For five fun-filled days, Perry, Kei, and I headed down to LA to celebrate Perry's birthday. What started as a loosely planned trip turned into one filled with amazing food, tons of shopping, and a few celebrity sightings that left us starstruck.
Hopped off the plane at LAX after a quick 50-minute flight from SFO. Thanks to Virgin America, I got to prep with an episode of Shahs of Sunset.
Perry, Kei, and I picked up our car and experienced our famous LA's notorious traffic while en route to Kimi's place in North Hollywood. We made it, and after we settled in and freshened up, we consulted Yelp to find our dinner destination. Robata JINYA, a Japanese restaurant at 3rd and Fairfax, seemed decent enough with four stars and 300+ reviews.
The restaurant really gave us a taste of the LA scene — trendy space, well-dressed patrons, and a fully booked evening. Thankfully they reserve the sushi bar for walk-ins, so we only had to wait about 25 minutes to sit. Here's some of what we had:
In the words of Rachel Ray, “Yum-O!” It was fresh, light, and made right in front of us. Who knew tofu firmed so quickly?
It is what it is: shrimp on toast. While very tasty, the portion size was incredibly tiny.
Perfect. Simply perfect. Undoubtedly my favorite dish of the night. A bit of seared tuna with a layer of crispy onion created a stunning balance of flavors.
Yakitori is one of my favorite cuisines, and this did not disappoint. We had a shishito pepper and chicken skewer as well, but this one was the best.
A nice half portion to round out the Japanese experience. Really good.
8050 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048
After that amazing dinner, we walked a couple of blocks to visit The Grove. We didn't want to spend too much time there since we were going the next day, so we only checked out Topman before heading out to experience LA nightlife.
Speakeasy drinks, a live show, and some burlesque dancers made Harvard & Stone quite a memorable experience. Oh, and so did the Harry Shum Jr. sighting!
Perry, Kei, and I met up with Maggie and her friends, and after the crazy 40-minute wait in line, we headed in to a packed bar. After a couple rounds of drinks, the music transitioned to a live band playing backup for the main show — two burlesque dancers climbing the walls, bars, and stairs. It was sexy to say the least, and it reminded me of Coyote Ugly with a bit of acrobatics mixed in.
A good chunk of the night was spent gawking at Harry Shum Jr. with Kei. I really wanted to go up to him, but he was talking to a friend throughout the night. What's celebrity etiquette these days? It's rude to interrupt, right? And to sneak a picture? I should've researched this on the plane.
Before heading back to Kimi's, we grabbed some food a block away at Sanamluang Cafe, which is open until 3:30AM. Delicious, authentic Thai food that's very cheap. We ate it when we got back, which helped us sleep and get energized for the days to come.
5221 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90027
The Grove, Beverly Hills, and drinks at Geisha House? We’re about to experience the complete LA from day to night.
Our day started at Planet Dailies, a cool, open-air restaurant at the start of The Grove. The food is pretty standard American — burgers, salads, pizza — with a bit of LA style as it had a section called "Lopez Lean." Mario Lopez is known to make The Grove his second home, so it seemed very fitting. I ordered a burger, as well as a Dylan's Candy Bar shake, which held me over until dinner.
Kimi had a gig later that day, so we did some shopping to find a 20's-inspired outfit that she could wear. When she left, we explored a little more before heading out to Beverly Hills for some ice cream.
Ever since I found out of its opening, I’ve made it a goal to visit Sprinkles Ice Cream every time I visit LA.
There's something about Sprinkles that I really love. They're all about elevating a simple dessert into something more luxurious, which makes every customer feel like a star. With a 90210 address and prices to match, it's definitely one of those places where you just have to indulge.
The last time I came, I had a Sprinkles sandwich (ice cream between two cupcake halves). This time I went for something more traditional: an ice cream sandwich consisting of vanilla bean ice cream between a snickerdoodle and a peanut butter pretzel chip cookie. It was incredibly rich, so much so that I couldn't finish it all. Sad face, but we had so much more to do that night!
Lights, lights, and more lights. That's what you'll get at LACMA’s “Urban Lights,” an outdoor sculpture free for the public to enjoy.
After grabbing ice cream, we wanted to stop by LACMA to visit their light installation. It's something you see in every LA vacationer's Instagram, so we had to Instagram it ourselves! The setting is so romantic; rows and rows of lampposts set against the shadows of palm trees just swaying with the night breeze. If you can find that rare moment when you're all alone with the one you love, you should definitely take advantage of it here.
The three of us took a bunch of photos, as did several couples, families, and a group of ladies dressed up as Disney princesses. I have no idea what that was all about, but it seemed noteworthy. We left to go back to Kimi's place to get ready for the evening.
8050 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Ever since Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen met up at Geisha House in Knocked Up, I’ve always wanted to go. And so we did … twice!
Kei, Perry, and I headed out to Geisha House for Tiffany's birthday. It's hard to miss as the building is bright red. We walked in to a fairly empty restaurant (it was a Sunday), which came with its perks — two free rounds of shots!
It was a liquid diet kind of night as Kei, Perry, and I just had drinks while the others ate (we did this because we were eating here the next night with Kimi). Needless to say, the night was a blur.
6633 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Clubbing in LA is like clubbing in San Francisco. Once you’re done, you gotta look for the street hot dogs to complete your night.
The night continued at Drai's, a fancy little club that sits atop the W Hotel. While the drinks are expensive ($14 per well drink), the views more than make up for it. And I gotta say, the people in LA are quite friendly.
Good laughs, good company, and strong drinks made this a night to remember … or at least worthy of trying to. We even learned how to truly live the LA life from our new friends!
LA is about looking good wherever you go. We wanted to test that, so we spent our lunch doing some people watching on Melrose.
Melrose is a special place. It's home to stores that sell what I'd consider LA fashion: skulls, upside-down crosses, ripped denim, and American flags (think Ke$ha)at Forever 21 prices. It's the equivalent to Haight/Ashbury, and I love it.
We found a cool little brunch spot called The Village Idiot. We sat outside to see people stroll past, though the streets weren't crazy crowded seeing that it was a Monday morning. Great, easy food.
Wow. Talk about an A-list encounter. Neil Patrick Harris. The Doogie Howser. He looks so different without a suit on!
Los Angeles, CA 90046
We were nearing the end of Melrose when we happened to just pass Neil Patrick Harris. You'd think there'd be a ton of paparazzi following him, but no, it was just him and a buddy doing their own thing. I'm surprised how casual it was. He passed by us twice, but the second time around, he was "on the phone" so we just took pictures from behind like an awkward stalker. Again, I should've read up on celebrity etiquette!
We headed off Melrose to Fairfax, which housed a series of streetwear shops. If you're into brands like Diamond, RVCA, or Pink Dolphin, this is the street for you.
What’s a trip to SoCal without seeing any water? We made sure to take in the water at least once during this trip.
321 Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Perry, Kei, and I continued our shopping trip over in Santa Monica where the Third Street Promenade comes alive with street performers to dazzle tourists like us. We saw breakdancers and musicians, but the most fascinating act was some lady making art out of ketchup in front of Johnny Rockets.
Afterwards, we walked on over to Santa Monica Pier to gaze out at the water. It was a nice break from the rush of the LA crowds, so we savored it for a few minutes before heading back home.
Our night ended at Geisha House, this time with Kimi and her boyfriend to celebrate Perry's birthday. We ordered food this time around (oh, and we got another free round of shots!), and I gotta say, it's pretty good! Perfectly sized sushi rolls (50% off on Mondays!) and those shishito peppers made for a really delicious meal. I recommend it for anyone looking to try something trendy.
A delicious start to any meal, these peppers are flavorful and sweet, and with a tiny bit of heat to wake you up. Get it for the table; there’s a lot to share.
This place is probably more well-known for their drinks than their food, so make sure to get this one. It’s a perfectly balanced cocktail filled with lychee, Chambord, and champagne.
“Spicy tuna & cucumber topped with avocado, tuna, grape tomatoes, serrano peppers, & vinaigrette.” All the stuff I like without any of the stuff I avoid (eel, I’m looking at you).
What better way to celebrate a birthday than at the happiest place on earth? Happy birthday to my favorite, Perry!
1313 Disneyland Dr
Anaheim, CA 92802
It's been a while since all of us had been to Disneyland, so we decided to make it an all-day event arriving right when the park opened and staying until the park closed. We had gotten tips from a few folks on how to maximize our time across the two parks (thanks Shari!), so we went in with a plan and mostly stuck to it.
Waiting in line is a bitch, but so worth it. One part storyline and one part thrill ride made this my favorite ride in the park!
Think of it as an upgraded version of Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, or Mario Party kicked up a notch. Ridiculously fun.
I had a hard time imagining Disney doing a roller coaster (with loops). But this one was great so much fun even Perry rode it!
Not as good as the original, but still a great experience. My favorite part were the workers who maintained their creepiness from start to end.
It was time to let everyone know it was Perry’s birthday, so we dropped by Town Hall to get his birthday pin.
1313 Disneyland Dr
Anaheim, CA 92802
With that pin on, all the cast members greeted Perry with a smile and a "Happy Birthday" that made the day even more special. Disneyland was a blast. Old hits like Indiana Jones and Space Mountain were still a blast to ride, and a majority of the rides (aside from the ones at Fantasyland) only had a wait of 10 minutes.
Disneyland and California Adventure are even more magical at night. It’s like a whole different park, and with a lot less people!
Night fell pretty quickly once it hit 6:45PM. After riding Buzz Lightyear Astro Blaster at Disneyland, we headed back to California Adventure to ride a few more rides and prepare for World of Color.
Leave it to Disney to blow every other show out of the water with their modern take on a traditional fountain show.
World of Color was a great ending to our night, as well as Perry's birthday. Sorry to be so cliché, but it was magical. All the scenes projected onto the water brought my back to my childhood in a way that only Disney could accomplish.
We didn't get to finish the show, though, as we got rained out in the middle of "Colors of the Wind." Perry, Kei, and I ran to the exit, but not without getting drenched first. It's amazing how little covering there is in that park. We dried off in World of Disney where we got a few souvenirs to take back home.
1313 Disneyland Dr
Anaheim, CA 92802
Before we headed back to North Hollywood, Perry, Kei, and I stopped by Newport Beach to meet up with Jessa at Avila's El Ranchito to catch up on her new med school adventures. A great end to an exhausting and exhilarating day, complete with a taco bar.
It’s been fun, Los Angeles, but it’s time to head home to the foggy Bay Area. But not before having ourselves a feast!
Our flight wasn't until later that afternoon, so we snuck in some last minute activities before heading to LAX. Our first stop was lunch at Tahoe Galbi in Koreatown. LA is known for their Korean BBQ and this did not disappoint. We had a ton of food for just $11.99 per person, and man … the beef brisket gets me every single time. Pro Tip: If you're grilling onion, make sure it's cooked 100%.
We had passed by Milk almost every day, so after lunch, we decided to finally stop by and try some of their dessert.
We ended our trip with a little something sweet. Milk is one of those places you go after you're done with the dinner portion of your date. Every time we passed it, which was usually at night, there were lines out the door. Perry, Kei, and I stopped by at about two in the afternoon, and we were greeted with no lines. We each got a macaron ice cream sandwich, and I got a few cookies to take home. Delicious, to say the least.
As we boarded our Virgin flight back home, Perry, Kei, and I took one last look at LA and relished in the adventures we had over the past few days. It was a much needed getaway from the Bay Area, one that came with new adventures, new friends, and probably a few pounds. Success.