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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Chung King [San Gabriel Valley]
1000 S. San Gabriel Boulevard, San Gabriel

Ho Ho Kitchen [San Gabriel Valley]
10053 Valley Boulevard, El Monte

Dong Chun Hong [Koreatown]
1143 S. Western Avenue, Los Angeles

The Dragon [Koreatown]
966 S. Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles

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

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