APOLOGIES FOR THE PHOTO–ONLY HAD MY PHONE ON ME
Itzik Hagadol’s Israeli experience, as authentically chaotic as it may be, is at least partially lost in translation. The restaurant’s Encino outpost is Hagadol’s first in the US, the initial foreign offering from a chain that’s something like the Tel Avivian equivalent to Beirut’s Zankou Chicken. But if Zankou has earned a reputation of simplicity, Hagadol is working towards one of confusion, with uncertainty arising from both the quasi-take-out counter (complete with illuminated menus) that’s actually a server station and the menu that offers what seems like a dozen permutations of the same foundational combo.
That basic building block is Itzik Hagadol’s never-ending salads, which arrive in such volumes that the restaurant shames even the most serious spread of banchan. Contained in the basic order are plates of falafel, fried eggplant, roasted pepper paste, cole slaw, cubed beets, hard-boiled eggs, Moroccan-spiced carrots, pickles, baba ghanoush and more. Also strangely available is guacamole and big bowl of what essentially equals pico de gallo. Paired with the salads is a pizza-sized piece of airy, sesame-studded pita.
The Fairmont Miramar’s new ultra-seasonal eatery:
PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES
Fig is an exceedingly principled place, an organic-minded restaurant that bows before the open-air temple that is the Santa Monica Farmers Market. Although the market guides nearly all of the serious kitchens on the Westside, Fig is a particularly dedicated disciple – the restaurant even goes so far as to designate an official “forager” who’s charged with sourcing only the most pristine produce. Because of that farm-to-table adherence, Fig has sowed a garden-defined identity that at other restaurants can place origin over taste. But Ray Garcia’s food is distinct enough to slough off that stereotype – Fig does simple California cuisine at its freshest.
Long Beach’s newest Lebanese restaurant for the District:
PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES
Baba Ghanouj is brushed with the kind of rustic, earthen patina that colors all of Long Beach’s Lebanese restaurants, a brassy sheen that instantly cultivates an antique atmosphere. It’s a calculated design decision that not only lays out the restaurant’s commitment to the usual Lebanese tropes, but also makes the place already feel like a years-old fixture. This maturity is crucial because Baba Ghanouj is but a months-old newcomer, a Bixby Knolls restaurant far away from the Second Street stalwarts that control so much of the local Lebanese cooking.
Alone as it is in uptown’s so-called Little Italy, Baba Ghanouj doesn’t have to deal with the constant competition that drives spots like Open Sesame and Sunnin. But because of that relatively frictionless existence, the restaurant, which took over the Atlantic Avenue space vacated by Four Olives, can be comfortable in its classicism—Baba Ghanouj doesn’t deliver any surprises, but it nevertheless charts a steady, pleasant course.
PHOTO by SUGARBLOOM CUPCAKES
Drink:Eat:Play tries to find out who has the best cupcakes in Southern California on March 29 with its Cupcake Challenge. Competitors include the Oinkster, Delilah Bakery, SusieCakes and more. Tickets are $40 and include cupcake samples, free coffee and all the necessary cupcake accompaniments. The challenge is being held at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel at 1755 North Highland Avenue. Visit drinkeatplay.com for details.
Old Towne Orange barbecue for the Times:
PHOTO by CHRISTINE COTTER / L.A. TIMES
Every order at Scottie’s Smokehouse in Orange passes through owner Darren Scott’s hands, whether it’s a blackened slab of brisket awaiting a deft swipe of the knife or a golden-skinned chicken about to be pulled apart. It’s an exacting process, but that control is crucial because Scott has barbecue in his blood.
He inherited the necessary low-and-slow genes from his grandfather Darwin Scott, who worked his barbecue joint in Santa Ana from 1935 to 1943, when the war channeled the country’s meat into servicemen’s rations. Hanging near the kitchen is a photo of the original Scottie’s — a square shack carved out of a forested corner of the still-nascent city — that serves as proof of the family’s slow-smoked history. And that’s all Darren Scott needs. “In this family,” he says, “barbecue is just something you know you’re probably good at.”
After 20 years, Third Street stalwart the Cook’s Library is preparing to shutter. According to the L.A. Times, the culinary bookstore has suffered with the rise of Internet resellers like Amazon despite the store’s longstanding ties to the community and choice events and book signings, which brought in such featured chefs as Eric Ripert, Ferran Adrià, Alice Waters and others. An unfortunate clearance sale (starting at 20% off and increasing each week) is going on now until the store closes on April 30. Visit a final time at 8373 W. Third St.
Riva, the Santa Monica restaurant from Jason Travi (also of Culver City’s Fraiche), continues its monthly Italian wine classes on March 21. Led by Sommelier Thierry Perez, the two-hour class is will explore wines from Italy’s Piedmont region. Travi will also be whipping up food pairings to accompany the class. Call (310) 451-7482 or visit rivarestaurantla.com for details.