Dining

Maple Block Meat Co. in Culver City (Photo Paige Petrone)

MAPLE BLOCK MEAT CO.

  • By ARLENE WINNICK
  • Photo By PAIGE PETRONE

Texas Monthly’s BBQ editor (only in Texas would that title exist) declared Maple Block Meat Co. restaurant to have the “Best Brisket in California,” and was he right. But don’t stop at the brisket, the other meats, the sides, the desserts and the house made sodas are all tops.

The secret to great BBQ is more than just sauce – it’s the craftsmanship of butchering, smoking, grilling and slicing the meats.  Serious aficionados talk about crust, texture, fat ratio, and chew.  For me it’s taste pure and simple. And the brisket at Maple Block blew me away.  Order it on a generous meat platter with a ½ pound of pork spare ribs…or other combos. The platter comes with pickles and two sides. I always go for a side of Mac n Cheese but fair warning – the delicate cheesy taste can be overwhelmed by the spicy BBQ sauces so plan ahead.  The ‘creamy’ slaw was ‘fresh dressed’ – the dressing is put on each order individually for a refreshing crunchy not soggy texture. And those biscuits!!

The most surprising and delicious dish was the smoked Turkey Club. Smoked in peach wood, the secret to its moist rich flavor… Alabama white BBQ sauce. Seriously no tomatoes in the sauce. Check out their website for daily specials. Lots of outdoor space to dine and chill. I sat indoors to watch the amazing Chef Rudy Suazo at work.

Maple Block is located at 3973 Sepulveda Boulevard in Culver City.

Belles Beach House in Venice Beach (Photos Paige Petrone)

BELLES BEACH HOUSE

  • Story / Photos By PAIGE PETRONE

Venice Beach has a new hot spot! Belles Beach House is in the heart of Venice, on the edge of famous Windward Circle. You know … where the V-E-N-I-C-E sign hangs for all to see! It’s quite a sight all by itself but those who know Venice know how flavorful the local scene can be, especially along Ocean Front Walk. Belles is nestled right on the corner (where Larry’s used to be) and they’ve completely transformed the inside space. There’s also a new, swanky, outdoor dining area with a very beachy vibe. It’s cool! 

As the news spreads that Belles has arrived, reservations are becoming tough to get. So plan ahead! I hear there are lines of people to get in on weeknights just to hit the bar. Created by seasoned restaurateur Nick Mather and Wish You Were Here Group (operators of another hot spot, Elephanté, in Santa Monica), the menu and vibe are inspired by Hawaiian cuisine with a bit of Japanese flair. You will find items like spicy tuna on crispy rice, sushi, crispy rock shrimp, sticky barbecue ribs (yummy!), lobster rolls, Kobe beef, and fried chicken burgers. This is a very hip place! Belles features an extensive menu of fun, vibrant, and inspiring cocktails, along with an impressive wine list, in a relaxed island environment. This is a really great place to go with family or friends for celebrations and partying. Check it out!

Belles Beach House is located at 24 Windward Avenue in Venice.

Girl & The Goat in Downtown L.A. (Photos Kymberly Chase)

Girl & The Goat

  • Story / Photos By Kymberly Chase

Girl & The Goat is helmed by executive chef Stephanie Izard, a “Top Chef” and James Beard Foundation Award-winner. The location in the LA Arts District is wonderful! The massive space on Mateo Street is stunning, but what sets Girl & The Goat apart from the pack is the remarkably unique and tasty food. While Girl & the Goat shares the global influence and bold flavors of its Chicago flagship, the culinary team is always crafting new dishes inspired by California produce and local flavors. One could argue that the menu here is a bit hard to define, and one would be right! But what difference does it make if we can’t categorize pork liver mousse topped with grilled blueberries and served with piping hot crumpets? The mousse was elegant, like a slightly more potent version of a good chicken liver. It had just the right amount of sweetness from the fruit on top, and I appreciated the counterpoints provided by both the zippy pickles and the blueberry mostarda. The crackers were crumbly and slightly sweet, but what really impressed were those crumpets! Scallops arrived delightfully carmelized, with a soft, supple consistency. The sticky glazed pork shank was wonderfully crispy, accented with honeynut squash, hoisin mayo, and hot mustard, imbued with plenty of savory depth. Serious tastebud overload! I could rave on and on. But don’t take my word for it … go!

Located at 555-3 Mateo Street in Downtown LA, click here.

Malama Pono Restaurant in Sherman Oaks

Malama Pono

  • By Kymberly Chase

Wow! What a delightful neighborhood find. My friend and I had been wanting to try Malama Pono in Sherman Oaks for a while and we were not disappointed! It’s a cozy little spot with great service and amazing food. I had to write a review because I loved every single thing we got, and this place deserves the praise. Everything is fresh, tasty, and just top notch! We tried lots of different things and there wasn’t one item we disliked. They have a Happy Hour from 4–5pm on weekdays which is a good time to go and try a little of everything. 

The service is exemplary, executed with style, a smile, and lots of personality. The food was so tasty with a wide variety of dishes from which to choose. We ordered tempura cauliflower, spicy yellow fin tuna crispy rice, spiked tofu salad, seared albacore carpaccio, braised octopus and linguica sausage, and Kalua pork lettuce wraps.  We ended our splendid evening with refreshing ice cream and berries. We left with smiles on our faces and genuine good wishes from restaurant staff.

What does the name of the restaurant mean? Mamala: to take care of, protect. Pono: goodness, righteousness. It’s from the Hawaiian saying, “E Māmala Pono” (to take care of, also until we meet again). I’ll drink to that! Note: reservations are recommended, and proof of vaccination is required for indoor dining.

Located at 13355 Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, click here.