Eating Adventures in Los Angeles, Part II: Connie & Ted’s, RiceBar, Apple Pan and Shake Shack
Connie & Ted’s
Chef Michael Cimarusti has the utmost reverence for seafood. After all, his haute Providence has won every acclaim imaginable for its attention to seafood.
Now comes Connie & Ted’s, a West Hollywood seafood joint at the other end of the spectrum, a modern-day clam shack that treats seafood with equal esteem but in a much more laid-back atmosphere.
On a sunny day (which of course is most every day in Los Angeles), there’s no better place to be.
There are three chowders on the menu: New England, Manhattan, and Rhode Island. The best part is you can get a sampler of all three ($11), which comes with baby doll-sized oyster crackers.
The New England is creamy, yet brothy, not paste-like at all, thankfully, and with just enough potatoes to give substance. The Manhattan has a spicy character. The Rhode Island version was new to me, and it turned out to be my favorite. It’s clear, and tastes intensely of clams. Think of it as the tomato water of the sea — profoundly flavorful without weighing you down in the least.
Fried clam bellies ($29) are beautifully crunchy and meaty. Getting the clam strips ($16) will save you some bucks. But splurge on the bellies to get pieces of clam you can really sink your teeth into.
Shaved asparagus salad ($12) is nicely composed with cherry tomatoes and fresh greens in a Goddess-like dressing.
Definitely order the hot buttered rolls. They are the Parker House variety served warm and glistening in a little cast-iron pan. Pillowy, yeasty and with a touch of salt on top, they are perfection. If I could, I’d happily eat these every week.
The teeny-tiny, 275-square-foot RiceBar, barely large enough to hold eight diners comfortably, is the epitome of a hole-in-the-wall joint.
But Chef-Owner Charles Olalia has got serious cooking chops, having been the executive chef at Patina in Los Angeles, and a cook at Restaurant Guy Savoy in Las Vegas and Thomas Keller’s French Laundry in Yountville. South Bay fans may remember him, too, from his days at the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay, and the Village Bistro in San Jose’s Santana Row.
With just a few burners and a set of rice cookers, the personable chef turns out soulful Filipino-inspired comfort food in the form of rice bowls, salads, sandwiches and even desserts such as pandan rice crispies treats.
The Chicken Tinola bowl ($9) reminds me of something my Mom would have cooked. It’s a homey bowl of tender chicken thigh meat in ginger broth with green papaya, toasted garlic and scallions — all over white Tinowan Fancy rice.
The Bisteg Tagalog ($11) with a fried egg ($1) is slowly braised Angus beef with the sweet-salty flavor of soy sauce, enlivened by calamansi citrus. Break the egg and let it mix into the sauce and Kalinga Unoy rice for a satisfying mouthful.
All the rice is non-GMO heirloom, Fair Trade-certified and imported from the Philippines, too.
The Apple Pan, a true Los Angeles institution, has been around since 1947.
It’s a throwback from the moment you walk through the doors. A large U-shaped counter makes up all the seating in the place with the kitchen right in the center of it all. Patrons keep a close watch on who gets up from what chair to leave in order to snag enough seats close together for their parties. There’s an art to it, believe me.
The menu is as concise as it gets, but then again, most everyone comes for the burgers. The Steakburger ($7.10) with Tillamook Cheddar (50 cents) is an old-school rendition with pickles, lettuce and mayo. What makes it eye-popping, though, is the amount of iceberg lettuce that gets added. Most burgers might have a leaf or two of lettuce. Not this one — which practically gets adorned with a quarter head of lettuce that’s more than twice the height of the patty. It’s almost comical looking.
The burger is juicy enough. Though, my husband wasn’t sure it would make his list of all-time great burgers.
What we did go bananas for was the banana cream pie ($7.50 per slice). They are baked fresh daily. What sets this one apart is the thick layer of fresh banana slices — far thicker than the custardy filling or whipped cream topping. It means you actually taste the bananas in this pie, which is a refreshing change. This is reason enough to definitely come back to the Apple Pan again.
My husband is still waiting for the day that Shake Shack opens in the Bay Area. Until then, he has to content himself with getting his fix at the ones in Los Angeles whenever he is there.
It’s nostalgic food done extremely well. The classic Shake Burger ($5.55) is deeply beefy tasting on a potato bun that’s soft yet sturdy. The Chick’n Shack ($6.55) is a masterful fried chicken breast dressed with lettuce, tomato and buttermilk herb mayo on the same type of bun.
You have to love the fries ($2.99), too. They are crinkle-cut for the maximum number of crispy edges.