What the hell is going on with this summer? It was triple digits for weeks on end in MAY, for chrissakes. And we can expect it to continue to hit those kinds of highs for months still to come.
We don't know about you, but we only want to eat cold things when the weather gets like this. With that in mind, we compelled a list of 20 fantastic cold dishes to get you through the summer — and maybe the fall as well, the way this year is going.
20. Ceviche at Tacos Baja Ensenada
While the East L.A. favorite on the corner of Whittier and Oakford may be a Baja-style taquería by name, its regulars are as prone to stop by for the ceviche. The line queues up quickly at Tacos Baja Ensenada, but it can move just as fast. The time will pass by in an instant anyhow; debates with your friend on whether fish, shrimp or a mix of both makes the better ceviche tends to swallow up the wait. Five dollars will buy the standard order of one fish taco and a ceviche. Ceviche comes scooped onto a sturdy tostada; anything less wouldn't hold up the marinade. 5385 Whittier Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 887-1980.
19. Gelato at Bulgarini
Leo Bulgarini is a gelato connoisseur. He studied gelato-making in Italy and imports his almonds from Sicily and chocolate from France. For the new macadamia flavor that's in the works, he traveled to Hawaii. At their original Altadena location, foreign films such as Matrimonio all'italiana, are screened free for the public every Saturday night at sundown through August 31. The newer Culver City location looks more like a coffee shop, as it in fact was before Bulgarini took it over. The ice cream case stands just inside the front door, greeting customers with colorful gelato and sorbets. Bulgarini offers three kinds of chocolate — salted, regular and orange flavor — and customer favorites are the standard chocolate chip, almond and vanilla. 8686 Washington Blvd., Culver City; 310-815-1723; 749 E. Altadena Dr., Altadena; 626-791-6174.?
18. Papaya Salad at Krua Siri
The som tum is a bright crunchy mixture of unripened green papaya dressed with lime juice, fish sauce, and a blazing handful of dried pulverized bird's eye chiles. What sets this version apart, aside from its formidable funky tartness, is the translucent slivers of raw, slightly cured shrimp bobbing in the jade-colored liquid like Mexican aguachile. The aroma of low-tide and citrus is enough to inspire tropical fever dreams, especially when the kitchen can be persuaded into tossing in a bit of raw blue crab. Did we mention you can have this delivered at 3 a.m.? 5103 Hollywood Blvd. Hollywood; 323-660-6196.
17. Uni and Burrata at Son of a Gun
Son of a Gun's uni and burrata is as simple as it is brilliant: Pieces of sea urchin are layered over tufts of milky burrata, the orange uni standing out against the stark white backdrop of the cheese. The plate is garnished with a few crunchy light green lettuce leaves, slivers of button mushroom (Is there an ingredient more underrated than the button mushroom?) and the bright citrusy ping of yuzu. But the real magic of the dish is in the way the two creamy textures play against and meld into one another — one the pure essence of ocean; the other, the unadulterated expression of everything good about dairy. It's a highly sensory experience, and one that stays with you for days. 8370 W. 3rd St. Beverly Grove; 323-782-9033.
16. Bloody Clam Ceviche at La Cevicheria
During the most oppressive days of summer, when the beaches are packed elbow to elbow and waves of heat radiate up from the sidewalks, few things are more refreshing than a bowl of chilled, lime-tinted ceviche. La Cevicheria — a storefront along Pico in Mid-City, painted a pale-blue and decorated with nautical knick-knacks — is nowhere near the ocean, but the food it serves is the purest form of beach cuisine. What reigns supreme here s the signature Guatemalan-style concha negra ceviche, concocted from a mix of chopped bloody clams, plump shrimp, ripe avocado, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, mint, tomatoes, onions and a wedge of sweet orange. When the clams are pulled from their shells and diced into bits, they ooze an iron-rich substance as dark and briney as squid ink, which gives the goblet its distinctive pitch-black color. It's probably unlike any ceviche you've had before, zesty and pungent from the Worcestershire, cool and revitalizing from the mint, but busting with an unmistakable seawater slap radiating outward like a weathered lighthouse. 3809 W. Pico Blvd., Mid City; 323-732-1253.
15. Ice cream sundae at Sweet Rose Creamery
The ice cream at Sweet Rose Creamery is predictably fantastic, but it's the old fashioned sundaes that really make the place worth going back to again and again and again, with or without your favorite 12-year-old. It's made with two scoops of ice cream, hot fudge sauce, whipped cream and crispy almonds - and, in a genius move, chunks of dark chocolate brownies. You can switch out flavors, add or subtract components, etc. - but you really don't need to. It's an amazing combination, a triumph of excellent ingredients, and a very good reason to eat dessert first, last and maybe always. 225 26th St., Brentwood; 310-260-2663.
14. Chirashi bowl at Kiyokawa
While Kiyokawa has a delicious and immensely affordable omakase, their chirashi is cheaper and faster. The variety is nice, with four kinds of fresh, tender fish, along with scallops, shrimp, eel and the delightful addition of uni. The shiso leaf, a popular addition to chirashi, is enjoyed here as well. The dish feels simultaneously upscale and oddly working class, delicate and hearty, with thick cuts of fish supported by a mound of fan-cooled rice grains. At $18 the amount of care, and quality seafood, feels like a steal. 265 S. Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills; 310-358-1900.
13. Cold Soy Noodles from Ma Dang Gook Soo
This is a special bowl of noodles, albeit one that is not, we assure you, for everyone. The thick, nutty, and sometimes painfully cold soy broth takes a moment to get used to, but those properties also keep the noodles well coated and able to maintain their bite. The flavors are subtle, and the portion is dauntingly large, but its mellowness allows you to find delicacy in ingredients which would usually be overwhelmed by most other foodstuffs. If desired, you can also sprinkle some salt to bring those nuances to the front. 869 S. Western Ave., Koreatown, (213) 487-6008.
12. Gazpacho at Il Grano
Every year chef Salvatore Marino celebrates tomato season at Il Grano with Tomato Wednesdays, when he creates entire tasting menus around the humble tomato. You can also find a gazpacho of the day on both the lunch and dinner menus. Perhaps it will be a cherry gazpacho with Hokkaido scallop, or a peach and yellow tomato gazpacho, as pictured above. Regardless, you know it will be cold, bracing and delicious. (If you want to stay in your own air conditioning but still enjoy Marino's gazpacho, here's a recipe.) 11359 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica; 310-477-7886.
11. Mentai Oroshi from Ichimi-an
The soba at Ichimiann are are meditative, cultivated and precise. The noodles are handmade each morning, and have a bite to them that you won't find most anywhere else. Their udon are actually a delight as well, but the best dish on the menu may be the mentai oroshi, served cold with thin soba. The concentrated broth, the dollop of marinated roe, dried seaweed and fresh aromatics, all work to highlight the noodles themselves, enhancing them while also giving them room to shine. 1618 Cravens Ave., Torrance, (310) 328-1323.
10. Oysters at L&E Oyster Bar
Yes, there are plenty of places in town to get oysters on the half shell (and we encourage it!). But what makes L&E stand out as our favorite oyster bar is how cold they manage to keep their oysters. The fact that there's a great selection of East and West Coast varieties daily, and that a dozen can be about $10 cheaper than at most other places around town, doesn't hurt either. 1637 Silver Lake Blvd., Silver Lake. 323-660-2255.
9. Black rice salad at Superba Food and Bread
There are a ton of delicious lunch goodies to choose from when dining at Superba Food & Bread, but on the hot and sticky days (when you're still starving) perhaps the best option is the black rice salad. The rice — firm and sweet — is shot through with chunks of pineapple and crunchy cashews, for a meal that's filling, healthful, affordable and cold. 1900 Lincoln Blvd., Venice; 310-907-5075.
8. Poke Me at POT
One of our favorite dishes at POT is a twist on Hawaiian tuna poke called called "poke me" (get it??? sex ... har har). Chef Roy Choy swathes hunks of raw yellowfin tuna in a zippy shoyu vinaigrette with edamame and sea beans. It's cold, crunchy, fortifying — and intense with umami. 3515 Wilshire Blvd., Koreatown; 213-381-7411.
See also: 4 Places to Get Good Poke in L.A.
7. Cold Noodle Plate With Chicken at 88 Beef Noodle
88 Beef Noodle is an unlikely place to find cold sesame chicken noodles — or cold noodle plate with chicken, as it's called on the menu. At most of the occupied tables, you'll see a bowl of house beef noodle soup. We ordered both and found that the cold noodles just might outshine the namesake dish in taste. It's a colorful plate with the addition of blanched bean sprouts, julienned carrots, and a slim egg-only omelette sliced into strips, arranged next to noodles topped with a large shreds of chicken. 1045 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia; (626) 446-0188.
6. Smoked Fish Platter at Petrossian
Petrossian serves only the highest quality smoked fish available, most of it coming from Paris. While you'll find certain smoked fish staples at Petrossian, you're also likely to find some smoked fish products you won't find anywhere else in town. The smoked légine and the smoked salmon carpaccio are a couple of specialties. General manager Christopher Klapp acknowledges that the products you'll find at Petrossian are a luxury, but it's important to the company to make the experience a (relatively) affordable luxury. "Once in awhile it's nice to treat yourself," says Klapp. "You don't need to spend $130 on smoked salmon loin on a daily basis or a weekly basis, but it's nice to make the effort every once in awhile and really treat your guests to something special that [they will] remember." 321 N. Robertson Blvd. West Hollywood; (310) 271-6300.
5. Vegetable Cold Needles at Dai Ho
Dai Ho Restaurant makes a simple, but fine-tuned version of cold sesame noodles. The noodles are thinner than most, like spaghettini, and garnished with little else than finely sliced cucumbers. The sauce is broken down into three parts — minced garlic, red chili oil and sesame paste mixed with soy sauce — in containers sized according to the amount used. The dish is prepackaged and comes to the table soon after you've put in an order, even better for a quick pick-up on your way to the beach. 9148 Las Tunas Dr., Temple City; (626) 291-2295.
4. Uni bowl at Maruhide Uni Club
Maruhide's menu is fairly straightforward. You're there for a bowl of rice topped with uni — mounds and mounds of the stuff. All kinds of accompaniments might also be in this chirashi bowl. You can get an uni bowl with scallops, or one with salmon and yellowtail. You can get a Nigiyaka bowl, the most complex of the lot; in it, your huge assemblage of uni will be surrounded by raw tuna and salmon, salmon roe, a sweet cold uni tamago, sea cucumber, boiled uni, and squid marinated in uni. Or you can go purist and get a straight-up sea urchin bowl. Uni on top of uni with some extra uni thrown in. Since uni is surely why you're here, the straightforward uni bowl might be the way to go. 2130 W Redondo Beach, Torrance; 310-323-2864.
3. Dong chi mi gook su at The Corner Place
The Corner Place is famous for its dong chi mi gook su — gook su is Korean for noodles. You get a bowl of slim, pale flour noodles in cool broth that's as light and clear as water. The taste is clean and fresh, a little tangy and slightly sweet. The only additions are cucumber shreds, sliced green onion tops, jalapeño slices and, for color, a tomato slice. The recipe is top secret. The restaurant reveals only that fermented vegetable broth (think kimchi) is involved. Don't ask to take any leftovers home, because it's forbidden. The fear is that you might rush your booty to a lab so that you can become the first foodie to unveil the secret formula. 2819 James M. Wood Blvd. Los Angeles; 213-487-0968.
2. Sunchoke and artichoke antipasti at Scopa Italian Roots
At Scopa, chef Antonia Lofaso is serving one of the best sunchoke dishes in town, a cold salad in which she pairs the sweet, knobby tuber with its distant cousin-by-marriage, the artichoke, along with bitter treviso, then dresses it all in olive oil and lemon. It's a simpler-than-usual treatment for the sunchoke but one that will make you wonder why everyone doesn't do it this way. 2905 Washington Blvd., Venice; 310-821-1100.
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1. Cold udon at Marugame Monzo
Monzo's Italian-edged udons are tasty and fun, and the uni cream version is certainly one of L.A.'s bucket-list dishes. Yet we'd give them all up for a chance to sit quietly at the bar in front of the udon-making chef and slurp quietly on Monzo's cold udon, ordered with a poached Jidori egg. It's this preparation that most fully allows the appreciation of the texture of the house-made noodle, the extra firmness in the bite, the exact right heft to support its garnishes of grated daikon, chopped scallion and the wispy magic of bonito. A small dish of grated ginger adds a gentle sting. The intense dashi, intended to be poured over the noodles, is a perfect expression of umami, and the tempura-fried egg adds just the right amount of fat to make the entire bowl downright luxurious. 329 E. 1st St., Little Tokyo; 213-346-9762.