Los Angeles Area rss

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

Chowder Bowl, The Next Generation

You want cream soup in fried toast. You need it. Why? Because it’s the next evolutionary step for the clam chowder sourdough bowl. Imagine a box of fried toast, filled with a Taiwanese chowder, the kind you’d find in a Hong Kong–style café, thick with veggies, chicken, shrimp, and ham in a cream-based broth.

“The soup is a bit salty on its own, but mixed with the fried toast, it’s like Ginger and Fred Astaire, Gilligan and the Skipper, Starsky and Hutch …,” says ipsedixit, waxing about Pa Pa Walk.

The menu has other Taiwanese treats like fried oyster, sausages, stinky tofu, etc. If you’re going to have dessert, don’t pass on the mango shaved ice—a one-dessert weapon against global warming.

Pa Pa Walk [San Gabriel Valley]
227 W. Valley Boulevard Suite 148-B, San Gabriel

Board Link: Run, don’t walk, to PA PA WALK

The Ultimate Banh Mi in SoCal

We’ve talked about Banh Mi Che Cali, a favorite of many hounds for those Vietnamese sandwiches, banh mi. We’ve talked about Lee’s and Mr. Baguette. But after a visit to Banh Mi Cho Cu, Das Ubergeek declares in a particularly eloquent post, “These were the best banh mi I’ve ever eaten. I cut my banh mi teeth on Saigon Sandwich in the Tenderloin of SF, which might be the best banh mi in that city. I’ve been to Mr. Baguette, Top Baguette, Tip Top Sandwiches, Saigon Sandwich, Ba Le, Banh Mi Che Cali, Paris Baguette,
and of course Lee’s, down here, and this just blew them all straight out of the water.”

When you walk in, straight away the messy piles of sweets, the loosely covered tray of cha lua, and the enormous pile of pickled vegetables tell you this place has got it.

Xiu mai (pork meatball) banh mi is a revelation—the xiu mai piping hot and incredibly juicy, the cilantro and vegetables (including cucumber) in good proportion, the chile pepper, well, spicy. The bread is better than at a lot of French places: crunchy outside, soft and slightly gluteny inside. Barbecue pork looks charred to Jerkyville, but it’s actually tender and moist, with an intense caramelized flavor, adds pleasurepalate. Grilled pork sandwich looks and smells (with a lovely lemongrass aroma) just as delicious.

The Vietnamese iced coffee is excellent, though the crushed ice makes it more like a coffee granité.

Banh Mi Cho Cu Bakery [Little Saigon]
14520 Magnolia Street Suite B, Westminster

Board Links: REVIEW: Banh Mi Cho Cu, Westminster
Banh Mi Quartet–a tasting of 4 different restaurants

Non-Dive Vietnamese

“While there’s plenty of good food in Little Saigon, I wouldn’t say
there’s a plethora of ‘finer’ choices,” notes hch_nguyen.

Places like S Vietnamese and Brodard Chateau take the same food from their humbler sister restaurants (like the original Brodard’s excellent nem nuong cuon) and charge more for it in an upscale setting, says kingkong5. He recommends Favori as a pleasant place for good-value authentic food. It’s not exactly elegant, but the service and surroundings are way better than the average Vietnamese joint. Make sure to get the whole baked crispy catfish that you roll in rice paper. Only problem is, the place is popular with families, so it tends to be loud.

Da Lat Bistro has the same roasted fish as Favori, with newer and nicer ambiance, says septocaine_queen. It also does a very good bo luc lac and serves wine.

Benley is an artsy, modern café—stylish if not fancy—serving modernized Vietnamese food with real attention to detail, says Tkn. Make sure to get the buttermilk panna cotta, adds cookee.

A couple of relative newcomers also have a dash of style: Le V Cuisine and Aysya.

S Vietnamese Fine Dining [Little Saigon]
545 Westminster Mall Drive, Westminster

Brodard Chateau [Little Saigon]
9100 Trask Avenue, Garden Grove

Favori [OC]
3502 W. First Street, Santa Ana

Da Lat Bistro [South OC]
16525 Brookhurst Street, Fountain Valley

Benley [South Bay]
8191 E. Wardlow Road, Long Beach

Le V Cuisine [South OC]
17431 Brookhurst Street, Unit A, Fountain Valley

Aysya [South OC]
17271 Brookhurst Street, Fountain Valley

Board Link: Finer Vietnamese Dining in Little Saigon, OC??

A Taste of Honey

Open for two months, Honey is a pretty good prospect for pre-entertainment dining: It’s right inside the Avalon nightclub, and around the corner from the Pantages, says lil mikey.

The menu is typically Hollywood eclectic. You get olive bread; there’s a tuna tartare appetizer, a hockey-puck-size portion, frosted with tiny red fish eggs (delish, though you might want to skip the house-fried tortilla chips); and there’s buttermilk fried chicken with gravy—juicy, tender breast gently flavored with buttermilk, plus perfectly mashed potatoes and a slightly spicy, flavorful roasted-corn succotash.

There are also crab cakes, hummus and baba ghanoush, and thin-crust pizza with bacon and goat cheese for starters; and sea bass, tuna, New York strip steak, and pasta for mains; as well as sandwiches and salads.

Pass on the champagne by the glass and go for the Sauvignon Blanc, fruity and fresh.

Honey [Hollywood]
1735 Vine Street, Los Angeles

Board Link: Honey–In the Avalon, Near the Pantages

Crustacean-Lover’s Delight

Crab stew three ways is the thing to get for crab-lovers at Ondal 2, says ipsedixit.

It’s worth braving a seedy part of town for number two on the menu, which comes out as:

1. Crab stew, straight up.
2. Noodles with crab stew.
3. Rice cooked in crab stew.

The crab stew is frighteningly red, but it looks spicier than it actually is. There are large chunks of crab, and sea squirts—which are kind of like sea cucumbers, but slimier.

The noodles are a lot like the hand-cut beauties at the late Heavy Noodling; they’re basically just clumps of dough ripped apart by hand. They’re great for soaking up the crab soup in all its glory. So is the rice, but at this point in the meal your stomach may be yelling, “Uncle!” Those bibs they give you really come in handy.

Ondal 2 [Mid-City]
4566 W. Washington Boulevard, Los Angeles

Board Link: Ondal 2 … crab lovers unite!

The Yum in Yum Cha

Yum Cha Café, a little place tucked into the San Gabriel Superstore, looks like a Hong Kong tea shop fallen on hard times: harsh lighting, stacks of metal trays, and melamine tables like you had in elementary school. But the food is eclectic and surprisingly good, and the prices unbelievably low, says Das Ubergeek.

The ladies at the counter are friendly and helpful. Make sure to get the brown sugar rice cakes, a treat you won’t find in most places.

The usual dumpling suspects are all delicious and very fresh—juicy shiu mai, un-rubbery har gow, just-made cheung fun, and sweet custard buns that manage to escape oversweetening. And the black bean spare ribs are the meatiest anywhere, adds monku.

Eight items run about $12, and there’s a tea charge of 25 cents per person (most regulars seem to bypass that by asking for a side bowl for their soup and filling it at the tea station).

A freestanding location on Atlantic Boulevard in Monterey Park is either open now or in the works—the address is on the menu.

Yum Cha Café [San Gabriel Valley]
1635 S. San Gabriel Boulevard, San Gabriel

Board Link: REVIEW: Yum Cha Cafe, San Gabriel

Burgers Beefed Up With Juice

In the day of the $15 burger, Bloom’s is $10 and weighs in at half a pound. NAspy prefers it to the more gourmet versions at Ford’s Filling Station and Literati 2. It comes on a nice soft wheat bun with your choice of cheese, lettuce, tomato, and garlicky aioli on the side. Order it medium rare, and that’s what you’ll get. The fries are crispy brown and oh so good.

We haven’t heard much about the York, the new incarnation of the Highland Park gastropub Wild Hare (different owners), but Chowpatty comments she had a nice, juicy burger with soft bread there.

Bloom Café [Midtown]
5544 W. Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles

The York [Highland Park]
5018 York Boulevard, Los Angeles

Board Links: Bloom has a great burger
Bar Marmont Burger (the old style)???
The York–quick update

“Field Chicken” and Other Delights from Szechuan

jenn says Hon Yei fills the Szechuan hole in her heart from when Home Style and other great outposts of Szechuan food closed.

Non-Chinese speakers should rely on Tony, a superhelpful waiter who speaks English well despite only having been here for a month.

The menu actually spans all of China, including the un-Szechuan mu shu pork and Peking duck. Follow the recommendations from the kitchen for fiery, amazing beef tendon; a nice, light stir-fried jellyfish; and “sweet chicken” (actually frog, which is known as “field chicken” in Chinese). Mapo fish is really yummy, and cumin lamb has huge amounts of leeks and chiles that explode in your mouth. The northern-style boiled dumplings, thick-skinned and juicy, remind jenn of a favorite place in Beijing.

There’s no liquor license, but they keep the tea and water flowing. Ample parking; this is a new building.

Hon Yei [San Gabriel Valley]
288 South San Gabriel Boulevard #103-104, San Gabriel

Board Links: Hon Yei (San Gabriel) Review
Visit to HongYei Restaurant [SGV-sichuan plus]

The Real Best Szechuan in SoCal

Best Szechuan (Jia Wei in Chinese) has been sold by the original management team. The quality of food at the old Best Szechuan has dropped under the new management, says jeebo.

The old, good management team has opened a new restaurant in Cerritos/Artesia. At the new place, the signature golden crab and lobster are still the best in town, and they also do great things with the usual Szechuan dishes. We do not have an English name for the new place, but we do have an address.

Best Szechuan owners’ new restaurant [Artesia-ish]
11700 South Street, Artesia

Board Links: I found it! I found it! Best Szechuan (Jia Wei) is now Golden River
Looking for the Original “Best Szechuan” (Jia Wei) Team in SGV

Getting Crafty

Tom Colicchio’s Craft is open in Century City, and brekkie_fan declares it’s well worth the round trip from Orange County.

Both the Los Angeles and New York Crafts get their produce from Santa Monica, and a crispy-fresh little gem salad with cipollini onions wrapped in bacon shows it hasn’t had to travel far. Roast quail is succulent and tasty; spaghetti alla chitarra is crazy fresh.

For dessert, take your pick from the glazed and fluffy signature doughnuts, a rich chocolate soufflé, and assorted gelatos. There’s also a cheese plate.

While the NY outpost is dark and cozy, Century City is light and airy. It’s open for dinner only for now, with patio dining on the horizon and lunch service come August.

Craft [Century City]
10100 Constellation Boulevard, Los Angeles

Board Link: Craft ~ worth the wait