The Happenings in SoCal

For food lovers and experience seekers

Taco Maria - Costa Mesa

Taco Maria is a modern Mexican restaurant in The OC Mix, a collection of trendy stores and restaurants in Orange County. I went for dinner on a Saturday, which means they only had a four course prix fixe menu. It includes guacamole and chips and a small dessert (pictured at the bottom). They change their menu seasonally, so the dishes pictured may not be offered anymore. I tried the taco de calamar (squid taco with a squid ink tortilla), papalos (avocado puree, queso fresco, tomatoes), tamal de elote (corn tamale), pescado al pastor (fish), lomo de puerco (pork loin), and mole de pintada (guinea hen). I honestly loved every dish - the bold flavors and textures were delightful. They generally have about two options per course, so I would recommend going with someone else so that you can try everything.    

True Food Kitchen - Santa Monica

True Food Kitchen uses healthy, organic ingredients to make mouth watering dishes. It is located in Santa Monica Place, at the end of Third Street Promenade. I went with a group of friends and had the grass fed bison burger. It came with a side of sweet potatoes and kale. It was delicious, and the patty was juicy and tasty. My friends had the quinoa burger and the grass fed steak tacos. Everyone wants to go back soon! 

The Raymond, Racion, POP Champagne and Desserts Bar - Old Pasadena

Last week I went on a restaurant crawl for the first time! It was so much fun - the idea behind it is that you hit up different restaurants and have different parts of your meal at each restaurant. My first stop was The Raymond. I went for happy hour, which means the bar menu was half price. I had the beef tataki and the pork belly tacos. Both were awesome, and I am definitely going back for happy hour to try their other dishes. My next stop was Racion, a Spanish tapas and small plates restaurant. I had the Spanish Charcuterie plate, the lamb meatballs, and the French cod. I loved the lamb meatballs, but I wouldn’t order the other two dishes again. Finally, I had a strawberry banana souffle and an Irish car bomb at POP Champagne and Dessert Bar. The restaurant also offers dinner, but I think their desserts are better than their dinner food. They have a different flavor souffle every day, and you have to wait about 15 minutes for the souffle, but it is worth it! Overall, the restaurant crawl was a ton of fun and I look forward to doing another one.  

The Capital Grille - Costa Mesa

The Capital Grille is located in South Coast Plaza, a luxurious shopping mall in Costa Mesa. The clam chowder, arugula watermelon salad with feta, and pan-seared scallops with summer corn risotto were delicious. I didn’t really fancy the sirloin steak or the Parmesan truffle fries. The Capital Grille is a fine place to dine if you need a shopping break for lunch or a nice dinner to conclude your day.  

Bourbon Steak - Glendale

Bourbon Steak, a Michael Mina restaurant, is part of the Americana at Brand. It is an upscale restaurant, and I had a pleasurable dining experience. To start, I tried the duck spring rolls and the heirloom tomato salad. Both were fabulous and I would highly recommend them. The Bourbon steak burger and the Bourbon butter sirloin with a serving of wood-roasted cauliflower were good as well. For dessert, I sampled the ricotta pancakes from the brunch menu and the butterscotch toffee pudding. The butterscotch toffee pudding was my favorite dish because of it’s creamy texture and delectable flavor. 

Swami’s Cafe and Swami Beach - Encinitas

Swami’s Cafe has a beachy, relaxed vibe and the most amazing acai berry bowls. The bowl includes frozen berries, banana, coconut shavings, and bee pollen. It isn’t too sweet and it is very refreshing. The Mexican breakfast burrito was vegetarian. I don’t normally like vegetarian burritos, but it exceeded my expectations. Swami’s Cafe is within walking distance from Swami beach, so it is the perfect place to grab brunch or have lunch after a surf session or a walk on the sand. 

Hinoki and the Bird - Century City

Hinoki and the Bird is a hip restaurant in Century City. The crispy kale salad and beef tartare were my favorite dishes. I also tried the lobster roll, chili crab toast, caramel braised kurobuta pork belly, roasted yam, organic grilled brown rice, miso marinated skirt steak, and sambal skate wing. Everything was prepared well, and I enjoyed trying skate wing for the first time. I would definitely come back here.

Harajuku Crepe - Beverly Hills

Harajuku Crepe is the best crepe place I’ve ever been to. It has green tea, earl grey, chocolate, and original batter. Toppings include mochi, green tea ice cream, black sesame ice cream, cheesecake, red beans, and more! You can customize a crepe or you can order one of their creations. Harajuku Crepe is located near Rodeo Drive, so it’s the perfect post shopping snack. 

Blu Jam Cafe - Sherman Oaks

Blu Jam Cafe is a bustline cafe in Sherman Oaks. It is one of the best brunch spots in Los Angeles, so naturally, my mother and I went for brunch before hitting up a farmer’s market in Hollywood. We had the crunchy French toast and the steak hash. Both dishes were excellent, but the crunch French toast was my favorite. It is breaded with corn flakes and served with vanilla sauce and fresh berries. If you’re looking for a nice place to have brunch, Blu Jam Cafe is it! 

Genwa Korean Barbeque - Hancock Park

Genwa Korean Barbeque is one of the best Korean barbeque restaurants I have been to. I love how many side dishes they give you - they are brought to the table regardless of what you order! The spicy Korean stew, the prime galbi (prime short ribs), and the galbi jim (prime beef short ribs braised with vegetables and herbs) were delicious. Moreover, you can choose whether or not you want to cook the meat yourself or if you want the meat prepared in the kitchen, so Genwa has you covered no matter what your preferences are. 

Tar and Roses - Santa Monica

Tar and Roses is a trendy New American restaurant in Santa Monica. We went for my mother’s birthday a few months ago, and the menu has been updated since then. The Whole Fried Snapper is still on the menu though, and it’s fantastic. The chefs use fresh, locally grown produce to prepare spectacular food for customers, and I would highly recommend Tar and Roses. Additionally, it is located near Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica Place, and the beach, so you can enjoy shopping or some time in the sun before or after your meal. 

Commonwealth Restaurant - Burbank 

Commonwealth Restaurant serves New American tapas and small plates. The bruschetta was a complement from the chef. My mom and I proceeded to try the fried chicken, shrimp dumplings, seafood risotto, grilled octopus and brussels, P.E.I. mussels, and the three fruit flambe with ice cream. I loved the grilled octopus and brussels. I would order everything except for the flambe again, but don’t let this deter you from ordering the flambe. My mom loved it! Overall, Commonwealth Restaurant is great - I can’t wait to go back and try the rest of their menu!   

Girasol - Studio City 

Girasol is a New American restaurant in Studio City. Pictured are the House Bread with Lovage Butter (definitely worth getting despite the fact that you have to pay for bread), Marinated and Grilled Pork Satay, PEI Mussels Aguachile, Whole Fried Red Snapper, Octopus Salad, Pan Roasted Mary’s Citrus Chicken, Donut Holes, and Salted Caramel Ice Cream. If you’re in Studio City at night, consider going to Girasol for a tasty dinner. 

Faith and Flower - Downtown LA 

Recently opened and beautifully decorated, Faith and Flower has excellent service and even better food. My family and I went here to celebrate my birthday. All the dishes are small and meant for sharing. We had the Dungeness Crab Toast, Sauteed Monterey Calamari, Duck Liver Mousse Tarts, Oxtail Agnolotti, Hand Rolled Garganelli, English Peas and Gold Beets, Mushroom Stuffed Quail,  Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta, Hazelnut Chocolate, Coffee Creme, and a pistachio dessert. I loved the unique combinations of flavors. My only complaint was that the Oxtail Agnolotti was a bit salty, so I would recommend asking for no extra salt. All in all, Faith and Flower is a must try.  

The Zodiac and Fashion Valley - San Diego

The Zodiac is an elegant restaurant located inside Fashion Valley’s Neiman Marcus. Complimentary chicken consomme and popovers with strawberry butter are served in place of traditional bread and butter. For our entrees, my friends and I had the Tuscan Chicken Melt, the Basil Shrimp Wrap, and the Bistro Salad. The Zodiac is a great place to unwind after shopping!

Fashion Valley is a gorgeous outdoor shopping center in San Diego. There are over two hundred restaurants and shops, including Anthropology, Pinkberry, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Coach, Juicy Couture, and so much more. Fashion Valley is, without a doubt, a shopper’s paradise.