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

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

It’s that time of year, when pumpkins are everywhere … in shop windows and on restaurant menus. In a labor of love, Moomin has compiled a list of local squashy delights, updated annually with minireviews.

Highlights of the list:

The Griddle Café’s pumpkin pancakes. Many have been cited, but these take the (pan)cake. They’re unbelievably decadent, with about half a can of pumpkin pie filling on the top … best to share!

The Filling Station’s pumpkin pie is often cited as the Southland’s best; Moomin notes it has a very fluffy custard and an interesting almond flour crust, though it’s not quite his speed. Urth Caffé’s pumpkin pie also has its merits.

Then there’s Leda’s pumpkin cupcakes, “stuffed with Orangey smashyness like a Jaffa Cake.”

For straight-up pumpkin, the roasted kind at El Mercado is outrageously tasty, sticky, spicy, and delicious. Its only flaw is that it’s likely to be served cold.

Thai Nakorn does a terrific pumpkin custard, though it actually tastes more of coconut than pumpkin.

Bulan pumpkin at Bulan Thai, on the other hand, is the best pumpkin curry Moomin’s ever had. It’s served with tofu in a clear herbal broth.

Griddle Café [Hollywood]
7916 W. Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles

323-874-0377

Filling Station [Orange County]
201 N. Glassell Street, Orange
714-289-9714
Location

Urth Caffé [West Hollywood]
8565 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood
310-659-0628

Urth Caffé [Beverly Hills]
267 S. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills
310-205-9311

Urth Caffé [Beaches]
2327 Main Street, Santa Monica
310-314-7040

Leda’s Bake Shop [San Fernando Valley]
13722 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks
818-386-9644

El Mercado de Los Angeles [East LA]
3425 E. First Street, Los Angeles
323-268-3451

Thai Nakorn [Orange County]
11951 Beach Boulevard, Stanton
714-799-2031

Bulan Thai [Hollywood]
7168 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles
323-857-1882
Location

Board Link: Pumpkin Season–Recommendations?

These Little Piggies Went to Bin 8945

You know you missed him. Chef Mike, who held the Sunday pig roast at the now defunct Norman’s, is back, and he’s not alone. His Pigskin Sundays at Bin 8945 feature two 75-pound pigs and a caja china roaster.

For $45, you get a four-course meal with amuse, appetizer, and two courses of pig. There’s also a wine pairing for $25.

When hrhboo visited, the amuse was watermelon gazpacho with chive and cucumber, light and refreshing. The appetizer was a riff on a shrimp po’ boy: duck fat fries topped with sautéed shrimp and tangy rémoulade. The fries were the star, fabulously crisp and rich.

Puerco frito, fried bits of pork, was deliciously crispy and elevated by a touch of basil oil. It came with heirloom tomato, guacamole, and a crumble of hard-cooked egg.

The best course of that evening was roasted pork belly on potato purée with truffles and fig. Yes, says SauceSupreme, it’s just as good as it sounds. Meltingly tender pork is perfectly sauced and garnished with a chicharrón chip.

Not included, but a worthwhile addition that’s usually on the tasting menu, is the house special “corn dog,” which has even the staff buzzing. It’s a piece of pork belly wrapped in caul fat, crusted with panko, fried in duck fat, and presented on a stick. It’s paired with smoked beer, an interesting quaff that might remind some of liquid smoke.

For dessert, you get a choice of a sweet or cheeses. Both are excellent.

Bin 8945 [West Hollywood]
8945 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood
310-550-8945

Board Link: Gettin’ Piggy With It at Bin 8945

Step Right Up for Dim Sum and Fried “Shrimp Toast”

So 9 a.m. may be on the early side for Chinatown, but it’s the right time to swing by the snack table, says Dommy.

Just off the sidewalk is a table loaded with dim sum items, fried plantains, and even turnovers. A heating cabinet keeps goodies like bao and Vietnamese spring rolls nice and warm.

The goods seem to be made in a closetlike mobile kitchen. Deep-fried French bread with prawns looks like a Chinese-style county fair gut-buster, but its freshness keeps it rather delicate. The bread is light, with a slight chew; the batter thin and very crisp; and the prawn shell makes it all extracrunchy.

Chinese snack table [Chinatown]
N. Broadway and W. College Street, Los Angeles
Location

Board Link: Chinatown Snack Table – Get’em while they are hot!

Great Brisket, Hot Links … How Is This NY Barbecue?

Don’t let the name fool you—NY BBQ has some really good ’cue, says droyal, who can claim a Louisiana pedigree. In the space formerly occupied by Greece’s BBQ, it offers the same stellar hot links (no tricked-out sausages, these) and very good baby back ribs.

The new owner’s claim to fame is the beef brisket: high quality, lean but moist, and incredibly flavorful—it’s slow-cooked for more than 10 hours. Instead of the old brick barbecue oven, there’s now modern equipment that’s wood-fired, and the food is much better for it.

Not sure about that brisket, but the ribs are Angus beef. A three-meat combo ($17), enough to feed two, includes ribs, links, and brisket, with two sides and cornbread. The sides (barbecue beans, potato salad, collards, etc.) are made in-house and exceptional, raves countdeville, and the mac ’n’ cheese tastes of real white cheddar. Purists might want to order sauce on the side; they really lay it on.

NY BBQ [Mid-Wilshire]
901 S. La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles
323-934-4343
Location

Board Link: Report on New BBQ Restaurant

Break the Ramadan Fast, Indonesian-Style

For the month of Ramadan, which lasts till October 12, Indonesian eatery Simpang Asia is offering special meals, says WBGuy. Since observant Muslims fast during the day for the holiday, it’s meant to be a dinner special, but nonbelievers can get it for lunch as well—look for the little sign by the cash register that says “Buka Puasa” (“breaking the fast”).

The meal includes an entrée with appetizer or dessert and coffee or tea. The choices change periodically and include things like lamb curry or beef-tripe fried rice for the entrée and banana-coconut cold soup for dessert.

Observant Muslims might want to call to double-check that the meal is genuinely halal, as the restaurant’s regular meals usually are not. Of course, it would seem ridiculous to offer a nonhalal Ramadan menu, but … better safe than sacrilegious.

Simpang Asia [West LA]
10433 National Boulevard, Los Angeles
310-815-9075

Board Link: Ramadhan specials at Simpang Asia

Salsa de Semillas on a Food Stall Strip

A Chowhound’s buffet awaits in front of a grocery store in Boyle Heights Thursday through Sunday evenings, says pleasurepalate. The street is lined with food stalls serving sopes, gorditas, huaraches, and more, with some unusual specialties.

Try something, anything, with salsa de semillas—a blend of peanuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, chile de arbol, and peanut oil. It’s nutty and flavorful, spicy but not over the top.

A gordita—in this case, a thick corn tortilla filled with squash blossoms and epazote-flavored tomato—goes really well with salsa de aguacate (avocado) and salsa de chile costeno. It also comes with a complimentary nopales salad, which isn’t slimy at all. It’s got a nice kick from the vinegared onions.

Mexican quesadillas aren’t made with flour tortillas but circles of corn masa stuffed with cheese and other ingredients, then fried. Potato-chorizo filling is a bit too bland, though, and the guajillo salsa doesn’t do enough for it.

There’s a delicious red pozole, every spoonful tasting of pork, chile, and lime. Also check out the pambazo, a sandwich filled with potatoes and sausage or beans, garnished with the fixings and dipped in a guajillo chile sauce.

It’s probably best to hit the stalls on the weekend—a few of them are missing during the week, including the ones with salsa de semillas and pozole. Hours are 7 p.m. until at least 10, and possibly 11 or midnight.

Food stalls [Boyle Heights]
Opposite Big Buy Foods
2233 E. Cesar Chavez Avenue, Los Angeles
Location

Board Link: REVIEW w/ pics: Mexican Outdoor Food Stands in Boyle Heights

Rooster Café Has Something to Crow About

The Rooster Café replaced Mitae Ramen in Costa Mesa, but it’s not a total loss—Wonginator, who loves French dip, says this is one of the best in OC.

The meat is really tender, thickly sliced in a way that resembles brisket more than the usual thinly sliced roast beef. A slice of melted cheese, of unknown American provenance, is in there too, and it might be this hint of cheese that vaults Rooster over the likes of the Hat. The jus seems like it’s been thickened, but it tastes about right, not too salty or too watery. A pickle comes on the side.

French dip sandwich is $6.49.

Rooster Café [Orange County]
750 St. Clair Street, Costa Mesa
714-754-1944

Board Link: Rooster Cafe review–Costa Mesa

Behind a Great Pizza Lurks a Fantastic Sub

It’s been far too long since we’ve discussed meatball sandwiches, says Al Gore mand, who’d like to point out that one of LA’s finest is under our very noses—at the hound favorite Casa Bianca.

There’s practically a cult around Casa Bianca’s thin-crust pizza (the inner circle swears by sausage), so it’s pretty easy to overlook its sandwich offerings. And given the out-of-control crowds, it’s a good idea to get your sandwich to go.

There’s meatball in every bite of this sandwich, homemade and spiced just right. Also a fresh, crunchy-on-the-outside-chewy-on-the-inside roll (could it be from Eagle Rock Italian Bakery down the street?), melted cheese, and “a delicious sauce that your taste buds will confirm has simmered on the stove for several hours instead of just poured out of a jar.”

The only thing better than the meatball sandwich at Casa Bianca is the eggplant parm sandwich, but that’s for another time.

Of course, plenty of hounds were willing to jump in with their favorites, so the thread had far more recs than we could post here.

Casa Bianca Pizza Pie [Eagle Rock]
1650 Colorado Boulevard, Los Angeles

323-256-9617

Board Link: Meatball Sandwich

15 Scores High in Echo Park

The hipsterification of Echo Park continues, and La Paz and its pupusas are no more, replaced by 15, a restaurant where you can get stuff like herb-grilled Hawaiian opah.

It’s definitely spiffed up from its previous incarnation, with air conditioning and an imposing bar (empty, because the liquor license is still in the works; ETA about a month). A couple of TVs hang over the bar and another two across from it. Photos of Keith Richards, Slash, and Tommy Lee hang on the walls.

The menu is kind of small, but that opah is a winner: “A generous meaty portion, grilled but rare inside. Nicely served on sauteed spinach on a plate decorated with baby vegetables and pencil-thin asparagus. Definitely the most upscale dinner I’ve ever had in Echo Park,” says LA_Eater.

Flank steak, perfectly seasoned, is crisply grilled on the outside and butter-soft inside, says bethshax. It comes on a bed of spinach with some grilled garlic.

But the short ribs get mixed reviews: bethshax says they’re not perfect though far superior to Dusty’s; lil mikey says his were offensively oversalted. Some like the kick of horseradish in their mashed potatoes; some don’t.

There’s a pretty cool deal called “$15 at 15,” which is basically a three-course meal for $15. You pick an appetizer and main dish, and the dessert is preordained. Pray that it’s the chocolate croissant bread pudding.

15 [Echo Park]
1320 Echo Park Avenue, Los Angeles

Board Links: 15 Restaurant in Echo Park
Any reports on 15 in Echo Park?

The King of Fish Dumplings

The newly opened Kingburg Kitchen has “the best fish dumplings I’ve ever had—better than Dumpling 10053 or Dumpling House or anywhere,” says Chandavkl.

It’s pretty much a dumpling place, with seven types of dumplings: sole with leeks; pork with sea cucumber and shrimp; vegetable; cabbage with shrimp and pork; plain pork; pork with kau choy; and beef with onion, a rare find.

Vegetable dumplings are pretty good but a little short on flavor, notes chowchow12345678.

The place also seems quite proud of the beef noodle soup. It’s quite tasty, with good chewy noodles, lots of beef and tendon, and a dark, not-so-spicy broth, says suvro.

A few other kinds of noodle soup are on the short menu, a couple of rice dishes, fried noodles with pork and cabbage, and chicken soup. Also side dishes such as cold stewed beef tendon, simmered tripe, stewed eggs, cold tofu salad, and cold cucumber. Most menu items are $3.25 to $6.50.

As for the name, it translates from Mandarin as gold treasure, and its phonetic translation is dumpling, says goodtimer.

Kingburg Kitchen [San Gabriel Valley]
715 W. Las Tunas Drive, San Gabriel

626-282-2386

Board Link: Kingburg Kitchen–Chinese Restaurant in San Gabriel-Best Fish Dumplings in Town