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

Taiwan’s Answer to the Hamburger

A “Taiwanese burger,” or gua bao, is a madly wondrous thing: a mix of lean stew pork and melt-in-your-mouth fatty pork belly, salty-sour pickled cabbage, cilantro, and peanut-sugar powder in a fresh steamed bun that’s probably taken for granted as street food back in Taiwan.

The one at Yi Mei is delicious, says PandanExpress. The pork is meltingly tender, the bun nice and soft and smeared with a delectable sweet sauce.

Note that the former Yi Mei by the San Gabriel Superstore on Valley changed its name to Yee May, so it may not be under the same ownership, points out Chandavkl. The one in Rowland Heights is still good, though.

Yi Mei Deli [San Gabriel Valley]
18414 Colima Road, Rowland Heights
626-854-9246

Board Link: 刮包 Gua Bao (taiwanese burger): HELP!

Indian Restaurant Has Flavor to Spare

India’s Flavor is pleasing the palates of Glendale-area hounds. The tiny place, which has cycled through several management teams, has tasty food and really nice owners.

Malai kofta, bhindi (okra), and the paneer in tomato sauce are stellar, says thewaz.

Meat samosas are delish, filled with a mix of lamb and chicken, says garvanza girl. They go really well with the chunky mint chutney.

Chicken saag has big chunks of chicken and creamy, flavorful spinach. The spicing is complex; order medium spicy, and what you get will have some nice heat and depth but won’t haunt you the next day (or in the middle of the night).

Also nice: chicken curry, vegetarian thali, and that eggplant dish with caramelized onions. Paratha and garlic naan are particularly good.

Saag paneer and coconut curry vegetables leave something to be desired, and the dal is pretty bland.

It’s truly small, just a half dozen tables.

India’s Flavor [San Fernando Valley–East]
3303 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale
818-957-5500

Board Links: Review: India’s Flavor, Glendale/Montrose
India’s Flavor, Glendale?

Swept Away by Coconutty Goodness

David Kahn was knocked out by a treat he discovered at Oaxacalifornia, the juice and ice cream stand at Mercado La Paloma. The magic treat is pepitoria de coco, a.k.a. coconut brittle, concocted of just coconut and sugar.

“It has a beautiful, complex, slightly bitter caramel flavor combined with a fabulous, chocolaty, toasted coconut taste. The texture is crisp, like a good English toffee. This stuff is one of the best Mexican candies I’ve tasted; it’s really, really good.”

Beware a similar candy made with honey and pumpkin seeds. It’s precisely as awful as the coconut brittle is good.

Oaxacalifornia [Downtown]
At Mercado La Paloma
3655 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles
213-747-8622

Board Link: Pepitoria de Coco (Coconut Brittle)

New Taco Joint Practically a Work of Art

Frida’s Taqueria, an offshoot of Frida Mexican Cuisine in Beverly Hills, has opened in the Brentwood Country Mart and is firing on all cylinders, reports techbod.

Mango salad with candied walnuts qualifies this place for destination dining: It’s a big pile of baby greens, diced mango, and a spicy-sweet mango dressing.

Best tacos on the menu: cochinita pibil and alhambre (steak, peppers, cheese, tocino). Just delicious. A carnitas sope is also really good, with a tender sope crust, lots of meat, crisp lettuce, cheese, and a drizzle of sour cream.

Other options are mole (saucy, tasty), barbacoa, asada (not so great the first day), and pollo (tastes like chicken).

Tacos are generously stuffed, and the sopes are also piled high, though they’re not the thicker rustic type.

Chips come with two kinds of salsa: a fresh ’n’ spicy green one and a smoky orange.

Sopes cost $3 to $4, tacos are $2.50 to $4, beans and rice sides are $1.75 each, chips and salsa (generous amount) are $1.50. Pricey, but less expensive than the $15 taco plate at the original Frida’s, which Dommy loves.

Frida’s Taqueria [Westside – Beaches]
In Brentwood Country Mart
225 26th Street, Santa Monica
No phone number available

Frida Mexican Cuisine [Beverly Hills]
236 S. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills
310-278-7666

Board Links: Cinco de Mayo came early this year–Frida’s Brentwood
Frida’s Taqueria–Brentwood Country Mart–Opening Day

Indian by Day, Burmese by Night

Jasmine Market and Deli is an unassuming place that serves up Indian food to a lunchtime crowd; at night it transforms, Cinderella-style, and offers the cuisine of the owners’ native land: Burma.

OK, the country may be known as Myanmar these days, but the food is still Burmese, and apart from Golden Triangle out in Whittier, it’s pretty much all we’ve got for this cuisine, a fascinating mix of Thai, Chinese, and Indian flavors.

The Burmese menu is fairly limited, says modernist, but fortunately it’s really good. Go for mohinga, a typical Burmese fish stew with banana tree root, and khaut swe, a coconut chicken soup that’s a sibling of Thai khao soi.

Khaut swe dhut (noodle salad) and asawn dhut (mixed salad) taste similar, with some hard-to-pin-down flavor that just says Myanmar.

The Burmese family who run the place couldn’t be sweeter. They seem to be really plugged into the local Burmese community, too.

As for the Indian food? It’s pretty good as well.

Jasmine Market and Deli [Westside – Inland]
4135 Sepulveda Boulevard, Culver City
310-313-3767

Board Link: jasmine market–burmese food–thx j. gold!

Great-Uncle David’s Chili Sure Rocks

Chili fans should definitely make their way to David’s Chili House, says WildSwede. And don’t worry if your companions aren’t into chili—there’s also fried shrimp, teriyaki chicken, pot stickers, egg rolls, and fish.

The chili is from a recipe by the owner’s great-uncle, and it’s really good stuff, with a nice kick. David’s chili spaghetti, with cheese, onion, and pickles on the side, is $3.95 for a substantial portion.

The restaurant has been open for only a few weeks, but friendly owner Debbie says she’s been getting a steady stream of customers, many of them repeats. Her brothers own a teriyaki-type restaurant elsewhere, which explains some of the eclectic menu choices—what’s represented are their top sellers.

David’s Chili House [San Gabriel Valley]
319 S. Azusa Avenue, Azusa
626-969-7888

Board Link: David’s Chili House – Azusa

Vietnamese Options Busting Out on the East Side

Viet Noodle Bar, the Atwater offshoot of Soycafe, has opened, with more eating space and reliable hours. So far, though, the menu isn’t much bigger than at Soycafe, and as at the original place, the one dish that truly shines is the bun (rice noodles) with turmeric fish.

Banh nam, rice-flour tamales, are improved after a bland early version with the addition of scallions to the dough, says PandanExpress. Spring rolls are fresh and flavorful, say whiteonricecouple, but pho is awfully bland.

Altogether, though, the price is a sticking point for several hounds—$9 for that bland pho, and the bun is about the same. A small cup of the fresh soymilk is $3.

Chowpatty, who says she usually heads to the less expensive and less precious Indochine, notes that Lu Sub, a water shop that has branched out into food, offers decent pho for $4.99.

Over in Glendale, Pho Hut serves up rich and flavorful pho ga, with half a breast of chicken in your bowl, says RaeRenee. Pho with tripe, beef, and meatballs could’ve come out of a Vietnamese grandma’s kitchen.

It’s a bit more expensive than Pho 79 ($6.50 for a regular bowl), says kchangambrose, but the broth is tastier and the meat of higher quality. But fdb disagrees, saying the pho is just OK, not SGV quality. The egg rolls pass muster, though.

Note that this place has a limited menu, just pho and those egg rolls. They also only accept cash.

Viet Noodle Bar [East of Hollywood]
3133 1/2 Glendale Boulevard, Atwater Village
323-906-1575

Soycafe [East of Hollywood]
1997 Hyperion Avenue, Silver Lake
323-663-7888

Indochine Vien [East of Hollywood]
3110 Glendale Boulevard, Atwater Village
323-667-9591

Lu Sub [East of Hollywood]
2470 Glendale Boulevard, Silver Lake
323-660-8313

Pho Hut [San Fernando Valley – East]
312 N. Brand Boulevard, Glendale
No phone number available

Board Links: Viet Noodle Bar – Atwater
Pho Hut–New Vietnamese in Glendale

Don’t Fear the Mojito

“Calling a Cuban restaurant ‘Mojito’s’ is about as classy as calling a Mexican restaurant ‘Margaritaville,’” notes Clare K. But surprisingly, the restaurant that has replaced Xiomara’s is no frat-kids’ den; it’s a warm and inviting place with really good food.

The bread dish turns out to be a generous amount of crispy, buttered Cuban toast with a side of black bean purée for dipping. Empanadas are light and crispy, their shells more like wonton skins than pastry. They come with a tasty avocado sauce and tomato salad.

Churrasco nicaraguense, skirt steak, is outstanding: tender and flavorful. It comes with porcini mushrooms, earthy and slightly sweet wild Mexican black corn, and garlic mashed potatoes.
Pan-seared organic chicken breast over coconut rice, with ancho chile jus, is top-notch: crispy outside and juicy inside.

Oh, and as for those Mojitos, they’re made with fresh sugarcane juice, a wonderfully balanced blend with soda, mint, and rum, says trolley. The restaurant also makes a mango Mojito with crushed fresh mangoes, as well as a few other variations.

Prices are reasonable, and corkage is $10.

Mojitos [San Gabriel Valley]
69 N. Raymond Avenue, Pasadena
626-796-2520

Board Link: Mojito’s Resto & Rum Bar review w/Pics

A Dash of Portuguese at Alexis Greek

Alexis Greek Restaurant has changed its menu, playing up the Portuguese side—Alexis’s wife, Fatima, was an executive chef and pastry chef in Portugal, says Diana. The Greek dishes are still fab.

Many of the appetizers are Greek. The dips—feta dip, hummus, taramosalata, and melitzanosalata (baba ghanoush)—are particularly creamy and nice.

Caldo verde, Portuguese kale soup, is thick with potatoes and kale. Warm and filling, it would make a great meal with just some bread for dipping.

Lisbon-style calamari, baked in a crock with tomato, pine nuts, herbs, and a light wine sauce, is tender and delicious. It comes with tasty carrots and squash cooked in a tomato sauce, and rice or potatoes.

You don’t see rabbit on the menu every day in LA, and coelho estufado impresses. It’s braised rabbit in light fresh herbs and a red wine sauce. A serving has half a rabbit, its meat falling off the bones and delectable.

Lamb dishes, especially the slow-roasted spring lamb, are excellent.

Assorted cold appetizers are $13, calamari $19, and rabbit $20.

Alexis Greek Restaurant [San Fernando Valley – West]
9034 Tampa Avenue, Northridge
818-349-9689

Board Link: Newish Menu Items at Alexis Greek Cafe-including rabbit! AMAZING!

Top-Notch Fusion-y Tapas

Bar Hayama gives Orris a run for its money, says SauceSupreme: top-notch, fusion-y tapas, served in a cool space. The food is addictively good, and a great value for the quality. In fair weather, sitting by the big stone outdoor fireplace is a must.

The lobster bisque is out of this world, says J.L. Seared ankimo gets the foie gras treatment, notes SauceSupreme, served with a sweet sauce. Bluefin tuna with blue cheese might sound like a disaster waiting to happen, but it’s also addictively good, with plenty of tuna. Yellowtail collar is crunchy skin and tender flesh. Grilled squid is perfectly cooked, in a delicious sauce. Beef tartare with quail egg is great and well balanced.

Tempura is quite good, says Ciao Bob, but a few people report that the sushi underwhelms. Breaded shrimp stuffed with crab sounds like a good idea, but the shrimp is overdone.

Dishes run about $10, with plenty to share between two people or even decent tastes for five. For the price point, the ankimo and bluefin tuna in particular offer great value.

Five people who ordered 10 items, 3 glasses of wine, and 2 sake flights ended up with a bill of about $150 pretip.

Bar Hayama [Westside – Inland]
1803 Sawtelle Boulevard, Los Angeles
310-235-2000

Board Links: Bar Hayama
New place at Old Sasabune Location (sawtelle) ?