Escape L.A. traffic in sprawling Griffith Park, which is also home to Griffith Observatory.
By Patricia Kelly YeoSpecial to the Star
Sat., Sept. 11, 2021timer3 min. read
A trip to Los Angeles doesn’t have to be all theme parks, beaches and sunshine. About a five-hour direct flight from Toronto, L.A. is the actual version of what people envision in Las Vegas: a city where nobody cares where you’re from, and you can be whoever you want to be.
Having grown up in the area and explored its diverse nooks and crannies, I’ve come to appreciate all the city has to offer for the discerning arts and culture aficionado, from architectural landmarks to Old Hollywood glamour. In the words of writer Susan Orlean, “In Los Angeles, your eye keeps reaching for an end point and never finds it, because it doesn’t exist.” Here are just a few places well worth seeing (and savouring).
For Kyoto-style sushi with a (nearby) view: Kensho (1999 N. Sycamore Ave., Los Angeles)
Just down the hill from the historic Yamashiro pagoda built in 1914, Kensho offers a tightly curated menu of sake, natural wines and Southern California-inspired Japanese small plates. The Kyoto-style temari sushi — adorable round nigiri topped with different accoutrements, like salmon eggs and garlic chips — is a must-have. Before dinner, take a walk up to Yamashiro and its adjacent terrace gardens for sweeping city views. Reservations required.
For a musical hike: Ellen Reid’s “Soundwalk” at Griffith Park (4730 Crystal Springs Dr., Los Angeles)
Home to Griffith Observatory (where Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling danced the night away in 2016’s “La La Land”), Griffith Park is a sprawling, 4,210-acre municipal park in the heart of L.A. Popular among urban hikers, picnicking families, and influencers in search of good light, the area is currently hosting composer and sound artist Ellen Reid’s site-specific installation “Soundwalk,” which will run through 2023. Download her free app and craft your own unique work of art, with the sound changing with every shift in GPS location.
For natural wine on a dreamy patio: Lolo Wine Bar (5140 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles)
Located in East Hollywood, the effortlessly chic Lolo is a funky-wine lover’s dream spot — and also happens to have some of the best house-made pasta in town (try the cacio e pepe). Sipping orange wine on a sun-dappled patio filled with plants and bistro tables, you’ll feel worlds away from the non-stop busyness just outside Lolo’s doors. Arrive early, since it’s walk-ins only.
For a sweet taste of Old Hollywood: The Polo Lounge (9641 Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills)
Deep inside the Beverly Hills Hotel’s tropical pink and green facade lies one of L.A.’s best desserts: the Polo Lounge’s chocolate soufflé. A Hollywood power broker’s lunch spot by day, the lounge dates back to 1941 and has served everyone from Marilyn Monroe to Whitney Houston. After getting past its pricey (and often humdrum) dinner menu, you’ll find the restaurant’s signature dessert, which comes emblazoned with its logo on top and a side of vanilla sauce and whipped cream. Fit for two to share, the soufflé also comes in other flavours that change daily.
For iconic mid-century architecture: Stahl House (1635 Woods Dr., Los Angeles)
Nobody famous has ever lived at the Stahl House, and that’s exactly why you should visit. The property, also known as Case Study House No. 22 (and the subject of a new book), is a pinnacle of modernist architecture, designed by Pierre Koenig in 1960 and immortalized by photographer Julius Shulman that same year. Overlooking the Hollywood Hills, the Stahl House’s clean lines, floor-to-ceiling windows and seamless transition between indoor and outdoor space keeps fashion photographers and architecture buffs from around the world coming. Reservations via the official website required.
Travellers are reminded to check on public health restrictions that could affect their plans.