An L.A.-Vegas comparison, the best pastrami ever, and a cheese store hits the spot

I just returned from one of my bimonthly gastronomic visits to Los Angeles, and am proud to say that Las Vegas is way ahead of Los Angeles for high-end dining. (If you don’t believe me, read S. Irene Virbila’s March 11 article on CityCenter in the Los Angeles Times food section. She was quite impressed.)

We have the three-Michelin-star Joël Robuchon at the Mansion, as well as Alex, Guy Savoy, Pierre Gagnaire’s Twist and L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon. They put us way ahead in the luxury dining department.

But L.A. still has Patina, Joachim Splichal’s temple of gastronomy at the Frank Gehry-designed Disney Hall, home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Splichal owns Pinot Brasserie here, but at Patina he’s gunning for—and may well get—that third Michelin star.

His executive chef, Tony Esnault, an Alain Ducasse protégé, is amazing. I had my best dinner so far this year at this restaurant, with a vegetable mosaic and a melt-in-the-mouth cod dish leading the parade. I’d ride my bicycle down Interstate 15 to eat there again.

Our own China Mama has delicious juicy pork dumplings, but I detect MSG. Arcadia’s Din Tai Fun, a dumpling house from Taiwan with branch restaurants all over Asia, serves a variety of steamed dumplings that put any here to shame.

Langer’s Deli, at Seventh and Alvarado Street in central L.A., has the best pastrami sandwich on the planet (sorry, Carnegie): smoky, crusty, hand-sliced meat on double-baked rye bread. And with regard to Mexican food here versus what you get in La La Land, olvidate. That’s Spanish for “fuhgeddabouddit.”

After my trip, I headed over to Valley Cheese and Wine (1770 W. Horizon Ridge Parkway, Henderson, 341-8191) run by foodies Bob Howald and his wife, Kristin Sande, to plan a plain home snack. There I found Red Hawk, a washed rind cheese from California’s Cowgirl Creamery, and it rivals the best cheeses of France. A wedge seemed like a perfect homecoming gift to myself, especially paired with a few slices of his imported porchetta, an organic Fuji apple and a bottle of hearty red wine.

I settled on a Côtes du Rhône from Domaine Les Grand Bois, Vintage 2007, after viewing Howald’s abundant choices. At $17, you’d have to be sniffing model glue to think you could get a California red that compares in quality for this price.

Hungry, yet?

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