LA 2013

Alisa and I decided that we needed a mini vacation and chose LA since it wasn't too far away.  I'll try and be as brief as possible with my reviews but if any of you have any more questions, feel free to contact me directly!  We chose these places based on suggestions from friends and TripAdvisor.

Pretty much all photos were taken with the Olympus OMD E-M5 with Panasonic 14mm 2.5.  I had the 20mm 1.7 with me too but used it only once.  I also took my Sony RX100 but only used it for 1 photo since it has a built in flash and its much better than the small flash on the OMD.  I love the OMD and it is the perfect travel camera.  

Trip Highlights:
1) Son of a Gun Restaurant -- The "Bourbon Crunch" ice cream.
2) Nobu Restaurant -- Miso Black Cod
3) The Bazaar at SLS Hotel -- Very cool swanky place for drinks and dessert!
4) Pizzeria Mozza -- Butternut Squash Bacon Brushetta w/ caramelized onions, garlic, and parmesan.
5) Universal Studios -- Transformers Ride

Day 1 -- Travel, Santa Monica, Nobu, Bazaar at SLS

Umami Burger.  8/10
500 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA 90401, United States

Got the original Umami burger with truffle fries.  Took us a while to find it as it was hidden behind Fred Segal!

Nobu Restaurant.  9/10
903 N La Cienega Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069, United States

Fairly pricey.  We spent about $140 and that was pretty conservative.  We only had one drink too (shared a large sake).  Overall it was a very good meal.  Everything tasted great, but there was only one stand out item we had.

Miso Black Cod -- This is the best one I've ever had.  Easy 10/10!
Rock Shrimp Tempura w/ Spicy Mayo -- Largest of the dishes.  It was good, but you will get better Ebi Mayo at Hapa Izakaya in Vancouver, BC.  Much cheaper too!
Wagyu Beef Tacos -- Super tiny, but super delicious.  
House Special Roll -- Probably the best value out of all the sushi items.  Not the best I've had, but pretty good!
Kobocha Tempura -- It was good, but it wasn't anything special.

The Bazaar at SLS Hotel -- 9/10
465 S La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048, United States

The drinks and food quality was good, nothing crazy or memorable.  But what was very memorable was the design, decor and their whole display of desserts!!!  This was a great place for us to end off the day!

Vito's Pizza.  8.5/10
846 N La Cienega Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069, United 

Honourable mentions goto Vito's pizza!  Very good pizza by the slice place!  Found this place on Trip Advisor.  A lot of people say it's as good as NYC Pizza!  I wouldn't know, cause I haven't had NYC Pizza.  Slices were about $4each.  This place isn't very large so don't expect great seating.  

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Day 2 -- The Hollywood Hotel, Universal Studios, Pizzeria Mozza

The Hollywood Hotel.  6/10 (or 3 out of 5 star hotel).
1160 N Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90029, United States

We chose this hotel because we got 40% off through our credit card travel deals (RBC Infinite Avion via Travelocity).  It worked out to be only $340ish for 4 nights.  All the other hotels that were in the similar category was $400-$600.

The Pros:
- Excellent breakfast.  They had an omelette and waffle station, fruit, pastries, breads, cereals, yogurt, sausages, and juices, all included!  Sonia and Oralia were great!  There was another chef too but I forgot his name.
- The service was great!
- 1-2min walk to Rite-Aid and some other places (if you wanted some drinks, food, etc.)
- Free wifi.  But its slow!
- Microwave
- Minifridge
- Nice rooftop terrace.  Perfect for the summer!  (we didn't spend much time there cause it was cold...)
- Open air lounge in the middle of the building (would be nice in the summer)

The Cons:

- The room had a weird smell to it.  But after a while being in it, you forget it.
- Walls are pretty thin.  
- Wifi was pretty slow.
- No free parking.  It was an additional $20/night.

Bottom Line... Would we stay here again?
Only if the price is right.  Most of the places we went to were in the West Hollywood area so maybe next time we'll stay closer there!



Universal Studios.  8.5/10
100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA, United States ‎

Not too much to write here, except awesome!  Would HIGHLY suggest getting the "Frontline Pass" which gets you pretty much to the front every time.  Fortunately we went on a day that wasn't too busy so we literally had zero line ups.  Was a little worried that we weren't going to see it all in one day, but we did it all!  Studio Tour, Transformers, and WaterWorld were fun!

Only disappointing thing of the day was the Turkey Leg from the Flintstones BBQ.  It looks delicious, but nope... I would have gotten something else instead!  It was really tough to eat because of these thin long bones everywhere. 

Be prepared to spend another $15-$30 on parking (depending on how close you want to be to the entrance).

Pizzeria Mozza.  8.5/10
641 N Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036, United States

One thing to note is that there is NO parking anywhere close to this place except valet.  We fortunately found this back lane and I managed to squeeze into a spot for free parking, but that was after 20min of searching!

Anyways, the pizza was very good.  Not the best, but still fairly good!  What was amazing was the Butternut Squash Bacon Brushetta with caramelized onions, garlic and parmesan!  WOW!  That made like one of the top 10 appies I've ever had!  For dessert, we had ice cream; chocolate hazelnut, pistachio, and pineapple coconut.  It was good but nothing special.

They actually gave us the wrong pizza and instead of taking it back they gave us an entirely new one.  So we had 2 pizzas for the price of one!  

Day 3 -- Shopping, In-N-Out, Little Tokyo

Ontario Mills Outlet.  10/10
1 Mills Cir, Ontario, CA 91764-5207

So this one was about an hours drive away from our hotel but it was worth it!  We spent some time comparing the outlet malls (Citadel, Camarillo, Desert Hills), and we found that this one had a combination of them all, plus some additional ones like Nordstrom Rack, Marshalls, and In-N-Out Burger!!  (like 2min drive away).  

After In-N-Out we headed back towards Little Tokyo.  Unfortunately we arrived a bit late and everything had closed by then.  A good tip is that if you park in the parkade that's connected to the main village, and assuming you shop there, you can get your parking ticket validated!  We went to Mikawaya for some mochi ice cream!  So good we had three!

Day 4 -- Hollywood, Beverly Hills Hotel, Rodeo Drive, Son of a Gun

Hollywood Strip.  7/10
Hollywood Blvd & Highland

It was very touristy.  The place is pretty cool, but after walking around for an hour, there wasn't much of anything else to see or do.  It was very annoying having people dressed up in halloween costumes asking to see if you wanted a picture with them, and if you do, they will hound you for money.  There were also 'up and coming' rap artists who would give you their CD for free, but then ask for a donation.  But other than that, its worth visiting if its your first time!

The Beverly Hills Hotel & Polo Lounge.  8.5/10
9641 Sunset Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA

It was pretty funny rolling up to this place in my Red Chevy Impala rental, when all the cars there were luxury vehicles.  Even better, it was valet only lol.  But no, I didn't get treated differently, service was excellent!  The whole place was very upscale including our delicious lunch at the Polo Lounge.   As an appetizer we got their butternut squash soup which was rather average... I wouldn't get it again.  On the plus side, their hanger steak and frites was excellent!!  Beware though, they charge an extra $5 if you decide to split your entree or appie!  So we got charged $10 just for splitting the two items.  Overall, very nice place!  Glad we visited there!  

Son of a Gun Restaurant.  9/10
8370 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048, United States

What I really liked about this place was that it was VERY different from all the other restaurants.  The menu was very unique and everything tasted great.  Beware, they are small portions so you'll probably have to order quite a few plates.  Service was excellent too (our server's name was John).  Their drinks too were AMAZING!  We had about 4 drinks total and each one was fantastic.  Their number one item though, that I wanted to order another one, was their BOURBON CRUNCH ICE CREAM.  Holy crap that has to be one of the most memorable ice creams I've ever had in my entire life.  DELICOUS!  Here is what we had in order of preference;
1) Bourbon Crunch Ice Cream -- MUST HAVE! 10/10
2) Roasted Escolar -- SUPERB! Truffle mashed potatoes are to die for.  10/10

3) Cobia Poke -- Quite different from a traditional tuna poke! 8.5/10
4) Amberjack Sashimi -- Tiny, only 2 pieces. 8/10
5) Kale Caesar Salad -- Pretty flavourful!  But its just a Caesar Salad... 8/10
6) Dungeness Crab -- I would much prefer a crab cake.  6.5/10


Day 5 -- Susie Cakes, Home.

Susie Cakes. 10/10
11708 San Vicente Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049, United States

All I gotta say is; RED VELVET CUPCAKE + SUSIE NUTTY (Peanut butter buttercream cookie sandwich.....) mmmmmm

Advantage Car Rental.  ????/10
LAX Airport

I had a fairly positive and a fairly negative experience with this company so I'm not too sure what I would rate them.  

The Pros:
- Great price ($19/day after tax)
- Pretty good service from some people.  I forgot my luggage keys after dropping off my car and they had a guy privately drive it to me at the airport
- Our shuttle driver from the airport to Advantage was very friendly
- We had a private driver driving us to the airport from Advantage

The Con:
- When picking up my vehicle, the service lady pressured me extremely about buying additional insurance with them.  I told them that I have international rental car insurance through ICBC (my broker at home), but they kept saying that it was different and that I wasn't covered and I that I don't have proof, and guilting me heavily that if anything happens then I would be F*ed.  I was very frustrated, annoyed, and stressed, cause she made me second guess about my own insurance.  After I got to our hotel, I contacted my insurance broker at home and they assured me that I was covered.  But yeah... my only suggestion is that you make sure you print off some kind of document stating your exact rental vehicle coverage so that you won't get harassed.

Bottom line, would I rent from them again?
I think next time I would pay the extra $20 or whatever to avoid stress and go with a bigger company like Avis, Hertz, Budget, etc.  Only because of that one negative experience.  

Overall, we both had an AMAZING trip!  I would totally come back here again, but not for a couple years as we still got some other places to hit up first!

Stay tuned in for my next adventure in Punta Cana!  Heading there in January!

Below is a little video I made of our trip!  Completely handheld with the Olympus OMD!