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

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.

Catch of the Day, for Cheap

Santa Monica Seafood just opened a casual café, where Westsiders can grab a fresh-from-the-sea meal for less than $10.

It’s in a former Carl’s Jr. and retains some of the feel of a fast-food joint—you order at the counter—and there’s a rather pervasive odor of fried fish. But hang in there; this is no Long John Silver’s.

Spicy tuna burger seems to be the best bet so far, with a nice slab of tuna, thickly sliced tomato, a toasty warm bun, and a sauce with a nice kick, says buttermarblepopcorn.

Fried calamari is the breaded and seasoned sort, but done well and not greasy. Clam chowder (just $2 with a sandwich) is chock-full of clams, with an extra-thick consistency.

The tuna melt is pretty weak, notes Xericx. It’s basically garlic bread sandwiching tuna salad, with some cheddar.

Also on the menu: grilled fish, fish tacos, a few sandwiches, and more appetizers.

10th Street Café [Westside–Beaches]
1000 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica
310-255-0000

Board Links: Santa Monica Seafood’s new cafe
Santa Monica Seafood A.K.A. 10th St. Cafe

The Great Pho of Little Saigon

The older sister of Pho 79’s owner has opened a place in San Gabriel, reportedly using the same recipes, says raytamsgv. Pho tai is generally pretty good, though it somehow seems wrong to be watching a Bee Gees reunion concert on the wide-screen TV while you eat.

“Between the tired appointments and the lackadaisical service, I keep expecting to find some reason not to like [the old] Pho 79, but the pho is SOOOOO good and SOOOO cheap,” says Will Owen, who thinks it’s just about the best.

In Little Saigon, Pho 79 ties with Pho Thanh Lich for the best pho, says Das Ubergeek.

Pho Thanh Lich’s pho tai dac biet, or house special pho tai, is made with filet mignon. Get it on the side so you can dip it in the broth and cook it rare yourself, rather than have it boil in the soup before it even reaches your table. The broth is incredibly rich, with the deep flavor of long cooking, the noodles perfectly done.

The bun cha gio thit nuong, vermicelli with spring rolls and grilled pork, is also very good, and the portion is huge.

Trying to hunt down eatdrinknbmerry’s favorite Chiu Chow place, though, Das Ubergeek unfortunately confused New Trieu Chau with Trieu Chau and ended up ordering rice porridge with no more flavor than water, served with ketchup. Not only is “new” not better in this case, the two aren’t even related.

At the right Trieu Chau, kingkong5 is a fan of the mi dac biet—egg noodle soup with pork, shrimp, and fried-chicken broth. It’s good with xiu mai, little pork meatballs. There’s also an off-the-menu special of tasty pork bone broth, soup hoac (pronounced “whack”).

Pho 79 [San Gabriel Valley]
980 E. Las Tunas Drive, San Gabriel
626-287-3158

Pho 79 [San Gabriel Valley]
29 S. Garfield Avenue, Alhambra
626-289-0239

Pho 79 [San Gabriel Valley]
535 W. Valley Boulevard, San Gabriel
626-289-0657

Pho 79 [Orange County]
9200 Bolsa Ave #117, Westminster
714-893-1883

Pho 79 [Orange County]
9941 Hazard Avenue, Garden Grove
714-531-2490

Pho Thanh Lich [Orange County]
14500 Brookhurst Street, Westminster
714-531-5789

Pho Thanh Lich [710 Corridor]
1036 E. Anaheim Street, Long Beach
562-432-3133

New Trieu Chau Restaurant [Orange County]
9902 Westminster Boulevard, Garden Grove
714-537-2433

Trieu Chau [Orange County]
4401 W. First Street, Santa Ana
714-775-1536

Board Links: Pho 79 expands—Saigon Eden in San Gabriel
Explorations on Brookhurst: Pho Thanh Lich, Westminster
Explorations on Brookhurst: New Trieu Chau, Garden Grove
Vote for the best Hole-In-The-Wall (Michelin-style)

Din Tai Fung’s Dumpling Creep

Lovers of juicy dumplings, rejoice: Din Tai Fung has opened another spot, kind of a stand-alone extension, one plaza over from the original location.

The new building is lovely and airy with high ceilings, says mileena, and it has a second floor for even more seating. The chef is the same for both restaurants, according to the staff, and you can go to either building for a table.

Din Tai Fung [San Gabriel Valley]
1108 S. Baldwin Avenue, Arcadia
626-574-7068

Board Link: Din Tai Fung Dumpling House: New Location

New Vietnam Restaurant Challenges Big Sibs

“Oftentimes I’ll get an incredible urge for Vietnamese food and drive like a crazed lunatic to Golden Deli only to learn that about 100 other people have had the same urge as me, but got to the restaurant about 10 seconds before I did,” says ipsedixit.

Some folks opt instead for Vietnam House, owned by the same people and just across the street, which offers better parking, has a beer and wine license, and takes credit cards.

But the newish Vietnam Restaurant, just down the street, has the goods to compare with the big boys. Never mind that it’s in a space “best described as a shack masquerading as an eye-sore of a building,” whose previous, short-lived tenants have included a Chinese fast-food joint and a Thai takeout place.

The owners, a couple, were previously part owners of Vietnam House, which is related to Golden Deli, but they left because of a family squabble, says SoCal Foodie, who adds that the wife originated most of Vietnam House’s recipes anyway, and says the new restaurant has the best-tasting pho and egg rolls in SoCal.

ipsedixit finds the food at Vietnam Restaurant better than at House (and also prefers Golden Deli to House). The menu is limited, but the bún bò kho is some of the best in the SGV, with tender meat and rich, savory broth. In fact, all the beef dishes are great, including the com bò kho.

Golden Deli [San Gabriel Valley]
815 W. Las Tunas Drive, San Gabriel
626-308-0803

Vietnam House [San Gabriel Valley]
710 W. Las Tunas Drive, San Gabriel
626-282-6327

Vietnam Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
340 W. Las Tunas Drive, San Gabriel
626-281-5577

Board Link: Vietnam Restaurant (SGV)

A Taste of Porto’s in Orange County

There was something awfully familiar about the delicious refugiado, or guava-cheese pastry, at the new Cuban place in Anaheim, thought Das Ubergeek. Upon inquiry, it turned out that Café Contigo gets its pastries, frozen, from the Porto’s Bakery warehouse in Irwindale (as the Porto’s retail outlets themselves do), and they bake up beautifully in-house.

Café Contigo can take full credit for its excellent Cuban café con leche, though, essentially a café latte with a little raw molasses to take the edge off, and no foam. Some free biscottilike pastries by the register are good for dunking, and these sweeten the coffee just enough to make it perfect.

Sandwiches and soups are made in-house—fingers crossed for a great Cuban sandwich.

Café Contigo [Orange County]
327 S. Anaheim Boulevard #A, Anaheim
714-780-0242

Board Link: REVIEW: Cafe Contigo, Anaheim

The Best Bundle of Tentacles

Asa Ramen already has been touted for its top-tier ramen, and now it has another claim to glory: takoyaki, says pirikara. These Japanese tidbits are pan-fried croquettes studded with pieces of fresh octopus tentacle.

The chef at Asa says his takoyaki contain a secret ingredient that gives the interior an almost puddinglike consistency. Sure enough, the hot takoyaki are crispy on the outside and practically oozing within. They come topped with mayo, scallions, a soy-based sauce, and a flurry of dried bonito flakes. The home-style flavor stands out even from restaurant versions in Japan—undoubtedly the result of much trial and error.

A half dozen takoyaki go for $4 to $5.

Asa Ramen [South Bay]
18202 S. Western Avenue, Gardena
310-769-1010

Board Link: Impressive Octopus Balls (aka “takoyaki”)

Student-Raised Squash Is a Steal

Cal Poly Pomona’s farm store is bursting with an autumnal bounty, reports Mattapoisett in LA.

There’s an entire side patio devoted to squash, and a staff member commented that seven times that amount is in storage. These squash aren’t just your usual varieties but also include hubbard, turban, spaghetti, carnival, Chinese, and quite a few others.

Also available are serrano chiles for 29 cents a pound and student-raised steak, roast, and other meats.

Farm Store at Kellogg Ranch [Inland Empire]
4102 University Drive, Pomona
909-869-4906

Board Link: Get Squashed!