious red powder (maybe gochu?) that was so addictively savory. My friend got the freshly-made pasta dish, with all sorts of preparations of celery, including celery ash. As she put it, "Baroo is an ash-type restaurant, not a foam-type restaurant." :P Oh, and though they were out of the passionfruit tart that I wanted to try, their chocolate chip cookie is *mwa* very good and the perfect texture.

The second day was spent in Venice, because my host insisted that--one--I needed to finally go to the beach in LA (I never get around to it, with work), and that--two--I needed to experience the new-age, over-the-top hipsterness of Abbot Kinney and the nearby canals.

We walked down the boardwalk and saw the famous Muscle Beach and skate park, and interesting characters like this insanely blue parrot out for a Sunday stroll. (I also got to leave the DfB mark on the sanctioned graffiti wall. :))

Then, we stopped in at Gjusta for sustenance. Oh, Gjusta. How to I explain thee? This restaurant/deli/fine foods purveyor/coffee shop housed in a warehouse is like, hipstery, foodie paradise. Every inch of the place is a perfect Instagram moment just begging to happen: white-washed brick walls, concrete countertops, enamel and plank serving platters, rough wood accents, cashiers wearing chambray and/or beards. My favorite moment of this sort were two bearded guys in flannel sitting on crates in the eating patio, sharing a joint plate of kale. 💕.

Good bread is hard to come by in LA, so I appreciated Gjusta's loaves, which are hearty and very good and perhaps only miss the mark in being not quite crusty enough. They also had bialys that were served with house-smoked lox, and of course everyone knows that bialys are the new bagel! (sarcasm) I got the pumpernickel bialy, which perhaps still isn't quite as dark as proper East Coast pumpernickel, but definitely was yummy. My favorite thing that I tried was actually the iced grapefruit yerba mate, which had a beautiful sunrise color, delicious sweetness from the citrus, and just a hint of the traditional smokiness of mate.

After lunch, we rounded out the day by wandering down Abbot Kinney and amusing ourselves with the very trendy business names there: e.g., two stores within blocks called "Herringbone" and "Flannel", the juice bar appropriately ironically named "The Butcher's Daughter". We also saw the canals, which I had only ever seen in movies before, so that was definitely fun!

All in all, I think we fairly successfully weekended in LA. This time off and sightseeing thing--apparently there is something to it!


  1. My husband and I are planning at trip to the west coast of US next year so I'm happy to have some good recommendations of what to do and (most importantly) where to eat in LA. Wonderful photos...I especially love the one of the slightly feral white cat hiding in the bushes - well spotted!

  2. I'm living in Norway, but always been so fascinated about LA. Would love to go there sometime! Thanks for sharing this lovely experience with us! :)


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