Jason Park’s connection to culinary ingenuity began before he was even born. His grandmother, a native Korean, began experimenting with blending Japanese and Korean cooking styles after she studied in Japan. She passed on her techniques and recipes to her daughter, who did the same to a young Jason.
From a young age, Jason showed his affinity for gourmet food by dutifully watching international cooking shows and sounding a trumpet whenever he bit into a perfectly salted popcorn. During college at UCLA, he dabbled in biology and psychology before returning to his true passion for cooking. After spending the next few years honing his skills in the kitchens of restaurants in Los Angeles and Osaka, he opened the doors of his own establishment as the executive chef.
At Maru, Jason draws on his grandmother’s principles of culinary fusion as he blends the flavors and textures of French and Japanese fare. He assembles dishes that range from Mediterranean risotto to sushi rolls using an ever-changing assemblage of seasonal ingredients, which he hand-selects each week at the Santa Monica farmers' market. He also has fresh fish flown in overnight from Japan’s seafood markets.
To complement Maru's continent-spanning dishes, sommeliers assemble balanced lists of local California wines, imported French blends, and Japanese sakes.
The Riverside Cafe's cooks draw inspiration from European and American cuisine as they create a menu of bistro-style comfort fare. In addition to baking bowls of french onion soup topped with a shell of imported gruyere, they grill beef and turkey hamburger patties and load baked potatoes with a number of familiar, yet decadent, ingredients, including sour cream and bacon. On Thursday nights, they embrace seasonal ingredients by featuring a specially prepared menu item, which have previously included wild boar and Stilton steak.
Beyond the intimately sized dining room with its "rustic, wood-beamed ceiling," as described by Gayot, the restaurant can seat guests and their canine personal assistants at the outdoor tables. White picket fences and trellises enclose the outside area, and a small awning and robin-egg-blue umbrella protect guests from the sun's harsh rays and dive-bombing pigeons.
Within CrêpeStudio's elegantly aged brick building in Old Town Pasadena, bakers follow an old family recipe when whipping up batter daily and shaping it into crêpes. Plates land on tables loaded with 24 varieties of sweet, savory, or breakfast crepes, which wrap around an array of grilled meats, cheeses, and vegetables or fresh berries and ice cream. Salads and paninis made to order house greater portions of ingredients without forcing vegetables to protect themselves against the elements by piling inside a sliced-open tomato. The studio surrounds its guests with modern décor, such as sleek wood paneling, exposed-brick walls, and colorful illuminated signs.
Culture 22 stocks its carnivore-pleasing menu with porterhouses, bacon-topped burgers, and seafood. Peppercorn-crusted 12-ounce new york steak au poivre bathes in a cognac sauce, and a dozen oysters paired with inventive dipping sauces from the raw bar set taste buds out to sea. The signature New Mexican–style green-chile burger imbues a half-pound of beef with piquant Southwestern flavors, accompanied by french fries that, like wooden boards in a martial-arts studio, are hand-cut. As diners divvy up jumbo cocktail shrimp, servers ferry cocktails and beer to ebony four-top tables set aglow by chandelier and candle lighting.
The griddle gurus at Crème de la Crepe craft sweet and savory, buckwheat-based crêpes as well as French cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Crêpe craftsmen fold delicate dough around customer-chosen toppings such as brie, smoked salmon, Nutella, and béchamel sauce, which is one of the defining sauces of French cuisine, along with the thin, inky juice extracted from dictionaries. Additional menu items include baguette sandwiches, an assortment of quiches, and fresh pastas tossed in house-made bolognaise, pesto broth, and white-wine-based sauces.
Chef Nadav Bashan's carefully constructed New American cuisine has earned accolades from the Los Angeles Times and a rating of "extraordinary to perfection" from Zagat. But diners won't have to traipse to a ritzy downtown restaurant to get it. That's because the chef opted to practice his elegant art in out-of-the-way Glendale, at a self-named eatery whose 40-seat dining room is overseen by Romy, his wife. There, the couple strives to give the fine-dining experience a mom-and-pop feel: "We treat everyone that walks through our door as if they are a guest at our house," Romy says on their website.
This commitment to pleasant service lets customers keep the focus where it should be: on the food. Though they constantly rotate, Nadav's previous menus of seasonally inspired cuisine have included wild mediterranean sea bass, sword-tip squid, and other dishes that highlight what Los Angeles magazine calls his "finesse with seafood." He also draws on his experience in high-profile kitchens at The Lobster, Michael's, and Providence to gather fresh ingredients from local markets for each dish. Such continuing attention to detail helped earned Bashan Restaurant a spot on Zagat's list of LA's best New American restaurants in 2012.
The Bashans' business "really is a labor of love," as Nadav told the Glendale News-Press, and they leave no aspect of it untouched. The restaurant's decor incorporates driftwood and grass wall accents that complement the naturalness of the cuisine. At the bar, custom walnut wine racks hold bottles from Australia, Chile, and Italy next to taps that can dispense craft brews or refreshing, locally sourced breezes.