Friday, August 26, 2011

Where to Eat: “Samosas and Mimosas” Bottomless Brunch @ Bombay Palace

I've done the whole Sunday buffet thing. Had the weekend brunch with endless mimosas. Why, I’ve even been to a few Indian lunch buffets here and there. But I'll be the first to admit that even I haven’t experienced everything that life has to offer. Quite honestly, I never even knew that a Sunday Indian brunch buffet with endless mimosas existed, until I heard about Bombay Palace in Beverly Hills.

Every Sunday from 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m., this restaurant sets up a simplistically elegant buffet with traditional Indian appetizers, entrees, salads, soups and desserts. Think samosas, chicken tikka masala, aloo papri and gajar kalwa, along with about ten other appealing vegetable and chicken selections. Endless baskets of piping hot naan bread and glasses of sparkling mimosas are continuously delivered right to your tableside throughout the afternoon as well.

All of this is housed in the comforts of an immaculately decorated room, with sky-high ceilings, sprawling windows and intricately detailed bronze sculptures embedded into smooth, stone-white walls.

My experience at Bombay Palace’s brunch was outstanding – the service, the mimosas, and most importantly, the food. Each dish looked and tasted enticingly fresh, with its very own assertively bold flavors. In every single entrée, the chicken was moist and tender, and I didn’t have any appetizer or side that didn’t have colorful seasonings or the freshest spices. And while I am slightly surprised that more people weren’t knocking down Bombay Palace’s stately doors to get to the buffet when I went a couple of Sundays ago, I’m not complaining by any means. It was relieving to not have to stand in long lines for plate refills or to worry about some little chump taking the last of the chicken tikka.

With such magnificent food options, endless drinks, a regal atmosphere and no hackling crowds, you’d expect to pay a pretty little penny for the whole buffet, right? Wrong! The total price is a whopping $20. It’s such a great snag and really feels as if you’re getting more than your money’s worth.

Bombay Palace is a hidden gem indeed, but with its “Samosas and Mimosas” Sunday brunch, I doubt it will be hidden for too much longer. Hurry and experience the before the crowds get to it. See you there soon!
Miss Wilson’s Tips (So you know “what’s up” when you go!)
- What’s on the buffet menu? When I went, there was: chicken tikka masala, black garbanzo beans, saag paneer tikka, paneer makani, chicken curry, tandoori chicken, sambar, idli, vada, vegetable samosas, rice pilaf, salads with varied mint, yogurt and tamarind sauces, aloo papri, lentil and chicken soup, rice pudding and carrot pudding.
- I noticed that the main meat dishes pretty much only contained chicken. If you’re craving beef or seafood – or any other item you don’t see in the buffet for that matter – you can also order off of the regular menu.
- Prefer not to have mimosas with brunch? You can also have bottomless cups of tea or coffee.
- So how did I find out about this place? I’m a big fan of another Wilson's Guide favorite, Nirvana, this chicly hip lounge/restaurant that serves Indian fare and sits across from Bombay Palace. Turns out that both Bombay Palace and Nirvana are owned by the same person. Since I've always had a great time at Nirvana, when I was invited to check out Bombay Palace's brunch, I was immediately intrigued. So glad I went!

For more information:
Bombay Palace
8690 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Where to Drink: Brand New Summer Cocktails @ Vū Restaurant

 A couple months ago, I featured Marina del Rey’s Vū Restaurant for its distinctive culinary twist on traditional dishes. After all, it’s not everywhere  you can order Chicken-Fried Watermelon or Calamari with Pink Lemonade Sauce. But even as I munched on bite-sized pork belly bits topped with root beer Jell-O on my last trip there in the spring, my mind kept wandering and getting sidetracked:

The cocktails I would sip between bites kept distracting me.

If Vū’s food is out of this world, then its cocktails are out of this universe. Seriously. Sure, there were the super sweet ones, like the mojitos bursting with ounces of freshly muddled fruits (pictured above), but then there were also the blatantly strong ones, like the Del Rey Royale, which I couldn't even swallow at first. It was so potent that I could literally feel the hairs sprouting on my chest with each sip.

Unfortunately, I recently learned that the bartenders had retired some of the cocktails I had cherished. So now what would I be forced to drink with my Calamari – water? How dreadful to consider.

Well. It turns out that the bartenders have actually been busily assembling a new summer cocktail menu, so I returned to Vū this week to preview a few of the drinks (pictured below), before the menu had even been printed and distributed to the public.

What I found was that these new libations were lighter, fruitier and airier than some of the previous ones I had tested out. Yet just like my old favorites, these new drinks had generous pours and purely creative combinations of ingredients and spirits.

So  here’s a sneak peak at the favorite ones I tried and would highly recommend. Let me know what you order the next time you go!

On the sweeter side – The Cognac West (pictured below): Upon hearing the name alone, I knew this drink would be a winner! It’s a frothy blend of Courvoisier Cognac, blackberries, raspberries and freshly squeezed lemon juice, topped with sparkling wine and garnished with an orange rind. Don't let the martini glass fool you; it's a lot more complex than your standard martini. The thickness of the muddled berries paired with sparkling wine adds an interesting textural depth with multiple layers.

On the stronger side – The New Fashioned (pictured below): Modeled after the timeless Old Fashioned, this one, in my opinion, pretty much tastes like straight bourbon with a few subtle hints of St. Germaine liqueur and muddled oranges. After one of these, you might be done for the night (in a good way). One of the new twists on this old recipe includes inhaling the aroma of mint floating on top of the ice with each sip that you take, which definitely kicks the whole drinking experience up a notch. So don’t absentmindedly swish or jam that mint leaf into your glass when you order this; instead, let it gently glide atop and makes sure that you get a good whiff of it with each sip.

On the wild side – The Cool Burn (pictured below): Remember those Mexican chili candies you could buy from the ice cream trucks cruising in the (neighbor)hood? Well this cocktail is the grown up version of those candies. Smooth Belvedere vodka and mashed up kiwi are juxtaposed to fiery jalapenos, chili powder and freshly squeezed lime juice. It definitely has a bite to it, but it’s not overbearingly spicy to the point where you’re frantically reaching for gulps of water. It’s definitely a unique combination, and not your standard cocktail.

On your side (pictured below): You know how you go to some bars and ask for a recommendation and they kind of roll  their eyes like you’re wasting their time? Well at Vū, the bartenders actually like the challenge of conjuring up cocktails based on your personality. They proudly uphold that the best kind of cocktail they can make is a personalized request. Tell them what liquors and flavors you like, and they’ll build a customized cocktail right on the spot. Bartender Rob made me this fabulous Patron tequila/agave/blood orange concoction, and it was soooo my style.

I also tried the Pineapple Expressions, the Cucumber Mojicky and the signature Vū Bloody Mary (pictured all below). They were each special in their own right, but aforementioned four drinks really stood out to me the most. Try them all on the menu if you can get around to it, and of course, let me know what you think. See you there soon!


Miss Wilson’s Tips (so you know “What’s up” when you go):
- I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; the best seat in the restaurant is right on its outdoor patio next to a fire pit. You’ll get views of the marina and of Mother’s Beach, plus a nice ocean breeze.
- Word on the street is that Rob and Luke are the bartenders who will hook your drinks up.
- Vū isn’t in a standalone building; it’s actually nestled in the Jamaica Bay Inn hotel. 
- Valet and self parking are available for FREE.

For more information
Vū Restaurant
14160 Palawan Way
Marina del Rey, CA 90292

** A big SHOUT OUT to Photographer Jeremy Lee for taking some amazing photos on my last trip here!**
Find him at:

Friday, August 12, 2011

And Where do You “Where To?”: Photographer Jeremy Lee

Time after time, studies have proven that there’s a direct correlation between your exposure to the sun and your level of happiness; the more sunshine you receive, the happier you tend to be.

So it’s no wonder that with Los Angeles’ 73% average of sunshine each year, people are so darn chirpy here. Aside from the occasional (and understandable) bouts of road rage, for the most part, the strangers I’ve met tend to be painstakingly kind. I’ve had some fondly pleasant conversations with my fellow Angelenos in atrociously long DMV lines, in gut-wrenching cycling classes…in cramped LAX terminals... in tiny doctors' offices…

And my chance encounter with photographer Jeremy Lee was no exception.

At a ?uestlove DJ set earlier this year at Central Social Aid and Pleasure Club, we struck up a spontaneous conversation. Emanating an energetic joie de vivre, this Seattle native quickly engaged me in a great discussion, and we talked about everything under the sun from cross-country to techie stuff. And it wasn’t too long before I had gained a valuable nugget of information: he was a blogger like me!

We exchanged a “let’s do guest blog posts” similar to how you might throw out the “let’s do lunch” these days – as a friendly gesture, but more out of politeness than anything else. Yet after checking out his blog, I really – and I mean really – appreciated his in-depth coverage about the beaches, the SoCal lifestyle and the current issues that affect our beloved city.

So a guest blog post was indeed born! Read on to learn more about Jeremy, his photography adventures and of course, where he “where to’s” in the city. If you’re ever in the mood to find the best beaches to hit up this summer, I say head to for some recommendations.

See you at a beach soon!

Jeremy Lee

Age: 24

Seattle, Washington


Why he moved to L.A.:
“After graduating in 2010 from The University of New Mexico I was wandering around in a state of limbo. Even though I had earned my degree and received my teaching license, I developed a disconnect from my long time dream to become an educator. The market for teachers isn’t so hot right now, no doubt in thanks to the struggling economy.

“I was looking to make a big change in my life…

“I have always been intrigued by this dream that is ‘California’ and I have this thing in my soul that screams and jumps for joy when I am near the ocean. When I step into the sand and hear those waves crashing my heart just melts. Plus, as the art and culture capital of the world, I saw the perfect opportunity to pursue something that has remained a constant passion in my life…Photography!”

Best L.A. neighborhood: “I have been living in Downtown LA the past 3 months and have enjoyed every day, it’s a constant adventure. Santa Monica is lovely too!”

Best place to eat in L.A.:The Sidewalk Café at Venice Beach. They serve my favorite beer, Blue Moon, on tap! You are literally a few steps from the sandy beach and you get to enjoy entertaining street performers as you munch and drink away!”

Best place to drink in L.A.:
Broadway Bar Downtown. Cheap drinks, great crowd and the dance floor is poppin every week!”

Best place to “be merry” in L.A.:Pershing Square Park Downtown. This is one of the most beautiful spots in the heart of the city. Young, healthy city trees offer shade to the crisp, green, well-kept grass. You’ll find it doubles as a mid-day bed for everyone...”

On a typical Sunday afternoon, you can catch him at:
“The beach, with pen, paper, microphone and camera close by. Soaking up the California sun, and interviewing locals about their opinions and experiences here in SoCal!"

What he misses the most about his hometown: “I miss my friends for sure…”

What he loves the most about L.A.: “I love the weather, the ocean and beaches, the beautiful women, and the wild passion for the arts everyone seems to share here.”

Why he blogs: “I want to share all the things I love about SoCal with the world. The weather, the beaches, the beautiful women and that wild passion for the arts everyone seems to share here! It would be selfish of me to keep all the amazing adventures I experience here locked up for no one else to see."

Friday, August 5, 2011

Where to Eat: The 2nd Annual Japanese Beer Garden @ CHAYA Downtown

LA livin' has sooo many lovely perks: the beaches, the celeb sightings, the beautiful people. Yet two of my all-time favorite aspects of living here are:

#1) the blending of cultures to bring about incredible
new creations (think Thai tacos, Spanglish phrases, kosher sushi, etc., etc.)


#2) the never-ending California sunshine (this one's a given,  especially since it keeps so many people here, year after year).

Lucky for me – and for you too if you appreciate cultural fusions and temperate weather  – I found a place to get plenty of these LA staples: at CHAYA Downtown’s Japanese Beer Garden. For the second year in a row, this upscale French-Japanese restaurant has transformed its outdoor patio into a lively, festive Japanese garden, complete with colorful floating lanterns, an al fresco bar, an authentic Yakitori grill flown straight in from Japan and special happy hour items until close.

What’s marvelous about this summer series is that it’s super relaxing and chill. It truly feels as if you’re lounging in an immensely lush, green oasis that just happens to be in the midst of the rugged, concrete jungle of downtown Los Angeles. Not to mention, there’s nothing like being able to snag delectable drinks and appetizers from one of the top international restaurants at prices so reasonable, it's almost shocking.

Let’s check out some of the items featured in the Japanese Garden:
The Grilled White Corn with Feta Cheese ($5). This appetizer puts a Japanese twist on the widely popular Mexican corn snack. Grilled corn is smothered with a mayonnaise sauce, crumbly feta cheese and Japanese chili spices. Although it looks like it would be messy to eat, it’s actually not; it’s cut into small pieces so you can easily pick it up with your fingers and savor each bite.

The Yakitori Skewers ($2). These tender, mouth-watering skewers are grilled right in front of you on the patio’s Yakitori grill. Choose from chicken, beef tongue, beef, shrimp, shiitake mushroom…and my favorite…the bacon wrapped date. I say grab one of each to share with friends, or to eat all by yourself.

The Kimchi Flatbread ($7). A doughy flatbread is topped with cheese, cilantro and tangy kimchi. It’s an interesting combination of flavors…challenging to describe, because I’ve never tasted anything like it! I say try it once for the experience!

The Soy Braised Short Rib Sukiyaki Style ($9). Our waitress said that this appetizer is one of the most popular ones and she highly recommended it to me. After a few bites, I could see why: the pork of these bite-sized short ribs literally falls right off the bone and instantly melts in your mouth... A winner indeed!

 The Sake Sangria ($6 per glass; $14 per pitcher). This is the drink of the summer. It’s a twist on the classic Spanish beverage, with sake instead of wine and a vibrant orange  instead of the normal light red. A large jug of it sits on the al fresco bar and goes quickly, so make sure to order a pitcher so that you have enough throughout the evening.

Rock Sake Cloud Saketini ($6). Vibrant, colors are boldly stacked on one another, and as you sip it, subtly blend together. It’s sweeter and smoother than a regular vodka-based martini.

Russian Blues ($6). OK, so one isn’t on the Japanese Garden menu. It’s actually on the regular happy hour menu. But I just had to throw it in here because it’s such a spectacular summer cocktail! It incorporates loads of blueberries – both fresh and pureed – along with vodka and sweet 'n' sour.
And although it technically is a beer garden, I’m not that into beer, so I didn’t order any, and consequently have no pictures of any of the beers (sorry!). I can tell you, though, that there is a variety of premium Japanese beer available by the pint or by the pitcher, including: Kirin, Sapporo Light, Orion, Asahi Dry and Echigo. Also available are two whiskeys: the Hibiki 12 Year Blended Whiskey and the Yamazaki 18 Year Single Malt Whiskey.

So what are you waiting for? The next time you find yourself stuck in traffic going up Fig or turned around by downtown's random one-way streets, take a breather and escape to this wonderful happy hour series.

See you there soon!
Miss Wilson’s Tips (So you know “what’s up” when you go):-While I personally support sitting on one of the booths on the decorative outdoor patio, you technically can order items off the Japanese Garden menu inside the restaurant.
- Fun fact: CHAYA Downtown is a part of the larger CHAYA Restaurant Group, which has been in operation for 390 years. The group has two restaurants in Japan and four in California (also in Beverly Hills, Venice and San Francisco).
- The Japanese Garden is held on weekdays, from 5 p.m. until close (10 p.m.). Hurry and head there – it’s going only until September 2nd!

For more information:
CHAYA Downtown

525 S Flower St
Los Angeles, CA 90071