Breakfast in Los Angeles can be a real eye-opener: Without ever leaving town, we can sample what the rest of the world really eats when they get out of bed. We are not talking about dim sum or croissants; in Los Angeles, adventurous eaters can start the day with Lebanese kunafa bi jibna , a northern or a southern Chinese meal, Central American banana empanadas or Vietnamese pho . The food is exciting--and it offers an introduction to the unexpected treasures to be found in L.A.'s amazingly diverse neighborhoods.
MIDDLE EASTERN AND ARABIC
Panos must be the best Middle Eastern bakery in Los Angeles. The baklava is crisper, lighter and fresher than you've ever had--a result of the hand-stretched filo dough made there daily. Panos' breakfast offering, kunafa bi jibna , a morning favorite throughout the Levant, is made with equal care. First, kadaif (the pastry resembling shredded wheat) is baked with butter and sugar to a praline-like consistency and crumbled over a huge circle of full-cream mozzarella cheese; this is then baked and anointed ever so lightly with rosewater-flavored syrup.
When you order, a generous wedge of the baked cheese is stuffed into a special, very thin, sesame-seed-sprinkled pita that has a hole at the bottom resembling a handle. You can request more syrup if you'd like a sweeter breakfast. Panos once had a seating area, but they've removed it so this delightful breakfast is now strictly to-go. Coffee is available.
Panos Pastry, 4945 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, (213) 661-0335. Breakfast daily 8 a.m.-noon.
Put Habash, a coffee shop turned Arabic cafe, on your list of highly rated breakfast spots to try some morning when you wake up hungry with an appetite for adventure. Even simple things like scrambled eggs are sprinkled with freshly minced parsley and onion, and served with freshly grated potatoes and diced tomatoes on the side. This is a nice departure from frozen hashed browns. The homemade pepper relish that accompanies each breakfast will put a twinkle in your eye. But the cafe's morning piece de resistance is makluta , an enormous portion of eggs, spiced lamb, potato chunks, tomatoes, onions, plenty of chopped parsley and spices all scrambled together. Pita bread is served on the side and that hot relish was made for this dish. Feta cheese and falafel omelets are other tempting menu entries.
Habash Cafe, 233 Pacific Coast Highway, Hermosa Beach, (213) 376-6620. Breakfast from 7 a.m. Mon.-Sat.
The last time I enjoyed Danish pastry was in Copenhagen. Spoiled by the quality there, I've rejected most of the sad, flabby disks parading as "Danish" served here. But I'm eating it again now that I've discovered the Danish Pastry bakery and cafe. Each creation is puffy, light and meltingly flaky, judiciously filled--enough to accent but not overwhelm the pastry. Be warned, all prudence will vanish once you enter. I always have to order the apple and custard pastry--and as long as I'm going to splurge I might just as well have the almond-filled bear claw or maybe the cream-cheese and lemon--and there are still six kinds left to try. Since I can't have all my favorites in one sitting, I'll end up taking home a few of the feathery, light buns, barely sweetened and redolent of freshly ground cardamom or cinnamon. And, of course, I need at least one coffee cake--perhaps the fragrant almond and orange, just in case someone drops by.
The Danish Pastry's secluded, latticed patio makes Pico Boulevard seem far away. While you spread your newspaper and sip coffee, you might even imagine you're in Tivoli Gardens.
The Danish Pastry, 11726 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 473-8626. Breakfast from 7 a.m Mon.-Sat.
Walk through the back door of Konditori, on your way to the patio for an alfresco breakfast, and you're bound to be famished before you're even seated. For you will have to pass sparkling glass cases filled with rows of beautiful smorrebrod and home-made Danish pastries, a sight to rouse the most lethargic morning appetite. Enchanted, and feeling a bit extravagant, I began breakfast with a little bowl of fresh raspberries; they're served all year round, as is freshly squeezed orange juice. Also available is a delightful smoked salmon plate--lox with capers, onions, and scrambled eggs--or a smoked trout plate. These are accompanied by toast made with white or rye bread fresh from Konditori's own ovens.
Konditori Restaurant, 230 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena, (818) 792-8044. Breakfast Mon.-Fri. from 7:30 a.m., Sunday from 8.
For years, La Adelita gathered attention as the best place to buy hand-patted tortillas . They still make them--but now the offerings at the recently acquired bakery and cafe have been broadened to include a toothsome selection of goodies from all over Central America. These are prepared with a certain panache, giving an updated slant to traditional foods.