Local vs. Luxury LA

As you fly into LAX, the city spans as far as you can see and it’s quite the sight.  LA’s gigantic sprawl encapsulates a whole host of activities and things-to-do, and there’s plenty variety in it too.  This article won’t attempt to cover everything you can do in LA, because you could dedicate an entire website to that, but here’s a trip where we tried out some “local” joints as well as some extravagance and luxury.

Before you head to luxury, you should head to a restaurant just southwest of LAX.  It is the city of Torrance and one of the things that is located there is the Toyota campus and maybe because of this or in spite of it, there is a proliferation of Japanese restaurants in the area.  The restaurant, Ah Sah, is certainly “off the beaten path”.  If you try to find it on the net or your zagats, you aren’t going to find it, but it is definitely a local joint that is traveled by those in the know and those willing to explore things out off the main road (and, luckily, our friend was there to guide us).  They serve up hakata-style ramen (which is the thin ramen that doesn’t curl) in a rich, milky, pork-bone broth.  Oh, by the way, Ah Sah doesn’t have a English sign, but you will recognize it because of the red sign with two Japanese characters in white.

Next stop, the Ritz-Carlton at Dana Point.  Dana Point is actually located south of Laguna Beach and is in fact in Orange Country (and not LA proper).  It’s about 1.5hr drive from LAX, but when you get there, it is well worth it.  As you would expect from a 5-star establishment, there’s a significant attention to detail, but this hotel isn’t overtop and “gotti”.  As you check into the hotel, you will immediately notice the beautiful flower boutiques lining the lobby, intricate rug flooring and sleek hallways.  The rooms are spacious and immaculate with a raised bed that is covered by linen of the highest thread count which makes sleeping in them divine.  The bathroom is tiled with marble with a separate room for the toilet and features two vanities (just in case you want your own space).  We stayed on the 1st floor and would recommend that if you want to be able to walk out into the pool area straight from your room (if you want some more privacy, however, ask for a room on a higher floor).  The facilities are no less high-end with a fitness center decked out with lots of machines that overlook the ocean so you can jog while enjoying the view. There’s also spa and relaxation center there which you can indulge in and a fabulous restaurant.

On the way back to LAX, there are a ton of places on the coast that you can stop by, but some of our favorites include: Santa Monica, but north of the Venice beach end where there is less of a crowd and Manhattan beach which is further north.  One quaint and tranquil “town” that feels a little bit like a fishing village is Balboa Island which is in Newport.  By the way, the fishing village feel extends all the way to the fact that everyone seems to know everyone else on the main street.  People sit on the benches outside the stores and chat to each other at length.

Should you be feeling in the mood for brunch at a place that is known for its “scene” (i.e., where you may even run into a celebrity), you should stop by West Hollywood’s Toast Bakery Cafe.  I would be lying if I said the food is fantastic, because it is just okay, but the service is very fast and I guess it’s a kind of fun place to hang out.  If you are looking for something more local, there’s a restaurant tucked in a Japanese square that serves up Japanese-Italian fusion cuisine (called Akane Chaya).  Specifically, they make a whole host of spaghetti dishes but with a Japanese twist.  For example, we enjoyed spaghetti with cod roe which was flavorful where the cod roe provided a texture that was finer than meatballs.  We also had the spaghetti with Japanese hamburger patti where the patti itself was seasoned such that unique punchy flavor (maybe a version of teriyaki?).  Definitely something to try out if you have the time.

So there you have it, a quick review of LA… we will definitely be back for more.


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