Justine May

LA Food Safari

When I first booked my business trip to LA, it was to be a quick work trip, in and out in 5 days, but as my departure drew near, and I got chatting with my partner in crime Manu, it started to sound a little more exciting than just 5 days of meetings. The first sign came when Manu decided he wanted to stay in Santa Monica and not LA.  Although not particularly convenient to our meeting locations, I agreed it would make for a nicer place for our small amount of downtime. So after asking around we decided on the Viceroy Hotel (www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com) on Ocean Avenue, and we weren’t disappointed.

The Viceroy is an old hotel, stunningly refurbished, with an amazing concierge team, great pool area, and an air of cool, sleek style. The dining at the hotel restaurant, Whist,  where Executive Chef Tony DiSalvo is in residence, is great. Manu and I enjoyed some tapas and champagne in their stylish bar before a great meal in the courtyard. Dishes are designed to share and all are well presented. Breakfast is not too bad either, although avoid the omelette; I don’t think I can repeat the words Manu used to describe it, even in French!

On our second night, after a long day of meetings, we headed to Osteria Mozza; it’s part of a new group of restaurants in West Hollywood and Singapore where Mario Batali, Nancy Silverton and Joseph Bastianich are collaborating . We weren’t disappointed. This place has a Mozzarella bar, and so we both had burratta, mine with asparagus and sieved egg and Manu’s with caviar (he would have liked more caviar!) They have some amazing pasta dishes so I chose the ricotta and egg raviolo, while Manu had the tagliatelle verdi with lamb ragout. The service is slick. The sommelier in particular was stand out, and helped guide us through their list of Italian wines until we found the style we like.

On our third day, we were over in Studio City for Manu’s first appearance on US TV, and he was great, but even better was that there was an Umami Burger around the corner where we could go and celebrate before our next meeting. Umami Burger is incredible. It now has 8 sites in Southern California and one in San Francisco; you must put it on your bucket list. This is not any burger you can get here. Theirs are gorgeous house made buns, thick bits of lush meat and they come with an array of fillings. Such as  truffle cheese to the hatch burger, port and Stilton and Manu’s favourite – the ahi tuna burger. Sides include crispy onion rings, house made fries and sweet potato fries. Umami is a ‘grown-up’ burger place  so there is a great wine and beer selection. The staff are groovy and friendly, and there is usually a queue out the front, but this is dealt with efficiently.

Night three and we were off to Cirque de Soleil’s Iris at the Kodak Theatre, and what a treat. This version of Cirque is a merging of the writer’s two loves, the cinema and the circus. We didn’t know where to look there was so much going on, but it was worth the neck twisting. Pure brilliance, and was pretty exciting to be in the same seats some of the Academy Award stars sit in!!

We had booked a late dinner at Animal on Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, and found a fairly plain but edgy interior. The food at Animal involves pure head to tail dishes, and it was a standout of our trip. The bone marrow with chimichurri and caramelized onions was amazing, the liquid foie gras tortellini sublime, the BBQ Pork Belly sandwiches with slaw, to die for. I even got a little adventurous and tried the pig’s ear with chili, lime and fried egg, which I would order again. Just a pity LA restaurants seem to close so early.