I usually eat lunch in the Santa Monica-Venice area or, less often, in Pacific Palisades. There are so many wonderful restaurants in Santa Monica that I’m often stumbling into one spectacular restaurant after another. This week my family and I went to Clutch, after I noticed a beautiful smoker in their parking lot last week when I parked there illegally to go to the Baby Blue BBQ across the street. Clutch is at 427 Lincoln Blvd. technically in Venice.

So we went for smoked foods. But we found much more. The Mexican food was very good, especially the ceviche. We were there before 7 p.m., so we got the happy hour specials which included wonderful, tasty small tortillas, some served with this delicious ceviche, and others with the smoky pulled pork. The seafood on the menu also looked very interesting, such as fire grilled lobster tail, mesquite grilled oysters, and fire grilled octopus.

But the best dish was the smoked pork ribs. Lots of smoky flavor, cooked almost crisp with all the fat burnt off, and three delicious sauces, the habanero too hot to handle.

What more is there to say? It’s not beautiful, it’s small and not so comfortable, it was quite loud. But the service was good and the prices really reasonable. A big sandwich runs $14-16, Draft beers are about $8, and everything seems discounted at happy hour! We will be back there soon.

That all said, once in a while my son Spencer, who teaches Japanese and Chinese culture, and I go into one of the Asian centers to see what’s new. Last month we were treated to a great tour of Korea Town by Penny at Avital Tours. I highly recommend both that tour and that company, which does other tours as well.

The first stop was a typical Korean BBQ at Gwang Yang at 3435 Wilshire Blvd. There was nothing unusual about this choice, but the cuisine was first class. I had been there before with Korean friends who claimed it as their favorite restaurant.

Next was The Prince, which brought back memories. The Prince is located in what was once the Windsor restaurant, perhaps the best serious French restaurant of its day. Nothing has changed except the menu, which is now Korean. The interior is so beautiful, and like nowhere else I know in Los Angeles. The food was average except for the spicy marinated chicken wings, which were delicious.

Escala was something very different. It’s a hangout for central Americans but with Korean influence. There was quite a mixed crowd there, and the food was also a mix of Korean and Central American dishes. We had a rice dish which was OK, but I saw others eating much more complex dishes that I couldn’t identify, and I vowed to return someday and find out more.

Finally we ended up in another historic landmark, this time an interior courtyard inside a building from the 1930s I guess, at 3465 W. 6th St. The courtyard was quite large, with cars circling through it, and about 10 or 12 commercial spaces. There was a long line to get into one Korean restaurant, and when I asked someone in the line why she said it was owned by a famous Korean comedian and he might be there that night.

We had Korean desserts at the Snow Monster. I stopped in to one other tenant, which turned out to be a beautiful sushi restaurant. And there were a number of other food sellers as well as clothing and other retail stores inside the courtyard.

It wasn’t just the food that made the tour so great. We learned a lot about the history of Los Angeles, and saw some beautiful historic buildings that I had never noticed.

Isn’t Los Angeles wonderful?

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Merv Hecht, like many Harvard Law School graduates, went into the wine business after law. In 1988, he began writing restaurant reviews and books. His latest book is “The Instant Wine Connoisseur” and it is available on Amazon. Or you might like his attempt at humor in “Great Cases I Lost.” He currently works for several companies that source and distribute food and wine products internationally. Please send both positive accolades and negative comments to: mervynhecht@yahoo.com.

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