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Restaurant recommendations, new openings, and highlights from the LA Chowhound community.

Celebration Dinners with Change to Spare

Timabruin wants to treat his sister to a memorable wedding anniversary dinner but not drain his wallet. The goal: $200 for four.

Hounds are on it. Smitty’s Grill is high on the list. “I was just there again last night,” says khh1138, “and it’s become one of my favourite places in Pasadena. It has a nice cozy Old Hollywood feel, the food is American but EXCELLENT American.”

Recs for dishes to share include the rack of lamb—at $22 it won’t break the bank. Salads and appetizers are very good. And Fosselman’s ice cream with dessert is a “mark of distinction.”

mlgb suggests Benley or Café Piccolo in Long Beach. They’re both BYO with no corkage, and four people can easily dine for less than $200. Benley is “quasi-Vietnamese” with very good food—small but nice inside. Café Piccolo, with a “less adventurous menu,” also offers a nice atmosphere, especially on the patio.

modernist recommends taking advantage of special three-course prix fixe dinners in this order: Lucques on Sunday ($40), Josie on Wednesday ($35), and JiRaffe on Monday ($35).

It’s OK to bring a bottle and pay the corkage fee. Just make sure the restaurant doesn’t already carry what you’re bringing.

gaylenwaydelich offers up Le Chef in South Gate. “Excellent and very reasonable. Full bar and nice wine selection. Six of us had apps, dinner, drinks, and bananas flambe prepared table side for under $250.00 with tip. Outstanding hidden gem, hard to find but worth it.”

Smitty’s Grill [San Gabriel Valley]

110 S. Lake Avenue, Pasadena

626-792-9999

Benley [South Bay]

8191 E. Wardlow Road, Long Beach

562-596-8130

Café Piccolo [South Bay]

3222 E. Broadway, Long Beach

562-438-1316

Lucques [West Hollywood]

8474 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles

323-655-6277

Josie [Westside - Beaches]

2424 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica

310-581-9888

JiRaffe [Westside - Beaches]

502 Santa Monica Boulevard, Santa Monica

310-917-6671

Le Chef [South LA]

8724 Garfield Avenue, South Gate

562-776-6067

Board Link: Eat like a King pay like a Pauper

A Cocktail with a Past

mhoffman likes drinks with a twist of classic. Make it a cocktail with gin or rye, please, and don’t skimp on the bitters. Forget the corporate concoctions, the vodkas, and anything ending in ojito.

SauceSupreme finds “cocktail nirvana” at the Hungry Cat, where he can count on Sazerac, Lillet, and all the bitters at the bar. slacker recommends Comme Ça for creative drinks with freshly chipped ice. Musso & Frank conjures old LA for BIM with its Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, and gimlets. Of course, a few Chowhounds chime in that there’s always Trader Vic’s.

The Hungry Cat [Hollywood]

1535 N. Vine Street, Los Angeles

323-462-2155

Comme Ça [West Hollywood]

8479 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood

323-782-1178

Musso & Frank Grill [Hollywood]

6667 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles

323-462-7788

Trader Vic’s [Beverly Hills]

9876 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills

310-285-6345

Board Link: Cocktails

Goat Is a Go-To

Steven Arroyo has opened a new place called Goat in the former HappiSongs space, says scurvy. pigletjones called Goat “NYC-like with good tunes” and judged the goat cheese and macaroni with truffle oil toast “amazing.” The goat confit, served on warm bread, was “tender and flavorful.” Susieqp wants to see some fine-tuning: The bread and burger buns need improving, and the goat confit had an “oily aftertaste.”

Goat [Hollywood]

460 S. La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles

323-936-7622

Board Link: Happisongs becomes Goat?

Get the Eel While They’re Swimming

Das Ubergeek wants to know where to get fresh, uncooked eel.

In San Gabriel Valley, check out Hong Kong Supermarket on Garfield just north of Garvey. Eel are fresh in the tank, kicking and screaming, according to Erik M. Other hounds have spotted them occasionally at Quality Seafood in Redondo Beach and at the Hannam Chain market in the mall on Olympic near Vermont.

Hong Kong Supermarket [San Gabriel Valley]

127 N. Garfield Avenue, Monterey Park

626-280-8888

Quality Seafood [South Bay]

130 S. International Boardwalk, Redondo Beach

310-372-6408

Hannam Chain Supermarket [Koreatown]

2740 W. Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles

213-382-2922

Location

Board Link: Where to buy fresh (or frozen uncooked) eels?

New Bistro Is Flying High

TheManning2 gives a thumbs-up to the six-month-old Flight Bistro & Social Lounge. The arugula salad with Piave Vecchio cheese, candied walnuts, dried apricots, figs, and shaved apple was delicious and gorgeous—ready for its photographic closeup.

TheManning2 recommends the Caprese salad: “The heirloom tomato that topped the dish was served cold, which allowed its flavor to really pop.” He and his wife enjoyed the grilled vegetable flatbread with portobello mushrooms, asparagus, and goat cheese and the prosciutto panini served with a spicy aioli. Desserts hit the mark, including a panko-breaded fried banana served with coconut sorbet—“smooth yet crunchy.” TheManning2 says, “The cool thing about it is it’s priced reasonably for being upscale cuisine -- the most expensive item on the menu is $26.”

Flight Bistro & Social Lounge [Orange County]

8082 Adams Avenue, Huntington Beach

714-374-8300

Board Links:
Review: Flight Bistro and Social Lounge - Huntington Beach

OC - FLIGHT BISTRO - Huntington Beach

Oh Saya Can You See … the New Peruvian

fortunatopp eagerly shares a new find in LA: Saya Peruvian restaurant. Located inside the Santee Food Court, it serves “the best Peruvian food I’ve had in my life.” fortunatopp had the lomo saltado and Peruvian empanada. And, although it’s new, the word is out—there was a line out the door, so plan accordingly.

Saya Peruvian [Downtown]
718 S. Los Angeles Street, Los Angeles
213-489-7454

Board Link: New Peruvian Restaurant

Imported Pancetta

wj818 shouts out to the hounds: “Does anyone know of a good source for imported Pancetta, from Italy, in the Los Angeles area or online? I just want the real thing and I’m willing to pay for it.”

A number of hounds affirmed you can’t import pancetta into the United States. But JudiAU recommends online ordering from Niman Ranch or Salumi. They make quality products and, if you order from both, you can freeze what you don’t use right away.

pizzafreak says Bay Cities Italian Deli in Santa Monica and Domingo’s in Encino both sell a good pancetta. Claro’s Italian Markets (various locations) are another option.

notmartha recommends you drive to the Roma market in Pasadena, and adds: “Don’t get too put off by the strong cheese scent at the store, btw.”

Bay Cities Italian Deli [Westside–Beaches]
1517 Lincoln Boulevard, Santa Monica
310-395-8279

Domingo’s Italian Grocery [San Fernando Valley–West]
17548 Ventura Boulevard, Encino
818-981-4466

Claro’s Italian Markets [Various Locations]

Roma Italian Deli and Grocery [San Gabriel Valley]
918 N. Lake Avenue, Pasadena
626-797-7748

Board Link: Desperate for Pancetta from Italy

A Savory Trip to Southern India

Das Ubergeek offers up Tirupathi Bhimas in Artesia. The restaurant serves southern Indian cuisine, specifically Hyderabadi, the cuisine of Andhra Pradesh in central south India. You’ll be treated with kind and civilized service in a casual restaurant that is spotless and welcoming.

Das Ubergeek counsels: “When in doubt—and how do you choose from a list of idli (small round steamed lentil breads with sauce), dosa (huge thin crepes often wrapped round vegetables with dips) and utthapam (pancakes with various vegetables cooked in) anyway?—go for a thali. A thali is a bowl of rice in the centre of a dish with a lot of small samples of various foods surrounding it.”

It’s a great way to get to know what the kitchen is doing, because you get a little bit (maybe a half to three-quarters of a cup) of each dish, plus rice, pappadam (lentil cracker), and chapati (soft flatbread). You also get a choice of thali: spicy Andhra, nonspicy, and north Indian. A meal of a thali with a huge dosa and rice pudding with raisins and cashews comes to around $20.

The restaurant serves no meat, but it’s hardly missed, so it’s a great option for omnivores and vegivores alike. boogiebaby loved it, and enthusiastic CHOW posters are lining up for a visit.

Tirupathi Bhimas [Orange County]
18792 Pioneer Boulevard, Artesia
562-809-3806

Board Link: REVIEW: Tirupathi Bhimas, Artesia

Jitlada’s New Southern Specialties

The folks at Jitlada have added a dozen new dishes to the southern Thai menu, including turmeric-seasoned curry with lamb and jicama, and a robustly flavored coconut milk soup with galangal and frog’s leg. Once again, Erik M has done us the favor of translating the new items from the Thai menu (see thread).

Particularly recommended are deep-fried shrimp skewers with curry paste and wild tea leaves; soft-shelled crab stir-fried with curry powder and assorted vegetables; and whole Dungeness crab stir-fried with curry powder and assorted vegetables (advance notice required). Chileheads should make sure to get “demon style” sour and spicy soup with chiles, straw mushrooms, and eel—it’ll leave your wig on the floor, Erik says.

But his favorite meal these days probably consists of the as-yet-unlisted “kai khii-min,” or “deep-fried turmeric-seasoned chicken” (ask someone named Phii Tui for it), paired with one of the nonturmeric, vegetable-intensive Southern curries (such as green curry). With lots of rice, it’s heaven.

If you’re looking for something spicy, make sure to speak out—Bjartmarr received a gringo-fied order of khûa klíng phat lung, a spicy curry that arrived no more piquant than a stew flavored with black pepper. Even so, the spicy mango salad was “an out-of-this-world mixture of sweet mango, juicy shrimp, tart citrus dressing, and I-don’t-know-what-else that left a huge grin on my face and a happy, fiery sensation on my lips.” And the catfish/tea leaf curry is incredibly rich, earthy, and complex.

For the less adventurous, there are definitely safe standard Thai dishes too. You can sub tofu for meat, and they’ll dial down the spices. The space is very nice, cozy and clean, and the people are superfriendly.

Jitlada [Thai Town]
5233 W. Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles
323-663-3104

Board Links: Southern Thai Menu Additions at Jitlada
Jitlada
Jitlada OK for Pregnant and Paranoid?

Swept Away by Sushi

“You know how sometimes you start eating in a new place, and you sit down and all of a sudden you’re just swept away by this premonition that you’re about to have a really, really great meal?

“And you keep eating, and it just seems to fly by, and at the end of it you’re in this happy haze that stays with you for hours.”

This, says Das Ubergeek, was a recent omakase meal at Maki-Zushi, which comprises 28 pieces of the catches of the day. This includes three kinds of toro (yep, three), octopus, shrimp, live sweet shrimp (go on, suck on the head), giant clam, egg, razor clam, ankimo, Spanish mackerel, ahi tuna, yellowtail, salmon, and quite a few unidentifieds.

The toro is meltingly good, the sweet shrimp delicious. The winner by far, though, is the scallop: “There were two pieces of this on an enormous scallop shell with sudachi citrus underneath and cucumber above. Un-bloody-believable. The very best scallop in the history of history.” Another plus: kinmedai, which Porthos identifies as golden eye snapper, or alfonsino. Deliciously fatty, tender, and a real treat, its presence is usually a sign of a legit sushi establishment.

The cuts of fish are so generous that Ubergeek, a pretty big dude, can barely fit some of them in his mouth. They drape ever so slightly over the rice, enough so you can see the texture. The rice itself is a good temperature, but it’s not the warm stuff à la Sasabune.

A large pile of grated fresh wasabi comes alongside, as well as two small dishes of pickles. Miso soup is standard. You can upgrade to get clams in your soup; they’re perfectly tender, if not very flavorful.

The place is nicely decorated, but it’s no “hallowed hall of sushi,” and the staff are friendly.

The 28-piece sushi platter costs $70, or you can get 35 pieces for $90. Clam soup is $3.

Maki-Zushi [Orange County]
1641 Edinger Avenue, Tustin
714-259-0783

Board Link: REVIEW: Maki-Zushi, Tustin