Katsuji Tanabe is already a great example of the rich cultural jumble we call home. The half-Mexican, half-Japanese chef runs MexiKosher, which is exactly what it sounds like: a Mexican restaurant that's also kosher. Its location is no coincidence — this stretch of Pico Boulevard, as well as the area from Beverly Drive on the west to La Cienega on the east, has long been known as the Kosher Corridor, an area home to a large portion of the city's Orthodox Jewish community.
Now Tanabe takes on another season of Top Chef (he appeared on Season 12 in 2014), but this time he's competing in Top Chef Mexico, which will premiere Feb. 18 on NBC's Spanish-language network NBC Universo. Tanabe is the only American chef competing in the first season of this latest international spinoff of the popular Bravo show.
He also has a lot of opinions on what to eat in L.A.'s Kosher Corridor. So many, in fact, we thought he might share them with us. Here are nine of his neighborhood favorites.
9. Ta-eem Grill
“When people ask me where to get the best shwarma in the city, I tell them that I know of no better place, kosher or not, than Ta-eem. The owner always makes you feel welcome and he will fill you up with his homemade pita. His falafel is pretty spectacular, too.” 7422 Melrose Ave., Fairfax; (323) 944-0013, ta-eemgrillinc.com.
8. Jeff's Sausage
“This shop is the pride of the Pico Robertson corridor, always busy and always delicious. They are infamous for homemade sausages and cured meats, also a great spot to grab a quick bite to take away. His South African sausage is one of the best in the city, and his peanut coleslaw is always the crunchy, perfect bite.” 8930 W. Pico Blvd., Pico-Robertson; (310) 858-8590, jeffsgourmet.com.
7. Livonia Market
“This spot is my wife’s go-to place when she is craving good charcoal-grilled Persian food. Unfortunately, it is only offered on Sundays, but it gives you something to look forward to all week. The grilled tomatoes and ground lamb and beef kabobs are the definition of 'Tehrangeles.' And don't forget to grab their tremendous Iranian-style bread to take home. Come prepared to have that smoky charcoal aroma infused into your clothes for the rest of the day, but it’ll also remind you how great it was.” 8922 W. Pico Blvd., Pico Robertson; (310) 271-4343, livoniaglatt.com.
6. Bibi's Bakery Cafe
“Dan, the owner, shows so much pride with his Israeli background, and it shows in his burekas and homemade pita with chipotle. His Israeli-style breakfast is just amazing. This little store makes you feel like you’re in a little store in Jerusalem or Haifa.” 8928 W. Pico Blvd., Pico-Robertson; (310) 246-1788, bibisbakerycafe.com.
5. Got Kosher?
“This spot is by far the best place to get great Tunisian food in Los Angeles. The tuna and harissa bocadillo really hit the spot anytime I’m craving something exotic and spicy. My favorite dish here is the bottarga, and it is one of the very few places you can find this delicacy. They are also very well known for a unique pretzel challah that is cherished in Los Angeles.” 8914 W. Pico Blvd., Pico-Robertson; (310) 858-1920,
4. Delice Bakery
“This is one of the very best bakeries in Los Angeles. You can tell that you are in a classic French bakery based solely upon the quality of his baguettes and croissants. They make a mean waffle to go, as well. They do close on Saturdays, but that gives you six other days every week to enjoy.” 8583 W. Pico Blvd., Pico-Robertson; (310) 289-6556, delicebakery.com.
“For a non-kosher business to succeed in this area of Los Angeles can be a small miracle. Anytime I’m craving some Malaysian-inspired tacos (and I’m too lazy to make my own) I always cross the street (at the intersection … really!) and order his Phorrito, a delicious pho and a burrito hybrid. Their mango and lychee drink is also the perfect foil for the super-spicy food.” 8809 W Pico Blvd., Pico-Robertson; (310) 246-5153, komodofood.com.
2. Beverly Hills Kosher Thai
“This restaurant is so unique, and they’ve been the only kosher spot that I am aware of serving Thai food on the West Coast. The yellow curry is so spicy and creamy, you might easily have visions. The owners are not Jewish, but their command of kosher tradition is very impressive.” 9036 Burton Way, Beverly Hills; (310) 288-4321, beverlyhillsthai.com.
1. Ditmas Kitchen and Cocktails
“This is former Top Chef Alex Reznik’s very popular L.A. restaurant, and it is one of the very best for happy hour. The ambiance actually makes you feel like you’re in Brooklyn, where Alex was raised. Ditmas is always a great choice to bring guests who may not be accustomed to kosher restaurants.” 8731 W. Pico Blvd., Pico-Robertson; (310) 271-9300, ditmasla.com.