Los Angeles is rarely credited with the ethnic diversity of New York and Chicago, yet it has residents from 140 countries who speak more than 90 different languages.
Over the last decade, the city has started to recognise many of its ethnic enclaves by designating them as standalone neighbourhoods. For the adventurous gourmand, they're one of the best places to sample that culture's cuisine.
Here are four lesser-known districts and some of their culinary highlights.
Wedged between Hollywood Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard in East Hollywood, this vibrant neighbourhood is a great spot for authentic Middle Eastern fare.
The area's standout is Carousel (5112 Hollywood Boulevard), a Lebanese restaurant in an unremarkable looking plaza that has an unexpected celebrity following (Jay Z and Beyonce have dined there and the Kardashians are regulars). Go for the signature beef kebab and it'll come with freshly grilled pita, tangy cabbage coleslaw and lashings of hummus and tabbouleh.
For a cheap snack on the run, check out Sasoun Bakery (5114 Santa Monica Boulevard), a simple, no-frills store with only eight menu items. Try the cheese borek, a flatbread seasoned with herbs and filled with gooey melted cheese, or the lahmajune, a thin bread covered in minced beef, herbs and vegetables – both a bargain at less than $2.
At only one-block long, Little Ethiopia is LA's smallest ethnic district, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in authenticity. Stroll along Fairfax Avenue, between Olympic Boulevard and Whitworth Drive, and you'll find half a dozen establishments serving traditional Ethiopian cuisine. What exactly is that you may ask? Mainstays include wat, a thick, spicy beef, chicken or vegetable curry, and kitfo, minced raw meat marinated in clarified butter and fiery spices (tastier than it sounds).
Rosalind's (1044 S Fairfax Avenue, rosalindsrestaurant.com) is one of the neighbourhood's oldest establishments and has a lively bar and a menu that also veers into Ghanaian and Nigerian cuisine. Another local institution is Messob (1041 S Fairfax Avenue, messob.com), where you'll find diners engaging in the traditional practice of hand-feeding each other morsels of food wrapped in injera, a thin, spongy fermented bread. Round off your night with a cup of toe-curlingly strong Ethiopian coffee, made from beans roasted over an open fire at your table.
Another tiddler when compared to the likes of Chinatown and Koreatown, Little Bangladesh is a four-block stretch of 3rd Street between Alexandria and New Hampshire avenues. Although the area only gained its official designation in 2010, Bangladeshi immigrants have been settling here since the 1970s.
Anthony Bourdain might have put Swadesh (4153 W 3rd Street) on the map when he visited in 2013 for his TV show Parts Unknown but it's been a favourite of the city's cab drivers for years. The no-frills cafeteria is located inside a grocery store and is famous for its spicy goat curry and tender tandoori chicken.
One of the few eateries in the area not to double-up as a store is Biriyani Kabob House (3525 W 3rd St, biriyanikabobhouse.com). You'll find a wide range of biriyanis and kebabs on the menu plus traditional crowd pleasers such as chicken tikka masala and lamb korma. Leave space for dessert – the delicious creamy rice pudding comes flavoured with vanilla and cinnamon.
Known interchangeably as Little Persia, Persian Square and Tehrangeles, this section of Westwood Boulevard between Wilshire and Pico boulevards is peppered with restaurants specialising in Persian cuisine.
A good place to start is Shamshiri Grill (1712 Westwood Boulevard, shamshiri.com), an upmarket eatery with an open kitchen where you can watch the chefs grilling kebabs over an open flame. The menu is vast, ranging from curries to shawarmas to stews, but a standout is the Shirin Polo, an aromatic saffron-flavoured dish served with basmati rice mixed with almonds, pistachios and orange peel.
For something more casual, try Attari Sandwich Shop (1388 Westwood Boulevard, atarisandwiches.info), a local institution that serves authentic Persian sandwiches (tongue is the most popular but there's also brain for the more adventurous) plus kebabs and salads.
For dessert, pop across the road to Saffron & Rose (1387 Westwood Boulevard). Rosewater is the secret ingredient that gives its delicious homemade ice cream its delicate fragrant sweetness.
Qantas flies to Los Angeles from Sydney and Melbourne. See qantas.com.au
The hip and trendy Line Hotel is the ideal base for exploring Koreatown and LA's other ethnic enclaves. Rooms from around $320. See thelinehotel.com
Rob McFarland was a guest of LA Tourism
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