By Lisa Rosen
With residents from more than 140 countries, Los Angeles County is among the most multicultural places in the U.S., a creative mecca rich in international influences and a global destination for emerging culinary trends. It’s easy to feel like a globetrotter without leaving greater L.A. Dreaming of Italy? You might take a romantic gondola ride around Naples in Long Beach to enjoy the illusion that you’re on a Venetian holiday. Long to see Asia? Visit Hsi Lai Temple, a sprawling mountain monastery in Hacienda Heights with architecture and statuary in the traditional style of the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Such international flavor makes L.A. County an ideal home base for Samara Bay, a dialect coach who has worked with numerous stars, including Gal Gadot, Rachel McAdams, and Penélope Cruz. Bay also coaches public figures in business and politics, and explains her revolutionary style in her debut book, Permission to Speak: How to Change What Power Sounds Like, Starting with You. Always eager to expand her perspective and her palate, Bay enjoys exploring the city’s many multiethnic offerings. Here, she shares some of her favorite spots.
Best Japanese Sake: Ototo in Echo Park. “Ototo is a tiny little hole-in-the-wall on Allison Avenue, so you feel special when you find it. In addition to a huge sake collection, they’re famous for their okonomiyaki, a savory cabbage pancake. A Japanese friend said their okonomiyaki is better than any she’s had in Japan.”
Best Oaxacan: Guelaguetza in Koreatown. “The James Beard Award–winning Guelaguetza is a super authentic Oaxacan restaurant on Olympic Boulevard. They’re known for their mole, but dining here is about the decor as well as the food. It’s filled with banners, cacti, bright tablecloths, and murals. Talk about transportive—you feel like you’re stepping into another world.”
Best French Bistro: Cafe Stella in Silver Lake. “Cafe Stella is a proper French cafe on Sunset Boulevard. The atmosphere is dark and romantic and dreamy. You can see yourself talking philosophy over a late-night espresso. They even have escargot. The whole menu’s in French. If you don’t just want mussels, but you want moules frites, got to Cafe Stella.”
Best European Art Collection: Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. “With their Van Goghs and Picassos, I feel like I’ve found a new room in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris when I’m here. It’s wild to stand a few inches away from a piece of art you’ve seen replicas of your whole life.”
Best Exotic Gardens: Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino. “My family and I love to visit the Chinese and Japanese gardens. My seven-year-old will say, ‘I want to go to China today.’ We walk through a rose garden that feels very British, and then suddenly we’re in China. It’s just gorgeous. Right next to it is the Japanese garden, with cherry blossoms and bamboo. Their fidelity to the natural flora is spectacular.”