Welcome to The Lunch Belle, a food website/blog that views the New York City + Los Angeles dining scenes through the lens - and belly - of a highly opinionated, critical, adorably quirky, and culinary-obsessed thirty-something year old.

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Entries in Restaurant reviews (272)


Reviewed: Date night at Project Taco

Restaurant: Project Taco

  • Cuisine: "Industry" friendly quick-Mex that won't make you fat
  • Location: 6325 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles 90048
  • Pricing: $
  • What's delicious: Edamame, Wilshire Pot Roast (taco), Green Chili Pork (taco)
  • Perfect for: Al-fresco dining - food/drink specials - healthy, vegetarian friendly - quick bites - craft beer aficionados

Come for the tacos.  Stay for the craft beers.  And "Jenga night" every Wednesday.  And the *life changing* Chilli Garlic Aioli that, no joke, could be spread atop pavement and I'd still eat it!


Last Wednesday, K and I made a quick pit-stop at Project Taco's Wilshire location to deliciously coat our stomachs before heading to an event.  After ordering nearly everything on the menu, we snagged a highly coveted outdoor table, clinked our glasses (his filled with beer, mine with wine), and watched on as our neighbors engaged in a pretty serious game of Jenga.   

The first items to arrive at the table were the tortilla chips and salsa sampler, which included: Cilantro Lime Crema, Chili Garlic Aioli, Blueberry Sriracha BBQ sauce, Habanero Pineapple, and Pico De Gallo.  As I mentioned further above, the clear winner was the Chili Garlic Aioli.  Followed very closely by the Cilantro Lime Crema.  K, on the other hand, favored the Blueberry Sriracha BBQ sauce.

Chips and a salsa/dip samplerOf the tacos that I ordered, the Blueberry BBQ (pork) and the Wilshire Pot Roast (beef), I preferred the latter.  Although both meats were tender, juicy, and perfectly smoked, I found the Blueberry BBQ sauce to be slightly overpowering and sweet.  Plus, the apple-kale slaw was too crunchy and dry.  The Pot Roast, on the other hand, was married with some of my most favorite ingredients: Cilantro, onions, cheese, and that outrageously mouth-watering Chili Garlic Aioli. 

Tacos: Wilshire Pot Roast (beef), Blueberry BBQ (pork)First bite in: Blueberry BBQ tacoJust as we were finishing our tacos, K and I were presented with a gorgeous bowl of edamame.  Topped with a curiously delicious sauce/gravy.

EdamameAnd, for dessert...a duo of Strawberry Buttermilk Fonuts!

The aftermath of a yummy dinner?  I think so...


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


Reviewed: Brunch at Terrine

Restaurant: Terrine

  • Cuisine: France meets California (New American with a French accent)
  • Location: 8265 Beverly Blvd.Los Angeles 90048
  • Pricing: $$
  • What's delicious: Hand-crafted cocktails, Avocado Toast
  • Perfect for: Al-fresco dining - dine at the bar - group dining - brunch - cocktails


Having not been in Los Angeles over the span of a weekend in almost two months, there was no better way to celebrate my return than with a hearty Sunday brunch.  After going back and forth about where we should dine, Carmen suggested Terrine.  "My friends raved about it!  I'll see you there at noon, okay?"  Okay.

In typical fashion, I arrived at Terrine about 15-minutes prior to our noon reservation, as I like to take that slice of "me time" to pony up to the bar and order a drink, study the menu(s), chat with the bartender, and absorb the restaurant's atmosphere, vibe, and design... 

With an impressive space large enough to boast a full bar - plus a sizable outdoor patio - Terrine offers a dining enclave for everyone.  Exposed brick, an expansive copper-topped bar, high ceilings giving way to two walls of windows, plus shabby-chic mismatched silver and tableware truly evoke the feeling and aesthetic of a France-by-way-of-California "brasserie." 

With 10-minutes to spare, I snagged a highly-coveted bar stool and ordered a Winter Champagne Cocktail.  Crafted with hand-chipped ice, bubbly, and a "winter fruit" liquor, the beverage was crowned with a fragrant slice of orange rind prior to presentation.  

Carmen arrived promptly at noon and we were immediately whisked to a table.

To begin, we chose to split an order of the Avocado Toast.  Heavily-buttered, grilled country bread was liberally topped with chopped avocado, briny capers, tarragon "salsa verde," crunchy Maldon sea salt, olive oil and Meyer lemon, and paper-thin radish slices.  The potpourri of contrasting flavors and textures was absolutely incredible!   

Terrine: Avocado ToastWhile awaiting the arrival of our entrees, my second cocktail arrived.  The Lime Daiquiri's famous trinity of fresh ingredients - sugar, rum, lime juice - melded together in perfect harmony.  

Terrine: Lime DaiquiriWith so many delicious-sounding entrees on the menu, I was completely overwhelmed and asked that our server "surprise me" with one of her favorites.  She presented me with the Spicy Fried Chicken + Grits.  

Encircled by a sweet and savory moat filled with butter-thinned maple syrup and coarsely-ground grits were two pieces of "spicy" fried chicken.  While I thoroughly enjoyed the accoutrement, I did not find the batter on the fried chicken to be spicy in the least and, to add further disappointment, there was barely any edible meat/flesh.      

Terrine: Spicy Fried Chicken + GritsFrom their cocktail program, knowledgeable and friendly staff, great indoor/outdoor atmosphere, and food, I was very impressed with Terrine...and I say that aside from the disappointing fried chicken and the fact that I walked away from our meal slightly hungry!  In all seriousness, though, I have not experienced such intense flavors (fried chicken aside) since dining in San Francisco and NYC! 

Get. Here. Now. 


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


Reviewed: Wolfgang Puck at the Hotel Bel Air

  • Cuisine: American/Californian
  • Location: 701 Stone Canyon RdLos Angeles 90077 
  • Pricing: $$$
  • What's delicious: Seasonal pizza, Heirloom Tomato Salad
  • Perfect for: Al-fresco dining - ladies who lunch - business dining/meetings - those looking to "get away from it all," if even just for an hour or two
  • FYI: Al-fresco dining makes this stunner pet friendly-ish.  Just make sure to call and double confirm before bringing your pooch.  People watching here is DYNAMITE, so be prepared to stay long and linger.

One of the key reasons I moved to Los Angeles was to be closer to my family.  After having lived across the country for 10 years, I guess you could say that I've been making up for lost time.  Instead of seeing them 2-3 times per year, I've been racking in visits at least once/month.  Sometimes twice.

Last weekend, my mom came up from San Diego.  For a woman who used to panic about riding the "disgusting" NYC subway, it was quite surreal for me to fetch her at LA's Union Station, the local Amtrak destination.  "I don't want to deal with the traffic or driving, for that matter.  Plus, maybe I can finally delve in to this new book I started!"  

With an 11:20AM arrival, the first thing on our minds was lunch.  I wanted to treat Mom to something sophisticated, dog-friendly and, perhaps, a bit dainty; somewhere "the ladies who lunch" descend upon to catch up on gossip, have a glass of wine (or two), and people-watch.  So, what better than Wolfgang Puck at the Hotel Bel Air?

En-route to the restaurant via the hotel's gorgeous grounds, Mom and I spied a special events team prepping for a wedding that was to take place later that evening.  Apparently, it costs upwards of $115K to rent out one of the ballrooms at the Hotel Bel Air...And that's just for the space, alone!


Situated in a lush, almost tropical indoor/outdoor setting, the atmosphere at Wolfgang Puck is casually sophisticated.  

Photo credit: Haute Living dot com

With my dog, Lucy, in tow, we were promptly seated at an outdoor table.  Before I could properly situate myself, two employees approached and asked if Lucy would enjoy a water bowl and small sitting chair alongside mine.  "Why, of course!  Thank you!"  Within seconds, a folded tablecloth was laid on the ground (in the event that Lucy wanted to rest by my feet, instead) as was a sizable water bowl.  A small, folding stool was placed between Mom and my chairs, so that Lucy could relax, at my lap-level, in her doggie purse.  Mom and I felt like movie stars! 

I'd be a liar if I said that, after all of the royal treatment and attention that Lucy received, we weren't automatically sold on this place.  However, the food, wine, and service were dynamite, as well...

Moments after we placed our beverage orders - a pinot noir for me, a chardonnay for Mom - a basket filled with warm, crusty, and freshly-baked breads arrived.  A pat of spreadable, salted butter served as an accompaniment. 

In an effort to taste more items, Mom and I chose to split everything we ordered.  

Heirloom Tomato Salad Multi-colored heirloom tomatoes and bite-sized pieces of haricot verts and red onion were tossed with Tuscan olive oil and aged balsamic.  Microgreens and a sizable dollop of creamy burrata cheese crowned the colorful vegetables.

Just as we were taking our last bites of salad, our server arrived with three house-made doggie biscuits for Lucy. They certainly didn't want to leave her out of the meal! 

Summer Squash Pizza Aesthetically, this was one of, if not the most gorgeous pizzas I had ever seen.  And what's better?  It tasted just as lovely as it looked.  

Fragrant basil pesto laid the foundation for a slew of local and seasonal toppings, including: Zucchini, squash blossoms, sun-dried tomatoes, Nicoise olives, and ricotta and mozzarella cheeses.  The crust was perfectly cooked, evoking hues of golden brown and melted cheese-crusted air pockets on nearly every slice.  This delightful pie encompassed summer's bounty in every unctuous bite.

Since we split all of the vegetable-heavy savories, Mom and I felt that we did, in fact, deserve a dessert.  In keeping with somewhat of a "produce" theme, we chose to share the "Stone Fruit Soup,"  Our selection was also an ode to one of my favorite childhood books, Stone Soup.  :-)  

Stone Fruit Soup Chunks of ripe nectarines and brown sugar/oat cookie crumbles were topped with an ice cream-scoop size of snow white meringue and a ladle of "stone fruit" soup (a puree of various pitted fruits).  An edible pansy finished this breathtaking culinary presentation.

A variety of playful textures and both sweet and tangy flavors made this dessert the perfect ending to an incredibly lovely and special meal. 


Until we eat again,  

The Lunch Belle


Holey Donuts: One Donut You Won't Want to Glaze Over

Low-cal is not in my vocabulary. Diet ice cream? Portion control potato chips? Sorry, but you have no my place in my life. Let me be clear: I don't judge pastries based on how good they taste relative to their nutritional value. Sure, if I can avoid clogging my arteries, that's great. But when all is said and done, I want my pastries to taste good because that is their sole purpose.

So, you can imagine my skepticism when I was invited to try Holey Donuts!, a brand of low-calorie, low-fat donuts inhabiting their first retail store this week. Would they taste like the fake bread I eat on Passover? Would they be really good donuts that were just incredibly small? Would they be alien donuts with side effects of blue skin?

Well, first thing's first, I was taken aback to discover that the donuts were big. Aha, I thought, so portion control isn't the secret. This is going to taste like the pastries they served in synagogue growing up. Right? Wrong. A Holey Donut tastes like a donut because it is a donut. I kept chewing, waiting for a catch. Zilch. These were definitely donuts: sweet, sticky, chewy, and round. 

A Bay Ridge native and self-declared "Brooklyn boy", Frank Dilullo comes by his donut entrepreneurship honestly. He's no stranger to the world of the fried: Frank's father was one of the original Dunkin' Donuts franchisees back in 1958. Growing up sneaking clandestine bites of freshly-made donut "with the icing on top still wet," Frank owned several Dunkin' Donuts stores before selling them to start Holey Donuts!. "It was an accident, really. I was by the fryer, and I made the donut a different way than we usually did. I tasted it, and I was like, 'holy shit!' That's where Holey Donuts! comes from. 'Holy cow' will also work," he says, his eyes lighting up with that Brooklyn boy mischief. "Well, how do you make them?" I pressed. "That I can't tell you, but it's a twenty-two step process. Half of the work is done at our factory in Brooklyn, the other half here in the store." He wasn't lying. Every donut is customized on the spot, and goes from being dough to art. Already a successful online brand, the Holey Donuts! retail store looks like a day spa for donuts with jars full of fresh filling ready to be pumped into the fritters. It's like reverse liposuction for donuts. 

"I once had a baked donut," I confessed. "It didn't taste very good." "People tell me stuff like that all the time, and I'm like, if a donut is baked, it's a bagel. A lot of the time with low-cal foods, brands try to disguise it. Of course our donuts are going to have carbs and sugar. They're donuts! We just don't prepare them quite the same way."

I'm dying to reveal my donut-making conspiracy theories here, but I digress... In addition to donuts, Holey Donuts! has cinnamon buns, coffee, and juice. The store plans on staying open fairly late; think 10PM on the weekdays, and midnight on the weekends. "Or," Frank says, "until we're out of donuts." The store doesn't accept cash in an effort to keep things as germ-free as possible (my kind of place, hey there Jewish neuroses), and has a good amount of seating. Located in in a pink-splattered, spacious store in the West Village, Holey has a good shot of wracking up success.

Frank and his crew sent me home with several boxes of goodies, making me queen for a day in the office. To be on Holey Donuts! grand opening guest list, email info@holeydonuts.net, with 'guest list' in the subject line. Word on the street is that there will be goodies a' plenty.


Until we eat again, 

Aliza Kellerman for The Lunch Belle

Aliza Kellerman is an NYC based booze & food writer, an employed twenty-something, and an avid kvetcher. She sips and noshes her way through misadventures while befriending strangers and discovering new interests. Check out her blog at here, follow her here, and browse her portfolio here.


Aroma Espresso Bar: Way beyond coffee

Look, if anyone "gets" routine, it's me.  But if you're as sick of the same old deli meat and Swiss sandwich or make-your-own-salad as I am, consider shaking up your lunch rotation. 

On Wednesday night, about ten food bloggers/press and I were invited to a media tasting at Aroma Espresso Bar.  And believe you me, there was much more to be sampled than day-old pastries and pre-packaged sandwiches.  Started in Israel in the late 90's, Aroma quickly spread throughout the small country before opening its first US location in 2006.  Right here in NYC's Soho neighborhood!  And, since then, the small chainlet has launched stores in New Jersey, Miami, and Maryland. 

Aroma Espresso Bar: Getting the party started with homemade lemonadeAroma Espresso Bar: Garbanzo Salad - garbanzo beans, hard-boiled egg, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, homemade garlic croutons, tahini sauce, parsley, and lemon-olive oil dressingAroma Espresso Bar: Bourekas! These delightful savory pastries are Bulgarian in decsent and filled with potato, feta, or spinach. Dynamite!Aroma Espresso Bar: California Chicken Sandwich - chicken breast, avocado, fresh mozzarella cheese, fried egg, Aroma sauce, house-baked breadAroma Espresso Bar: Halumi Sandwich - grilled Halumi cheese, cream cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, and house-baked breadAroma Espresso Bar: Rich, decadent, warm, and oh so ooey-gooey chocolate chip/walnut and double chocolate cookiesAroma Espresso Bar: Alfajores - a soft Latin American cookie that sandwiches a thick layer of dulce de lecheAroma Espresso Bar: Traditional brownies - served warm and laced with walnut nibsThe jury is still out on which item I liked best - the bourekas - the halumi sandwich - or the halvah pastries (not pictured).  Luckily, I don't have to choose just one! 

I'm thrilled to know that there is an Aroma Espresso Bar located so close to my office.  Well, it's kind of scary, actually.  My girlish figure!  Anyhoo, I foresee many future lunches - and snack breaks - filled with decadent cups of hot chocolate, frozen mint lemonade, spinach bourekas, halumi sandwiches, halvah pastries, and those warm, gooey chocolate-chocolate chip cookies.  Drool.


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


Brunching uptown at The District

When it comes to the Upper East Side, especially above 82nd Street, I couldn't tell you much in terms of restaurants (south of Spanish Harlem, of course).  Or bars.  Or anything, for that matter... 

Sure, my friend, Brette, and Cousin Larry live up there, but we typically meet downtown.  That was, until last Sunday, when Larry insisted upon brunch/lunch at his neighborhood's newest gastropub, The District, which hugs the corner of 94th Street/3rd Avenue.  Having met in front of the restaurant promptly at 11am, I was we were disappointed to learn that it didn't actually open until noon.  To kill time, we walked over to Asphalt Green so I that could check out the Olympic-sized indoor pool.   

The Olympic-sized indoor pool at Asphalt GreenWe arrived at The District just before noon and were seated immediately.  

The DistrictIn terms of the aesthetic interior space, The District knocks it out of the park:  High, antique mirrored-ceilings, exposed brick walls, floor-to-ceiling paned windows, and gothic/cathedral-inspired decor. 

*During brunch service, one Bloody Mary or Mimosa is included with your meal.*  Since Larry instead opted for Diet Coke, I downed both my and his Mimosas.  Coming in to the meal, there wasn't really a question as to what I would order.  Larry had preached and swore up and down that The District was home to the city's *best* burger.  And I wanted to see if he knew what he was talking about... 

The District: le menuThe District: cheeseburger & friesIt's as sexy as a cheeseburger could look - or sound - on a plate:  Shredded romaine lettuce, a thick tomato slice, a ground brisket-patty encased in melted American cheese, caramelized onions, and a schmear of homemade garlic aioli were sandwiched between toasted brioche bun-halves.  

For a moment, I hesitated after telling the waitress that I'd like my burger cooked "medium."  I just assumed that it would be served as I had requested.  Alas...my patty was well-done.  Sigh.

The District: Grey meat = well done.Larry was also surprised to see that his patty was not cooked "medium rare."  However, after one bite turned in to three, I decided that it would be too late to send my burger back to the kitchen.  Plus, I had already eaten about half of my serving of, quite possibly, the best French fries this side of Pommes Frites.  And the garlic aioli?  Dynamite.   

While I was disappointed that both my and Larry's patties were cooked incorrectly, I would definitely return to The District to a) give the burger another chance (it has *major* potential if cooked properly), and b) to check out the after-work scene.  Apparently, it's the place to be uptown!  Even Urban Daddy says so!

The District - 1679 Third Avenue (at 94th Street) - NYC


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle