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

Manna From Hawaii

Shakas Hawaiian can cure that craving for bacon fried rice, says Bon Vivant. And how.

This stuff is sublime, packed with bacon, Portuguese sausage, and slivers of fish cake. The fish cake makes it cool. The bacon fat makes it awesome.

Kalua pig is great, served with steamed cabbage that might also be slightly pickled and that goes really well with the pork.

Also delish: spam musubi, teriyaki steak. Macaroni salad is a minimalist version, not runny or gooey, with a hint of grated onion. Avoid the dry, wan teriyaki chicken unless you’re repenting for something.

Shakas Hawaiian Flavors [San Gabriel Valley]
101 W. Main Street #C, Alhambra
626-293-5520
Location

Shakas Hawaiian Flavors [San Gabriel Valley]
2300 Garfield Avenue #D, Monterey Park
323-888-2695
Location

Board Link: REVIEW (w/foodie flix and pix!) Shaka’s Hawaiian Cuisine

Neapolitan Flava in the SGV

The newly opened Bollini’s may be the best place in LA for true Neapolitan pizza, says Jeryy.

“It’s not a restaurant, not a date spot, it would even be an insult to formica. In the hallowed tradition of the East Coast, it’s a pizzeria. To me it’s a cathedral.”

Let’s get one thing clear: Neapolitan pizza is not New York pizza, and it certainly ain’t no California Pizza Kitchen. With a cracker-thin crust and a scattering of toppings, it’s more of a snack than a meal.

Bollini’s uses a wood-fired oven to turn out a chewy, smoky, splendidly crispy crust. As for the toppings, there are two extremes: The purist white pizza is bursting with flavor, while JeetJet prefers the regular cheese.

There are also specialty pizzas, including a steak pizza with homemade horseradish sauce. Did you cringe over the horseradish sauce? So did Jeryy, but it was love at first bite, he says. The horseradish sauce has a touch of Parmesan and adds a bit of sharpness, but nothing jarring. Fontina cheese actually works better than mozzarella, and the fennel sausage is specially made for the restaurant at a place in Vernon. JeetJet finds the sausage too much like hot dog, though.

Chef-owner Christiano Bollini is a local boy who apprenticed with Celestino Drago and did time in Italy (learning about regional cuisines, that is). Make sure to try his wild mushroom fettuccine with chicken, laced with truffle oil and garlic. It may be the best $10 entrée in the city. Salads are really good too, and portions generous.

A 12-inch pie is $8, and toppings are 50 cents—no, that’s not a typo. As noted, though, the pies are not all that filling. Other dishes run about $10.

Over the next few weeks, the restaurant is having tasting nights to try out specials to add to the menu.

Bollini’s Pizzeria Napolitana [San Gabriel Valley]
2315 S. Garfield Avenue, Monterey Park
323-722-7600
Location

Board Link: Now Open- Bollini’s–The Best Pizza in L.A.

Getting Schooled on Boba

If you’ve been frequenting the likes of Lollicup or Shau Mei or Tea Station for boba, chances are you’ve either forgotten what real boba tea should taste like, or you’ve never had it in the first place, says ipsedixit.

Thankfully, Tenju Tea House is here to show you the way. “Boba is NOT supposed to be tooth-achingly sweet,” says ipsedixit. “You should be able to taste tea, yes, tea. And the boba should be soft on the outside, but chewy (not rubbery) in the middle, with just a hint of tapioca. Most commercial, chain boba stores have these balls that are either mushy or distant cousins of jaw-breaker candies. Plus, their boba is made fresh, not scooped up from some bag distributed by the Asian equivalent of Sysco.”

There are plenty of choices of tea, of course—at least 25. The snacks also look and smell good, including popcorn chicken and a hot dog with cucumber.

Meanwhile, over at Boba Time the real find is Korean shave ice on the Westside, announces greengelato. There are three flavors—mixed fruit, mixed fruit deluxe, and mango—and green tea and coffee ice cream, plus generous amounts of toppings including sweet red beans and mochi. The shave ice goes for $5 to $6.

Tenju Tea House [San Gabriel Valley]
5817 Rosemead Boulevard, Temple City
626-287-2888
Location

Boba Time [West LA]
Corner of National and Sepulveda boulevards
Location

Board Links: When serendipity knocks, TENJU TEA HOUSE answers
korean shaved ice in the westside!

Kansas City, Here’s Your ‘Cue

After tasting a lot of barbecue in the San Fernando Valley over a period of several months, Steve2 in LA has determined that the ’cue from Kansas City BBQ Company is superior to just about everything else sold by that name in the valley.

Beef and pork ribs are juicy, smoky, and extremely flavorful without the sauce. This ain’t no meat-baked-in-sauce masquerading as barbecue. The flavor comes from a dry rub of paprika, sugar, garlic, black pepper, and spices, plus, of course, smoke. There is a really nice hot-and-sweet sauce, too.

Barbecue beans are amazing: sweet, smoky, and packed with chunks of smoked beef. Sweet potato fries are fab, especially with that barbecue sauce. But potato salad and slaw are nothing special.

Two meat combos with Wonder-type bread and two extra sides run just under $40.

It’s not a destination restaurant, but Joey’s Smokin’ B-B-Q opened recently in Manhattan Beach and Tustin, and it’s surprisingly good, says Nicole, citing the pulled pork and brisket as particularly tasty. Ribs aren’t Joey’s strong suit, and the barbecue sauce is awfully sweet. Avoid the sides, which Xericx describes as “proportioned junk filler instead of being real sides.” OK, it’s not the most authentic ’cue joint ever, but it’s a good option if you’re in the ’hood, and it’s pretty cheap. Burgers are supposed to be worthwhile, too.

Uncle Flip’s is a pretty good option in the area also, with some of the best beef sausage around—juicy and spicy, with a snap in each bite, says Steve2. Try it on a sandwich with some of the tasty sauce and some slaw.

The beans are terrific, too. Sweet, smoky, and meaty, they’re a close second to Kansas City BBQ Company’s. And the chow-chow relish is different and really great. Meatless greens and dirty rice are also good.

Baby back ribs are good, if not spectacular—juicy and flavorful. The pulled pork (that’s Niman Ranch, mind you) is moist and pleasant.

Look out for the Kobe beef sandwich and ribs—they go fast. Lunch here is a steal: A pulled pork sandwich with two sides and a drink is $5 even.

Kansas City BBQ Company [San Fernando Valley]
4141 Lankershim Boulevard, Studio City
818-754-0030
Location

Joey’s Smokin’ B-B-Q [South Bay]
3200 N. Sepulveda Boulevard, Manhattan Beach
310-563-9072
Location

Joey’s Smokin’ B-B-Q [Orange County]
Tustin Marketplace
2915 El Camino Real, Tustin
714-544-4106
Location

Uncle Flip’s Smoke Pit [San Fernando Valley]
4715 Lankershim Boulevard, North Hollywood
818-980-7427
Location

Board Links: BBQ in the Valley
is barbeque in the Valley a contradiction in terms?
Uncle Flip’s Smoke Pit in North Hollywood
Joey’s smokin’ bbq in Irvine

Last Chance for Nirvana at Wat Thai

It’s a Chowhound emergency: The weekend food court at Wat Thai, the Thai Buddhist temple in North Hollywood, is slated to close because of neighborhood haters (something about needing to park?). This coming weekend (August 11-12), temple insiders say, will be its last. There’s a petition in the works to keep the food court alive, but this may be your last chance to grab kanom krok, boat noodles, and perhaps the best green papaya salad in LA in the cheery yet laid-back atmosphere of the temple’s parking lot.
 
Thai chef Jet Tila will be there on Saturday at 10 a.m. doing a segment for local media; he says he’s happy to show people around and answer questions.

Wat Thai Los Angeles [Thai Town North]
12909 Cantara Street, North Hollywood
818-780-4200
Location

Board Link: Wat Thai Temple- foodcourt closing?
 

Like Manna From Maui

Hawaiian shave ice, fluffy as snow, is down to a science at Shave It in Thousand Oaks. There’s one person to take your order, another to shave and shape the ice, and a third to apply the flavored syrup of your choice.

The ice is the perfect consistency, says Diana, calling up blissful memories of Hawaiian vacation.

Basic flavors include litchi, mango, and watermelon; there are sugar-free syrups and seasonal flavors like pumpkin as well. Each additional flavor is about 50 cents more, and you can also add on cream, ice cream, or sour powder. Unfortunately, you’re still in Thousand Oaks—no sweet red beans here. There are combos with a twist, like the root beer float of vanilla ice cream with root beer shave ice.

Shave It [San Fernando Valley]
11 E. Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks
805-496-4800
Location

Board Link: Shave It, Thousand Oaks-Review

Boiled Peanuts and ‘Cue

The Eagle Rock farmers’ market features two stands that all displaced Southerners must know about, says czaplin. The Kettle Corn stand sells boiled peanuts, $2 for a pint and $3 for a quart. They aren’t available every week, but when they are, they’re good.

Big Tex Morgan’s BBQ is the stand of a local caterer with great barbecue. “He’s the reason I didn’t give up on tri-tip as a BBQ-worthy meat,” says czaplin. Also check out Geronimo’s nachos (Geronimo is one of the cooks): corn chips, chopped tri-tip, chili, nacho cheese, pico de gallo, sour cream, and jalapeños.

The Eagle Rock farmers’ market is on Friday evenings from 5 to 8:30.

Eagle Rock Farmers’ Market [Eastside]
2100 Merton Avenue, Eagle Rock
323-225-5466

Location

Board Link: Boiled P-Nuts and BBQ at the Eagle Rock Farmer’s Market

Big Fish in a Shrinking Pool

Malaysian/Singaporean restaurants are becoming as rare in Southern Cali as a cool day in Kuala Lumpur, notes bulavinaka, who enjoys Yazmin for home-style cooking almost as good as Mom’s. Unlike hawker stalls, home cooking tends to go lighter on the fat and salt. Be aware, though, authenticity here extends to the heavy use of MSG.

First-timers to Malaysian food might want to start with nasi lemak, a kind of all-in-one sampler of coconut rice topped with dried anchovies, peanuts, cucumbers, chile sauce, and a protein like curry chicken, grilled fish, or beef rendang. In Malaysia it’s usually wrapped in a banana leaf and eaten as breakfast, but it can be found—and devoured—anytime.

At Yazmin, one should also get rojak, a fruit salad with a tamarind base; a noodle dish (char kway teow, similar to the Thai pad see ew, has great wok hay, says suvro); a soup (just not laksa curry with chicken, which disappoints); a protein (beef rendang, succulent and flavorful; satays; or any grilled or fried chicken); and maybe water spinach with fermented shrimp paste (kangkong belacan) to round out the meal. If you’ve got room, shaved ice dishes chendal or ice kachang make a nice dessert.

In the South Bay, it’s also worth checking out Belacan Grill; the food’s quite good, although a little pricier than SGV (and a lot more than in Malaysia/Singapore!).

Yazmin [San Gabriel Valley]
27 E. Main Street, Alhambra
626-308-2036
Location

Belacan Grill [South Bay]
2701 190th Street, Redondo Beach
310-370-1831
Location

Board Link: Main and Garfield, Alhambra?

Indian-Restaurant Newcomers Fire It Up

The Indian dining scene on the Westside just got a boost with the opening of Agra Indian Kitchen, says Lee by the Sea. The restaurant is unrelated to Silver Lake’s Agra.

Lamb vindaloo is authentically Goan—fiery, vinegary, and impossibly complex, without a speck of tomato. “Each bite tastes a little different and the spices bloom in your mouth.” Chicken saag is smooth without having been puréed, and surprisingly light. Gentle spicing underlies the spinach, and the chicken is good-quality breast meat. Malai kofta comes in a decadently rich cream sauce with moderate spicing, good enough to eat with rice long after the veggie-packed koftas are a memory. Lamb pasanda also is deeply flavored and intricately spiced, a satisfying dish.

Mango lassi and masala chai are well made, fresh, and pleasant.

The restaurant is small, with six booths and two tables, not fancy, but clean. However the overall level of food is remarkable. The chef is from London, and makes his own kulfi (Indian ice cream) as well.

There’s a new chef in the kitchen at the Clay Oven in Sherman Oaks and he/she rocks, says mar52. There’s a nice spread on the lunch buffet—two chicken dishes, a lamb dish, three veg curries, salad, two desserts, and chai—and each dish is different and tasty.

Afraid of the steam table? Don’t be, says Lee by the Sea. If anything, the sauced “curry” dishes benefit from their time there, the flavors blending and more fully infusing the meat and vegetables. But pass on crispy things like samosas and pakoras—the steam table only saddens them.

Agra Indian Kitchen [Beaches]
2553 Lincoln Boulevard, Venice

310-827-0050
Location

Clay Oven [San Fernando Valley]
14611 1/2 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks
818-995-1777
Location

Board Links: Agra Indian Kitchen review
Clay Oven in Sherman Oaks

Hitting the Pinoy Trail

Looking for a great Filipino joint outside your basic turo-turo (cafeteria-style) spot or fast-food eatery? Kris P Pata breaks it down:

“My favorite sit-down family restaurants in LA are either in the southern suburbs or just north of the city in Eagle Rock and Glendale. These include:

“ALEJANDRO’S–Solid, flavorful, 100% family-owned.
“ASIAN NOODLES–Now venerable favorite of downtown LA lunch crowd.
“BARRIO FIESTA–It’s back. And in location opposite a competing cafe run by former employees.
“SALO-SALO GRILL–In my opinion, the best of the type of restaurant you are seeking. They specialize in immense, family-style platters of grilled seafood and mixed grill meats. The honey bbq chicken skewers are a must.”

It’s also worth checking out the reconfigured Eagle Rock Plaza, which houses branches of the popular Filipino chains Jollibee, Chow King, and Goldilocks, plus a huge Seafood City Supermarket, with top-notch produce and a vast array of fresh fish, many of them whole.

elmomonster is practically an evangelist for Magic Wok, declaring its sisig heaven on a plate. It’s a homey, family-run place that’s gotten pretty popular lately—and the lechon kawale is also great.

Normal Garciaparra gives a shout-out to Davao Tuna Grill, with nice sizzling tuna dishes and even kangkong (a green leafy vegetable).

And for traditional Filipino breakfast (anything ending in silog, a combo of fried rice and fried egg), Das Ubergeek declares the best is at Manila Good-Ha—specifically, the branch in Panorama City, with a bunch of meat choices as well as daing (salted and dried fish) and champurrado (rice cooked with chocolate). It’s also cleaner than some of the other branches.

Alejandro’s [Eagle Rock]
4126 Verdugo Road, Los Angeles
323-550-1063
Location

Asian Noodles [Chinatown]
643 N. Spring Street, Los Angeles
213-617-1083
Location

Barrio Fiesta [Eagle Rock]
4420 Eagle Rock Boulevard, Los Angeles

323-259-5826
Location

Salo-Salo Grill [Orange County]
18300 Gridley Road, Artesia
562-809-6277
Location

Salo-Salo Grill [Eastside]
130 N. Maryland Avenue, Glendale
818-241-0880
Location

Salo-Salo Grill [Inland LA]
2530 E. Amar Road, West Covina
626-964-4095
Location

Westfield Shoppingtown Eagle Rock Plaza [Eagle Rock]
2700 Colorado Boulevard, Los Angeles
323-254-4144
Location

Magic Wok [Orange County]
11869 Artesia Boulevard, Artesia
562-865-7340
Location

Davao Tuna Grill [Eastside]
730 S. Central Avenue #101, Glendale
818-662-0990
Location

Manila Good-Ha [Eastside]
900 E. Colorado Street, Glendale
818-662-0971
Location

Board Link: Filipino restaurants in California