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Entries in West Hollywood (10)

Wednesday
Oct172012

Osteria Drago - West Hollywood

*Post by Angela.

Ah, the Sunset Strip. The famed mile-and-a-half stretch of Sunset Boulevard running through West Hollywood boasts decades of movie and rock-n-roll history, playing out against a backdrop of bright billboards and neon. It’s a quintessential part of Los Angeles, and more often than not, first time visitors to the city make it a point to at least drive through. It also happens to be home to dozens of mediocre, overpriced restaurants. Tourist traps, if you will. Which is why we don’t venture over that direction too often (also, parking is a pain).

Obviously, there are exceptions. The Strip is home to Night + Market and the Eveleigh, which we love, and you can get a pretty solid burger over at the Burger Lounge. And we’ve heard great things about Sushi Park. Now, you can add one more establishment to that list, the newly opened Osteria Drago, where “rustic elegance” is more than just a catchphrase.

It’s really no surprise that Osteria Drago is as good as it is. Celestino Drago has been serving Los Angeles diners elevated Italian fare since the 1980s at various locations throughout the area. We had an enticing taste of his cuisine at Drago Centro a couple of weeks ago. But it’s at his more casual Osteria that we really see how Drago has managed to thrive for the last three decades in an industry where chef-owners flare and burn out even more quickly than the starlets stumbling out of Bar Marmont.

 

 

Given their blood relation, it’s a little surprising how much the décor and atmosphere at Osteria Drago differs from its more formal sibling downtown. Centro is glass, dim lighting, and modernity, and the Osteria answers with wood, white walls, flower boxes and Old-World intimate charm. Another difference? The bar at Drago Centro is a monster, providing ample space for Jaymee Mandeville and company to mix up creative cocktails. Osteria Drago hosts a much cozier bar space, with its focus on the extensive wine list.

 

 

Even if the menu was limited to just salads and appetizers, Osteria Drago would leave a good impression. The starters are uniformly excellent, starting with the sapori di mare, a smooth, buttery sea urchin panna cotta topped with a heap of juicy seafood and microgreens tossed in a tangy citrus vinaigrette ($16). The custard is simultaneously delicate and decadent, and may just win over sea urchin first-timers and even haters.

 

 

The carpaccio di capriolo (venison carpaccio, $14), is just as pretty a dish. Flavorwise, it’s an interesting combination: rich, slightly gamey slices of deer, tart raspberries, toasted hazelnuts and slivers of salty white anchovies.

 

 

The tortino di farro is the most expensive small plate on the menu at $26, but it’s definitely worth the price, at least for truffle-lovers. A mound of razor thin slices of summer truffles add a glorious earthy depth to an already delicious combination of spelt pancake, a runny, creamy 63º poached egg and strips of prosciutto. 

 

 

As good as the starters are, it's the pasta menu that truly allows Drago to show off his skill. The agnolotti encase sweet yellow corn filling in an envelope of top-notch fresh pasta ($16) and are gone way too quickly. And the lush, creamy sauce begs to be sopped up by whatever means available.

 

 

The pappardelle with roasted pheasant and morel mushrooms ($16) is the essence of rusticity. The succulent meat, the woody, musky morels and the broad-cut pasta is exactly the type of dish I imagine you would enjoy at an old-school hunting lodge after a day of tromping through the forest (shooting pheasant & mushroom hunting?).

 

 

The orecchiette, with pork sausage, rapini, and pecorino ($14) is less showy, but also great. As with pappardelle, the thick orecchiette is a showcase for the quality of the pasta.

 

 

The spaghetti chitarra (fresh squid ink pasta) with manila clams ($18), is a magnificent bowl of food, both visually and on the tongue. The perfectly al dente inky, ocean-scented strands of pasta are exceptional, and the slightly briny clams are a great accompaniment.

 

 

The profitteroles ($8), warm balls of fried dough goodness drizzled in an intense mandarin sauce, are a great dessert for those with less of a sweet tooth. For a more indulgent choice, the terrina di cioccolata e arance (valrhona chocolate orange terrine) is your best bet with the citrus lightening the incredible richness of the chocolate.

 

 

Sigh, the Sunset Strip. Mostly gone are the days of glitz and glamour. These days, you're more likely to find tourists, drunken celebrities, and hoards of Juggalos (we once mistakenly planned a dinner on the strip with an Insane Clown Posse concert happening next door). But in the midst of all that, you can also find really great, elegant Italian cuisine at Osteria Drago.

Osteria Drago - West Hollywood
8741 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, CA
(310) 657-1182
Twitter: @OsteriaDrago
Hours: Lunch, Mon-Fri, 11:30 am-2:30 pm, Dinner nightly, 5:30 pm-11:00 pm.

Osteria Drago on Urbanspoon

Tuesday
May222012

Burger Lounge - a San Diego Burger Chain finds a home in LA 

*Post by Angela.

These days I’m filled with all sorts of conflicting needs/wants when it comes to my dining options. I want to consume food in a way that is socially and environmentally responsible, but I don’t want to sacrifice taste. I want to eat healthier, but I also feel the allure of all those delicious summer grill items (steaks, brats, burgers, etc.) that are generally not as conducive to a beach-ready body. I want to sprawl about on a patio with a beer or glass of wine in my hand, but I don’t want spend a whole lot of money for the type of sit-down meal that so often accompanies the right to outdoor seating. Burger Lounge, a San Diego burger chain focusing on organic fast food, seeks to bring a little balance to my life at its newest, certified green location in West Hollywood.

 

 

Located on Sunset Boulevard, Burger Lounge shares a parking lot with under-the-radar gems Sushi Park and Joe’s Pizza. Unlike its more non-descript neighbors, Burger Lounge ups the style quotient of the shopping plaza with a sleek patio and bright orange awning – it’s a burger place that feels at home on the Strip.

 

 

While the establishment was still alcohol-free when we visited, Burger Lounge is set to offer local craft beer and wine by the glass (once the permits are processed, which should be any day now). Designated drivers and non-imbibers will delight in the house-made, Fair Trade, cane-sweetened fountain soda from Maine Root. You'll find actual Mexican Cola on the fountain rotation, but the highlight? The orange soda. Trust.

 

 

Before we hit up the burgers, we laid the groundwork by splitting a Fresh Vegetable Salad ($7.95). We had been excited to see husked ears of corn cooking away on the grill in the kitchen, and here’s where the kernels ended up: tossed along side a lightly-dressed mélange of romaine, spinach, arugula, tomato, cucumber, red onion, jicama, and ricotta. Knowing we were about to tuck into some meaty goodness, we did not take advantage of the option to add chicken or the various patties (veggie, salmon, turkey, beef).

We didn’t try the wild salmon burger ($8.95, below), but were awfully tempted by its promise of fried green tomato topping and BBQ glaze. The Quinoa Veggie Burger ($7.95), made with quinoa, brown rice, zucchini, garbanzo, carrot, corn, and chipotle also sounded promising. But on this trip, we were looking to eat some MEAT.

 

 

The Lounge Burger ($7.95, below) features a medium rare patty made of 100% single-source, American grass-fed, beef, and like all the other burgers on the menu, pairs it with iceberg lettuce, tomato, organic cheese (white cheddar or American), fresh or grilled onion and house-made 1000 Island. All burgers come served on a blended wheat and white flour bun. If you forgo the cheese and dressing, all of the burgers come in at under 570 calories.

 

 

The All-Natural Turkey Burger ($7.95, below) blends dark and white meat turkey with fresh basil. It’s definitely one of the more flavorful turkey burgers I’ve had, really juicy.

 

 

The Classic (below), which we almost didn’t order (because it’s a secret!!), was far and away our favorite. Basically a riff on your typical fast-food chain burger, the Classic swaps in a fat beef patty and pickles while omitting the iceberg lettuce.

 

 

The Burger Lounge offers options to indulge our fatty cravings as well. We shared an order of the Half-and-Half ($4.99), a heaping combination of great, crispy onion rings and fries. We also indulged our hankerings for sweetness with a chocolate Lounge Shake made with Dreyer’s ice cream and loads of whipped cream.

 

 

All right, so our meal ended up being a little over-the-top, and yeah, maybe we ate ourselves uncomfortably full. But that’s on us. If you’re a reasonable person, Burger Lounge offers a healthier, more stylish alternative to fast-food, using organic, high quality ingredients but keeping the price very affordable.

*Disclosure: this was a hosted meal.

Burger Lounge on Urbanspoon

Wednesday
May092012

Hollywood Pies - Delivering Chicago Deep Dish to Los Angeles

*Post by Mark.

Hey guys, I just remembered why I was so damn fat when I lived in Chicago. It may have had something to do with Giordano's, Lou Malnati's, and Gino's East. Chicago-style pies are like the modified muscle cars of pizza. Sure, I like thin crust, New York-style, and Neopalitan pies - prefer them even - but every now and then there's nothing better than stuffing a cholestorol-packed mass of melting mozzarella, greasy cornbread crust, and gobs of sausage down your gullet. This is America, dammit. 

That's where Hollywood Pies comes in. Hollywood Pies may not have been the first establishment to bring the goodness of Chicago pizza to Los Angeles. Oak Fire in West Hollywood serves deep dish and Masa pulls Chicago style pies from their ovens in Echo Park. But Hollywood Pies arguably does it the best. 

 

 

Hollywood Pies is currently just a phone call away. Pies can be picked up curbside at their kitchen at 1427 S. Robertson Blvd. or delivered at no extra charge anywhere within a 5-mile radius. Because of the extended cooking time and the generous delivery radius, a little patience may be required, but it's totally worth it in the end. For those less willing to wait, check the website for details - you might find a nice little discount in it for you if you're willing to pick them up yourself. 

 

 

After our delivery guy swiped my credit card with his iPhone, we were pretty eager to dig into our two pies. We got a large cheese ($19) and a large Mancini ($26) which comes stuffed with mild Italian sausage, fresh green peppers and onions. All pies are made with whole milk mozzarella. The crispy golden crust bears an uncanny resemblance to the cornmeal heavy crusts you'd find in the windy city. 

 

 

This is definitely as close to the real deal you'll get without the four hour flight. Rumor has it that Hollywood Pies plans to open the restaurant up for some outdoor seating in the near future. We're looking forward to it. About the only thing that could make these pies better is even less time between their oven and my mouth. 

Hollywood Pies on Urbanspoon

Thursday
Apr262012

Pink's Hot Dogs Hollywood

*Post by Mark.

There are things in this world I'll happily wait in line for. But when it comes to Hollywood's most famous hot dog stand, that sadly is not the case. Pink's Hot Dogs on La Brea has been causing long lines to form out front of the restaurant for going on 72 years now. Day or night, you're likely to find at least a hundred people cluttering the sidewalk in front of you. And for what? Guide books might tell you this is quintessential LA dining. But this is not the LA I know.

 

 

Now, just because I'm not a fan doesn't mean Pink's isn't right for you. Maybe you just got off your tour bus, snapped a few pictures next to Brad and Angelina's wax statues at Madame Tussauds and have a little time to kill before you bust our your costumes for the 'Let's Make a Deal' show. Maybe you need a lunch break from your Star Map celebrity house hunting and you heard Seacrest loves this place. Seriously, fanny-pack-wearers, this place is for you. 

But if you came to Los Angeles, and actually want to experience the culinary melting pot that makes LA one of the most unique food cities in America, I implore you to go elsewhere.

 

 

I'd lived just around the corner for over a year before I finally gave in. It was 10:30 in the morning and the store next door wouldn't be open until 11:00. I had time to kill and the line hadn't yet started to form for lunch, so I went for it. A perfect storm brought me there, but it wouldn't be long before I'd be wishing that that storm had diverted me anywhere else. 

 

 

I sprang for one of their specials. Go big or home, right? It came topped with sour cream, mustard, tomato and a few strips of bacon. There's nothing here that I couldn't have made (arguably better) at home in the microwave. If it's Pink's distinct hot dog 'snap' that you're looking for, I suggest heading south a few blocks to Wirtshaus, where you can skip the lines and sip on German lagers while you wait for a spicy scharfe wurst - a sausage with snap that's actually worth waiting for. The only consolation to my first experience at Pink's was that I didn't have to wait. I can't imagine having stood in a line over an hour for this.

 

 

Then there were the french fries. Just as gross. I had only a few before this brazen bird staked his claim on them. The bulbous little buzzard looked like he wanted them more than I did. He and his friends ate very well that day. 

 

 

 

I guess the lesson learned is that longevity and demand don't always equate to quality. If you came to Los Angeles and are feeling more adventurous than a mediocre hot dog, let us know. We'll point you towards a few places that are worth the visit on their own.  

Pink's Hot Dogs on Urbanspoon

Friday
Mar162012

Marcona - Mediterranean-style sandwich shop opens on Melrose 

*Post by Mark.

Oh, the sandwich gods have been kind to our little WeHo / Melrose / Fairfax neighborhood of late. We already have All About the Bread, Mendocino Farms, Food + Lab, Canters Deli and Ink.sack (to name only a few) all in our relative vicinity. They've now gifted us with Marcona - an east-coast style deli from owner Collier Ulrich and chef Matthew Moss that hopes to break the mold by offering sandwiches, salads and sides with a Meditterranean twist. The counter-service restaurant, located on Melrose between Martel and Fuller, opens to the public on March 20th, and we were invited to come in for a preview.

 

 

Marcona's menu lists twelve sandwiches (ranging in price from $5-12), and we got our hands on most of them. The array of options should satisfy the hungriest of carnivores (hangar steak, anyone?) or the pickiest of vegetarians (caprese beets!). There are even two vegan options if that's your sorta thing - the one we sampled, the V.B.Q. ($9 - vegan meatloaf, BBQ), wasn't half bad. Sandwiches can be supplemented by a selection of healthy sides, salads and a few unique assortments of pickled vegetables. 

 

 

Among the sandwiches we sampled, a few really stand out. My personal favorite is the Lomo ($10.50), a hearty sandwich stuffed with tender, spiced pork shoulder, roasted parsnips, charred red onions, manchego, and a date mustard as sweet as it is pungent. Served on a crusty ciabatta roll, the resulting sandwich is packed with flavor. Angela was particularly impressed by the Turkey Romesco ($9), which piles white-meat turkey, red onion, iceberg, romesco, and manchego on a French baguette. What separates it from your typical turkey sandwich, though, is the heat and crunch derived from the housemade giardiniera, which Marcona offers on its own as one of their vegan pickled options, along with "chow chow" - corn, cucumber, cauliflower, radish, sweet red pepper & thyme, cider vinegar - and "Thai" - cucumber, cilantro, daikon, jalapeno, lemongrass, red onion, seasoned rice wine vinegar.

 

 

The Spanish Gyro ($12) wrapped juicy bits of merguez lamb sausage, piquillos, and baby greens in a pita and topped it with a refreshing combination of sheep's milk yogurt and cucumber. The BLT ($9) combines the classic combination with an assertive tarragon aioli on a toasted fluffy pretzel roll. If you're going for healthy, the Marcona Chicken Pesto ($9) and Burlington ($10 - mushrooms, Vermont cheddar, granny smith apple) sandwiches dial back on heft and come served on fresh honey wheat rolls. Red onion fans will find themselves in heaven, though my dining companion, who tends to be finicky about them, ate around them.

 

 

In addition to sandwiches, Marcona offers a small selection of salads, sides, and soups. The Mediterranean potatoes ($4) may be the star here, with sundried tomatoes and olives give the traditional potato salad (red potato, herbs) a unique flavor boost. Another side is a white bean salad ($3.50), comprised very simply of lightly cooked beans, red onion, olive oil and mint.  

 

 

On the sweet side of things, pastry chef Janna Leone has big plans for Marcona's dessert options. We're hoping the delicious cookies (below) that we took away with us are an indicator of what's to come.

 

 

And for those looking to take a taste of Marcona home with them, a small retail section offers some of Marcona's baked goods and coffees, as well as some local and imported products such as oils, vinegars, mustards and salts. Once Marcona officially opens to the public this Tuesday, March 20, it will be open from 11:30 - 7:00 Tuesday - Thursday and from 11:00 - 5:00 on Saturday and Sunday. I'll certainly be back for that Lomo.

Marcona on Urbanspoon