At the top of my list, because it has taken on some obvious significance, is Disneyland—that little castle on a cloud created by one Uncle Walt. It’s near and dear to my heart, but living it through my daughters’ eyes and seeing the Frozen characters come to life is a really magical experience. We’ll see an Olaf walking around, and my daughters will say, “Daddy, that’s you!” It definitely gives me street cred in my house, which I need.
Blu Jam Café is the breakfast place where I go to decompress, and I think they have the single best French toast I have ever eaten in my life. I’ve known the chef there, Kamil, since I first moved out here. I used to go into the one on Melrose before they expanded, and there was always a table for me. It was like my Cheers. Back then it was an unknown gem; now, it’s the hip, popular place to go. I still go there to get a hearty start to my day. Well, not now, because I’m on a strict diet. And though they have healthy food, I cant help myself—I have to get the French toast.
We recently went up to the Getty Villa for the first time ever. I love all of L.A.’s museums, and I love the other Getty, but there was something so lovely and rich and cozy and wonderfully intimate about the Villa. I loved bringing my daughters—it was literally their secret garden that they were running around in. There are so many levels and nooks and crannies with lush and beautiful vegetation. That was a little piece of paradise that my kids really loved.
There’s this section of Malibu Beach nestled close to the entrance of Nobu, and it’s got these beautiful rock formations, clams, and all these other things. It’s like a sandbar but not a sandbar. I love taking my older daughter there and exploring with her. I grew up in south Florida, and there were so many opportunities to do things with an aquatic bent. We would search for starfish or things like that, and it’s fantastic getting to relive that again with her. You’ll find everything from little crabs to starfish to hypodermic needles. That to me is a really good reality check.
My wife is Italian, and when it comes to food, her family are classic traditionalists. We recently found this lovely, intimate restaurant, Il Grano, and they have some of the most unbelievably original Italian dishes you can find in L.A. Their menu is so creative; the chef is absolutely brilliant, young, & hip. The environment is classic, but all of the dishes have a modern feel while being steeped in tradition. It almost looks like a hole-in-the-wall kind of place, and then you go in and the flavors are explosive. We ordered these unbelievable fried zucchini blossoms, and it was one of the most incredible dishes I have ever tasted in my mouth. I literally cannot get the taste out of my mouth. In no way, shape, or form is it on my gluten free diet, but I can tell you that it’s worth the cheat day.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m a sushi fiend. I love all of the obvious ones like Sugarfish and Nobu, but Sushi Zo is unassuming; it’s not one of those places that has distinctive qualities to it from an architectural standpoint, but they have some of the freshest fish that truly—as cliché as it sounds—melts in your mouth. The tuna belly and any of their specialty rolls are absolutely top notch.
After moving away from West Hollywood and The Grove, which was a great place to take the kids, we started going to Century City mall. There are so many wonderful spots there that are so much fun to make a day out of. There’s a place called Giggles N Hugs that makes you want to become a kid again. They have this pirate ship inside and this amazing tree house-like thing on the outside. My daughters love dancing and love music, and every 10 minutes at Giggles N Hugs there’s another song coming on. Whenever it’s from Frozen, I just kind of move into the corner [laughs]. I also love a great movie theater, and the Century City AMC is an amazing one. We’ll go to the IMAX and see something like Cinderella. They have some great restaurants, too—we’ll go over to The Counter for burgers and fries. It’s a concrete jungle of a parking lot, but other than that, the place is easy.
I would not be doing justice to the great culinary experience of Cheviot Hills without giving mention to a restaurant called Food. Jonah Hill asked me once, “Have you eaten Food?” And I looked at him and I go, “Is that a trick question? Clearly I’ve eaten my share of it.” He enlightened me and told me that Food is this great restaurant run by this wonderful woman who serves some of the freshest food that you will ever come across. It’s American cuisine, almost like a little bodega, and everything seems organic and fresh. They have amazing salads—my favorite is the Cobb deconstructed. They also have some of the best meatloaf and meatballs you’ll find in this area. When I need a pick me up and I’m rushing to a meeting, I’ll stop there and get a great, quick, fresh, and incredible meal to go. I love Food, both the noun and the restaurant.
I’m almost hesitant to bring it up because I don’t want an influx of kids going there, but if you’re in the know, you’re like, “Hey, off the record—have you been to Toddle Tunes? Because it’s the best place on earth.” My oldest daughter has been going, and they have the best instructors who make music fun and accessible to kids of all ages, from six months old to 16 years old. At her age, my daughter is 150,000 times more talented and adept at these things than I ever was. It’s almost intimidating to watch. It’s a part of her. She hears a song and she can repeat everything from the lyrics to the tune after only two listens. At Toddle Tunes, they explore not only vocal song but also every single instrument you can imagine. For me, it’s one of those places that is not only a pleasure for kids but for the parents as well. I always learn something when I go.
Karaoke in Koreatown
Going to Koreatown for a karaoke session is one of my favorite things to do. It’s authentic in terms of being able to make a fool of yourself and having access to songs you should never have access to. My ballad is “I Will Always Love You.” You will only hear me after midnight twice a year, so if you hear an Olaf-style rendition of Whitney Huston, you know I’m in Koreatown.
Photographs courtesy (in order): (1) disneyland.com (2) blujamcafe.com (3) getty.edu (4) malibucity.org (10) soopsokkaraoke.com. All other photographs courtesy facebook.com.