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

Chowing Down Pinoy-Style

The late, lamented Barrio Fiesta has been revived in Eagle Rock and the Filipino home cooking is still to die for, says lukin4gudfood. Crispy calamari and kare-kare are the best. For the moment, though, it seems like the beer and wine license is a work in progress.

Over in Hollywood, lil mikey discovered a hidden gem, Karihang-Pinoy. If you’re lucky enough to get fried chicken fresh out of the fryer, it’s super-crunchy, each piece (more than a quarter, usually leg and thigh with some breast) nice and tender.

They also have delicious, savory-sweet sausage. There’s tangily great tamarind-based soup with beef, all rich and beautiful. All that with a big plate of rice and a bottle of water is $5.

There’s an OC spot that specializes in Filipino breakfast, or almusal, says elmomonster.

At Kapamilya, they serve several kinds of silogs (plates with garlic fried rice and egg) with a slice of tomato and a protein add-on—choose from various kinds of marinated meats, sausage, and fried fish.

A lot of places use factory-made marinated pork, or tocino, pumped up with nitrites and artificial coloring. Kapamilya makes theirs from scratch, coating tender, fatty cuts of pork with a candy-sweet glaze. A shot of vinegar is just right for balancing it out.

Tapa, marinated beef, is similar to Korean kalbi, but dryer—more like really sweet jerky. There’s also fried marinated milkfish, bangus. With a yogurty tang and flaky white flesh, it’s a nice lighter option. Silog plates are all $4.75, including tax.

Barrio Fiesta [Eastside]
4420 Eagle Rock Blvd., Eagle Rock
Map

Karihang-Pinoy [Hollywood]
4909 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles
323-666-8339
Locator

Kapamilya Restaurant [Orange County]
10964 Warner Ave., Fountain Valley
714-593-6212
Map

Board Links: The Fiesta is on again
Surprising strip-mall tastiness
Almusal: It’s what’s for breakfast

Venturing Into the Wild West – of Indian Cuisine

Distracted by the signs in multiple languages promising catering, you might not know that Rasthal offers up hot and tasty, authentic Indian vegetarian cooking, says Das Ubergeek. Since one of the chefs is from Gujarat, in western India, they’ve got some Indian fare that you might never have had before.

Like India Sweets & Spices, it’s a cafeteria-type setup, but your food is made fresh to order, and doesn’t come from a steam table. In fact, no food is on display but the sweets and chaat mixes.

Go for a thali, a combination plate with several compartments. For $6.99, you get your choice of two vegetables, raita, dal or channa (lentils or chickpeas), pickles, a few puris (flatbreads), pistachio halwa, and khaman dhokla, a slightly sweet cornbread that’s a Gujarati staple. It’s a lot of food.

Dahi puri, a common snack of crispy lentil pockets with chickpeas, potatoes, yogurt, and tamarind sauce, is very, very good. Vegetable korma, in a coconut curry sauce, is delish. Mango lassi, so often just a mango-flavored milkshake, is properly tangy with yogurt and not overly sweet.

Masala dosa, a classic South Indian dish, is rather too greasy here, and overcooked to a crisp in parts.

They’ve also got some dishes from Rajasthan, the state neighboring Gujarat, notes losfelizhound. Check out dal baati and churma, which aren’t usually on offer in Southern California’s Indian restaurants.

Rasthal Vegetarian Food [North OC]
2755 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim
714-527-3800
Map

Board Links: Vegetarian delights

Things That Make You Go Mmmm: Korean BBQ

Yissa Hwa Ro is known for its pork belly, but the beef BBQ was good enough to send caveatempty into a meat-induced swoon.

Combo #2 serves four to six people and is $89. It includes a variety of beef cuts, like deckle, boneless short rib, and ribeye, all well marbled, flavorful, and tender. You also get panchan (radish water kimchi and spicy raw crab are standouts), bean-paste soup, salad, and your choice of soju or beer.

It’s a gas grill, not charcoal, but that allows the non-meat ingredients to soak up the meaty juices from the perimeter of the grill. There’s potatoes, mushrooms, jalapeño slices, garlic, and the usual lettuce for wrapping. When the BBQ pigout is over, you get fried rice made for you, with diced beef, seaweed, kimchi, and other yummy stuff.

Other combos range $69-$99; you can also order a la carte.

And that pork belly—plain, spicy, smoked or beer-, wine- or miso-marinated—definitely looks interesting.

Yissi HwaRo [Koreatown]
3465 W. 6th Street #130, Los Angeles
213-365-8111
Map

Board Links: Fantastic Korean BBQ

Vito’s Is Back

Pizza-loving hounds are abuzz with news of Vito’s return. Yes, THE Vito’s, formerly of Vermont, across from LACC.

Now on La Cienega, he’s serving up great pies baked on pizza stones imported from Italy. White pizza is fantastic, pepperoni tasty and veggie pizza loaded up with chunks of tomato and broccoli, spinach and globs of ricotta.

Ciao Bob sums up: “You want average pizza, no problem, there are a hundred places to go. If you want truly perfect NY-style pizza, there’s only one choice. Vito’s blows the roof off of anything I’ve had in this City-Of-Angel-less-Pizza. Get there, and get there FAST. Get a pie (not a slice, although the slices may be great). The crust, the cheese, the sauce, the flavor, the bubbles in the crust from the oven—it’s all the real deal. ‘Nuff said.”

Cheese slices are $2.50; the rest are $3.

There’s also a new pizzeria in Los Feliz, where the cozy Italian spot Il Capriccio has branched out on Hollywood Boulevard.

The wood-fired crust is thin, but with some chew. Rapini topping is fresh and abundant, but salty anchovies, olives, and capers on the “Bella Napoli” are applied with a minimalist touch. The largest pie, at 16 inches, is more like a medium by other standards, and at $17, it only feeds two.

Vito’s Pizza [West Hollywood]
846 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles
310-652-6859
Map

Il Capriccio Pizzeria [Los Feliz]
4518 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles
323-644-9760
Map

Board Links: Heading to the new Vito’s
Vito’s–it’s perfect!
Wowza for Vito’s
First look: Il Capriccio Pizzeria

Reinventing the Salad Bar

The Kitchen for Exploring Foods gets mentioned a lot in responses to posts asking about caterers, but –-surprise! –-they serve lunch as well. OK, “serve” is kind of an exaggeration. They have lunch, in the form of a salad bar–type setup. You can get it, and then you can eat it, there, on one of their two tables, or somewhere else.

But it’s not just any old salad bar food. Everything is fresh and tasty—good, seasonal food prepared properly and seasoned just enough to highlight its natural flavors without overpowering anything. There’s no one-flavoring-fits-all, either –-each dish tastes different from the next.

Asparagus is perfectly roasted and smoky, and the slightly tangy sun-dried tomatoes and pungent cheese is just strong enough to stand up to the smoke without overpowering it; couscous is fluffy and moist with a hint of garlic; white beans are cold and smooth with the fresh kick of raw onions; and beets are wonderfully sweet and completely infused with a vinegary dressing.

It’s not just salads, either: Stuffed pork loin with apple stuffing is marinated all the way through, and a little sweet and crispy on the edges. The stuffing is moist, infused with rosemary and onion. Flank steak with chimichurri sauce is a favorite, adds Clare K; judge dee likes the crab bisque and potato salad.

Just a mile or so west of Old Town Pasadena on Colorado, the Kitchen is a world away: There’s plenty of parking, no long lines, and the food is fantastic.

The Kitchen for Exploring Foods [Pasadena]
1434 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
626-793-7234
Locator

Board Links: California cuisine at the salad bar

Taps – Below the Radar in Brea

Taps is the kind of restaurant that’s managed to stay beneath the radar—maybe because it superficially resembles an Olive Garden or Outback Steakhouse-type restaurant. That is, The Dreaded Chain. Although portions are Middle America-hefty, you’re getting quality fare here, says Das Ubergeek.

Take the crab-and-shrimp Louie salad: it’s $21, but perhaps the largest of its kind. Like, bigger than your head. Tons of Dungeness crab and a dozen shrimp, dressed just right but with a pitcher of extra dressing just in case.

As for cedar-plank salmon with horseradish mashed potatoes and broccolini with 12-year-old balsamic vinegar, the Ubergeek is first a doubter, then a convert. “Every restaurant, all the way down to Carl’s Jr., has embraced ‘balsamic’ vinaigrette, and 99 times out of 100, that ‘balsamic’ vinegar has never been within 5,000 kilometres of a wood barrel in Italy and is, in point of fact, white vinegar with molasses or coloured sugar.” This, however, is the real thing—drizzled over the barely crunchy members of the greater broccoli family, it kills their distinctive smell and transforms them completely. The potatoes are perfectly mashed, though you don’t get much horseradish in there. Salmon, a skinless filet, is moist and flaky.

For dessert, the Bing cherry crostata is good but the chocolate souffle is downright fantastic.

Although most entrees are in the $20 range, there are some deals floating around, like Prime Time Sundays: prime rib, Caesar salad, creamed spinach/corn, and bananas Foster for less than $25, says WHills. Happy hour features half-price appetizers, and the brunch with free-flowing champagne/mimosas is popular.

Taps Fish House & Brewery [OC]
101 E. Imperial Highway, Brea
714-257-0101
Locator

Board Links: Three cheers for Taps!

Fighting Off Fusion Phobia

Let’s get this over with. Yes, Celadon is Asian fusion. But it’s fusion done right, says AquaW, the veteran of some regrettable meals at Red Pearl Kitchen and Geisha House.

It’s definitely akin to those restaurant-lounge spots in spirit-– the ambience is sleek, sexy, modern Asian, all dark woods, dimmed lights and (of course) Buddha statuettes. There’s a fireplace, too, with a martial arts flick projected onto the brick wall above it, and signature cocktails with names like Chi-Devil and Mighty Joe Yang (touted as an aphrodisiac). The Yuzu Voodoo is interestingly sweet and sour, with Absolut citron, hypnotiq and fresh yuzu juice.

Grilled ahi pizza is a well-layered pile of flavors: salty, meaty slices of tuna on top of pita wedges with garlicky pesto sauce, toasted pine nuts, Parmesan shavings and fragrant herbs like cilantro and dill.

They do roasted scallops—meaty, creamy, and slightly charred—with balsamic-glazed strawberries. The match of sauce and scallop is perfect. On the side: a soft and savory risotto.

Flatiron steak, another of the less Asian-esque dishes, comes with a grilled cheese panino, red pepper romesco sauce and mushroom salad. The sandwich, with sharp cheddar, manages to be comforting and a bit sophisticated at the same time.

The dessert menu operates on the principle that good things come in threes. The simply named “bananas” includes a banana cream tart topped with cocoa powder, caramelized bananas with vanilla bean ice cream and a banana souffle. Apart from the blandish souffle, they’re aromatic and yummy.

The trio of black sesame desserts includes mochi-like dumplings with sesame paste in a syrupy sauce, a burnt sugar crisp studded with black sesame, and a black sesame custard. They’re nice variations on a flavor theme.

Dishes are in the teens, and desserts and cocktails around $10.

Celadon Galerie [Third Street Row]
7910 West 3rd St., Los Angeles
323-658-8028
Map

Board Links: Hey, this fusion stuff can be good!

The Best of Little Saigon – Pho and More

Little Saigon is big and full of restaurants—not all of which are good. So here’s a partial glovebox list of the most chowhoundly joints in the area, most of which specialize in just one, super-delicious dish.

Banh Cuon Tay Ho is, hands-down, the best place to get banh cuon, or rice crepe rolls, insists groover808. Get the combo with the fried shrimp/sweet potato… it’s divine.

Trieu Chau is a legendary place selling mi tieu and hu tieu. They’re both pork-based soups with noodles and all kinds of goodies; mi tieu comes with egg noodles, and hu tieu comes with rice noodles. Get mi/hu tieu nam vang for a variety of meatballs, shrimp, chicken and duck. It’s also good with a chau quay, Chinese doughnut, on the side.

Van’s restaurant specializes in banh xeo, a crispy, eggy crepe stuffed with meat and plenty of bean sprouts. Also try banh beo chen, steamed rice ovalettes in tiny dishes topped with shrimp and fried pork rinds. For bun, cold noodle salad, their bun cha hanoi (with lemongrass-scented patties) is fab. It’s served the traditional way, with the noodles, meat and veggies separate—you mix it up as you eat.

For banh mi, Banh Mi Che Cali is tops, and their Brookhurst/McFadden location is the definitive one—they bake bread on-site, says Mr Taster.

Pho Kimmy serves one of the best bowls of pho around, the broth rich like no other, and if you order it with raw beef, you can get it on the side (it cooks fast in the broth). If the craving for pho strikes in the middle of the night, Pho Thanh is open 24 hours and is consistently good, says kingkong5.

The pho is just okay at Pho Tau Bay: Everyone goes for the banh cuon dac biet. They’re made with diced pork, not ground, and served with dried shredded pork on top. It’s amazing, says septocaine_queen.

And some non-pho recommendations. For classic Vietnamese diner cuisine, try the broken rice combination platters at Com Tam Thuan Kieu, says Sauce Supreme. The San Gabriel branch is better, but Brookhurst Ave. still turns out damn fine broken rice plates.

For nem nuong cuon—grilled pork rolls with a kickin’ sauce—the usual suspect remains Brodard.

And seven courses of beef, or bo 7 mon, is best at Anh Hong.

Banh Cuon Tay Ho [Little Saigon]

9242 Bolsa Ave., #F, Westminster
714-895-4796
Locator

Trieu Chau [Little Saigon]
4401 W. 1st St., Santa Ana
714-775-1536
Locator

Van’s Restaurant [Little Saigon]
14122 Brookhurst St., Garden Grove
714-530-4551
Map

Banh Mi & Che Cali [Little Saigon]
13838 Brookhurst St., Garden Grove
714-534-6987
Map

Pho Kimmy [Little Saigon]
14932 Bushard St., Westminster

714-775-1699
Locator

Pho Thanh [Little Saigon]
9625 Bolsa Ave., Garden Grove

714-839-9882
Map

Pho Tau Bay L.T.T. [Little Saigon]
3610 W. 1st St., Santa Ana
714-531-6634
Locator

Com Tam Thuan Kieu [Little Saigon]
14282 Brookhurst Ave., #2, Garden Grove
714-531-4852
Map

Com Tam Thuan Kieu [San Gabriel]
120 E. Valley Blvd. # I, San Gabriel
626-280-5660
Locator

Brodard’s Restaurant [Little Saigon]

9892 Westminster Ave., Garden Grove
714-530-1744
Locator

Anh Hong [Little Saigon]
10195 Westminster Ave., Garden Grove
714-537-5230
Locator

Board Links: The Glovebox Guide to Little Saigon

Ma Wants You to Eat Your Sesame Bread

There’s not much competition for Chinese Islamic restaurants since Tung Lai Shun went Taiwanese, but Ma’s beats out China Islamic by far on food and decor, says Das Ubergeek.

The star of any meal here is the sesame bread—an order of the thin kind gets you five scrumptious rounds about a foot wide. Dough-cut noodles with lamb are perfectly done, just slightly al dente in the center, although the lamb is, well, lamb-y. Moo shu chicken consists of four pancakes stuffed to burrito size…there’s nothing skimpy about the portions here.

Try the lamb with pickled cabbage, suggests OCchowman. The slightly crunchy cabbage masks the odor of lamb. Sauteed pea shoots are garlicky and wonderful.

And despite some reservations about the place’s authenticity, Chandavkl loves the dish of broad mung bean noodles.

Note that this is a serious halal restaurant—there’s no alcohol and a “modest” dress code (one family wearing shorts got turned away).

Ma’s Chinese Islamic [North OC]
601 E. Orangethorpe Ave., Anaheim
714-446-9553
Map

Board Links: Dress up for deliciousness

Putting the Tex Back in Mex

In L.A., you’re usually faced with a choice between authentic Mexican and Cal-Mex. On an obsessive quest for Tex-Mex, AdamFoodie has settled on Joselito’s and the original El Cholo on Western. Marix TexMex is okay in a pinch, he adds.

Nick’s Taste of Texas has the goods, says JAB, flour tortillas and all. Brisket tacos are good too, adds anniegg.

And in the USC area, La Taquiza has excellent (if greasy) fajitas and yummy homemade tortillas, says chaussonauxpommes.

Joselito’s Mexican Food [East San Fernando Valley]
7308 Foothill Blvd., Tujunga
818-951-2275
Locater

El Cholo [Koreatown]
1121 S. Western Ave., Los Angeles
323- 734-2773
Locater

El Cholo [Beaches]
1025 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica
310-899-1106
Locater

Marix Tex Mex [West Hollywood]
1108 N. Flores St., Los Angeles
323-656-8800
Locater

Nick’s Taste of Texas [Inland of LA]
545 N. Citrus Ave., Covina
626-331-2824
Locater

La Taquiza [Downtown]
3009 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles
213-741-9795
Locater

Board Links: On a fajitas mission