Visiting Time for Relatives and Friends Plus Exciting Wine Values For The Holidays. Our Most Comprehensive FAF in 13 Years





Here we go again for “That Time Of The Year” when the spirits flow as do the wines.Topping the list as always this time of the yearareare Sparklers and where  they come from, France,Spain,

In recent years Champagne has experienced explosive growth and a tremendous range of pricing. Thus the classic “Methode Champenois” double fermentation can by found in wineries worldwide. The United States ,Spain and Italy are now prime producers of Sparkling wine . It cannot be called Champagne unless it is grown, pressed and aged in that small area 60 miles East of Paris. But remarkable progress has been made in the above countries with accompanying very competitive pricing.


9021Pho Is Back With a Bang

 9021PHO created by Asian Superchef Kimmy Tang reopened on August 18 at its new location at “The Lakes” adjacent to The Thousand Oaks Entertainment Center on Thousand Blvd.

Kimmy brought her unequalled, healthy non gluten food yet sophisticated Viet cuisine with touches of French, Chinese and California 2 years ago to the off Lindero location but quickly outgrew that space which was also hindered by limited parking.

The very comfortable and convenient new high ceilinged room encourages conversation even when the restaurant is busy. Food is served quickly from an open stainless steel kitchen.

Pho kitchen_edited-1Kimmy as seen above in the orange head scarf escaped from Saigon with her parents during the Viet Nam war and wound up (after a soujorn in a Filipino Rescue Camp) in “Downtown??? Bakersfield”???? However her amazing wanderlust and inquisitive mind enabled, her somehow to travel the world with stints in all parts of Europe and Asia resulting in a current menu that appeals to all. It should be of special interest for those who like and think Chinese Food but often find it too oily and heavy. 9021 Pho features lean meats,fresh poultry, fish  and  vegetables that will leave you culinarily enriched yet not uncomfortable. Of course, it lives up to its name by always offering giant bowls of the now ubiquitous PHO soups with multiple ingredient choices for around $9.95. It cannot be consumed by one person and easily feeds 2 for lunch. Small bowls can be added to entrée courses for $3.95. The artful, colorful and extensive menu offers fun lunches, exclusive tantalizing Asian  rolls and other appetizers plus salads and a wide variety of Asian main courses featuring crustaceans, chicken, pork, beef and wonderful noodle dishes…  plus unusual flavorful Asian fruit and Ice cream oriented desserts. All portions are very generousl. Thus we rarely leave without a container of PHO and a selection of food available for the next night’s dining at home. Wide choices of wine, sake and beer are fairly priced as is main menu comparable prices that are similar to most Chinese restaurants but in a dramatically superior ambience with charming service to match. Be prepared to be amazed. Children are very welcome and always seem to have fun. Location : The Lakes – Parking- Primarily in the rear -Plentiful Phone 805-494-6633 Most Credit Cards Accepted 10-7 ad best_edited-1




in the 14 years in Ventura County that we have  been writing, the most asked for question has been….Where are the best Mexican Restaurants? And the amazing thing has been that while Sushi Bars, Pizza Joints, and even Thai and Indian restaurants have increased , Mexican dining spots have gone downhill   In Oxnard after 50 years, the oldest in the county closed. In the Conejo, there  have been many fast in and outers. Many!!!

But one Mexican  restaurant deservedly has survived on  It is the widely acclaimed  Los Dos Amigos .  It is at 1421 EastThousand Oaks Blvd. The selection of authentic choices is very wide and very fairly priced. It further has a fine choice of fish soups that satisfy your taste buds. Every employee is truly Mexican and friendly. The room makes you think you are dining in a neighborhood spot in Mexico City. 1/2 the customers are Mexican families. The others in the room seem to have been coming for years. Margaritas are priced rigtht 

Good… Very… is our rating

Bad… is our rating of those few in and outers on T.0 and Los Arboles Blvd., Lupe’s is a prime example of a dining spot that is around but has gone downhill. 

Then strangely  in the last 2 years 2 upscale “gourmet??” Mexican spots have opened in  distinctly non Mexican but upscale locations. In our visits to both of  them ( Sabor and Casa Escobar) the diners seemed more interested in the bar and the Margaritas.  

There were no serious Latino diners in either place for two reasons . Our professional review  is that the the food in both places is merely OK. But with one Cadillac Margarita each the bill for my wife and me and came to 85 dollars at each one . And We are not talking about Mastro’s. They are however slightly less haughty for the money than Mastro’s 

INDIFFERENT… is our rating, probably  somewhat less of an authentic feel and certainly more than I would pay anywhere for Mexican food. 

If you found some Secret alternatives please e- mail me at


Kaminari for Serious Sushi

It is amazing. After 13 years of, the question most asked is “What is the best Sushi Bar in the Ventura County Area?” That would seem to be and is a tough question since sadly there are almost as many supposed “Japanese”  sushi bars in the county now as there are low end chain Pizza joints and with quality often ranging toward those lower at a similar level. And we have checked out just about every one of any potential from Calabasas to Oxnard.

But if the owner and ALL Sushi chefs are not native Japanese, we walk. We lived in Japan ate lots of true Sushi there and do speak fluent Japanese

And thus what we discovered is that because of a shortage of TRULY trained  (10 years prox) in  Japan “Sushiyas”, most of the current crop are non-Japanese Asians faking that they are Japanese Sushi Chefs. Not one of them that we talked to has ever been been near the world famous Tsukiji Fish market in Tokyo and their expertise begins and ends with slicing the dreaded “California” or “Ventura Roll”. If that is your style don’t bother to read further.

But if you are “Serious About Sushi” Kaminari (Japanese for Thunder) in Westake Village stands out from all the rest. When you enter this small room, you will be transported to the Ginza in Tokyo. You will be greeted by a charming diminutive Japanese server. Behind the bar are 2 true Sushi Masters who have been on this job  for a decade plus Chef Owner Hidekazu   with 40 plus years of slicing, chopping and squeezing behind him. He is also at the downtown fish market every morning with his Japanese Tsukiji trained eye selecting the freshest and best fish available. He will not accept Santa Barbara Sea Urchin (uni) unless it measures up to his high standards.The same goes for all the Ngiri sushi served as well as the very creative rolls that are also on the menu. He is as good as they comie!

Service is the best. But there can be a wait on weekends.

If you know what you want, you will immediately recognize the difference. If you are an adventurer, consider ordering “Omakase” which is Chef’s Choice while indicating a price limit starting with a low of at least $50 per person while adding your own special choices  such as Toro (BlueFin Tuna) or that very special Sea Urchin (Uni).

Avoid the “All You Can Eat, On a Revolving Belt or Near The Water Hustlers”  You will get a lot of rice, soy sauce and very little True Fresh Fish

Kaminari is slightly higher in price than others but absolutely worth it for the serious Sushi Lover.


2891 Agoura Road, Westlake Village 91361
(Actually on Village Glen)
Most Credit Cards   Convenient Free Parking  



Drago Centro

The renaissance of downtown Los Angeles appears to be amazing. Philanthropists appear to have saved MOCA from outside interference and are embarking on exciting purchases.  Aside from The traditional  Dorothy Chandler , Ahmansohn and Mark Taper offerings of musicals and plays, the recently added exciting  Disney Hall now features very sophisticated  levels of music at the highest levels. Classic, Contemporary and Jazz consistently sells out its architecturally appealing  and acoustically tuned auditorium. Add in Staples Center and The Nokia theater a few blocks south and now hordes of residents at all ages from Calabasas West to Ventura are consistently enticed by these multiple choices. But then they face that dreaded drive East down the 101 with a 50-50 chance of arriving late. There is a solution !!!

Beat the traffic and ensure a stress free evening by dining EARLY downtown, 5 quick minutes away from all the above attractions A few years ago good dining choices were slim and expensive. But today there is a wide range from which to chose and we have dined at most of them. But we recently came upon a choice that we think is  very practical in many ways. Drago Centro offers very authentic Italian cuisine in a charmingly wide price range that is cheerfully served in a spectacular if slightly noisy setting.

>drago interior

You see, Celestino Drago is one of the finest creative Italian Chefs in this country and has been around Los Angeles for 3 decades starting with a small store front on South Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills before opening a very hot upscale location in Santa Monica. He has also assisted all his brothers by putting the Drago stamp on low key Enoteca Drago Pasta in Beverly Hills,  Panzanella in Sherman Oaks,  Celestino’s in Pasadena  and Tanino in Westwood. Celestino personally will soon be adding another for himself on Sunset in Hollywood.

But he is now concentrating all of his efforts downtown. At dinner you can choose wonderful pastas such as fettuccine with squid ink at less than $20. Tantalizing and sophisticated entrees of Chicken, Duck, Fresh Albacore, Salmon, Mediterranean Branzino and Steak are fairly priced from $27 to $36. The 5 Course Tasting Menu at $70 is the evening bargain of downtown. The very large wine list is fairly priced.

Drago Centro is open for lunch with  prices on Pasta as low a $12! plus a 3 course business lunch that is value priced at $25. Validated Parking is in the building directly below. However be aware that Drago is on the West side of South Flower just South of  5th street and the parking is immediately after passing 5th street. If you miss the parking location you may waste 15 minutes making the circle back.

Drago Centro 525 South Flower Street-213-228-8998- Most Credit Cards- Drago




Further Comments:

Before Drago opened, The Water Grill was our favorite downtown choice. It may be the best fish restaurant in the state.  Great choice of crustaceans. Very Professional but friendly service. Dining Room is a bit out of touch. Expensive.213-891-0900. 544 South Grand.

Patina at The Music Center: FuggedAboudid! Overpriced, overrated, arrogant. Only benefit is valet parking at the ground level entrance that gets you in and out of The Disney Hall in a hurry.

Rivera on Flower is the great John Sedlar’s latest. Many think he has been the most creative chef in Los Angeles in the last 25 years . Food leans toward upscale Mexican and can be a bit spicy. at upper end of pricing scale.

Some one else picking up the tab?? Consider spectacular  WP24 at very nearby Staples and Nokia. It may be the most expensive Chinese food anywhere….period.  But the food measures up to the spectacular room, view and  unequalled service. Save a few bucks by going early and sitting in the bar area and choose small plates as the sun sets over the city. Do it at least once in a life time. Easy Valet parking at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel below. 213-7438824

Cicada may be in the most beautiful dining room in the state. It emulates the dining room of the opulent Rex Steam Ship of Italy.  But for the price the food may not match  up to the ambiance. Prompt in and out Valet parking is a time convenience

Bargains-Pizza etc. Maria’s Kitchen now has a location in the area offering somewhat fast food at Maria’s prices. Easy underground parking in the building. Calori nearby is a small warm Italian family spot but usually jammed. Chinese Food is a few blocks away. CBS Seafood is best choice. It is not the typical tourist joint of Chinatown. Japantown with a wide choice of very authentic and fairly priced Sushi, Shabu Shabu and Tempura  is also very close by but parking is annoying. R23 is far and away the hot choice but a very tough reservation at any time .