Wednesday, March 09, 2005
After meeting Mildred on Tuesday, we went back to the hotel, rested a bit, picked up Lynn and Mike and drove to a hip Indian restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in the Griffith Park neighborhood, not far from Downtown. I had read a few good reviews of Tantra so we decided to give it a try.
Matt was meeting us again but without Maya this time.
Our last night in L.A. at Tantra Indian restaurant.
This was not East 6th Street (Manhattan's Indian restaurant row) Indian, but upscale and hip with higher prices and smaller portions. We loved it anyway! Cuban Mojitos (in an Indian restaurant) were ordered. Samosas with spinach and tofu stuffing, sweet and sour potato salad, blackened chicken and other fusion creations came out as inspired and delicious starters and the entrees were equally exciting. Highly recommended: Tantra, 3705 Sunset Boulevard, at Edgecliffe Drive (323-663-TANTRA). Try it.
Wednesday was our very last day in L.A. Our flight was a late 8 o'clock red eye on Jet Blue at the Long Beach airport, south of the city. Lynn had to work, but Mike took some hours off (he can sometime makes his own hours) to join us for lunch. Matty had been telling us that we couldn't leave town without hitting another institution: Phillipe The Original.
This place was located Downtown, just on the fringe of Chinatown, on the corner of Alameda and Ord Streets. It was established in 1908 and is one of those places that are unique to themselves and the city in which they're located. Brooklyn might have it's Nathan's Famous in Coney Island or a Mrs. Sthal's Knishes in Brighton Beach. Los Angeles has it's Phillipe's, which is famous for, and claims to be the originator of, The Original French-dipped sandwich.
Phillipe's The Original on Ord and Alameda
How to describe it to you? Sawdust on the floors. A long counter with order takers serving you (they're called "carvers" in Phillipese). Short French rolls, dipped in gravy, with your choice of meat: pork, roast beef, turkey, lamb or ham. Long, communal tables to which you take your eats and where you rub elbows with the rest of L.A. - very democratic. Great pickles, hard-boiled eggs that have been marinated in beet juice (interesting), pig's feet (didn't try that one), soups and more. But the draw are the sandwiches and, we all agreed, they were very good and inexpensive, to boot!
People line up at a long counter where the "carver" takes your order.
Long lines - waiting to be served.
Sawdust on the floor.
Enjoying the french dipped sandwiches at Phillipe.
After lunch, the four of us, under Matty's guidance, drove up to Griffith Park, said to be the largest urban park in the country. Matt refers to it as fog "that burns off every day." I, the other Matt, calls it smog and we never saw it burn off the week that we were there. Most Angelinos swear that the air quality is much better than it used to be. They say the smog/fog used to be a sick, brownish color. Now it's just thick and white. But I wondered if there are ever any days with crisp, bright blue skies with long distance views of the hills and the ocean. Matt says yes, all the time. Our trip missed the torrential rains with which southern California has been suffering the last few months. But with the return of mild weather and sunny days, we still didn't get any of those bright, clear days that one would want with all this natural beauty to rest one's eyes on.
On the way to Griffith Park, Matt took us to a favorite haunt of his. Reminds him of home.
Mike looks out on L.A. but the view was obscured by a persistent smog.
The view of the Hollywood sign from the Observatory atop Griffith Park.
Our trip was memorable. For me, a first-time visitor, I felt like I had gotten a grip, albeit an introductory one, to the feel and day-to-day life in Los Angeles. It is huge and sprawling and impossible, in one week and maybe in many weeks, to breathe it all in and digest it. But we had seen a lot, felt the pulse, appreciated the laid-back L.A. lifestyle which moves more slowly and with much more patience than that of New York. We met old family that we hadn't known before, hung with a dear, old friend of mine who had moved west decades ago, got to spend some good quality time with our son and his girlfriend, Lynn, visited a lot of famous L.A. spots and hotspots and just had a very nice time. We'll be back.
A postscript: Antonio Villaraigosa, the preferred candidates of liberals and progressives, won the primary. He will still have to face the incumbent, James K. Hahn, in May in a runoff, but this was good news. Nobody will be able to solve the very serious problems that Los Angeles and othe big American cities are suffering without massive aid from the Federal government - something that is not in the cards with the current gang in power in Washington DC. But at least there will be a Mayor who cares about people and their problems perhaps a bit more than the others who were running and, in that sense, I felt a bit of elation for this great city we had just visited.
The primary for mayor was won by Villaraigosa despite the headline on the left.