A2D on the Go: Six Days in Los Angeles
As global concierge professionals, we’re constantly out and about, scouting the best places to eat, the trendiest new hotels, the hottest concerts and events and anything quirky, fun and adventurous. Our “A2D On The Go” posts feature personal tips and insights from members of the A2D Concierge team.
The following post is from A2D CEO and Founder Stig Egard, as he describes an incredible six days of food and fun in Los Angeles, California with his wife and daughter along for the fun.
Stig highlights “off the beaten path” favorites as well as classic hotspots that still make the grade in the City of Angels.
Day 1: Arrival
After an incredible coastal drive from San Francisco, we were ready to explore the best that Los Angeles has to offer. Having spent a fair amount of time in LA over the years, I have become accustomed to always being surprised. Los Angeles is a lot of things. Boring is not one of them.
Since Los Angeles is the City of Dreams, we thought we’d spend our six nights at the new Dream Hollywood, a shining new star in the Los Angeles hotel constellation. At the corner of Selma Avenue and N. Cahuenga Boulevard, nestled in the bosom of the scenic Hollywood Hills, Dream Hollywood pays subtle homage to the mid-century modern design that defines Los Angeles. Privileged views, luxury amenities and TAO Group’s opulent restaurants, including TAO, Beauty & Essex, and the swanky Highlight Room rooftop pool and lounge make for an incredible home base from which to explore the best of Hollywood. The icing on the cake is the complimentary Lincoln Continental and Navigator car service available for guests.
We spent the rest of the afternoon meandering San Francisco’s famous streets, popping into fun boutiques, while enjoying rare cool breezes and spectacular views. That evening, we walked to Chinatown to check out Mr. Jiu's, a highly-recommended Chinese restaurant with a great buzz and a stellar kitchen. Our meals reflected Mr. Jiu’s reputation as a high-end Chinese eatery featuring Cantonese classics with a California accent. Every dish was a delight, and we all wished we were hungrier, so we could keep on eating!
After a long day of travel the day before, we decided to sleep in and then enjoy the late morning by the rooftop pool. Feeling too lazy to go out for lunch, we decided to dine in at the Highlight Room Rooftop, serving up healthy California fare. Everything was excellent. The strawberry salad is a must!
After working up a healthy appetite after our incredibly lazy day at the pool, we sampled the highly anticipated menu at TAO in the Dream Hotel. This Pan-Asian hot-spot in Hollywood is known for expansive spaces and dramatic flair. A two-story Buddha towers above guests, while a dramatic interior stairway leads to several dining areas, dressed in black marble and rich-hued wood. A koi pond occupies one wall of the space while guests sample outstanding Chinese, Japanese and Thai-influenced cuisine and cocktails. In a city filled with people who will pay thousands of dollars to rub shoulders with fame, TAO is the place where people to see and be seen, while enjoying some of the finest Asian dishes on the West coast. Feels a bit like a 1930’s nightclub with remarkable service and flair. I think the TAO LA kitchen was even better than their NYC counterpart. I’m not sure if TAO the same menu at each of their locations, but the LA outpost for TAO was superb!
Looking to burn a little energy and experience some green in the urban jungle, we went hiking in Griffith Park. What a great way enjoy the perfect Los Angeles weather and to see native Angelinos at play. After a tiring hike, we made our way to Soho House in West Hollywood for lunch. Running on empty, we filled our tanks with healthy dishes prepared by our friend Chef Shane Fatemian. The flavors were exceptional and we were able to eat guilt-free knowing that everything on the menu was healthy and fresh. As an aside, I was disappointed with Soho House in West Hollywood for a couple of reasons.
There is no pool in this house. How is this possible in Los Angeles?
The house location is odd and not very personal. It made me wonder why this location was picked for the Soho House concept.
After wandering the boutiques and galleries of Hollywood, we decided to return to our home base at Dream Hollywood for an evening meal. We wanted to try Luchini, the new pizza slice project from Tao Group at Dream but in the end, we found it disappointing. Uninviting, unappetizing pizza sits behind a glass case in full plain view, making us wonder why anyone would want a slice. Making it worse, the waitress was unable to charge our pizza to our room, so we left for pizza elsewhere. Luchini missed the opportunity to wow us and came up short by failing to offer gluten-free pizza options.
A trip to Los Angeles is incomplete without visiting Venice Beach. A walk along the beach with my favorite girls was a mixed bag. While there is always so much to see and do at Venice Beach, the huge crowds were a circus of humanity and not the best kind. Luckily we found a jewel of a small restaurant called Butcher’s Daughter along Abbot Kinney Street. Offering inventive vegetarian fare and incredible juice concoctions, we spent a couple of hours here soaking up the cool Venice Beach vibe while watching the circus pass us by.
Over the years, I have been fortunate to eat in some amazing restaurants. Some of my favorites have been Italian restaurants. I will forever remember Day 4 of our Los Angeles adventure because it marks the day I ate the best Italian food of my life. I have dined at the world’s great Italian eateries, including Bocca Di Lupo in London. But Osteria Mozza from Nancy Silverton, in partnership with Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich is my new favorite Italian restaurant in the world…hands down. Osteria Mozza is a high energy restaurant that reminds people why it’s great to go out for dinner. It’s a spectacle for the eyes and an opera of flavors that had me dreaming of my next visit before I’d even walked out the door. Save room for dessert at Mozza. The pastries from Dahlia Narvaez are award-winning…literally. Dahlia Narvaez won the James Beard Award best as the best pastry chef in the USA in 2016.
Starting our day with a long hike around LA, my wife Ruth and I bounded streets known and unknown exploring the city while our daughter slept in. Feeling a bit peckish upon our return to the hotel, we were fortunate to have found this little café, appropriately named Caffé ETC. located nearby the Dream Hollywood. I had a turkey avocado sandwich and Ruth was in heaven with tuna sandwich with gluten-free bread and a watermelon iced tea…such a wonderful discovery and another excellent addition to our list of favorites.
In the evening, we decided to give Beauty & Essex at the Hollywood Dream a try. I was baffled about why the restaurant designers would choose to have guests parade through a gift shop before entering the restaurant. To make matters worse, the menu was very ordinary. It was a complete disconnect from this otherwise incredible hotel. In my estimation, TAO and the Highlight room are the real culinary stars of Dream Hollywood. The others failed to impress.
An early morning drive to Malibu with intense 8:00am traffic en route to Mastros Ocean Club seemed like a bad idea. In the midst of the bumper to bumper congestion, I was tempted to go back to the hotel. But upon our arrival, the incredible ocean views and the remarkable meal made the morning traffic fade away until all I could remember was the delicious dishes in front of us. Maestros is a classic restaurant on the beach with no terrace, which made me skeptical. But our table with mesmerizing views kept my mind wandering while plate after plate of tempting California coastal favorites arrived.
Back in the city later that evening, we decided to go out for Thai food. Jitlada came highly recommended and was deserving of the high praise. A very simple restaurant at a strip mall on Sunset Boulevard, Jitlada is a study in simple, fresh, tasty and fun food and service. They did everything right and without any fuss or fanfare. I found myself wishing that more restaurants had the secret that makes Jitlada so special.
On our way out of Los Angeles, with the flavors of Osteria Mozza still ruminating on my palette, it became an imperative for us to give Pizzeria Mozza a try. Another culinary gift from Nancy Silverton, Pizza Mozza gives diners sublime pizza from Napoli at its best with plenty of other options besides pizza from which to choose.
After lunch, we booked an Uber XL to take us Torrey Pines, a classic golf course in La Jolla, San Diego. Torrey Pines was host for the 2008 US Open when Tiger Woods won in sudden death after an 18-hole playoff against Rocco Mediate. The onsite hotel property features large rooms and offers abundant hiking opportunities, but truth be told, the food at the Lodge’s signature restaurant, A.R. Valentien, was disappointing. The Lodge highlights regional San Diego cuisine served in an elegant, timbered indoor-outdoor dining room overlooking the 18th hole of Torrey Pines Golf Course. Executive Chef Jeff Jackson changes the menu frequently based on seasonal produce. The restaurant takes its name from an early 20th-century California artist whose works are exhibited throughout the restaurant. Asides from being quite expensive, we found the restaurant was missing warmth and charm which is abundant in the region.
As we made our way into San Diego, we looked back on an incredible 7 days in Los Angeles, and I began making notes for our next adventure into La La Land. I’ll keep you posted.