Saturday, November 21, 2009

Stoked: I Finally Land A Guest Spot This Year... HA!

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  • Manouschka Guerrier’s Top LA Eats for Under $12 Manouschka Guerrier’s Top LA Eats for Under $12
Manouschka Guerrier’s Top LA Eats for Under $12

Single Serving’s Manouschka Guerrier is a savvy single girl, with an affinity for planning quick affordable meals for herself and for throwing lavish dinner parties on a tight budget. Her style of cooking is delicious, inexpensive, swift, stylish and figure-friendly. She whips it all up and manages to have a ball in the kitchen in her Louboutins and her Le Creuset. This ain’t your Mama’s kitchen!

She’s not a classically trained chef by any means, but a cook who received lessons from her Grandmother Olga (who attended a prestigious French Culinary School in Haiti). She started a thriving private catering company “To Serve With Love.” She found success by combining inspiration from her Grandmother’s classics with her appreciation for international cuisine (which she developed upon her travels around the world as a former Model and Miss Hawaiian Tropic Miss Caribbean America).

Now with Single Serving… she brings her simple “super sexy single secrets” from her kitchen to yours, helping other singles serve up delicious meals whether they are eating alone, entertaining friends or looking to impress someone special.

I have to say I’m pretty blessed, I am so not a Starving Artist. Between my work as an Actor & Writer I have had some great success as a cook, a caterer & bartender. With that being said, I am beyond picky of where I go to eat. I figure if I’m going to go somewhere & pay for the food & pay for the service it’s got to be ridonkulous! Or I should stay at home make something myself & suck it up & clean the dishes after. When I moved here many, many moons ago I made it my personal mission to find the best places to eat on a budget (I have a shoe fetish I prefer to spend my money on that) & with the state of the economy I really feel like my research has paid off, pardon the pun. Here are four of my top places to eat in the Land of LA for $12 & under – a tour with my tongue & wallet as your tour guides shall we say?

Noshi Sushi (best sushi) 4430 Beverly Blvd Los Angeles CA 90004 (323) 469-3458

Not only is this my NUMBER 1 sushi choice but honest to God this is my number 1 place to eat! If I were ever on death row, arrested for the crime of being a 34 year old Black girl still addicted to Hello Kitty, THIS would be my final meal hands down! I’ve been coming to this place since early on into moving to LA so I’ve had years comparing this spot to many sushi spots all over LA, especially on the infamous Sushi Row aka Ventura Blvd (how do any of those places stay open?!) In the mood to beat the crap out of someone instead of playing punch buggy? Drive down Ventura & punch someone every time you see a Sushi Restaurant. You won’t go an entire block without being completely covered in welts!

Sorry, rambling! Yes it’s amazing you can get an array of sushi for $3 & under but what really makes this place stand out for me is the flavor of it… it’s bloody fantastic & talk about getting a bang for your buck. The rolls are the size of hockey pucks – so I swear, 3 rolls in you need for someone to rub your belly after & take a nap. I suggest their infamous spicy tuna rolls. I have been all over the world & have been to the so called “best sushi places” around & I swear no one has been able to hold a candle to Noshi’s tuna roll… it’s BRILLIANT! What I like about Noshi also is that they give you the freedom to create your own roll. For texture I created a squid legs cut roll with sweet eel sauce & no sesame seeds. Even people I have had try it that are terrified of squid love it.

For $12 I usually order 2 spicy tuna rolls, squid legs roll & a bottle of hot sake… YES that’s 3 bones too. Other suggestions is their creamy, chewy, decadent & delicious Dynamite for $6. It’s a mix of scallops,shitake mushrooms, scallions, masago (roe) in a creamy mayo based sauce broiled in the oven for this crispy au gratin-like topping served with lemon wedges… To. Die. For! You may kick your mother in the face for this one. A half order of salmon sashimi for $7 that just melts in your mouth?! And for $7.50 (although it is a half order but it is MASSIVE) try the Albacore salad.

Oh btw… it’s cash only & there’s a long list of rules like no babies & if sitting at the bar there’s a minimum…Yeah the list is long & can rival Seinfeld’s “Soup Nazi,” but the service is kind-natured & it’s worth abiding by all the rules.

Kassava (best lunch) 8600 W 3rd St Los Angeles, CA 90048 (310) 385-0233

Maybe I am biased picking this spot because I am Haitian, but honestly Haitian food is thee best, most underrated cuisine in the world. It’s a lot like Cuban & Jamaican food with the staples being rice, beans, plantains & a protein. But Haitian food is spicier, bolder & more flavorful. If you like Cajun/Creole food you will LOVE Haitian food (well of course you should, being that Haiti is the birthplace of the Creoles). I can pretty much make everything Haitian, but alas as I said earlier I don’t like doing dishes, so when I want a day off from the kitchen this is my DEFINITE go-to spot… OH & they deliver too… in a snazzy tricked out Cadillac Escalade… oh how the food Gods LOVE me!

Even though the median price of all their food is roughly around $16 what I love about them is their daily lunch specials from 11am- 3pm, M-F for get this…. $6 flippin‘ 95!!!! $6.95. Depending on the day, you can get Creole chicken which is chicken baked in a light tomato sauce loaded with aromatics & spicy seasoning and a heaping side of my all-time favorite red beans & rice. Aside from my grandmother’s & my stepmother’s, their red beans & rice is the best I have ever had! They offer a choice of sweet yellow plantains (which is a ripe fried plantain) or green plantains (which is a crispy green plantain flattened) fried & sprinkled with salt. I love both ways so much I can never pick, so I have both & the sweet sexy ladies of the kitchen Vanessa & Jessie cater to my indecisive whim. This is touted as a Caribbean spot because they also make Jamaican staples such as Jerk Chicken or Jerk Ribs (the ribs for $7.95). Both from time to time also make appearances as a lunch special. Succulent Tassot which are beef bites or their beef stew… Jamaican patties (Beef, Chicken, Seafood & Veggie) & Champagne Cola… oh dear God I’m going to call them NOW to deliver. The Haitian Pumpkin Soup makes me want to cry & can be a meal within itself.

In America it’s the burger, in Italy it’s pizza, for Haiti our national dish is Griot, savory pork shoulder bites boiled to make them tender, the seasoned & then fried and topped with our favorite condiment piklis (which is a shredded cabbage & habanero pickled hot salad that we like to put on EVERYTHING!) The mix of crunch, heat, tang & acidic flavor of the vinegar will bring a tear to your eye & not just because of the heat hidden in what you would assume was an innocent slaw but how damn good it is! The fried chicken will make the Colonel rise from the dead & my personal favorites Oxtail stew & Crispy goat are truly what dreams are made of.

Make sure to grab one of the juices & shakes, they are so authentically Caribbean. They are also available for catering your next event. So if I’m not available to cater for you definitely spread the Haitian love & get all the praise for enlightening your guests to such flavorful food & hire them.

Blue Marlin (best Italian) 2121 Sawtelle Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90025(310) 445-2522

I know I have rated a Japanese spot as best Italian but hear me out for a second. This little gem hidden in a neighborhood in Sawtelle Village I am branding the “Little Tokyo of West LA” has jacked the crown from my favorite Italian spot Amalfi. It’s a fusion spot that melds the best elements of Japanese, Italian & French cuisines. The portions are massive & I swear it doesn’t matter what you order – everything on the menu is divine… a party in your mouth every time. My favorites are the Uni spaghetti & the uni Risotto. Now for years I thought I hated Uni (urchin). After having it here I can kick myself for the years I have missed out not ordering it.

Last week I went to Noshi & I ordered the uni. It was good, I won’t lie, but the Uni at Blue Marlin is something truly special, and when mixed with their cream sauce in the spaghetti you will have many moments oohing & aahing with your eyes closed (note - if you’re the type that fakes the big O, I suggest not to come here with the person you faked it with, they will KNOW instantly you were faking it… I’m just sayin‘). These are over the $12 (about $13 or $14) but worth chucking the extra pennies for. The carbonara & bolognese are incredible for under $10. I like to order extra crispy bacon of $2 and they have an array of extras you can add to your meal.

The chicken cutlet with spaghetti in an arrabiatte sauce is so crispy, creamy & dreamy & HELLO comes in a cute Le Creuset pot (another obsession of mine I prefer to scrounge my few measly dollars to invest in ) – that’s how massive the portions are for one person.

Everything either came in a 2 qt cast iron french oven or a cute paella pan. Speaking of French the toasty, tangy & soft inside hot French bread is thee best French bread I have ever had & I go through about three loaves just mopping up their fantabulous sauces. There are heaps of pasta dishes for under $12 & I also suggest if going for their wonderful Japanese curry opt for the spaghetti instead of rice… oh my! If you don’t want to take my word for it how fantastic the pasta is PLEASE try their Omu-rice. It’s a dish I have never heard of until I’ve gone there. It’s fried rice, wrapped with an omelet on top & you can top it with anything from a pork or chicken cutlet to shrimp or beef or my favorite Uni… this is definitely a sensory experience you MUST have!

El Cochinito (best Cuban) 3508 W Sunset Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90026(323) 668-0737

Now I am from Miami so this too can be considered as biased but good food is damn good food no matter WHERE you are from! When LA people talk about Cuban food, often mentioned is Versailles. Yeah that place is great for amateurs of flavor, but if you want real down home smack-everyone-in-the-room food, that is filling, delicious & by the good-grace-of-the-ghost-of-Desi -Arnaz cheap, I suggest heading over to El Cohinito in Silverlake. Hands down this is my second favorite Cuban spot EVER! It blows away plenty of places I have had in Miami even. It’s second to my fave La Carreta in my old hood & just narrowly, beating La Caridad, a Chinese/Cuban spot I ALWAYS go to when I hit NYC. The reason it beats La Caridad is because I usually stay in Flatbush, Brooklyn, & La Caridad is in the Upper West Side in Manhattan & I loathe subways & the chances of getting a cab ride back from Manhattan to Flatbush are as good as Megan Fox winning an Oscar! I’ve had cabs refuse to take me back at 4am in front of 1 OAK & I missed my flight… that’s just RUDE!

The roast pork with moros & cristianos (mixed black beans & rice) & yucca in a tangy garlic sauce called mojo is just so incredible. Please, I repeat please always ask for a side of mojo sauce as soon as the bread comes out & dip errythang in that & I mean errythangtake some home even & spread that sweet, sweet garlic love & rub it all over your meat… yes, I use it to marinate my meat… oh what did you think I meant? TERRIBLE! The pork is spiced brilliantly & cooked perfectly. The layers of crispy, tender & juicy perfectly proportional marbled meat is just *swoon* – where are the friggin words I want to describe this?!?!? Listen, if you LOVE pork belly but are sick of dishing out the $20+ for it & it only comes on top of a frisee salad, this is definitely the place to get your porktastic fix! EVERYTHING I mean EVERYTHING on their menu is mind-blowingly good! Another favorite is the medianoche, Cuba’s national sandwich made with the decadent roast pork, topped with Swiss cheese, ham & mustard in between glorious soft Cuban bread toasted in a flat Cuban press, like a panini press sans the grill marks.

Order TWO of these, you hear me? Eat one there & take one to go so the next time you’re piss drunk & come back home there is no better meal to have. Unlike Miami when you can get Cuban food 24/7 especially this amazing sandwich… oh MAN you will be on the floor slop-PY making sweet, sweet love to this sandwich, rivaling David Hasselhoff with that gross Jack in the Crack burger! The Cuban style fried rice is KILLER as well as the bistec de palomilla (flat steak) & the garlic chicken (for $15.95 as a takeout special you can get a whole roasted garlic chicken, a large order of rice & beans & plantains…). QUE RICO!

Definitely walk into your house screaming “Lucy I’m Hoooooome” as you proudly wave the bag over your head. Sometimes on Wednesdays or Thursdays they make red bean soup you can pour that over your rice instead of the black beans, so be sure to ask for it. You can also substitute their white rice & have the yellow saffron rice with your beans. Another great tip, every winter for $14 I buy two huge orders of their chicken soup & freeze it just in case I may become too sick to make my own. Whole pieces of chicken bone & all, noodles & veggies mixed with fresh lime juice will DDT the H1N1 for sure. Don’t believe me? How many Cubans have died from the swine flu? I’ll wait. I discovered this place around the same time I discovered Noshi so I have been coming here for EONS & it always makes me feel good. Treat yourself & someone you love to one of the best flavor experiences you may ever have in your entire life.

Manouschka will return with more of her favorite LA restuarants after the new year. In the meantime, visit her at

  1. Sabrina on Friday 20, 2009

    Awesome – I’m hungry just reading this. And I must say that I have respect for any blogger using both “ridonkulous” and “You may kick your mother in the face for this one” – love it!


  1. Hello my fellow foodie!!! I'm loving your review and will post it on my twitter page. I live in my Miramar btw!! The only thing that annoyed me about the review is the Haitian restaurant. WHY are they passing themselves off as a Jamaican spot? Reggae music? Play the Kompa. Also, they mentioned JA in their "about us" section but couldn't put Haiti? Oh yes French Antiles....rolls eyes. I'm not even Haitian but this annoys me bad. Be PROUD and say it loud! I'm not a fan of Cuban food b/c I find it pretty bland but the spot above sounds pretty good!

  2. Thanks for the post & YES this is something that is VERY Haitian, an age old dilemma, like those kids that used to pass themselves off as "French Canadian" at school & as soon as you call their house, let's name this friend Barbara & her mother answers the phone "Allo, who iz dis?" I answer "Manouschka" "Oh... OK hold de phon... *she yells* BAH-BAH-WAHHHH te-le-phon"... Barbara gets to the phone all embarrassed & I'm like "French Canadian my foot!"

    I will never understand why Haitian people do this but when I questioned the folks at Kassava... & trust me I DID, especially when they had curry goat on the menu & not the brilliant Haitian version called Tassot Cabrit I almost LOST it. Because Jamaican culture is more popular & most people know of or have tried Jamaican food out here 3,000 miles away from the East coast, that's why East coasters like yourself are more savvy on the flavors. This is how the choose to market themselves.

    Kassava is passing themselves off as a Caribbean restaurant & sneaking patrons the Haitian goods & blowing them away. Pras Michel from The Fugees is one of the co-owners & this is the same method they used with their music, slapped listeners heavy with the reggae infused beats & then snuck in the Haitian, whatever's clever I'm not going to complain about it anymore... they deliver & the food is VERY authentically Haitian & damn good & once I get my own cooking show more of America will know, like yourself, how freaking GREAT it is.

    THANK YOU so much for such a powerful & so dead on comment & thank you for sharing my blog on your twitter, I am grateful beyond measure. Looking forward to hear more from you.