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

Mom-and-Pop Persian

Family-run Reyhaan is a new, consistently good Persian restaurant in an unlucky corner of Culver City, says thericequeen.

Kashk-e bademjan, a roasted eggplant concoction, looks like an unpromising gray paste floating in olive oil, but it explodes with flavor. Chicken kebab—grilled, marinated, boneless chunks of breast—is tasty and moist and goes well with the grilled tomatoes.

The word is that the couple who own the place are from rural Iran, so there may be some interesting off-menu specialties.

Lunch prices range from $7 for a special to $17 for the sultani beef kebab.

Reyhaan [Westside]
11800 W. Jefferson Boulevard, Culver City
310-390-6800

Board Link: Reyhaan Persian Cuisine

Japanese Restaurants Spread the Love

A new Shin-Sen-Gumi restaurant just had its grand opening in Monterey Park, bringing its stellar yakitori and shabu-shabu to the SGV. Yes, unlike the ramen-only Shin-Sen-Gumi or the yakitori-only Shin-Sen-Gumi, this place is a hybrid—and unfortunately, the yakitori menu seems to be less than half as long as the all-yakitori branch’s menu.

The location is amazing, says exilekiss, who went on the first day. It’s the most elegant of the Shin-Sen-Gumi restaurants by far, with gorgeous red wood paneling and brick walls. Classy and clean, yet somehow romantic as well.

For the grand opening, the restaurant’s master chefs manned the grill, setting a high standard with moist, tender shio yakitori, roasted chicken thigh with green onions and salt marinade. The master’s touch was evident: This was better than at the original branches. Cartilage, gizzard, and beef tongue skewers were just as good as the originals.

As for the shabu-shabu side of things, there are some unusual stews in addition to the usual Japanese-style hot pot with thinly sliced beef. Motsu nabe, a Hakata regional specialty, is a flavorful soup—the tripe might be a turnoff for some, but this is a good way to try it, says rameniac.

There’s also a small selection of izakaya-style dishes, including chicken kara-age (fried chicken, moist and delectable) and tako wasabi (superfresh raw octopus in a wasabi marinade). Fried pork feet in Dijon mustard-and-apple sauce is a little heavy on the mustard but tasty. Tuna carpaccio is top-notch. Sadly, the bacon-wrapped maki items are missing from the menu.

There’s a good selection of sake, if not as extensive as the one in Fountain Valley.

Dinner only; lunch service starts in November.

Another izakaya fave, Orange County–based Honda-Ya, recently opened a branch in Little Tokyo. tokyoastrogirl has longed for the fun, festive, and casual atmosphere of a real izakaya since moving back from Tokyo seven years ago; Honda-Ya is the answer to her prayers. (Musha in Torrance also fits the bill but is too far away, she adds.)

A word about what to expect from an izakaya: It’s basically a Japanese pub. The food isn’t supposed to be gourmet or refined. Nor do you want to order the kinds of dishes that are traditionally served at specialty restaurants, like ramen or sushi.

The menu is big—maybe too big, as there are some clunkers in there. Some of the best are marked with red stars. Hound-recommended dishes: wasabi octopus, a nice combo of flavors and textures; crab shiu mai; chicken skin; nasu miso, eggplant on a bed of miso-sautéed onions; buta no kakuni; and bacon-wrapped grilled anything. There’s also ika natto, squid in fermented soybean sauce—but only order this if you know what natto is and like it. Natto is very much an acquired taste and ika natto even more so.

The new restaurant draws comparisons to Musha (Santa Monica and Torrance) and nearby Izayoi.

“Part of the problem is that Honda Ya has a huge menu, where Musha has a much tighter menu,” says Professor Salt. “But tighter doesn’t equal better. Overall I still prefer Honda Ya. Your mileage varies. Such is life.”

rameniac agrees, pointing out that Izayoi is a whole different ball game—upscale, pricier, open late, and run by an ex–sushi chef.

The space is huge, complete with tatami room options, and service is attentive.

Oh, and Musha in Santa Monica has reopened and is as good as ever, reports SauceSupreme, who checked it out with a few fellow hounds.

Shin-Sen-Gumi [San Gabriel Valley]
111 N. Atlantic Boulevard #248, Monterey Park
626-943-7956
Location

Honda-Ya [Little Tokyo]
333 S. Alameda Street, Los Angeles
213-635-1184

Musha [Beaches]
424 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica

310-576-6330

Musha [South Bay]
1725 W. Carson Street, Torrance
310-787-7344

Izayoi [Little Tokyo]
132 S. Central Avenue, Los Angeles
213-613-9554

Board Links: NEW Shin Sen Gumi
Izakaya: Haru Ulala or Izayoi or ?
Izakaya Honda Ya–Little Tokyo
Izakaya Honda Ya–Quick Review
Musha Re-Opening

Das Ubergeek’s Adventures in the SGV

When en route to a famed noodle joint, what better way to whet the appetite than with a bowl of spicy Szechuan noodles? So thought Das Ubergeek, heading into Chung King restaurant in Hacienda Heights (no word on whether it’s related to the restaurants in San Gabriel and Monterey Park). This Chung King also goes by the name Mr. Swiss. It’s apparently code for “generic Americanized Chinese food like orange chicken,” and our hero was having none of it. After some berating of the waitress, dan dan noodles, chopsticks, and teacups (you know, for the tea in the teapot) were successfully procured. And the noodles ($4.25) are good, very good—swimming in chile oil, dotted with peanuts and scallions.

Over at Malan Noodles, he won the heart of the waitress by writing a Chinese character on his order form and was treated to samples of scallion pancake (overdone) and duck doused in what seemed like ginger oil (very good). The house specialty, beef noodle soup ($5.50 small, $5.95 large) is excellent: toothsome noodles that soak up all the flavors of the long-cooked broth. The beef is a bit smoky, and there are plenty of greens in there. Watching the noodles being made is a show in itself: In 30 seconds, a lump of dough turns into an insanely long noodle.

For dessert, Phoenix Food Boutique is a great place to browse—and serves as a cheap trip to Hong Kong, this modern, minimalist-style teahouse. Desserts and small delicacies are everywhere. Junjong or yuanyang (“the blend of tea, coffee, condensed milk and milk that is what keeps the youth of Hong Kong going”) is great but completely eclipsed by the shaved ice, the best he’s had: very fresh fruit, finely shaved ice with condensed milk, and tiny pearls of barely tasteable tapioca. Junjong is $2 and shaved ice $5.

There are a lot of Phoenix permutations; the Food Boutiques serve up Taiwanese and Hong Kong–style fast-food type dishes and snacks, Phoenix Dessert is dessert only, and Phoenix Restaurants are full-blown restaurants with more formal dishes than the boutiques but without the desserts, explains ipsedixit.

Chung King/Mr. Swiss Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
15840 Halliburton Road, Hacienda Heights
626-968-1017
Location

Malan Noodles [San Gabriel Valley]
2020 S. Hacienda Boulevard #B, Hacienda Heights
626-369-5602
Location

Phoenix Food Boutique [San Gabriel Valley]
1709 Nogales Street, Rowland Heights
626-810-8988
Location

Phoenix Food Boutique [San Gabriel Valley]
Pacific Square
31 E. Valley Boulevard, Alhambra
626-284-2388
Location

Phoenix Food Boutique [San Gabriel Valley]
1108 S. Baldwin Avenue, Arcadia
626-446-7668
Location

Phoenix Food Boutique [San Gabriel Valley]
712 W. Las Tunas Drive, San Gabriel
626-289-9888
Location

Phoenix Food Boutique [Eastside]
456 S. Fair Oaks Avenue, Pasadena
626-403-1828
Location

Board Link: REVIEW: Noodling Around in the East SGV

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