Staycation: Little Tokyo Edition

I am very Wesssiiide but I love everything about Los Angeles and make a point to explore the City.  The Boyfriend and I have been on this staycation kick in the past few months. L.A. is not just for tourists. We wanted to enjoy it, too. So we’ve made a point to stay the night at a local hotel, dine at local spots, and explore everything by foot only.  This Labor Day Weekend, we explored Little Tokyo.

FRIDAY

Our hotel of choice is usually the DoubleTree because 1) the amenities, 2) the price, and 3) the cookie. #keepingitreal #doubletreecookie

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We were only a couple of blocks away from Grand Park so we had a chance to enjoy The Music Center last night of Dance L.A. It was salsa night and I learned a step or two.

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After DanceLA, we ventured southwest to Gallery Row but ended up returning to Japanese Village Plaza for sushi. I can’t remember which restaurant because we stopped at a few spots and then picked the one with the shortest line. Even though it didn’t have the wait like others, we enjoyed the albacore tataki– which we were both craving.  It hit the spot which was all that mattered.

At 10 pm, it was still hot as Hades. After consulting my phone for an ice cream spot that was still open and had at least four stars, Honeymee was it.  I had the Matcha Affogato with was milk ice cream with liquid honey swirl and organic matcha. Heads up that I was on a matcha kick during this vacation. More matcha reports ahead.

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SATURDAY

Get there before 11:00 am or you will likely face a rush.  But, Jist Cafe next to EastWest Players is worth the wait. Thankfully, we arrived before the line out the door formed. The portions leave you satiated at least until early dinnertime.  They offer a unique twist to the familiar. I had a char siu pork with potatoes– akin to corned beef hash. Order it with rice to cut some of the richness. They have adult beverages, like mimosa but with soju, but I opted for coffee.

After brunch we, headed to the Arts District, which was poppin’ even during the day. We walked to the Arts District Co-op to pick up my race bib and swag for Blacklist LA’s HBDLA5K, which was happening the following evening.  Had I not been trying to Marie Kondo my closet, I would have purchased a stylish grey tote for $25. The Co-op had a lot of sylish and cute stuff at an affordable price.  Skip Forever21 and support the local designers that have their stuff here.

XLanesLA in the Little Tokyo Galleria was a blast.  For $50 an hour, we managed to get three games of bowling fun.  I might have even gotten quads and arms workout.  The bar at the back was legit and showed college football and Dodgers game on t.v.  Folks were friendly and the dude we sat next to worked at a very popular brewery nearby.  He gave us inside scoop about an upcoming event. Always be nice to people for they might give you delicious intel.

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Matcha! Matcha! Matcha! was the theme this weekend, especially with the 99 degree temp outside. On our way back from the Arts District and bowling, we stopped by Midori Matcha and ordered their match soft serve. It was really the right thing to do: hot weather + Little Tokyo = matcha soft serve.  I dont’ know how else to explain it. Since matcha is not sweet, add a little bit of honey for a light, sweet kick. You’re welcome.

After all the walking in the heat and  indulging in the matcha soft serve, I had to take a nap.  When I woke up, we headed to Highland Park for drinks and then a friend’s party.  This was sort of a cheat on the staycation, but I didn’t want to flake on plans made a month before our spontaneous staycation.

SUNDAY: RACE DAY

It’s been on our list so we’re happy that we finally made it.  The original plan was Eggslut but the line was waaay too long. I’m a grown up and don’t do lines.  We peaced out after we saw the line and decided that in order for us not to WWE and continue to love each , we needed to find a restaurant with A/C stat. Heat and hanger were really getting to us and affecting our usual positive affects.  Happy that despite our hungry delirium, we managed to think of Clifton’s.

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The kitsch was so worth it and the food was suprisingly good.  I had chilaquiles, oj, and a gelatin conconction (can’t say Jell-O anymore; ’cause, you know… that guy.)

They had a jazz band that was awesome. Adult beverages were served upstairs.

We walked back to the hotel, watched bad reality t.v., and I napped for two hours. Then I got up and ran BlacklistLA’s HBDLA5K.  The 5K reminded me why I loved running: it’s so great to be a part of L.A’s running community and be supported by people who don’t know me. I loved being told that ‘[I’m] almost there’ at every turn.  I finished the race better than I thought. I wasn’t last. The 5K got me re-energized about running again. Once upon a time, I ran one marathon and two half-marathons per year for 10 years.  I loved running so much but then I discovered golf and that didn’t suck at it.

I need to figure out how to do both…

 

MONDAY: Our Last Day

While recovering from my 5K from the previous evening, I flipped my Westways Magazine (that magazine you get from AAA) and checked out their various SoCal recommendations.  They actually had a page on matcha!!! So, for breakfast, I heeded their advice and headed to Cafe Dulce.  I have been to Cafe Dulce before but I followed their recommendation: matcha roti and coffee, black. It was perfect.  Do it!

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After our coffee and roti, we hung out at Marukai in Weller Court as we waited for Kinokuniya Bookstore to open. It was hot outside and we knew that Marukai would have air conditioning. The ice cream aisle was perfect.

The Boyfriend discovered Kinokuniya the previous day when he was out for curry and I was napping. I was in search of scented highlighters and the selection from the Sanrio store and other gift shops we visited were just aight. I wanted a couple of new highlighters and pens that would be fun to use. I am old school in that I enjoy writing letters and going crazy with highlighters when I read long docs. Kinokuniya was worth the wait. It was like being in a pen candy store! I bought of a couple of highlighters, a pen, and a new journal. I didn’t even make it to the back of the store or the locked and staffed pen case area.  It was too much for a first visit. There will be a next time very soon.

Next up:

We have staycationed in Hollywood (La La Land at Hollywood Bowl, Walk of Fame, Spiderman, stayed at Loews Hollywood Hotel on Highland,) and Pasadena (Rose Bowl, Old Town, and stayed at The Westin Pasadena). Not sure of our next destination– Universal, El Segundo, and San Pedro have all come up.  I/we suggest staycationing because there’s so much more to L.A.  Real staycationing– staying in a hotel and staying super local– offered an immersion to the different cultures and vibe in this great City. Were it not for our Little Tokyo staycation, I would not have discovered my new love: matcha.

 

 

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A Flavorful Community

Culver City is bursting with flavors. While Akasha and City Tavern continue to be Downtown Culver City institutions, new hot spots, such as The Wallace, are also attracting foodies and locals alike. West on Washington, the Alibi Room continues to be a stronghold with their drinks and unique bar food, while A-Frame gets re-conceptualized. And in the middle of West Washington Boulevard and Downtown, there is an occasional gathering of food entrepreneurs and restaurant hopefuls.

I recently attended the World Foodie Fair held at LA Spice Cafe on Sepulveda Boulevard. The gathering was a pop-up: eight food entrepreneurs who want to kickstart their dream offer a sample of their food to determine if their food is good enough. Cost to sample is minimal: $1 for one tasting ticket, most samples cost three tickets. I sampled four of the eight stations: Pablo Chang, Cheeky Styley, Mexicain, and Opium Chocolate. Attendees also received a bonus ticket to sample Craft Meatball.

Craft Meatball is possibly the best meatball I have ever had; it was meaty and flavorful without the flavor overwhelming the meat. The roasted meatball was topped with cream Roquefort sauce. Cheeky Styley’s beef cheek cream puff was made with traditional French Choux pastry filled with tender Bordelaise braised beef cheeks and blue cheese potato mash then topped with horseradish cream and grated parmesan; it was also delicious. The description was true– it really melted in my mouth. And Pablo Chang did a great job fusing the flavors with his Asian barbecue pork belly with slaw and wasabi mayo. As to be expected, my sweet tooth required something post eating anything savory. I tried Opium Chocolate’s macaron with a surprise flavor. It was good, but I couldn’t identify the flavor: sweet with a slightly sweet/sour after taste. But the talk of the night was Mexicain’s French-inspired churros with sea salt dulce de leche. From the time I checked in at the door, I was urged by everyone I encountered to make sure I save three tickets for the churro station. They were right. I should have saved six.

At the end of the evening, attendees were asked to vote for their favorite. Food entrepreneurs who received the most votes got invited to the next World Foodie Fair along with a new set of entrepreneurs. After five minutes, two sheets, and checking and unchecking my vote, I finally decided on one and submitted the sheet before I could change my mind again.

Besides the food, what I appreciated about World Foodie Fair was the community effort. Husband and wife team Steve and Leanne Schwartz, who owns the building and operates LA Spice Cafe, respectively, not only opened up the space– including the kitchen– to the food entrepreneurs, but were also present and supportive throughout the event. World Foodie Fair organizers also explained that, prior to exhibiting samples at the event, food entrepreneurs met with a World Foodie Fair chef for feedback on the flavor and presentation.

With already exciting restaurants that align Washington Boulevard from the east to the west, coupled with a community supportive and nurturing of food entrepreneurs, Culver City will continue to be an exciting food destination.

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