The recreation grounds at Venice Beach
Day two in LA saw me really embrace my inner tourist. Being a non driver, and facing up to the lack of public transport in LA, I decided that the best way to see the city would be to hop on a city tour and let them drive me around. My tour of choice cost $65 for the day, starting at 9am, picking me up from my hotel and proceeded to take me around LA, delivering me back to my hotel at 4pm.
The canals in Venice
Throughout the day, I travelled far and wide. The morning took in the highlights of Santa Monica and Venice Beach (where the area was designed to be like Venice, Italy, canals and all) and headed on downtown, where the streets were empty bar a group of protesters. With not much going on there other than large buildings housing the cities offices, we swung back to Hollywood to check out the walk of fame, famous theatres, but more importantly, to have lunch.
In-n-Out has picked up quite a following in London. Burgers have been growing in popularity over the years, and the influential Meatwagon, Byron and Hawksmoor burgers are amongst the many who have been leading the charge. In-n-Out are not a gourmet burger, but are much more fast food, focused on using good ingredients with each individual burger cooked fresh. With a limited menu (and a few “secret” additions), the burgers are good, and are head and shoulders above anything you would get at your local McDonalds. Freshly ground beef patties, cooked to order and expertly covered in a slick of day glo yellow American cheese, accompaned with fresh garnishes.
After devouring my burger and animal fries, I proceeded down Hollywood boulevard, where I proceeded to be assaulted by street performers, scarily reminiscent of the stars that they were hanging around, and snapped away at some of the well known landmarks on the Hollywood strip. Next stops were a tour of Beverly Hills and Bel Air, prying into the homes of the rich and famous, with my personal highlight being the home of the "Fresh Prince of Bel Air". A stop on the world famous and ridiculously expensive Rodeo Drive, and I was back where I began, outside my hotel.
My evening stop had me pretty excited. When I put out my call for help, the word Mozza came back at me from numerous sources. The brainchild of Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton, the Mozza group are dishing excellent Italian dishes to the hungry hordes of LA every day from four different outlets. I was lucky enough to secure a table at the Osteria and met up with Charlie who runs the nearby Village Idiot (thanks to the Pubgeek for putting me in touch). It was great hanging out with yet another local, and getting a steer for what the city was about from one of its residents.
The food was definitely memorable. Steering away from mains and ordering a selection of appetizers and pastas instead, I was extremely happy with what we got. First up were "happy sticks", breadsticks slathered in truffle butter and wrapped in ham. A lot to be happy about, I am sure you can agree. Burrata served with speck, peas and beans was light and fresh, the mussels were incredibly addictive floating in a light tomato broth, but it was the crisped pigs trotter which left me a little speechless. The gelatinous trotter was perfectly encased in a light crumb and fried, giving way to an almost liquid center when eaten, with the light and perfectly balanced mustard sauce, and the salad balanced with shards of apple all coming together and singing in harmony.
The pastas were also exceptional. The egg yolk ravioli came wrapped in light al dente pasta, resting on a pillow of ricotta. The nutty brown butter sauce finished off a rich but enjoyable dish. The meaty ragu dish set your tastebuds tingling, although the depth of seasoning was verging on the overpowering. The last dish we had were a plate of gnudi, a pasta I had never had before, but the ricotta based gnocchi were pillowy light and smothered with garlic, butter and greens, each component making this even more delicious.
At this stage, desserts were definitely superfluous to requirements, but we ordered a few anyway, with my assorted ice cream filled cannoli varying from ok (espresso) to bloody great (caramel). Paying the bill (about £65 each with a few drinks), we headed on down Melrose to the Village Idiot where I partook in one last Junipero and tonic to round off a day where I had acted like a tourist, but eaten like a king.
Osteria Mozza - 6602 Melrose Ave, LA, CA 90038