Plugs — Emily Wilson
L.A. food and drink recs from yours truly
Plugs* is The Angel’s recs column. Every Saturday, you’ll get six picks — a restaurant, a bar, a shop, an ingredient, a person, and a treat — from someone in Los Angeles who knows what they’re talking about. For the first iteration, that person is me.
Restaurant — L & E Oyster Bar
I love many restaurants, but few can be called perfect. A Perfect Restaurant must consistently execute the following equation: great food + great drinks + great vibe + great service. But that’s not all. A Perfect Restaurant must also have a distinct purpose, personality, or point of view, and live up to it.
So, some examples. Tsubaki, the compact Japanese izakaya in Echo Park, with food that’s off the charts (their Japanese Caesar is a top 10 L.A. dish for me) and a sake list that’ll make you realize how weird and wonderful sake can be, is a Perfect Restaurant. They describe themselves as “a Los Angeles izakaya with Japanese roots and a California state of mind.” When you dine there, you get that.
Another is the pizza, cake, and wine restaurant Quarter Sheets. Nab a table inside, and you’ll feel like a kid at your best friend’s birthday party, except the pizza and the cake are much, much better than anything you had back then. Plus, there’s wine.
L & E Oyster Bar, my current go-to, is also a Perfect Restaurant. As a proper neighborhood restaurant with bonuses, L & E is walk-ins-only (with an upstairs bar that serves snacks, if and when you have to wait), and thus accessible. The menu is stacked with hits and has range—from clam chowder to steak au poivre, with plenty of salads and veg—so that regulars won’t get bored. And there’s a full bar, a rarity in L.A. I come here when I want something good but haven’t made a reservation anywhere. I meet friends at the bar for emergency martinis. I come for oysters since it’s an oyster bar. I quite like the moules frites, but if you’re looking for something heartier, the crab linguine is delicious. My favorite thing about L & E Oyster Bar, though, is that they do two of my favorite dishes extraordinarily well: shrimp cocktail, zhuzhed up with an herb marinade, and crispy, Old Bay-seasoned fries, both of which are surprisingly hard to come by in this town.
Bar — Stir Crazy
One could argue that Stir Crazy is a restaurant, but I treat it like a bar with good snacks since the food menu is light. They bill themselves as a cafe, like those in Europe. So you get situated at a table and post up, drink nice wine (I always go for bubbly here), and pick at a crudo, a hunk of bread with butter, and some marinated anchovies and ribbons of ham. It’s a handsome and very civilized hang.
Shop — Beverly Hills Juice
Beverly Hills Juice has been sluicing L.A.’s tastiest wheatgrass-ginger shots since 1975. The tiny storefront is timeless in terms of its look and feel and what it offers—fresh nutrients in liquid form. Generally, I’m a smoothie > juice kind of girl, but that’s because most juices don’t taste like those made by Beverly Hills Juice. Trust me, and try the carrot-coconut.
Ingredient — Fig leaves
Fig leaves are my current obsession. I adore figs, too, but the leaves of fig trees are in season for much longer and can be easily foraged across the city. They have an earthy, coconut-vanilla aroma that you can infuse into all sorts of sweet and savory dishes, and you only need a small handful of them to make something tasty. In the last week, I’ve made raspberry and fig leaf sorbet (recipe courtesy of La Grotta: Ice Creams and Sorbets by Kitty Travers), Alice Waters’ salmon wrapped in fig leaves, and a batch of fig leaf sugar to incorporate into baked goods. I got the recipe for the latter from Sasha Piligian for an article I wrote about—you guessed it—fig leaves. (There’s also a fig leaf oil recipe from Balo Orozco of Sunset Cultures, whose cherry-fig leaf kombucha I can’t stop thinking about. He sells his booch at various local shops and on Sundays at the Hollywood Farmers’ Market.)
Person — Kristine Jingozian
I was in awe the first time I had nazook from Rose & Rye. They reminded me of rugelach on steroids, as if the Jewish cookie had morphed into a palm-sized pastry. My favorite flavor is the classic vanilla, filled with vanilla streusel. Kristine Jingozian runs her diasporic Armenian bakery with the help of her sister, Rose, from home in Granada Hills, and I’ve been thrilled to find her back on the pop-up circuit after a hiatus. She correctly describes her ptichye moloko, which translates to bird’s milk cake, as tasting like “untoasted s’mores.” To build the cake, she makes extra-thin and utterly flakey rye biscuits, vanilla bean mousse, and dark chocolate sauce, then layers each component ten times over. The resulting slices are stunningly architected so that each bite is equal parts spongey, creamy, and rich. This is the cake I plan to order for my next birthday. Follow her on Instagram to track where she’s popping up next. Or there’s always the option to order whole cakes, nazook, borek, gata, and more for pick up in Granada Hills.
Treat — Bub and Grandma’s croissant
There are few things more desirable to me than a flawless butter croissant. (No thank you, pain au chocolate.) And yet, a flawless butter croissant—bearing a shatteringly flakey exterior, feathery, butter-slick layers, and a slightly nutty profile on the palate—is hard to come by. They’re often too dry, lacking flavor, or simply mid. I do not want to eat a mid croissant. Good thing I know where to go for a flawless one: Bub & Grandma’s.
*Eventually, Plugs will be paywalled. But for now, The Angel is entirely free. :)
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