Image by Martin Adams

LOS ANGELES

By Sarai Butler of Bags Stay Packed

  September 8, 2020

Los Angeles. Swimming Pools. Movie Stars. 

I'm really telling my age. The Beverly Hillbillies is a super old school show that had a poor family become millionaires when they struck it rich by finding oil and, subsequently, adjusting to a lavish life in Beverly Hills. 

I didn't strike it rich before my trip to LA. But, I certainly adjusted to rich life quickly while out there.

Image by hannah grace

I arrived on a Thursday.  Pandemic in full swing. Masks are not to be played with out there. You need a mask everywhere. Even to be on the street by yourself. Our first stop was for cocktails and light hors d'oeuvre at The Highlight Room, which is the rooftop lounge of The Dream Hotel. We were staying there so it was a convenient and cute choice. The rooftop also includes a nice pool, reclining lounge chairs and cabanas. And for a Thursday, it was packed. We walked through the pool area to the lounge area, where the Hollywood sign can be seen very clearly in the distance. The music was really low, if playing at all.

And everyone is leisurely enjoying their drinks and food like it's a Sunday afternoon. I ordered the Party Pouch, which included Ciroc Summer Colada, Blue Curacao, Lemonade and Mist Twist (whatever that is). It's light purple in color and comes out in an actual Caprisun style pouch. The concept was adorable.  But, the drink was weak. All juice, no liquor. I like to taste my alcohol, especially when the drink is $21! Next stop was Hae Jang Chon, which serves Korean BBQ.  I've never had Korean food before and had no idea they even had a version of BBQ. I'm a self-proclaimed foodie so I'm ready to dive in.  One problem. The place was closed because of COVID-19.

In LA, and probably the whole state, outside dining is required. They didn't have any outdoor space to dine. So, they clearly had closed down until the mandate is rolled back. For every problem, there is a solution.  The majority of the shopping strip had Korean cuisine, so we went next door to Byul Gopchang. This place was quaint. Only a few diners were inside eating dinner. I noticed that even though the mandate is outdoor dining only, we were ushered inside to a table. Guess they like to live on the wild side. Inside, there were some sections of clutter. I would consider this a hole in the wall spot. But, I was hungry and ready to pick out any foreign objects from my food.

 

While perusing the menu posted outside near the dining tables, I realized I don't eat anything on the menu. But, today I will make an exception for the experience. The combo we ordered and split had prime ribeye steak, beef bulgogi, beef brisket and chicken bulgogi. The other combo had all that previously listed and pork belly. I couldn't take it that far. I even ordered the sea urchin bibimbap.  I would compare this type of dining to Benihana's mixed with the Melting Pot. They bring all the food out raw to be cooked on a grill in the middle of your table. similar to Benihana or any hibachi grill place. However, you have to cook the food yourself like The Melting Pot. It was cool.  I tried kimchi for the first time.  I have always been scared to eat fermented cabbage. I went out on a limb. Daring, I must say. To my surprise, it was pretty good. I wouldn't be dying to get it again though. I tried all the meats dipped in what tasted like a sweet soy sauce. Everything was delicious.

Frosè at the Abbey! Frosè is a frozen drink that includes Rosè mixed with vodka. What kind of vodka? I don't know. And after the second Frosè, I didn't even care. They were delicious and strong.  As stated before, what's the point of drinking if you don't taste at least a little bit of alcohol. They clearly have the top of the line blenders because the consistency of the drink was as smooth as silk. But, this drink is not for the lightweight drinker. It's for a graduated and mature palate who drinks wine on a regular day but wants to get a bit wilder because they are on vacation. I'm talking about me. I'm the graduated and mature wine drinker. I love a good sophisticated cocktail. The Abbey is a world famous gay bar in West Hollywood that is posh and intriguing.  The bar is completely outside. There are string lights placed appropriately around the space. There are low top tables, high top tables and booths placed strategically. There is also a dance floor that flashed "black lives matters" on their scrolling graphic screen above it. I went twice and both nights were  just my speed. Good drinks. Good service. And electric energy.

One of my must do's in LA was to see the Nipsey Hussle mural and his Marathon Clothing Store. I felt like I had to pay homage to someone who lost his life for something so senseless. Someone who was working towards the betterment of is community.  Someone who never let the money and fame make him forget where he came from. Well, what's the chances of us going to visit his mural and pay respect on his actual birthday. We get close to Slauson and Crenshaw and the traffic is thick. I would say Saturday traffic thick and not rush hour thick. We pass by his store and it's blocked off by a fence covered in black cloth. We find a parking space and notice the streets around the store are blocked off and there is a heavy police presence. Maybe this is protocol for this area on the weekends. I'm clueless. We walk towards the store and spot a huge mural across the street with a moderate gathering of people taking turns posing in front of the mural. The mural stands out. It's theme is blue, reminiscent of Crip colors. And the detail of Nipsey Hussle's face is very specific and professional. Our turn comes to post up with the memory of Nipsey. 

 

While finding our best angles, a small plane flies over us with a banner trailing behind it. It says "Happy C-Day!". I thought to myself this must be the anniversary of the inception of the Crips. I am not well versed in gang culture. Happy C-Day was another way to say Happy Birthday to Nipsey Hussle. It was actually his birthday that very day. And that explained the crowd at the mural, the people yelling out of their car windows "we love you Nipsey", and his most popular song "Motivation" blasting in symphony from a majority of the cars riding past. It also explained why the most recognizable mural that shows Nipsey with angel wings was also blocked off and two to three police officers standing about every 20 feet. I can say that LA, without a doubt, loves Ermias Ashghedom AKA Nipsey Hussle.

I do have to mention the Albright, which was featured on the Travel Channel. It sits on the Santa Monica Pier and is more of a beach type restaurant with a window to order and picnic style tables for feasting. I ordered the spicy seafood soup and the seafood paella. Both were good. The soup was quite spicy. And because LA was having a heat wave with temperatures reaching over 100 degrees, I was melting on the inside while eating that soup. Wrong choice on the wrong day. I also have to mention Nobu. I've heard of Nobu plenty of times as a place that celebrities go to be seen. I'm not impressed by celebrities so I wasn't looking for them. But, I wanted to know if Nobu was the place to be seen or the place to actually have exquisite food. Nobu is the place for both. The food is exceptional. Exceptional! Think of a Michelin Star Restaurant with a Japanese tapas style menu. Everything was shareable. And everything was expensive. We ordered one of each thing we wanted to try such as Salmon Yuzu Karashi Su Miso, Salmon Yuzu Karashi Su Miso, Black Cod with Miso and Jidori Free Range Chicken with Teriyaki Sauce. I don't know what magic they put in that food. The food was so succulent, moist, flavorful, and fresh. One plate after another made my eyes get big and my taste buds do a dance. It was worth the mortgage payment we remitted at the end. 

I'll be going back again in a few weeks.  I'll report back on my next adventure with some new and thrilling details about my quest in LA.

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