Breakfast the next morning was at OTUS Thai Kitchen & Coffee (1253 N. La Brea Avenue. Tel: 323-969-8611. www.otuskitchen.com) on the edge of West Hollywood. Chef and owner June Kasama’s pretty sidewalk cafe, named for the superior Otus camera lens, is an innovative breakfast-driven entry in L.A.’s prominent Thai scene.
Growing up in Northern Thailand, she loved going to market and cooking with her mother. Coming to L.A. to pursue a master’s degree in economics, her passion for food led to “helping out” at a traditional Thai restaurant. Faced with selling the business when the head chef suddenly retired, her career took an unexpected detour.
“The prospective buyer suffered a heart attack just before the contract signing,” recalled the sweetly shy Kasama. “But my mother’s fortune teller advised me to keep the restaurant.”
Even after a subsequent kitchen fire, Kasama was determined to proceed. Renovating the space into a bright modern eatery with seating out back, she revamped the menu based on her passion for breakfast.
American staples like French toast and pancakes share the menu with Thai classics like kai-kata, a Thai-style egg bedded on ground chicken with Chinese sweet sausage and green onions. “It’s a Joke” is her hearty riff on classic Asian rice porridge (congee, or jok in Thai), topped with a poached egg, shittake mushrooms and fresh ginger. Her Vietnamese coffee infused with fresh orange and vanilla is a sweet surprise.
Featuring produce from the West Hollywood Market and ingredients from a Thai market downtown, Kasama’s MSG-free menu includes lunch and dinner dishes such as khai soi, a classic Northern Thai curried noodle soup.
Peruvian cuisine is also widespread in Los Angeles, with Mario’s Peruvian & Seafood (5786 Melrose Avenue. Tel: 323-466-4181. www.mariosperuvianseafood.com) in Hancock Park among the trusted mainstays. Squeezed into a tiny corner strip mall, the no-frills space, offering a 40-plus item menu of appetizers, soups, salads, and beef, poultry and seafood dishes, was packed for lunch.
I’m used to modest sized ceviche appetizers. Not here. My entrada of ceviche mixto was a plate piled with lemon-dressed raw fish, shrimp, octopus, and squid, plus onions, spices, and boiled potatoes. This was the real deal, along with saltado de camarones, shrimp sautéed with onions, tomatoes and cilantro. It’s all I had room for.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House (www.barnsdall.org/hollyhock-house) provided the first of several cultural intermezzos. Dating to 1921, Wright’s first L.A. commission sits atop East Hollywood’s Barnsdall Art Park alongside the L.A. Municipal Art Gallery. Evoking an ancient Mayan-meets-Egyptian temple, the newly renovated building is one of eight major Wright works nominated for UNESCO World Heritage listing in the 2019 round. Featuring panoramic views of the Hollywood Hills and L.A. Basin, the park sits within Little Armenia.