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

The Hungry Cat Came Back

The Hungry Cat reopened after a remodel just before the holidays, and it looks gorgeous, says SauceSupreme. There’s a long bench along the former wall—it looks like the space has been doubled—and there’s a new raw bar.

And what to order at the raw bar? Go for the uni, served right in the sea urchin shell, Sauce says. The flavor is more subtle, a little sweeter and much more delicate than what you usually get.

As for the cooked items, they’re as great as ever, though the menu’s been given a tweak: Where before there was chorizo and clams, now there’s a really tasty sofrito and clams. Or just go for a whole fish—the chefs remove the backbone and stuff it with aromatics like lemon, rosemary, and/or tarragon, depending on what’s fresh.

New hours mean the full menu is served till midnight, raw bar items till 1 a.m., and drinks until 2.

The Hungry Cat [Hollywood]
1535 Vine Street, Los Angeles

323-462-2155

Board Links: Fresh Uni at The Hungry Cat
Hungry Cat Reopens Tonight…Now Open till 2am!

Pintxo’s Pint-Size Eats

Bar Pintxo, the new tapas place from Chef Joe Miller (of Joe’s in Venice), is a scaled-down experience. First of all, it’s a tiny space—capacity 30—with a half-dozen seats at the bar, and tables with stools throughout the rest of the room.

The tapas are also small—often a single slice of grilled baguette with topping. Don’t expect to share a single order of anything. Many of these extra-small plates are about $5 to $8, though the jamón ibérico checks out at $18 for 10 1-1/2-square-inch pieces of ham. Of course, these are carved from a ham that costs about $1,400. It’s certainly delicious, though.

Sautéed calamari, heavy on garlic and parsley, is superb, says carter, worthy of a return visit on its own.

Chorizo and fried egg with potato, gambas al ajillo (garlicky shrimp), and a bacon-wrapped date stuffed with cabrales cheese are all good picks on the small side.

There’s also a selection of larger dishes, including paella that, if a little short on saffron flavor, contains a good amount of perfectly cooked seafood.

As for the wines, good things are said of the Spanish reds, but the staff doesn’t seem to know much about finos from Jerez (a staple in tapas bars in Spain).

Bar Pintxo [Westside–Beaches]
109 Santa Monica Boulevard, Santa Monica
310-458-2012

Board Links: Bar Pintxo – REVIEW
Pinched at Pintxo

Boule Rolls into Beverly Hills

The new Boule in Beverly Hills is open, and it has a greater variety of chocolates, baked goods, and sorbets than the flagship. Macaroons are much bigger than at the original Boule, says Mattapoisett in LA, or maybe the patisserie has just started making them larger at both locations. Meyer lemon macaroon is as good as ever, and a new holiday edition, eggnog, is also very good, multilayered in flavor. Fleur de sel caramel éclair is great, with perfect caramel and filling, even if the pastry isn’t as light as it could be.

Boule [Beverly Hills]
413 N. Bedford Drive, Beverly Hills
310-273-4488

Board Link: Boule in BH–A Quick Hit

And So This Is Soba

The pleasures of the legendary sarashina soba at Otafuku are subtle—awfully subtle, for fans of the more rustic brown noodles.

Both are made from buckwheat, but the sarashina soba is made with refined buckwheat flour, so it’s white instead of brown and more delicate in flavor. Both kinds are kneaded by hand in small batches by Otafuku’s owner, Seiji Akutsu.

The noodles are as perfectly al dente as soba can be (different from wheat-based noodles) and near perfect temperature, raves TonyC, making an ideal match for the funky dipping broth and freshly grated wasabi. As you eat your way through the dish, the broth, thinned with some of the soba water, turns into a refreshing sort of soup.

But pleasurepalate, a soba newbie, couldn’t quite see what all the fuss is about, though she came prepared to appreciate Akutsu’s artistry.

Dommy felt the same, concluding that she prefers the rustic imported fresh soba she usually buys from Nijiya.

But the tempura is excellent—light, crunchy, and nongreasy. A vegetarian assortment includes yam, squash, eggplant, enoki mushroom, and shiso leaf.

Sea eel tempura is a huge fillet, the meat delicate and moist, the crust nice and crisp. It’s like a brilliant twist on fish and chips.

Otafuku [South Bay]
16525 S. Western Avenue, Gardena
310-532-9348

Board Links: REVIEW w/ pics: Otafuku in Gardena
I forgot the Soba: Otafuku in Gardena

A Glimmer of Hope in a Dim Sum Desert

Could there be good dim sum in Fullerton? Even more improbably, at a place called California Asian Bistro? Yeah, baby, yeah!, says mpken, who bore witness to this miracle.

If you can get over the sports bar appearance (or hey, maybe that’s a plus … har gow and the big game?), the dim sum is solid and expertly crafted.

Xiao long bao is some of the best mpken’s had in a while—the wrapper supple yet strong like at Din Tai Fung, with plenty of juice inside.

It’s got the greatest hits—including char siu bao, siu mai, egg custard tart, and taro dumpling—and they’re as good as in SGV. It doesn’t have the funkier stuff like tripe or curried fish balls, but the chicken’s feet are quite good.

California Asian Bistro [Orange County]
1000 S. Harbor Boulevard, Fullerton
714-526-7888

Board Link: Dim Sum in Fullerton? YES!

Ma Po Tofu Fusions

When it comes to ma po tofu, Korean-Chinese hybrids are just as beloved by hounds as the straight-outta-Szechuan version.

Chung King represents pure Szechuan style, and it rocks, says RoachCoach.

ipsedixit recommends Ho Ho Kitchen, where the ma po tofu is “not at all oily and just enough heat to make you remember your manners.”

Dong Chun Hong, a Chinese-Korean place, has excellent, very spicy MPT, says ladius.

And the Dragon, another border-style spot, has top-notch MPT, says HannahEats, who vouches for all its dishes.

Chung King [San Gabriel Valley]
206 S. Garfield Avenue, Monterey Park
626-280-7430

Chung King [San Gabriel Valley]
1000 S. San Gabriel Boulevard, San Gabriel
626-286-0298

Ho Ho Kitchen [San Gabriel Valley]
10053 Valley Boulevard, El Monte
626-442-6689

Dong Chun Hong [Koreatown]
1143 S. Western Avenue, Los Angeles
323-732-4884

The Dragon [Koreatown]
966 S. Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles
213-387-8833

Board Link: Who’s got the best Ma Po Tofu?

LA 2007 Top 10 Roundup

1. Vito’s Is Back
2. Truly Authentic Mexican Flavor on the Westside
3. Colonel Sanders, Eat Your Heart Out
4. Could This Be the Best Authentic Ramen in L.A.?
5. Foie Gras Ice Cream?
6. Salsa de Semillas on a Food Stall Strip
7. The Ultimate Banh Mi in SoCal
8. Double the Pleasure of Skaf’s Lebanese Grill
9. Japanese Restaurants Spread the Love
10. Szechuan Cuisine Declines in SGV; Hunan’s Star on the Rise

Upscale, Bun-Bursting Hot Dogs

As the trend to leave no junk food ungentrified hurtles forward, gourmet hot dogs have arrived in Los Angeles from (where else?) San Francisco. Sue Moore’s Let’s Be Frank cart features grass-fed beef hot dogs and bratwursts of Berkshire pork.

The dogs are great, plump, snappy, and bursting out of their buns, says Mattapoisett in LA. The brats are flavorful, but they don’t have that snap. sku, however, finds both lacking in spice, and kevin notes that the dog has a grainier texture than your average Hebrew National.

They’re certainly treated with care, cooked to order or at least in small batches—steamed, then finished on the griddle. There’s also homemade sauerkraut and relish, deli brown mustard, yellow mustard, ketchup, and a constantly refreshed pile of grilled onions.

Dogs are $5.

Let’s Be Frank cart [Westside–Inland]
Helms Avenue between Washington and Venice, Culver City
888-233-7265

Board Link: Let’s Be Frank–A Quick Hit

Fresh Japanese Fast Food

Genkai Grill is a new place in Torrance serving fast food, Japanese style: sushi rolls, grilled fish, teriyaki, and soups. It’s fresh and flavorful stuff, all for well under $10, says GoodEatz.

The fish plate includes grilled fish (well done) with your choice of seasoning, rice, two salads, and a minimally seasoned but perfectly cooked vegetable skewer. Tuna with garlic butter has a nice hit of pepper and lemon, and the butter doesn’t leave it greasy. There’s also salmon, halibut, snapper, and sea bass. The rice is subtly flavorful, almost like pilaf. Asian salad has mesclun, mandarin orange segments, and crispy noodles—the light dressing is miso-citrus, for a great flavor combo. Spinach salad and tofu salad are also available.

The décor, if you can call it that, is clean and contemporary, with stone floors. Cooking is done in the open, right behind the cashier.

The tuna plate is about $8, and sushi roll combos go for about $6, including miso soup.

Genkai Grill [South Bay]
1249 W. Carson Street, Torrance
310-320-1082

Board Link: REVIEW: genkai grill in Torrance

How Green Was My Chile

As the weather cools, it’s just about the right time for tender, flavorful, and spicy chile verde. After trying the dish at four restaurants in one week, JeetJet declares that Taco’s Omana and El Jacal hit the spot. The former’s asada tacos are also bewitchingly out of the ordinary.

El Tepeyac has awesome chile verde, the famed Hollenbeck burrito, and Manuel’s taquitos, says FoodWineTravel. Part of the experience is chatting with Manuel, a charming guy who’s owned the place for 50 years.

Teresita’s makes a fine chile verde, with pork or beef; the same goes for its chile Colorado, notes Servorg.

The chile verde at Tonny’s has thrown quite a few hounds into a tizzy.

In the Valley, orythedog swears by the version served at Harold’s House of Omelettes.

And while the delicious pork shank in spicy green chile-tomatillo sauce served at perpetual fave Enrique’s isn’t quite chile verde, it’s tantalizingly close, says estone888.

Taco’s Omana [San Gabriel Valley]
10300 Rush Street, S. El Monte
626-350-1197

El Jacal [San Gabriel Valley]
13414 Ramona Boulevard, Baldwin Park
626-813-4419

El Tepeyac [East LA]

812 N. Evergreen Avenue, Boyle Heights
323-267-8668

Teresita’s [East LA]
3826 E. First Street, Boyle Heights
323-266-6045

Tonny’s [San Gabriel Valley]
843 E. Orange Grove Boulevard, Pasadena
626-797-0866

Harold’s House of Omelettes [San Fernando Valley–West]
2440 E. Thousand Oaks Boulevard, Thousand Oaks
805-230-3147

Enrique’s [710 Corridor]
6210 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach
562-498-3622

Board Link: Chili Verde, Chili—Chili Verde, The Spirits are about to Speak.