Located in a nearby strip mall, Carousel (5112 Hollywood Boulevard, #107. Tel: 323-660-8060. www.carouselrestaurant.com) is a long-time favorite for family-style Lebanese-based Middle Eastern cuisine. The menu is driven by 40-plus mezzas (appetizers) including kibbeh nayyeh, a steak tartare with cracked wheat, and spicy muhammara dip of crushed walnuts, red pepper paste, and pomegranate.
Devotees include Shant Apelian, director of corporate communications for the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board. “My grandmother’s first cousin, who originally migrated to Lebanon, owns and runs Carousel and its bigger, more opulent location in Glendale,” said Apelian. “All the dishes can be widely found on any Armenian table.” For added flavor, the Glendale location features belly dancers on weekends.
Little Armenia overlaps Thai Town, where adventurous eaters can sample “Wild Things” like deep-fried frog with green peppercorns and wild boar with curry sauce at Palms Thai.
My next cultural sorbet was the Hollywood Museum (1660 N. Highland Avenue. Tel: 323-464-7776. www.thehollywoodmuseum.com). Housed in the historic Max Factor building, exhibitions on four floors included “Holy
Hollywood History!,” celebrating the iconic 1960’s Batman TV series, and “Reel to Real: Portrayals and Perceptions of Gays in Hollywood.”
Then it was off to the Valley for another L.A. institution—sushi. My experience at Sushi Note (13447 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks. Tel: 818-802-3443. www.sushinotela.com) began with a history lesson from co-owner David Gibbs.
“Most sources point to authentic Japanese sushi debuting in America in 1966 at Kawafuku Restaurant in L.A.’s Little Tokyo,” said Gibbs, a former touring singer-songwriter originally from Potsdam, N.Y. “Served at the bar, it was popularized by visiting Japanese businessmen, who introduced the sushi to their American friends.”
In 1970, sushi expanded to celebrity magnet Osho in Hollywood. Modern pioneers include master sushi chef Katsuya Uechi, whose Sushi Katsu-ya flagship in Studio City (1997) anchors an empire that includes restaurants within luxury SLS hotels.
Gibbs is a wine expert whose other ventures include award-winning Augustine Wine Bar across the street. Their omakase-wine concept is a dream pairing, with musical references setting the stage.
At Sushi Note, the skilled hands belong to veteran chef Kiminobu Saito. Servings are by the quarter, half, or whole note. The cool, cozy 30-capacity space features a seven-seat sushi bar and five-seat wine bar, following a piano’s seven white, five black key pattern. Chef Saito came from Encino’s 4 on 6, a jazz reference to four fingers on the six string.
“Experiencing omakase at the bar is like watching a jazz musician play,” said Gibbs. “The sushi chef follows your mood and adjusts the notes accordingly.”
Tofu topped with sesame and golf leaf was a sublime start to the international omakase tour, which included Santa Barbara sea urchin, Scottish gravlax, and Spanish bluefin fatty tuna. The mackerel and eel were fresh from Japan, along with the halibut yuzu, each near-translucent slice topped with a pink peppercorn.
I’ve always had sake or beer with sushi and sashimi, but from the dry rose opener to accompaniments like the Muller-Catoir Riesling from Germany, I’m jazzed on wine.
Kimpton’s restaurants always wow, but I only had time for a bagel and gravlax at the Everly’s “casual Los Angeles coffee bar and restaurant” Jane Q (1800 Argyle Avenue. Tel: 213-279-3534. www.janeqla.com) before checking out the next morning.
The bright two-story space is the stage for Mediterranean-inspired fare from Executive Chef Bryan Podgorski, whose resume includes The French Laundry and Bouchon Bistro Las Vegas.
Then it was back to the Jet Age for a private behind-the-scenes-tour of the Pan Am Experience (www.panamexperience.com). Conceived by veteran film producer Talaat Captan, a million-plus miler on the iconic carrier, this four-hour retro event (book well in advance) aboard a replica Pan Am 747 first-class cabin includes check-in, pre-boarding cocktails, and full dinner service. Stewardesses attired in vintage costumes serve caviar, chateaubriand, and other classics, and provide guests with period magazines, perfumes, and colognes. The fun also includes prop cigarettes, fashion shows, 007 movies, and trivia games.
The experience is staged at Air Hollywood (13240 Weidner Street. Tel: 818-890-0444. www.airhollywood.com) near Burbank. Founded by Captan in 1998, this aviation-themed movie studio supplies airplane sets and props for major motion pictures and TV shows. Recent projects include scenes for Quentin Tarantino’s hotly anticipated Once Upon A Time in Hollywood. Other specialized programs include Fearless Flight, to help people overcoming their fear of flying, and K9 Flight School for service dogs.