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

Rockenwagner’s Bakery Rises a Second Time: 3 Square

The folks of Rockenwagner have opened up another bakery-café: Three Square. Those who love their bacon-cheese twists and pretzel twists: be psyched. Cinnamon rolls, scones, and the like run $3 apiece. They also have sandwiches–brie with caramelized pears and figs on walnut bread is great, says sharkgirl88.

Decor is design-y, with cool retractable tables; the crowd, though, is more like “yuppies who think they’re Dogtowners,” says bulavinka.


Three Square Cafe + Bakery [Beaches]
1121 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice
310-399-6504
Map

Rockenwagner Bakery [Beaches]
12835 Washington Blvd., Mar Vista
310-578-8171
Locater

Board Links

Rockenwagner bakery is open
Checking out 3 Square bakery

Elements of Sushi: Wasabi and Rice

In sushi, the best ingredients are key, and not just the fish. Fresh wasabi makes a world of difference, but not a lot of places offer it–and even then, sometimes only to customers having omakase meals.
You can get freshly grated wasabi at Mori, Asanebo, Urasawa, and Tama. Azami uses both the paste and fresh stuff. Yabu uses fresh with sashimi and paste with nigiri sushi. KaGaYa, an upscale shabu shabu place, grates fresh wasabi. So does Hirozen, but it’ll cost you about $15 extra.

And then there’s rice. Mori’s rice is grown specially for the restaurant in Sacramento, and polished in-house daily.

In the school of warm rice, Nozawa and Sasabune have fans, but alexfood says Hiko has better rice than either. HPLsauce likes Sasabune’s rice but says the fish isn’t as good since the move. Nozawa’s rice isn’t always consistent, says zack, but it’s usually spot-on. His nori, an equally important ingredient in rolls, is excellent.

Also good: Echigo, Sushi Tenn, Kiriko, and, of course, Urasawa.

Torafuku isn’t a sushi joint, but it specializes in rice dishes. Zuke-don (marinated tuna bowl) with sushi rice is fantastic, says alexfood.


Mori Sushi [West LA]
11500 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles
310-479-3939
“Locater”: http://yp.yahoo.com/py/ypMap.py?&tuid=17591409&ck=2234222027

Urasawa [Beverly Hills]
218 N. Rodeo Dr., at Wilshire, Beverly Hills
310-247-8939
Locater

Tama Sushi [East San Fernando Valley]
11920 Ventura Blvd., Studio City
818-760-4585
Locater

Azami [Melrose District]
7160 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles
323-939-3816
Locater

Yabu Restaurant [West LA]<br
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11820 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles
310-473-9757
Locater

Kagaya [Little Tokyo]
418 E Second St., at Central Ave., Los Angeles
213-617-1016
Locater

Hirozen [Beverly Hills]
8385 Beverly Blvd., at N. Orlando Avenue, Los Angeles
323-653-0470
Locater

Sushi Nozawa [East San Fernando Valley]
11288 Ventura Blvd. # C, Studio City
818-508-7017
Locater

Sushi Sasabune [West LA]
formerly Todai Sushi
12400 Wilshire Blvd, # 150, Los Angeles
310-268-8380
Locater

Hiko Sushi [Sawtelle Strip]
11275 National Blvd., Los Angeles
310-473-7688
Locater

Echigo [West LA]
12217 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles
310-820-9787
Locater

Sushi Tenn [Sawtelle Strip]
2004 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles
310-473-2388
Locater

Kiriko Sushi [Sawtelle Strip]
11301 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles
310-478-7769
Locater

Torafuku [West LA]
10914 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles
310-470-0014
Locater

Board Links

Which sushi joints serve fresh wasabi?
Where’s the best sushi rice?

When the Temperature Drops, Go for Hot Pot

Spicy hot pot at Lu Gi tastes the most like the ones in Taiwan, says eileen216. Of course, the pot comes with both regular and spicy broths. You mix up your own dipping sauce–try vinegar and sesame oil with green onion and garlic.

They have all kinds of ingredients for dipping into the boiling broth: lamb, beef, meatball and fishball, intestine and vegetables. King mushrooms are especially good, tender and juicy. Lotus root adds crunch. When you’re done, get some noodles to absorb the flavors of all the food you’ve cooked in the broth–it’s super-tasty.


Lu Gi Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
539 W. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel
626-965-9881
Locater

Board Links

My favorite Taiwanese-style hot pot

Four-Stop Ramen Slurping Spree

Pleasurepalate went ramen tasting recently, checking out Koraku, Shinsengumi Hakata Ramen, Santouka ,and Daikokuya.

Shinsengumi is a favorite, with its incredibly rich, porky broth (tonkotsu). Being able to customize the soup is also a plus: “Firm noodles? Check. Normal soup oil? Yes. Strong soup base? Definitely.” This soup is really a meal. Side dishes (spam musubi, gyoza, ground chicken bowl), though, are nothing special.

Daikokuya’s tonkotsu is less refined, more intensely meaty, and still mind-bogglingly delicious. “To my palate, the Hakata ramen was more refined. It’s the part of James Bond that is sophisticated, cool under pressure, elegant,” he says. “You can taste the porkiness of the broth but it wasn’t completely in your face. Daikokuya, on the other hand, was that part of James Bond that was rough and tumble, aggressive and took no prisoners.” In other words, Goldfinger vs. Casino Royale.

Santouka’s shio ramen is a hybrid of tonkotsu and clear shio soup. So it’s cleaner and smoother than Shinsengumi, but still packs a hit of porkiness–the best of both worlds. The noodles aren’t that firm, although rameniac says this is a style called asahikawa ramen. Leek rice and egg are nice on the side.

Koraku, while not strictly a ramen place (a Koraku Ramen opened recently in Sherman Oaks), offers a huge variety of ramen soups, including daily specials. Sutamina ramen, with a light, possibly shoyu broth, garlic sprouts, ground pork, green onions, and mushrooms, is decent but not spectacular. The garlic sprouts and scallions add good flavor, but broth is a little too thin and the noodles too mushy. Note that ground meat isn’t a good choice for ramen–it all escapes to the bottom. Still, there are plenty of other options.


Shin Sen Gumi Hakata Ramen [South Bay]
2015 W. Redondo Beach Blvd. #C, Gardena
310-329-1335
Locater

Shin Sen Gumi Hakata Ramen [South OC]
18315 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley
714-962-8952
Map

Shin Sen Gumi Hakata Ramen [San Gabriel Valley]
8450 E. Valley Blvd. #103, Rosemead
626-572-8646
Map

Santoka Ramen [South Bay]
in Mitsuwa Marketplace
21515 Western Avenue, Torrance

310-212-1101
Locater

Santoka Ramen [South OC]
Mitsuwa food court
665 Paularino Ave., Costa Mesa
714-434-1101
Locater

Daikokuya [Little Tokyo]
327 E. 1st St., Los Angeles
213-626-1680
Locater

Koraku Restaurant [Little Tokyo]
314 E. 2nd St., Los Angeles
213-687-4972
Locater

Koraku Japanese Ramen [East San Fernando Valley]
14425 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks
818-906-0045
Map

Board Links

Ramenfest
Koraku opens in Sherman Oaks

Stuffed: The Search for a Great Burrito in Pasadena

If you’re looking for a new burrito joint in the Pasadena area, the chile verde at Tonny’s has been getting raves lately. Chile verde burrito has huge chunks of tender, luscious pork (you can’t go wrong with pork here, says yoyomama). Birria is great too, the red sauce complex and not just spicy. Carnitas and chile relleno are also excellent–the only thing that’s consistently subpar here is the al pastor, says Oro3030.

For bean and cheese burritos, J&S (home of the pastrami quesadilla) has the best, says SoCal Foodie–the beans and cheese are blended together for a silky texture. Chorizo burrito is also big and cheap.

Get a bean and cheese burrito at La Bodeguita; the beans aren’t refried, but whole boiled beans in broth, says WildSwede. It’s a very good burrito. Al pastor is just about irresistible, and they make a damn good carnitas burrito too.

ipsedixit recommends Rosarito for carnitas, but the best in Pasadena, says condiment, is the modest Mi Casa. These are Michoacan-style–not very crisp, but intensely porky, with enough crunchy edges to keep you going. They have birria on the weekends, too.

Birrieria La Barca does great birria, of course–probably excellent in a burrito, says Clare K.

Rick’s has an awesome vegetarian burrito, says ciaobella.


Tonny’s Restaurant [Pasadena-ish]
843 E. Orange Grove Blvd., Pasadena
626-797-0866
Locater

J&S [Pasadena-ish]
887 N. Garfield Ave, Montebello
323-728-3853
Locater

La Bodeguita Mini Market [Pasadena-ish]
1135 N. Summit Ave., Pasadena
626-296-0238
Locater

Rosarito [Pasadena-ish]
2120 East Foothill Blvd., Pasadena
626-440-1640
Map

Mi Casa Mexican Fast Food [Pasadena-ish]
812 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena
626-449-7086
Locater

Birrieria La Barca Jalisco [Pasadena-ish]
10817 Valley Mall, El Monte
626-452-2121
Locater

Rick’s Drive-In [Pasadena-ish]
680 E. Walnut St., Pasadena
626-449-4842
Locater

Board Links

Trying out Tonny’s
Chile verde heaven
What to get at Tonny’s?
Where to get a burrito in Pasadena

Argentinean Hot Pockets

There’s a new place with killer empanadas, says TasteLA. The husband is Argentinean, wife is Mexican and the deals are hot. Pizza, chicken, and empanadas for a crowd run about $20-30. There are umpteen kinds of empanadas, too.

Spinach and chicken empanadas from Carniceria Argentino are pretty damn tasty, says carter.

Rincon Chileno, a Chilean place, has great empanadas, says oro3030.

On the Westside, Empanadas Place has something for everyone, with about a dozen varieties. Their empanadas are deep-fried; for something a bit lighter, Grand Casino has smaller baked empanadas in four flavors.

Spain, in Silverlake, is actually Argentinean-owned and has good empanadas. So does Porto’s.


Che’s Pizza and Empanadas [East L.A.-ish]

Cesar Chavez at Eastern (southwest corner), Los Angeles
Map

Carniceria Argentino [Central San Fernando Valley]
11740 Victory Blvd., North Hollywood
818-762-9977
Map

Rincon Chileno [East Hollywood]
4354 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles
323-666-6075
Locater

Empanadas Place [West L.A.]
3811 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles
310-391-0888
Locater

Empanadas Place[West Hollywood]
1040 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood
310-358-0588
Locater

Grand Casino French Bakery [Culver City-ish]
3826 Main St., Culver City
310-202-6969
Locater

Spain Restaurant [Silverlake]
1866 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles
323-667-9045
Locater

Porto’s Bakery [East San Fernando Valley]
315 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale
818-956-5996
Locater

Porto’s Bakery [East San Fernando Valley]
3614 W. Magnolia, Burbank
818-846-9100
Map

Board Links

Where can I find great empanadas?

Hounds’ Showdown Over Favorite Soup Dumplings

J&J keeps a pretty low profile, but it’s been getting a ton of good PR on the boards lately. The ambience may be nothing to shout about, but when it comes to xiaolongbao (a.k.a. soup dumplings), it’s a favorite of hounds in the know.

AquaW loves it for xlb and more. Pork and crab dumplings are spiked with carrot, ginger and other veggies–a one-way trip to yum. They’re also bigger and slightly cheaper than Din Tai Fung’s (although J&J gives 8 xlb per order, and DTF gives 10). Pork xlb are tops, and veggie dumplings and potstickers (order early, they’re made to order) are also worthwhile. Scallion pancakes, golden and flaky, are fried to perfection. Nian gao, glutinous rice cake, is a tasty stir-fry, stir-fried chow mein-style, with some greens, onion and slivers of meat.

ipsedixit really likes the egg drop corn chowder–the cornstarch to egg ratio is just right. Chicken soup is also good, adds sidwich–clear and flavorful, but not salty.

Other recommended dishes: smoked fish, sauteed eels, fried pork chop on veggie rice, Shanghai noodle dishes, hot and soup soup, and winter melon soup.

Decor is…well, there is no decor. Tea comes in a generic metal pot with Styrofoam cups for your drinking pleasure. The rating is a B. But J&J has been serving up homestyle Shanghainese fare for well over a decade, and with good reason.

In the same minimall is another xlb favorite, Mei Long Village. Like J&J, Mei Long’s dumplings have wrappers that are a bit more rustic than Din Tai Fung’s–thicker and more flavorful.

Jerome’s favorite xlb spot is the underappreciated (or at least undermentioned) Giang Nan. Dumpling choices are limited to pork and crab-pork, but those are the two flavors recommended at most places anyhow. yclops is also a fan, offering a backhanded rec for the oily, molten-lava spring rolls.

ipsedixit puts Ho Ho Kitchen at #2.

Dragon Mark, in the same plaza as Mei Long Village and J&J, is considered a pretty good spot for xlb, but on the greasy side.

And then there’s Din Tai Fung. Those who love it cite the thin, delicate xlb wrappers and side dishes like the mysteriously named “appetizer.” Those who hate it consider the xlb devoid of soul. As ipsedixit says: “I don’t like my xlb to look and taste like they fell off a conveyor belt.”


J&J Restaurant (a.k.a. Jin Jiang) [San Gabriel Valley]
301 West Valley Blvd. #109, San Gabriel
626-308-9238
Locater

Mei Long Village [San Gabriel Valley]
301 West Valley Blvd. #112, San Gabriel
626-308-9238
Locater

Giang Nan / De Yue Lou
306 N. Garfield Ave. # 12, Monterey Park
626-573-3421
Map

Ho Ho Kitchen [East LA-ish]
10053 Valley Blvd., El Monte
626-442-6689
Locater

Dragon Mark [San Gabriel Valley]
301 W. Valley Blvd. #110, San Gabriel
626-282-5953
Locater

Din Tai Fung [Pasadena-ish]
1108 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia

626-574-7068
Locater

Board Links

A J&J comfort food feast.
Bring on your top 3 xlb spots

Chichen Itza Opens in MacArthur Park

Chichen Itza, whose Mercado Paloma stall is a hound favorite, has finally opened its long-anticipated restaurant, reports 9thandBroadway, and the panucho and cochinita pibil are fabulous. It’s Yucatan-style Mexican food, in the ground floor of the Asbury apartment building.


Chichen Itza
2501 W. 6th St., Los Angeles
213-380-0051
Map

Mercado La Paloma
3655 S. Grand Ave. #C6, Los Angeles

213-741-1075
Locater

Board Links

Chichen Itza restaurant arrives

Habanero Salsa in the ‘Hood

Dommy passed a hot spot for outdoor al pastor pits, on Central north of Jefferson. On her return, though, she couldn’t find them and instead stumbled upon a taco table on MLK Boulevard that a guy had set up in front of his house.

There’s a grill, and a braising “hubcap” where the juices collect and infuse the meat and braised onions. Chorizos are obviously homemade, and are perfect in a mulita–you get two tortillas to soak up all the juice, and cheese to heighten the flavors. Lengua, in a taco, is melty and flavorful. Salsas include habanero salsa (unusual for an outdoor, non-Yucatecan operation).

It’s definitely a neighborhood operation, with most of the customers being neighbors–even the non-Latino kids are hooked on cabeza (although Dommy says her portion was a little gristly).


Taco table
Martin Luther King Boulevard, west of Central
Locater of intersection

Board Links

South L.A. taco table

The Faux-Hostess With the Mostest

Cupcakes from Dainties knocked FoodieMcFood for a loop. Dark chocolate with ganache frosting and a shot of whipped cream inside and on top make them like the Hostess cakes of childhood, but so, so much better.

There are five options for the whipped cream flavor–vanilla bean, raspberry, chocolate, caramel, and coffee–but the cupcakes are all chocolate with ganache frosting. Chocophobes need not apply.

Although it’s more of a catering operation, the owner welcomes drop-ins. Don’t expect a cafe atmosphere, though.

cvc says there’s another good new cupcake place in Pasadena, Dots.


Dainties Cupcakes [Beaches]
11058 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles
310-312-3632
Map

Dots Cupcakes [Pasadena-ish]
400 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena
626-568-DOTS (3687)
Map

Board Links

Ultra-chocolatey cupcakes.