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

The Great White Loaf

Sometimes poptisserie craves the springy sweetness that only a processed white bread can offer. But that doesn’t mean Wonder Bread. Asian bakeries specialize in this stuff, and some of the best comes from Cream Pan, where the loaves are ethereally light.

Décor, a bakery inside 99 Ranch Market (warning: It’s not inside every 99 Ranch) makes a wonderful light bread out of some special wheat, says WHills. Also, Kee Wah Bakery has good, very fluffy bread that’s sliced double the thickness of a regular slice.

Try catching the bread at Diho Bakery fresh off the cooling rack, at about 9:45 a.m., advises arisu. It’s great even plain. A huge loaf will set you back $2.75.

Speaking of fresh off the rack, for fresh croissants hit the Frances bakery between 8:45 and 9 a.m., says gomagoma.

Cream Pan [Orange County]
602 El Camino Real, Tustin

Décor [Multiple locations]
99 Ranch Market

Kee Wah Bakery [Multiple locations]

Diho Bakery [Orange County]
14130 Culver Drive #J, Irvine

Frances [Little Tokyo]
404 E. Second Street (Honda Plaza), Los Angeles

Board Link: Asian Bakery with the softest, fluffiest, light as a cloud loaf of bread

Sea Smoke Signals in SGV

If you like wine with your Chinese food, stop by Wing Hop Fung when you’re in San Gabriel Valley, suggests mssreatalot, whose mention of the “big selection” of Sea Smoke Pinot Noirs set connoisseurs buzzing. There’s an impressive selection, reflecting a growing interest in wine on the part of the Chinese community.

There’s something for every budget, but the majority of wines are red, and on the moderately to very expensive side, says monkuboy. He did, however, stumble onto a tasting of three sparkling wines for $3.

As for the Sea Smoke, it may not be that hard to find, but wine shops sell out of it pretty quickly. The Southing goes for $75 at Wing Hop Fung, and the Ten is $110.

Wing Hop Fung [Chinatown]
727 N. Broadway #102, Los Angeles

Wing Hop Fung [San Gabriel Valley]
725 W. Garvey Avenue, Monterey Park

Board Link: Wing Hop Fung Wine!!

This Must Be Plov

Bring your friends and get ready for a Central Asian feast at Uzbekistan, says Woolsey.

Go for the Uzbek bread, a hybrid of yeast bread and biscuit that comes with herbed cream cheese. It would be great just with a salad—the Asiatic Delight, mounds of shredded carrot with roasted red peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant in a dill-heavy vinaigrette, is indeed delightful. (Assorted pickled vegetables also go great with the bread and a beer, adds Henry2054.) Samsa is the Central Asian version of a samosa, a flake pastry filled with chunks of lamb and onions, lightly spiced. The same filling is found in parmuda, baked buns dusted with sesame seeds. Pass on the crêpelike blinis with salmon “caviar,” though.

Shashlik is just another version of kebabs, but Uzbekistan’s lamb shashlik is well flavored and perfectly tender. It comes with roasted zucchini and a potato that somehow seems like a single giant french fry.

Plov is the national dish of Uzbekistan, sweet stewed lamb piled atop rice loaded with shredded carrots, some whole peppercorns, and the odd chickpea. A vinegary, slightly sweet carrot-and-cabbage slaw comes on the side.

A nice assortment for five people, without alcohol, comes to about $20 apiece.

Uzbekistan [Hollywood]
7077 W. Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles

Board Link: Uzbekistan: Lunch with Borat’s Neighbors

Good Times for Guys and Dals

The menu in the window at the 23rd Street Café lists mostly Mexican dishes, but this place near USC is a great find for unpretentious and delicious home-style Punjabi food, says AmarV.

Matter paneer is a vegetarian’s delight, spicy and full of flavor, with plenty of paneer. Aloo gobi is also tasty, with fresh, slightly crunchy cauliflower pieces contrasting with tender potato. Raita seems to be made with homemade curds, plus just the right amount of veggies and spices. Both the rice and dal are tasty enough to eat on their own. Lassi is one of the more authentic versions around, properly watery rather than an Indian-style milkshake, and tasting of homemade yogurt.

Chicken curry is delicious, and shane murgh (marinated roast chicken) is tasty, with ginger, cumin, and chile, but it’s on the dry side. Samosas are better than many in LA, but not amazing—just nice, crisp skin enclosing a flavorful blend of potatoes and peas with a good kick to the seasonings.

The naan, unfortunately, is reheated rather than freshly made—there’s no tandoor oven in this place.

23rd Street Café [Downtown]
936 W. 23rd Street, Los Angeles

Board Link: Delicious Home-style Punjabi Food

Whole Lotta Hunanese Joints Opening Up

Hunanese restaurants are rising again in the SGV, with two new places in San Gabriel, notes Chandavkl. Both Hunan Mao Jia and Fortune Bistro have a full menu of spicy Hunanese specialties.

Although Fortune Bistro can easily be mistaken for a Hong Kong coffee shop (especially since it’s right across the street from the former Fortune Grill, an HK coffee shop), it’s straight-up Hunanese all the way, heavy on the salt and plenty of spices, says ipsedixit. Even the dishes that aren’t marked as spicy on the menu seem to have pepper lobbed in for fun. Smoked duck is good, as are fried chicken dishes. Cold dishes are solid, but no word on the stinky tofu.

Hunan Mao Jia [San Gabriel Valley]
Shopping center at NE corner of Valley Boulevard and New Avenue, San Gabriel

Fortune Bistro [San Gabriel Valley]
545 W. Las Tunas Drive, San Gabriel

Board Link: Two New Hunan Style Restaurants In San Gabriel

Sawtelle’s New Sushi Sweet Spot

The lunch menu at Yuzando, which replaced Sushi Tenn on Sawtelle, definitely does it better, says ming, who declares, “This may just become our favorite west side sushi lunch spot over Mori, Kiriko, and Echigo (It is, of course, no match for Sushi Gen’s lunch special…but what is?)”

Sushi-sashimi combo ($18.50) comes with one piece each of ebi, salmon, tuna, and yellowtail sushi; three pieces each of albacore and salmon sashimi; and two pieces each of tuna, yellowtail, and snapper sashimi. The fish is fresh, the cuts generous. There’s also an eel and avocado cut roll.

Chirashi comes with a similar assortment of sashimi, plus kanpachi and flying fish roe. It’s really good, but a bit pricey for chirashi (also $18.50).

Yuzando [West LA]
2004 Sawtelle Boulevard, Los Angeles

Board Link: Yuzando (Sawtelle) Sushi Lunch

Great Chinese in the Far East … of the SGV

When people talk about great Chinese food in the SGV, West Covina doesn’t usually leap to mind. But one little gem should, says calabasas_trafalgar, calling Beijing Cuisine Garden the best northern Chinese restaurant since Tung Lai Shun (which recently closed after its conversion to a Taiwanese restaurant didn’t really take).

The cuisine in question is northern, but not Islamic, so plenty of pork is on offer. That’s in addition to, not instead of, the usual TLS-esque offerings. Try the beef roll, a burritolike wrap of spiced beef and cilantro, says monkuboy, who’s also a fan. And pineapple shrimp fried rice, while not typically northern Chinese, is delish.

Beijing Cuisine Garden [Inland LA]
965 S. Glendora Avenue, West Covina

Board Link: Beijing Cuisine Garden

Plot Points

Need a meeting point halfway between you and your friend in Pasadena? Looking for a great restaurant in your own ’hood? psyber has done a great thing for all Chowhoundkind by translating the annual (unofficial) favorite-restaurants poll into a map, with restaurants color-coded by price.

To avoid clutter, though, the popular but increasingly ubiquitous King Taco and Zankou Chicken have been left out.

Green = $
Yellow = $$
Cyan = $$$
Blue = $$$$
Magenta = $$$$$
Gold $ = Urasawa = $$$$$$

Board Link: Google Map of Chowhound Ultimate Los Angeles Restaurants

Crazy for Japanese Curry

Japanese curry is only vaguely related to the Indian original, but it’s got an appeal all its own. It’s easy enough to make from a package, so if you’re going to get it in a restaurant, they at least should be making it from scratch—like Sawtelle Kitchen and Bistro Laramie, says E Eto.

Café Hiro, a Japanese-Italian-French restaurant complete with red-and-white checkered tablecloths, manages to turn out some pretty good curry as well, says poptisserie.

There’s good curry in San Gabriel at Ducks, although lapchern finds it overpriced.

But the most competition for Japanese curry is on Sawtelle, where in addition to Sawtelle Kitchen, Blue Marlin, Hurry Curry, and Curry House duke it out for top honors and everyone seems to have his favorite. For curry on the go, check out Curry House’s new takeout shop on the first level of its Little Tokyo location and grab a curry pan (roll) or something.

Sawtelle Kitchen [Sawtelle Strip]
2024 Sawtelle Boulevard, Los Angeles

Bistro Laramie [South Bay]
18202 S. Western Avenue, Gardena

Café Hiro [Orange County]
10509 Valley View Street, Cypress

Ducks [San Gabriel Valley]
1831 E. Las Tunas Drive, San Gabriel

Blue Marlin [Sawtelle Strip]
2121 Sawtelle Boulevard, Los Angeles


Hurry Curry [Sawtelle Strip]
2131 Sawtelle Boulevard, Los Angeles

Curry House [Sawtelle Strip]
2130 Sawtelle Boulevard, Los Angeles

Curry House [Little Tokyo]
123 S. Onizuka Street, Los Angeles

Board Link: Best Japanese Curry

So Long, Farewell, See You Again Soon

A Chowhound favorite for affordable, creative cuisine, Bistro Verdu closed abruptly June 24: “This weekend marks the ‘end for now’ of Bistro Verdu,” said owner Michael Ruiz in an email newsletter. “As many of you know, we are working on a new location and hope to have news soon.”

Those plans include a new retail/takeout operation called Ingredients, one block north of Verdu. On the shelves will be artisanal foods, domestic and imported; cheeses; spices from around the world; and prepared small bites.

Chef Laurent Quenioux, of the late lamented Bistro K (it still exists, but apparently isn’t flourishing under new management), was seen cooking recently at Vermont in Los Feliz. It’s possible he might do the guest thing at another restaurant this year, so sign up for his email list if you’re interested. If all goes according to plan, Quenioux’s new place will open downtown in late ’07 or early ’08.

Also no longer open for Chowhounding: the esteemed northern Chinese joint Heavy Noodling.

Bistro Verdu [Montrose/Glendale]
3459 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale

Bistro K info

Board Links: Chef Laurent Quenioux (nee of Bistro K) cooking at Vermont this week
Bistro Verdu Closing
Heavy Noodling in MPK is closed