Mila’s Rooftop Shines Brightly

Recently, I discovered one of the newest sunset dining destinations in greater L.A., the rooftop of the new Glenmark Hotel. On the seventh floor, the almost 5,000-square-foot, open-air dining terrace offers sweeping unobstructed views of Glendale, the Los Angeles skyline, Hollywood Hills and Verdugo Mountains.

The new modern boutique property opened in mid-July, with Mila, the al fresco dining venue, opening last month. There is a comfortable outdoor lounge area with fire pits and heat towers to keep guests warm when the nights grow chilly, and low glass walls for diners to gaze out into the distance.

In the entrance of the Glenmark Hotel you will see attention-grabbing art on the walls leading into the main lobby and elevators. One wall featured a display of earth-toned evil-eye “stare” pieces, and another wall has colorful Dali and Picasso replicas.

Renowned Santa Monica-based firm Hirsch Bender Associates designed the thoughtful property to reflect the location’s heritage and creative identity. Executive chef Tony Trujillo incorporates Middle Eastern-inspired dishes and sushi on his menu to pair with creative cocktails, wine and beer.

Trujillo’s extensive culinary portfolio includes almost 20 years of experience at Urban Kitchen Group’s Cucina Enoteca, Salt Creek Grille, Parkway Grill and Michael Mina’s Stonehill Tavern. Now at the helm of Glendale’s tallest rooftop bar, his seasonal menu at Mila has become the talk of the town.

The night my husband and I dined, we ordered skewered chicken, which was marinated in earthy spices before being grilled on an open flame and served with yogurt, lemon juice and garlic aioli, with julienned cucumbers and onion salad on the side.

The pork shawarma sliders topped with slaw, cilantro and pickled veggies were a sell-out the night we dined, and almost every table had a shrimp cocktail displayed with multiple prawns on the outside of a serving glass filled with a slightly spicy Mila sauce made with horseradish and a squeeze of lemon for dipping.

The za’atar-enhanced chips with a spicy yogurt dip is one of many slightly spicy offerings; another is a spicy tuna stack that arrived on two layers of long, sesame seed, crisp crackers. It looked almost like a Napoleon dessert, but instead of being sweet, it had chopped ahi, dots of avocado cream, microgreens, ginger and chopped serrano for a kick of heat.

We enjoyed the crunchy yellowtail tostadas that arrive three or five on a plate with a sweet and spicy slaw on top of large chips. These can be picked up with one hand and offer about three bites each.

The tapas-style menu offers one salad and two different types of flatbreads – a Middle Eastern flatbread topped with spicy and fermented sojouk sausage with ricotta salata, oregano and a spicy aioli; and a milder three cheese flatbread with diced tomato, red onion and a sprinkling of basil.

With the smoke from the recent fires, the sunset views while dining at Mila have been vibrant and spectacular. Most of the tables are set for two to four people; however, the lounge area can accommodate groups of six reclining on sectional outdoor seating. 

Glendale is known as the Jewel City, and Mila’s rooftop dining area lives up to this name. As the evening grows dark, the lights in the distance look like jewels in the sky. Hours are currently Wednesday through Sunday from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. $$ 1100 N. Brand Blvd., (818)900-2701.

This review was featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News –

“Trust Me” you’ll like SUGARFISH

There are 400 Japanese restaurants in Los Angeles but none quite like SUGARFISH. The restaurant does not take reservations, which sometimes leads to a 45-minute wait for a table. The Zen-like simplicity and elevated rice, crispy nori and melt-in-your-mouth, flavorful fish makes the prix fixe “Trust Me” dinner worth the wait.

SUGARFISH offers Zen-like sushi, simplicity, made with the highest quality fish. (photo courtesy of SUGARFISH)

The menu is very simple. You won’t see fancy, over-the-top American style sushi like California, teriyaki or spicy tuna rolls. Instead you will taste the highest quality fish. Sushi here is a step-by-step, delicious and unique omakase-style service based on Chef Kazunori Nozawa’s early training with master chefs in Tokyo and 50 years of hospitality experience.

At SUGARFISH, guests don’t sit, chat with chefs and watch their sushi being prepared at a sushi bar. Instead, trained sushi chefs work efficiently behind closed doors in a sushi-making kitchen and waiters deliver each course with fresh fish and warm rice.

Nozawa’s “Trust Me” style sushi experiences are served one dish at a time and include organic edamame, tuna sashimi enhanced in ponzu and thinly sliced scallions, albacore sushi, salmon sushi, yellowtail sushi, sea bass sushi and a crab hand roll.

While Nozawa’s concept has been successful since 1985 at Sushi Nozawa in Studio City, Nozawa teamed up with his friend, Jerry A. Greenberg, to make Nozawa’s concept more accessible. Together with founding partners Tom Nozawa, Lele Massimini, Cameron Broumand, and Clement Mok, Nozawa and Greenberg created Sushi Nozawa Group, LLC in 2008.  The first SUGARFISH restaurant opened in Marina del Rey, and soon the team opened other locations in the greater Los Angeles area.

Nozawa has developed relationships with some of the finest fish purveyors from around the world. His hamachi is from Japan, salmon from Europe, snapper from New Zealand, tuna from almost every sea, and creamy sea urchin uni from California. Nozawa respectfully cuts the fish into fillets with the right knife strokes to bring out the finest flavor and achieve the desired tenderness. Every day, Nozawa, his son, Tom Nozawa, and a few key members of the team arrive at downtown L.A.’s fish market 15 minutes before opening to purchase the very best catch of the day.

Besides quality fish, the rice is elevated in consistency and quality. Sourced from a Japanese company that grows rice in the Sacramento Delta, the rice is not too heavy, starchy or fluffy. The rice is cooked in a special rice cooker and mixed with a slightly acidic and sweet rice vinegar. The vinegar base is from Japan, and then they brew their own rice vinegar using a balance of salt, sugar and heat.

The nori or seaweed is different, too. The chefs work with farmers and suppliers in Japan who cultivate the right seaweed consistency for rolling. When hand rolls are delivered to the table, the seaweed is crisp and flavorful.

Nozawa’s team also makes their own ponzu sauce offering a touch of garlic, pepper, citrus and ginger notes. Their homemade soy sauce is lighter and less salty than commercial brands, offering a hint of smokiness and amplifying the mild, medium and full flavors of the freshest fish.

For those who want to customize their own meal, there is an a la carte section. Served on minimalist Japanese-style white plates, guests are encouraged to use chopsticks or pick up each piece with their fingers.

Order the “Trust Me” or “Trust Me Lite” to-go and eliminate the long wait time. After placing our order, my daughters and I waited 15 minutes and took our boxes to a table in an outdoor courtyard. Each box had a silver fish etched on top and detailed photos, descriptions and instructions inside. Together, we read how to eat each item featured in different bento-like compartments. For the tuna sashimi, instructions were to “Coat with ponzu and then add scallion. No soy, please.” The largest section of the box held warm pillows of rice with fresh slices of salmon, yellowtail and Nozawa-style shrimp. There were even sliced handrolls, featuring toro and crab in our “sushi party in a box.”

Now, you can bring a Zen-Like sushi experience to the Hollywood Bowl, picnic at the beach or home to enjoy. There is a 16% service charge added to your bill, so there is no need for tipping.

Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. $$ 212 N. Canon Drive, (310)276-6900; 11640 W. San Vicente Blvd, (310)820-4477; 600 W. 7th St. Suite 150, (213)627-3000; 6115 W. Sunset Blvd. #170, (323)320-4800; 101 S. La Brea Ave., (323)488-3636; 4720 Admiralty Way, (310)306-6300; 1345 2nd St., (310)393-3338; 11288 Ventura Blvd. # C, (818)762-2322; 146 S. Lake Ave. #108, (626)298-8386.

This review was also featured in the Beverly Press. Photos by SUGARFISH.

360 Views of LA and Sushi at Sora

When the upscale Wilshire Grand opened in June, it’s been lauded as the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. Standing 1,100 feet tall, the Wilshire Grand Center is the newest addition to the Los Angeles skyline. From the street to the top of a long decorative spire, the skyscraper reaches above 73 stories.


Christopher Martin, the architect and development manager, designed the multi-use high-rise to include hotel rooms and four dining options. Starting at the 31st floor up to the 68th are almost 900 InterContinental Hotel hotel rooms.

On the 69th floor are two dining venues – an elegant Japanese restaurant named Sora, and Dekkadance a market-to-table buffet dining area with views of the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island.


For a fine dining steakhouse option, La Boucherie is on the 71st floor. On the top floor is the popular rooftop Spire 73 lounge, featuring 360 degree views of the city.

Most visitors park in the subterranean garage, and are welcomed by staff and security, before entering the ground floor lobby. Additional staff and security guide guests to take an elevator up to the hotel’s 70th floor sky lobby reception area.
My friend Michelle and I met at the 70th floor and walked down a spiral staircase to the 69th floor to enjoy lunch at Sora.

The elevated omakase experience offers three different dining venues. First there are stools next to the entrance along glass windows looking out to Griffith Park Observatory, the Hollywood Hills and beyond. What makes this dining experience unique is the rolling conveyor belt parading plates of sushi covered in clear glass domes. Guests lift appealing plates right off the moving belt to enjoy.

Ask to sit in server Vladimir’s area.

Other guests sit at the sushi bar watching itamae (sushi chefs) cut blocks of fish, prepare the perfect sushi rice, grate ginger, and slice scallions to prepare hand rolls, nigiri and maki rolls.

IMG_2484The last area is a narrow dining room with high back booths along the windows. In the evening, this is a popular spot for couples seeking a romantic dinner, while gazing out at the twinkling nighttime views. My friend Michelle and I opted to sit in one of these booths looking out towards Dodgers Stadium, and neighboring skyscrapers.

The menu offers a good selection of beers, domestic and international wines and champagne, plus a variety of Japanese Whiskey. Cocktails range from a Passionfruit Bellini to a Seoul margarita made with ginger syrup and Korean pear juice.


After our order was taken, we received a customary warm oshibori (hot towel) to clean our hands before eating a few appetizers for lunch. The first was the Soba Inari that arrived on a plate with two Aburaage (fried tofu pouches) filled with thin boiled buckwheat noodles, scallion spirals, a dollop of spicy Japanese horseradish wasabi, and little orange micro flowers. What makes this appetizer an interactive experience is the pipette filled with ponzu sauce. With a squeeze, I could control how much sauce I needed to enhance this dish.


Two other stunning dishes arrived adorned with more flowers. The mini vegetable bowl was filled with sticky sushi rice and a variety of chopped steamed vegetables. I really enjoyed the mini Chrirashi bowl. In Japanese, Chrirashi means scattered. On the bottom of the bowl is seasoned rice topped with a scattering of raw fish, fish roe, and tamagoyaki (a spongy egg garnish). A few sesame seeds were sprinkled on top for textural diversity.

IMG_2486My sushi loving friend Michelle ordered one of the sushi plates. It arrived with 25 pieces of rolls and nigiri. On the plate were eight California rolls and eight salmon avocado rolls. Our server Vladimir told us that they use fresh crab in their rolls. For nigiri, she selected freshly sliced tuna, salmon, yellow tail. The sliced fish was placed on a dollop of wasabi and small oval balls of rice.

Before leaving we each had a small mochi for dessert with a pot of green tea. I enjoyed the delicious black sesame mochi confection made from pounded sticky rice and filled with a pleasing, light gray sesame ice cream. It’s spherical in shape and dusted with a powdery starch to keep it from sticking.

For the ultimate Japanese dining experience with million dollar views, Sora won’t disappoint.

$$ Sora is open daily from 12 a.m. to 8 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday the restaurant opens at 2 to 10 p.m. 900 Wilshire Blvd, Floor 69, Los Angeles, CA 90017 (213)688-7777.

This review was featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea newspapers –

CHAYA is Full of Delightful Surprises

IMG_5511My daughter came home from college for the weekend and craved sushi for dinner. We came up with a list of restaurants in Los Angeles to take her on a Saturday night. Since she has never been to Chaya downtown, we made a reservation.

As I walked up to the hostess stand, I admired the colorful chandelier. From a distance, it looks like an elegant glass light fixture, however up close, I was surprised when I noticed it’s made from plastic toys and everyday items.

The dining room manager Mike Javaherpour noticed my facial expression as I pointed to a plastic hairbrush, scissors, hair clips, sunglasses, medicine bottles and a champagne glass hanging upside down.

“The designer found many of the items and asked his friends to contribute to this work of art,” he said.

The artist, Stuart Haygarth, is a Berlin based artist and lighting designer who works with everyday objects to create beautiful art pieces.IMG_5504

Chaya is an elegant restaurant filled with many surprises. Hints of Asian décor fill the smaller 12-seat sushi bar with two sushi chefs working in full view. There are a few Japanese themed art pieces, yet the bar area offers an art-deco flair with its elegant etched mirrors. The polished concrete floor and white linen tables give the room an elegant European feel.

Chaya is one of the few Japanese restaurants I know of that serves crusty French bread with butter and a dish of olive oil. We nibbled on the bread as we ordered an Acai mojito and a nice glass of white Argentina wine.

Executive Chefs Atsushi Kenjo and Shigfumi Tachibe have created a menu highlighting fresh farmers market ingredients with persimmons enhancing many dishes for the Fall and winter months.

We ordered the six-item bento box served in a traditional red and black lacquered case. The first area had a salad of roasted organic beets with persimmon, hoshi-gaki goat cheese and aged sherry vinaigrette. Next to the salad was a Korean style surf n’ turf tartare. Maine lobster and Wagyu tri tip were blended with a spicy Yukhoe bean paste, scallions, julienne apple, cucumber, and a quail egg. Chopped finely, it was served with crispy wonton crisps.

IMG_5515There were three pieces of sushi and a sashimi piece along with a serving of pan roasted wild Canadian King salmon with Belgian lentils, sweet chestnuts, chanterelle mushrooms, leeks, wilted kale with bacon. We opted for a second serving of salmon, rather than the lamb chops that come in the box.

My daughter ordered a  sushi platter with a variety of rolls consisting of a spicy tuna with eel and avocado and two sushi pieces each of tuna, salmon, shrimp, albacore and yellowtail. The dish thoroughly satisfied her craving.

I had a taste of both the box and platter before settling into my caramelized onion and mushroom soup with crispy croutons.

On Sundays they serve a four-course tasting dinner for $27 and 50 percent off wine bottles.

During the afternoon they offer a mid-afternoon sushi special from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. where many of their rolls are under $10. Before 6:30 p.m. the restaurant is filled with patrons enjoying a four-item pre-theatre bento box for $29. It’s only available on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. If you arrive after 6:30 p.m. you can still take advantage of the all night long six-item Bento redux box for $39. This is offered from Monday through Saturday.

Valet and self-parking available at the City National Bank Plaza underground parking garage- LEVEL A.

Complimentary shuttle service is available to the Staples Center, Nokia Theater, and Music Center. $$-$$$ 525 S Flower St, (213)236-9577.

This article was published in the Beverly Press on 11/28/13


Sushi Roku on Third

Walking into Sushi Roku on Third Street, I noticed cords of rope hanging from the ceiling, called “nawa-noren” which are symbols indicating the establishment is a traditional Japanese restaurant. The lighting enhances the Japanese theme and the long sushi bar.

“We have the longest sushi bar of all the Sushi Roku restaurants,” said Joe Ando, assistant Manager of the Hollywood location. “We also have an incredible Sushi Master, Juri. He has been here since the restaurant opened in 1997. The most popular seats in the restaurant are the two at the sushi bar in front of Juri,” Ando said.

Juri was born and raised in Los Angeles. After he finished high school, he went to Japan and apprenticed with some of Japan’s greatest sushi masters for four years to become a sushi chef back here with Innovative Dining Group. Juri found his home at Sushi Roku, where he weaves elements of cuisine from all over Japan.

Read the rest of my review by clicking on this link via Sushi Roku. Courtesy of the Beverly Press newspaper.

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