It’s great eating out on someone else’s dime. I don’t get to do it that often but when I do the food always seems to taste better. I was lucky enough over the past week to be treated to three nights of free food–one night for our new grad student recruiting day, one night for our post-symposium dinner, and one night for the end of a Japanese film festival hosted by the university. Here are a few impressions (click on restaurant titles for their home pages):
1. Zip Fusion
Cuisine: Sushi and more general Japanese fare
Location: Downtown L.A., Little Tokyo
Good: Fun atmosphere, cheerful staff, delicious and generously portioned sushi rolls.
Bad: Tempura a little too oily and thickly battered (a frequent problem), getting there can be a pain in traffic, they need to fix the heat lamps if they’re going to seat so many people on the patio.
Overall: Positive impressions all around, not cheap but not too pricey, especially for the quality of the food and the portion size.
2. Cliff’s Edge
Cuisine: Steaks, seafood, pasta, with an emphasis on fresh ingredients.
Good: Pretty much everything
Bad: Pricey, but well worth it (of course I wasn’t paying)
Overall: Wow. I can see why this place doesn’t have a sign and is essentially invisible–it’d be completely overrun. By 8 pm on a Friday it was packed. It’s gorgeous–a sort of secret forest retreat with an enormous tree in the middle of a courtyard. Diners sit on chairs and rattan couches with big fluffy pillows, and there’s also a beautiful inside section. Super-soft bread served with a sweet balsamic dipping sauce plus fritto misto appetizer almost filled me up before my entree arrived. I had the steamed lobster with spinach and morel mushrooms, which was perfectly cooked and actually made me love steamed spinach. Portions were all small but filling. I’ll be back. Reservations recommended.
Cuisine: Mexican with a few twists
Good: Affordable, great cocktails, friendly staff, stylish enough for a date but casual and fun
Bad: A little heavy (probably my own fault for wolfing everything down)
Overall: Highly recommend the beef tacos with pickles–sounds weird but trust me, they’re great. Everything else was fresh and flavorful, the usual Mexican fare but with a few novel ingredients and some less familiar menu items. Also an excellent selection of REAL salsa and super-thin, crispy tostada chips (which can be hard to find in L.A.). Carrying on a conversation about contemporary film in Japanese while stuffing your face with tortillas and guacamole is no easy task, but I think I managed to pull it off without spilling too much. I’ll be back.