Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My LA: Bon Appetit

DON'T ASK me what their names are. Honestly, I can only remember a few - the standouts, fresh in my mind either by blowing me away or being much less than satisfactory. What they look like is an even more difficult question to answer. Most are just a blur of dim lighting and soft candles.

This is my Los Angeles.

Every Friday night, a new restaurant.

14,706 businesses have been reviewed on Yelp under the search terms “restaurants in Los Angeles.” How do you pick a place out of so many options? What draws me to a particular restaurant could be anything ranging from a celebrity sighting, to hearing about it on the Food Network, to driving past it on the way to a different restaurant and making a voice memo to remember it (I haven’t forgotten you, restaurant with the twinkly lights on Robertson who’s name is written in such a fancy font that I can not decipher it).

The timing for going out on a Friday has to be fine tuned to minimize the amount of traffic hit on the freeway. There are few things more frustrating than being forced to sit in a car for an undetermined amount of time when you are starving. This means leaving late, but does not guarantee the absence of traffic once off the freeway. The brake lights remind you at every pulse that if you were in practically any other city, you would be eating right at that very moment.

A new place almost every week necessarily calls for new directions. Looking out the car window, you are on the prowl for any indication of the restaurant, as well as for a place to park. The sky is dark and peppered with the lights of tall buildings and flashing signs; these are illuminated with the oncoming rush of headlights.

My Los Angeles is the knowledge that, no matter how wonderful the food is at a particular restaurant, there are so many other places to try that you will probably never be back.

The upside is that if the food is terrible, the same rule applies.

Part of me wants to settle down, the other part enjoys the thrill of not knowing exactly what the food put in front of you will taste like; whether or not you will like it.

When I order fries with five unique flavors of ketchup from Ketchup or the Truffle Burger from Umami or even something from a food truck, I am transformed. I’m not the same girl who’s favorite restaurant was Papa’s Pizza back in Bend, Oregon and who would have regular orders at the four places I regularly frequented. I am now someone different, someone adventurous. Someone who can order an item with ingredients that they don’t recognize, and be willing to try it. Each meal is a new sensation; the taste, smell and feel all combining to create something compelling but often times replaceable by the next week’s choice.

It is the ordinary items that are hard to come by. I once made the rookie mistake of asking for an italian soda at Little Dom’s in Los Feliz. They had no idea what I was talking about, but someone at my table did get a fried oyster sandwich with crispy speck (still no idea what that is), arugula, and hot sauce mayo. This sandwich is hailed as “the best oyster po’ boy in Los Angeles” by “LA Weekly.”

Each meal ends with the inevitable question - would you like dessert? The answer is no every time. There’s always somewhere else to be.

-- Allie Flinn
Photo: Umami Truffle Burger, Joanne Wan via Flickr Creative Commons

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