Los Angeles Area rss

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

Truly Spudly Tacos

Rockin’ potato tacos can be had at My Taco, a Highland Park joint that got redone a little while back, expanding into the place next door and throwing some new paint on the walls, says bigtums. The salsa bar is really good (avocado salsa = awesome) and so are the rice and beans; the meat isn’t fatty or greasy, and they do a top-notch goat consommé.

But oro3030 will pass, having become addicted to the potato tacos touted by local Pulitzer winner/culinary crack peddler Jonathan Gold.

My Taco [Highland Park]
6300 York Boulevard, Suite 4, Los Angeles

El Atacor #11 [Highland Park]
2622 N. Figueroa Street, Los Angeles

El Atacor #8 [East LA]
6506 Whittier Boulevard, Los Angeles

Board Links: Potato Taco In Highland Park, so good! “My Taco”

When Pigs Almost Fly

When you’re eating at Porky’s, you’ve got to play to its strength: pork. Pulled pork sandwich blows Baby Blues out of the water—tender, succulent but not fatty, with big, crispy, intensely flavored crusty squares. The bun is buttered and grilled, and the only thing this sandwich needs is some more sauce—ask for extra. The rest is irrelevant … although the peach cobbler and banana pudding are pretty tasty, says Rae.

Open late and airport-adjacent, Bad 2 da Bone is the kind of place every traveling hound should know about. Don’t be put off by the bulletproof glass; that’s the sign of great ’cue. Here the pork ribs are lean, tender, and nicely smoky, topped with a tangy, spicy-ish sauce, says Booklegger451. And for dessert, a tiny individual sweet potato pie hits the spot.

Porky’s [South LA]
801 E. Manchester Boulevard, Inglewood

Bad 2 da Bone [South LA]
4566 W. Century Boulevard, Inglewood

Board Links: Porky’s —The Good, the Bad, and the Chunky
Bad 2 da Bone BBQ, Near LAX

Yum Cha Just Gets Yummier for 99 Cents

Ninety-nine cents for dim sum? Yes, it’s possible at Yum Cha Café, an eat-in/take-out place tucked into the southeast corner of the San Gabriel Superstore, says monku.

There are no carts here; it’s more like a McDonald’s experience. Grab a number, and when it’s your turn, either use the fill-in menu to check off your choices or point and pick.

Most of the dim sum items are 99 cents per order, and there’s more variety than you’ll see at any dim sum restaurant. Their steamed black bean spareribs are meatier than any at the high-end dim sum places, with no taro filler. Some of the other items may be smaller and not up to the standards of said high-end dim sum places (not to mention the disposable plates and chopsticks), but for 99 cents each, you’re doing pretty well.

For less than $10 two people can easily have a dim sum feast. Tea (jasmine or black) is 25 cents. There’s also other stuff, like noodle soups and jook (rice porridge), $2.99 for a bowl big enough for two. For $3.99, pick up a plate lunch with rice and barbecue items.

Make sure to also pick up some of their brown sugar rice cakes, adds ipsedixit—they’re addictive. Ask for bok tung gao.

Hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day, with dim sum all day long. It gets pretty crowded at peak times, but weekday mornings are relatively tame.

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

Board Links: 99 cent dim sum and then some…

Crossing the Frontera for Great Eats

Fronteras Mexican Grill is a nice-looking place, with lots of blown-glass lighting, comfortable and colorful booths, and a cool-looking bar, says Clare K. But don’t get her wrong—this is also the kind of place that serves you menudo as a side dish.

It’s really good, and so are the basics: delicious salsa and freshly fried tortilla chips. Chicken mole is just how it should be—rich, dark, complex, and not too sweet. Chicken enchilada is good eating.

And despite the nice surroundings and deliciously authentic food, it’s not expensive: Lunch for two comes out around $26 before tip.

Fronteras Mexican Grill & Cantina [San Gabriel Valley]
118 W. Main Street, Alhambra

Board Links: Fronteras Mexican Grill in Alhambra–muy excellente!

May Induce Blissful Daze. Do Not Eat and Drive.

Know before you go: Vien Dong doesn’t do pho. The Northern Vietnamese spot does turn out mean spring rolls, though, their crinkly rice-paper skin characteristic of true cha gio/nem ran, says Das Ubergeek. These may be the best spring rolls in Little Saigon. Seriously.

But the pièce de résistance is the bun cha, a platter of grilled pork and pork patties, just barely charred, swimming in green papaya–fish sauce. Herbs (perilla, mint, rau ram, and lettuce) and rice noodles come on the side. The proper way of eating it all is to mix the ingredients with the sauce in the small individual bowl, adding more as you go. But no matter how you choose to eat it, the explosion of flavor will knock you over the head. Ubergeek was left dazed by its incredibleness.

Vien Dong [Little Saigon]
14271 Brookhurst Street, Garden Grove

Board Links: Explorations on Brookhurst: Vien Dong

Worst Table at Providence Is One of City’s Best Bargains

It’s actually possible to get a bargain at Providence—by reserving the restaurant’s “worst table,” which knocks 10 percent off your bill, says Diana.

And as for the worst table, it’s not half bad. A two-top in the room to the left of the entrance, the table is on the right side as you exit to the patio, and near the sommelier/bus station, although shielded from it by a wall.

Diana had the chef’s tasting menu, whose 15 or so courses included raw scallops with purple shiso, female Santa Barbara spot prawns baked in a rosemary-salt crust, Berkshire pork belly, and white chocolate–cardamon lollipops.

“We were there from 7:30 PM to past midnight, spoke to wonderful people next to us, had great people watching, had our picture taken and ate an amazing meal. Had I gotten the chef’s table, I would have had the amazing meal, but not any of the other stuff!”

The final tally, with corkage and sparkling water, was $430 before tip (which was based on the prediscount bill, of course).

Providence [Hollywood]
5955 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles

Board Links: Providence “book the ‘worst table’ save 10%” dinner report!

Gonpachi Goes Beak to Beak With the Best Yakitori-Yas

The newly opened Gonpachi is like Miyagi’s rich, hip cousin from the motherland, says rameniac. The gargantuan restaurant may also be a temple to Japan fetishism: It’s been built from the ground up with imported wood without a single nail, adorned with samurai armor, and carries a very Japanese price tag of $18.5 million.

But don’t worry, it won’t cost a fortune to eat here, though it’s a bit pricier than your standard South Bay izakaya. And the food is entirely competent: Yakitori shows flashes of brilliance, although the traditional sushi disappoints—you’re better off with rolls. Soba is house-made and top-notch; kamo seiro soba, served cold with a hot dipping broth, chopped scallions, and grilled duck, is thoroughly delicious.

Cherry tomato with bacon, and sliced grilled corn on the cob, are great, says Ciao Bob; so is the tempura.

For a point of comparison, try one of the South Bay izakayas, like Azuma or Kan. On the Westside, Musha and Raku are good bets.

Gonpachi [Beverly Hills]
134 N. La Cienega Boulevard, Beverly Hills

Miyagi’s on Sunset [West Hollywood]
8225 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood

Azuma [South Bay]
16123 S. Western Avenue, Gardena

Kan Yuzen Izakaya [South Bay]
2755 Pacific Coast Highway (in Torrance Towne Center), Torrance

Musha [Westside]
424 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica

Raku [West LA]
11678 W. Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles

Board Links: Gonpachi, Beverly Hills + photos
gonpachi on la cienega
Best Izakaya in Southbay?

Truly Authentic Mexican Flavor on the Westside

Raves are pouring in from Westside fans of Mexican food for Sabor a Mexico. It’s like Abuela’s cooking. Or like the Mexican grandmother you wish you had, with a golden touch in the kitchen. These folks GET it: the true shining soul of Mexican food that is so hard to capture; when somebody does, it’s a revelation, says Dommy.

There’s something here for everyone, including a generous selection of delicious vegetarian options. Carne asada is great, and so is al pastor, flavorful and just crispy-fatty enough. It’s usually cooked on the grill except on weekends, when there’s an outdoor spit set up.

But let’s talk about the salsa bar, one of the best Dommy says she’s ever seen. The standard spicy red and spicy green are there, as well as pico de gallo. But they also have an amazing avocado salsa that’s fruity, smooth, and spicy-hot. The creamy chipotle salsa could make an old shoe taste good, and bright orange habanero salsa tempts the die-hard chileheads.

On Friday and Saturday evenings, there’s a taco table where they braise and grill all kinds of cuts. Weekends also bring $1 tacos.

Tortillas are handmade here, thick, warm, and aromatic with corn. They’re perfect in queso fundido con hongos, where the cheese is gooey, smooth, and flavorful. Huaraches also set a new standard in LA: huge things drenched in a mild, supertasty tomatillo sauce and sprinkled with cojita cheese, beans, and cilantro—the perfect combo.

A Mexico City–style quesadilla (Quesadilla de D.F.) is actually like an empanada, deep-fried but wonderfully light, full of tangy cheese and perfectly done squash blossom. Another variety has mushrooms and epazote.

This place is distinctive for being not only authentic but creative, in the spirit of a great food culture. Everything is made fresh and from scratch, even the pickled jalapeños, which are garlicky, with a hint of bay leaf, and bits of carrot and cauliflower thrown in.

Sabor a Mexico [Culver City]
8940 National Boulevard, Los Angeles

Board Links: Mexican soul food
A True Test of Faith: Sabor a Mexico Culver City
Sabor A Mexico muy sabroso–thanks, Dommy!!

Tasty Banh Cuon, at Home or To-Go

There are two ways to get banh cuon, the delectable rice flour cakes (think of those translucent dim sum dumplings) filled with pork, mushrooms, and other goodies that you dip in nuoc mam (fish sauce). You can go to a restaurant that specializes in the dish, or if you’re going to take it home or buy in bulk for a party, you want a place that does bulk.

For the restaurant experience, Banh Cuon Tay Ho is one of the better places, says kingkong5. Get the combo with the shrimp and sweet potato tempura, adds groover808. There’s a branch in SGV for those who don’t want to cross the Orange Curtain.

Hong Mai is another banh cuon specialist that’s good, says bulavinaka.

For parties and takeout, Thanh Son Tofu makes fresh banh cuon and sells it for $2 a pound, says kingkong5. You can also get freshly made rolls of yummy sausage wrapped in banana leaves, and fresh fried tofu in various flavors (including lemongrass-chile and green onion–mushroom).

Banh Cuon Tay Ho [Little Saigon]
9242 Bolsa Avenue, #F, Westminster

Banh Cuon Tay Ho [Little Saigon]
9629 Bolsa Avenue, Westminster

Banh Cuon Tay Ho [San Gabriel Valley]
1039 E. Valley Boulevard, Suite B103, San Gabriel

Banh Cuon Tay Ho [Orange County]
3520 W. First Street, Santa Ana

Hong Mai [Orange County]
5425 W. First Street, #D, Santa Ana

Thanh Son Tofu [Little Saigon]
9688 Westminster Avenue, Garden Grove

Board Links: Best Banh Cuon?

The Taiwanese Have Got Breakfast All Rolled Up

One of the most odd food items a person can eat for breakfast is probably the Taiwanese rice roll, or “fahn-tuan” (excuse the poor pinyin), says ipsedixit.

There’s nothing exotic, or even complex, about this item. But when you take it in your hands and observe it carefully, you realize this is really Frankenfood. It’s sort of a quixotic mix of different cultures and eating styles. It has the faux lineage of a tamale, but the makeup and appearance of a Japanese sushi roll (sans nori).

When it’s done right, a rice roll can be a titillating experience. Place your order, and you’ll observe the chef scoop out a pile of cooked sticky rice, drop it onto a sheet of plastic wrap, pound the rice into a rectangular sheet, then build layers of filling with spoonfuls of pickled cucumbers (or mustard greens), fried and dehydrated ground pork, and perhaps other goodies, all before the equivalent of the maraschino cherry is placed into the center stack: the Chinese cruller (or “yiou-tiao”).

Then with deft hand and nimble fingers, the chef will roll it into a tubular shape, twist the ends of the plastic wrap, and voilà! A rice roll is born.

Unfortunately, even in the San Gabriel Valley, most are premade and abandoned under a heat lamp in the kitchen.

Four Sea in Hacienda Heights is the place to go, says Pei, who recommends this place so much she’s like a broken record.

And although the regular fahn-tuan is nothing special at Yi Mei, the vegetarian version is surprisingly nice ’n’ crunchy, salty, and oh so satisfying, says PandanExpress.

Four Sea [San Gabriel Valley]
2020 S. Hacienda Boulevard, Hacienda Heights

Yi-Mei [San Gabriel Valley]
736 S. Atlantic Boulevard, Monterey Park (Dingho Plaza)

Yi-Mei [San Gabriel Valley]
608 E. Valley Boulevard, #G, San Gabriel (San Gabriel Superstore complex)

Yi-Mei [San Gabriel Valley]
18414 E. Colima Road, #I, Rowland Heights (Hong Kong Store complex)


Board Links: An plea for the Taiwanese rice-roll