Sunday, February 26, 2012

Where to Eat: Famous Garlic Noodles and Drunken Crab @ Crustacean Beverly Hills

The Eats: Euro-Asian cuisine

The Location: Beverly Hills

The Vibes: Upscale

When-to-Go: Highlights of the week include a weekday 4-7p.m. happy hour, live music on Friday and Saturday nights, and Sunday dinner

With-Whom-to-Go: Dates, friends, alone…

The $ Factor: Worth every $100 bill you’ll shell out

The 4-1-1: Hidden in the restaurant’s kitchen is yet another kitchen: the AN Family’s Secret Kitchen (pictured above left). It’s here where widely popular dishes like the “AN’s Famous Garlic Noodles” are created. Rumor has it, only the three generation of AN family members and a few hand-picked individuals are allowed in.

I’ll Be Back…: For those Famous Garlic Noodles!

If you’re in Hollywood, go see the Hollywood sign. If you’re in Santa Monica, go to the beach. But if you’re in Beverly Hills? Forget Rodeo Dr.

Mostly everyone knows about Crustacean. It’s been seen on reality shows, as one of the premier dining destinations for LA’s socialites. And on any given evening in real life, it’s constantly overflowing with Hollywood powerhouses, the rich and famous… and people like me who love really good (sea)food.

The cuisine is coined Euro-Asian, and it seems like the appetizers – i.e., the Crispy Rice Paper Rolls, the Satays, etc. – have more of an Asian flair to them, while the main entrees – i.e., the Herb Roasted Halibut and the Grilled Rack of Lamb – are more on the traditionally continental side. And of course, there’s a fusion of the two to create completely novel dishes, such as the Hawaiian Ahi Tuna sashimi.

I highly recommend starting off with the Sampler Appetizer (pictured below), which comes with pairs of Coconut Shrimp, Grilled Steak Skewers, Dumplings and Shrimp-filled Wontons. It’s a great way to get a taste of Crustacean’s varied appetizers and it’s also perfect for sharing.

The AN’s Famous Garlic Noodles are a must. They’re one of Crustacean’s most popular dishes and after one bite, you’ll see why. But definitely don’t eat them all on the spot; take some home. Let those bad boys continue to marinate in their flavors in your fridge, heat them up the next day and then eat the rest. I’m telling you – they taste even better than the day before. I don’t know how it’s possible, but it is.

Another absolute to order is the Drunken Crab from the Secret Kitchen (pictured below). You haven’t had crab until you’ve had Crustacean’s crab. It’s seething with buttery flavors and so much meat. Plus it’s easy to enjoy, as you can request to have it shelled and waiters will even do the honors of tying a bib around your neck so that you won’t dirty your super fly outfit. 

Yet as amazing as the food is, the ambiance is just as spectacular. It’s subtly refined, with an airy and gorgeous feel to it. I appreciate that there are great views no matter where you sit…at the bar by the entrance and the fish-filled stream embedded into the ground…on the patio watching the bustling activity on Little Santa Monica Blvd…in the main dining room underneath the colorful lanterns and fans…or upstairs on the balcony, watching all of the action below. 

In a city where more restaurants close in a year than Nicki Minaj changes her hair color in a week, the fact that Crustacean has confidently claimed the corner of Little Santa Monica Blvd. and Bedford Dr. for the past 15 years, says a lot about the stellar service, décor and fantastic food it has to offer. May it stay another 15 more years with us, because really, I can’t get enough of those noodles and crab.

See you there soon! 

For more information: Crustacean Beverly Hills@CrustaceanBH

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Where to Be Merry: The Museum of African-American Art @ Macy’s, Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza

The Merriment: A museum featuring art from emerging and prominent African-American artists and other artists from the African Diaspora

The Vibes: Introspective, historical, artistic, inspiring

Good for: Whenever you’re in the mood to see didactic art, in the form of paintings, mixed media, sketches, film posters and other creative expressions

When-to-Go: Thursday-Sunday, 12pm-5pm (closed Monday-Wednesday)

With-Whom-to-Go: By yourself or whomever happens to be with you at the time

The $ Factor: FREE!

The 4-1-1: See an art piece that you like? Ask a staff member about it, as some art is for sale.

I’ll Be Back…: To hear Dr. Edna Briggs share with us how to research our family histories when she speaks at the “21st Century Griot: Discovering Our Ancestry” program on Sunday, February 26th

Did you know Macy's had a museum? 

I didn't.

You gotta walk past the shoes. And past the purses. 

Make your way up two flights of escalators to the third floor of Macy’s, then pass the home décor and kitchenware sections, and head towards the mattresses.

That’s where you’ll find the entrance to the Museum of African-American Art (MAAA).

MAAA is a real hidden gem – no – a hidden diamond in the rough. Aside from being situated in a rather obscure part of Macy’s, it's a little frayed around the edges: dim lighting, worn carpet, a somewhat confusing layout that makes you feel like you’re wandering through a maze…

Yet in spite – or perhaps because – of these trivial cosmetic blemishes, the real treasure to be seen at MAAA is the art; the scores of paintings and posters proudly displayed on the walls of two large rooms. Some of the art pieces are rich in bright, vivid colors, showcasing brown-skinned people engaged in everyday activities. Other pieces are more solemn, created in shades of grays, evoking more somber emotions. But regardless of styles, the art boldly and beautifully expresses the diverse tales from the African Diaspora.

In addition to these paintings, the “Travel Through Blackness: The Ron Finley Collection of International Movie Posters, 1920s to 1970s” is an awesome exhibit worth checking out, especially if you’re a film buff or into movie posters. Posters of blockbuster hits, such as Coffy and Carmen Jones (pictured to the right), are intermingled with international films, such as the Argentine La Sangre Negra. They feature the African-American trailblazers and iconic figures who made unforgettable marks in Hollywood: Paul Robeson, Mantan Moreland and Stepin Fetchit, to name a few.

And as gorgeous as the posters are, I’d say their depictions give them a run for their money as well! Some of the short blurbs I read, such as that of Regeneration [“A nere-do-well man, a beautiful girl, and her one-legged body-guard/family servant are the sole survivors – they think – of a ship wreck and make it to a [sic] uninhabited south-seas island.”] made want to immediately watch the movie. Other depictions offered interesting tidbits of information about the filmmakers, the main actors and/or the film itself. Reading them was like getting an impromptu history lesson about the social and cultural settings in which the films were made. Definitely make sure you see this exhibit if you go to the MAAA, but don’t wait too late; the exhibit closes in late April.

The MAAA is a museum worth visiting at least once while you’re in Los Angeles and should certainly remain on your radar. Now would I recommend driving all the way from Carson or Pasadena on any given afternoon to come here? Probably not. But if you’re already planning to be in the area, getting your shop on in Macy’s or in the mall, on your way to the Rave Theaters or to one of the many restaurants around, like Post and Beam or Buffalo Wild Wings, then I say definitely stop by for a quick glance. You can easily spend a few minutes or so in there to soak up the great art and then be on your merry way.

See you there soon!

For more information:, @maaalosangeles

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Where to Be Merry: Music @ The GRAMMY Museum

The Merriment: Four floors of an in-depth look into the music industry, recording technology and The GRAMMYs 

The Vibes: Interactive, hands-on, visually and mentally stimulating

Good for: Anyone who loves, appreciates or is curious about music, recording artists and the recording industry! 

When-to-Go: Open 7 days a week, until 7:30pm unless otherwise noted 

With-Whom-to-Go: Alone, on a date, with friends, with kids, with fellow music aficionados…also a great museum to take your out-of-town visitors 

The $ Factor: Decent (FREE-$12.95); discounts for students, seniors, youth, military and groups 

The 4-1-1: I’ve seen discounted tickets on websites and social media apps like FourSquare, so look around first before purchasing tickets – you might be able to find a good deal 

I’ll Be Back…: To check out the Trouble in Paradise: Music and Los Angeles, 1945-1975 exhibit, which showcases 30 years of pop music in LA, and will be in the museum from February 22nd until June 3rd 

On my first trip to The GRAMMY Museum, I had expected to spend 1 to 2 hours there
while killing some time in downtown Los Angeles. 

Well, I ended up staying for 5 hours. 

And I don’t think I even saw half of what was in the museum. 

And, it looks like I wasn’t alone. I’ve talked with people of varying ages, genders, professions – die hard music fans and those who like a few songs here and there – and they’ve all confessed that their visits unexpectedly lasted for 3, 4, 5 hours at a time. 

There’s just something about this place that sucks you in and keeps you there, awestruck to the point where it feels as though time stands still once you're inside.

In the simplest of terms, The GRAMMY Museum is 4 floors that focus on the history of the recording industry and the legendary GRAMMY awards show. It’s a comprehensive, reverential homage to the artistry, the science, the technology and creativity behind music. It justly showcases all genres, from the most obscure to the widely popular hits that most of us can probably sing in our sleep. To give you an example of how diversified the coverage is, there have been temporary exhibits for John Lennon, Bob Marley and Andrea Bocelli, to name a few. 

In more complex terms, the museum is one of the most unique and highly specialized museum experiences – dare I say – in the world. 

It begins with how you experience it, starting on the 4th floor and then working your way down to the 3rd, 2nd and finally the 1st floor. It continues with the vast array of walls upon walls upon walls of information displayed, and then even how it’s is displayed. There’s not just text to be read or photos to gaze at; there are personal items to ogle over, like Roy Orbison’s infamous black Ray-Ban sunglasses; costumes used during performances by Michael Jackson, Cee-Lo and Rihanna to check out; and there's even lyrics to read – such as those of John Lennon – written on anything from sheet paper to napkins. There are videos to watch; interactive multimedia stations that give a taste of what it’s like to be in a recording studio; and plenty of instruments to tinkle on and to try to play pop songs like Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable.” 

Choose to read all of the captions, or to simply sit and watch past GRAMMY Awards performances. Or, spend your entire time at one of my favorite interactive stations, the Crossroads table (pictured to the right), where you can explore and see how 160 different genres are connected to one another. The point is, however you like your museum experience to be – passive, interactive or a little bit of both – you have it here. 

I also appreciate that it isn’t solely about The GRAMMYs. The museum does a great job of going so much farther beyond the awards show to truly bring transparency, accessibility and understanding about the entire music-making to the average person. 

With all of that said, I’ve been to a lot of museums in my lifetime, and I’d confidently consider The GRAMMY Museum to be one of the best that I’ve ever visited. Of course, it’s a completely different feel than strolling through the Louvre in Paris, or wandering throughout the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, but in its own right, The GRAMMY Museum is a special, unique place. I can’t wait to go back and see everything I haven’t seen yet, which is a lot. Perhaps I’ll see you there soon, too! 

For More Information:

Since taking photos is prohibited within the space, I couldn't take any of my own photos to post, so all photos are taken from The GRAMMY museum website

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Where To Be Merry: OVO @ The Santa Monica Pier

The Merriment: A Cirque du Soleil production, right on the beach 

The Vibes: Lively, colorful, vibrant, delightful, energetic 

Good for: The kid in all of us 

When-to-Go: Now through Sunday, March 11th

With-Whom-to-Go: Families, dates, friends, little kids...pretty much anyone

The $ Factor: Pricey ($49-$158.50 per ticket); it all depends which of the four sections that you select. Discounts are available for children, students, seniors and military personnel. 

The 4-1-1: Parking on the Pier is $8, or if you don’t mind trekking down to the pier, other parking garages and metered street parking are near Ocean Drive. 

Perhaps you’ve driven down PCH right where it merges with the 10-Freeway, looked off towards the ocean, saw a massive blue and yellow tent chilling in the parking lot adjacent to the beach and wondered, "what in the world is that thing?"

Well, it’s a Grand Chapiteau (fancy French word for big top) and it’s where Cirque du Soleil’s traveling OVO show takes place for the next month and a half.

The tent helps to give OVO the feel of an old-school circus, along with the jugglers, trapeze artists, contortionists and the works; but fortunately, there are no animals involved. Audience seating starts almost immediately where the stage is and wraps around three of the stage's sides, giving great views of the action from almost anywhere in the tent.

Divided into two parts with an intermission in between, OVO is ten acts of energetic movement and swirling colors, interwoven together by a timeless story of love between the genial Lady Bug who’s the star of a close-knit insect community and a vagrant Fly with a giant egg – an OVO – strapped onto his back who unexpectedly wanders into her territory. Under the well-intended yet often misguided advice of the insect village chief Master Flipo, the Fly uses different techniques to woo Miss Lady Bug, while the other insects curiously muse and mull over OVO.

As would be expected with a Cirque du Soleil production, there are minutes stacked upon minutes of hair-raising stunts and daredevil tricks. About half of the acts are solos, such as the turquoise-colored Dragonfly who opens the show with a complex hand-balancing routine. The other half are group performances, like “The Ants” (pictured to the right) who not only throw “kiwis” and “corn” back and forth to one another with their feet, but who also throw one another back and forth with the strength of their feet and legs.

Now I have to say, I did notice a few blunders here and there that I haven't seen in other Cirque productions. For example, one of the Scarabs in the Flying Trapeze Act fell off the platform after he somersaulted in the air (thank goodness for those safety nets!). Granted, this act is the biggest and hardest act of its kind held in a Cirque du Soleil Grand Chapiteau, but in my humble opinion, the handful of minuscule slip-ups brought a sense of humanity and accessibility to the performers. I give mad props to anyone who can spiral several feet down during a live performance and then get back up and do a triple twist in the air like nothing happened a mere two seconds ago. Had it been me, I’d have a nervous breakdown and run backstage.

All in all, I thought OVO was well executed. It’s lighthearted, very vibrant, and in general, just a feel good kind of show. The main bossa nova and samba musical themes have subtle references to hip-hop, salsa and classical notes, and work to beautifully unify the entire show. And the fact that the insects hardly ever speak English and instead use an insect "dialect," exaggerated gestures, expressive motions and emphasized sounds to communicate, adds a delightful element of comedy. Also to my surprise and utter excitement, the performers actively engage with the audience members, walking up and down the aisles and picking out unaware guests from their seats to “help” Fly find love.

Definitely catch a performance of OVO in the next couple of weeks. Hey, perhaps I’ll see you there soon!

For more information: OVO, @cirque

Photo credits: 
2nd photo: OSA Images
3rd photo: Benoit Fontaine © 2009 Cirque du Soleil Inc.