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Poolside's Filip Nikolic on Mezcal Buzzes and Eating in LA

Welcome to Sound Cheque, where we sit down with one of our favorite bands to get the scoop on their city-by-city dining picks.

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Jeffrey Paradise and Filip Nikolic [Photo: Poolside]

The duo Poolside call their music daytime disco. Pitchfork described their first album "Pacific Standard Time" as having a "tempo and temperament that call to mind images of a palatial California, where the water is as clear as the sun is bright and the slow drip of time is inconsequential." It's groovy, perfectly-produced stuff that doesn't pretend to be deep, much less dark. As the band gets ready to finish their sophomore album — and while LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy continues to make their cover of Neil Young's "Harvest Moon" a staple of his DJ sets — member Filip Nikolic talked to Eater about what he likes to eat and drink. Turns out he seeks out good food in L.A. in the same way a good DJ tracks down his records: asking friends in the know, scouring the internet, and occasionally just seeing a place and giving it a try. Below, he discusses his LA repertoire, consisting of everything from taco stands in Echo Park to eccentric sushi spots.

What's the last good meal you had?
There is a place right near my studio here in Los Angeles called Tropicalia. I go there a lot. They have a happy hour where the food is basically half the price, which is a crazy deal. They do Brazilian food. I think it's a really underrated restaurant for Los Feliz. Last time, I had a skirt steak with black beans and plantains, with a cilantro and pickled chili sauce.

What else do you like in Los Angeles?
There's lots of stuff I like, but the first thing that comes to mind are the taco trucks. That's the first thing I get when I come back to the city.

What are some of the ones you like?
I live in Echo Park, and there are three trucks right near me that are wonderful. There's one called Tacos Arizas. They have a chorizo burrito that is mind-blowingly good. They make the chorizo themselves. It's quite spicy and coarse, not liquidy. They add cilantro, onions, and beans. There are two other places: Taco Zone and then Flaming Tacos, which does Mexico-city style al pastor tacos.

My favorite taco stand, by far, I accidentally recently discovered. It's in Highland Park. I was actually going to another restaurant, but it was closed. I suddenly saw this table across the street that was super busy and decided to go. While I was on line, I met these guys who were just finishing up a taco tour of Los Angeles. They said that this place was hands-down the best. It doesn't even have a name.

Where is it?
It's on Avenue 56 and York Boulevard. I drive there to go get it. It's an old lady who makes the tortillas from scratch. What's great about this city is that you can live here for a decade and still run into new places.

What are some places besides the taco stands?
I had a girlfriend who was obsessed with really good sushi, and she was friends with Eric from Tim and Eric. They were both obsessed with sushi, so they took me to Nozawa, which is closed now, but it was really amazing. But the thing is, when it closed down, I got in touch with one of my good friend's managers, who wrote two books about sushi in L.A., to see where I should go. He didn't much like Nozawa, so he told me about this place called Shibucho.

Tell me about that place.
It's a really weird sushi place. It's in a shitty neighborhood, on like Beverly Boulevard right next to a 7-11 and a warehouse. It's not an area where you'd like to drop into a random restaurant. But the place is amazing. It's this albino Japanese chef who is obsessed with sushi and obsessed with France. The wine list is all French and really expensive. You can order à la carte or he can set up a meal based on the wine you pick. Usually, the dinner will cost three times the price of what the wine costs, which can get crazy.

How does the French obsession play into it?
The sushi is really nice quality, but occasionally he'll throw in a French dish. He'll give you sashimi one minute and follow it up with a piece of baguette with brie. It doesn't make any sense, but it's delicious. I had a friend who was about to quit his job and went and spent 3,000 dollars on his company card there. He said it was the best meal of his life.

Any other places?
There's one restaurant that's pretty new that I keep being really impressed by. It's called Black Hogg, in Silverlake.

What do they serve?
It's basically like a modern small plates restaurant, if I have to describe it as anything. The times I've been there, I've been super impressed by everything. They do this five leche bread pudding, which is insane.

So somehow more than the traditional tres leches.
I don't even know how they do it, but it's five, yeah. It's amazing. It's served slightly lukewarm, and it's just perfect.

Another thing I should point out: my studio is in the back of my friend's house, and she's a trained vegan/vegetarian chef. She does these vegan gourmet pop-up dinners, and they're really, really good. Since the studio is in the back house, I get to be the guinea pig. It's quite impressive. It's called Castle Gourmet.

How is eating like on tour for you?
Back in the day, it was really hard to find places while on tour. I have to say, Yelp has been useful in areas that are really hard to know in the sea of McDonald's and Applebee's.

What are some notable spots?
In Seattle, we always go to Paseo. They do excellent Cuban sandwiches. It's a tiny little shack, and they do the best Cuban sandwich you'll ever have. That's a stop every time I'm in Seattle.

There's a place Jeff took me to in San Francisco called Sebo, since he is friends with the chef. It's a sushi place. The guy isn't Japanese, but it is some of the best sushi I have ever had. I can definitely recommend that place.

I've heard that you guys really like mezcal.
A lot, yeah. I don't know how it happened, but when Poolside started, we were doing a lot of drinking. We discovered at one point that we were really into mezcal. We drank so much of that stuff during the first album recording. I kept all the empty bottles. There's a company called Del Maguey, and we actually prefer one of the cheaper ones. It's called Vida. I love how it doesn't get you as drunk as other things. Our friend described it well: you never get silly and stupid. You just get really relaxed and mellow and can still think straight.

Finally, do you get annoyed by bad music in restaurants, or can you tune out?
I get really annoyed. At that place Tropicalia, they have wonderful Brazilian album artwork on the walls from the tropicalia movement. Yet they only play this crappy, weird free jazz CD. It's insane. I need to make them a mixtape.

Video: "Poolside - Slow Down"

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