Los Angeles Area rss

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

Anonymous no More: La Bodeguita and Awesome Carnitas

It’s been recommended enthusiastically under its alias, “the no-name market at Summit and Hammond,” but Wild Swede has solved the mystery–this great Mexican spot is actually called La Bodeguita. That won’t help you find it, though, since the name isn’t anywhere on the storefront.

(Apparently, this is their fourth location; all other locations are in the north Pasadena/Fair Oaks area).

But it’s worth seeking out for excellent carnitas, crispy in some parts, juicy in others, and for tripas fried crisp like calamari. In fact, you can get anything fried crispy if you just ask. Burritos are monstrous, and absolutely delicious. For $4 you’ll get a groaning tortilla-wrapped package of rice, beans, meat (of your choice), onions, cilantro and red or green salsa. There’s also guacamole (run through the blender) on the table.

This place is family-run: Isaura and her son Ismael, who speaks English, work during the day and Isaura’s husband Fernando runs the place in the evenings. The food is cooked in back all day, but in the evenings (5-8 p.m.) and at lunchtime they make the tacos at a cart out front. You can even get the taco cart to come to your place for a party!

Important note: Isaura will make corn tortillas by hand on request (not the ones they use in the taqueria). They’re $1.50 for 4.

mr mouther, one of the original boosters of “the no-name market,” loves their tamales.

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

Board Links
La Bodeguita, Tacos, Burritos, Pasadena–Update

New “Oaxacan” Spot

La Morenita Oaxaquena is a clean, homey new restaurant in a mini-mall at Third and New Hampshire. Chile relleno here is great, says Chowpatty–stuffed with chicken in a delicate batter and swimming in a super-spicy picadillo sauce. Strangely, considering the Oaxacan pedigree, mole negro with chicken is just okay; it’s not the most complex or thick mole around. Still, there are a lot of other Oaxacan and other specialties, and reasonably price breakfasts (chorizo and eggs, chilaquiles, etc). No alcohol, but plenty of aguas including horchata with cactus fruit and walnuts (tuna y nuez).

Chiles rellenos with black beans, rice, and salad is $7, chicken mole is $7.50.

La Morenita Oaxaquena [Koreatown]
3550 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles
213-365-9201
Map

Board Links
review–La Morenita Oaxaquena, new in Koreatown

Nanjing Cuisine, Just Ducky

Nanjing duck is completely unlike Peking or roasted duck, being boiled/braised and salted. At Nanjing Kitchen, an austere take-out joint in San Gabriel, you can go a la carte and pick up duck wings, legs, gizzards (very good), or whatever. Or you can get a half bird or a whole one. It’s usually pretty salty (but in a good way, says ipsedixit), but kevin found it rather bland–kind of like leftover dark turkey meat. A bum batch?

The noodles are quite good, especially jinling noodles, says Jerome. They have more Nanjing specialties, which are pretty tough to find around here.

Nan Jing Kitchen [San Gabriel Valley]
706 W. Las Tunas Dr., at Mission, San Gabriel
626-281-8968
Locater

Board Links
a Triumpharite in the SGV: Nanjing Cuisine, Stuffed Sandwich, and Fosselman’s
Nanjiang Cuisine in San Gabriel and The Stuffed Sandwich in San Gabriel

Checking Out Macau Street

Exploring the traditional Macau dishes (and that’s Chinese-style, not Portuguese) at Macau Street, estone888 says the roast squab–done to perfection, accompanied with a good mixture of pepper and salt and a lemon to squeeze over it–is one of LA’s best. Crispy shrimp is also excellent. Ong choy with spicy bean curd, good; house special crab also good, garlicky and peppery, but not good enough to compare to Fernando’s in Macau.

You don’t have to be a high roller here, either–dinner for three runs $50. No beer.

Macau Street [San Gabriel Valley]
429 W. Garvey, between Atlantic and Garfield, Monterey Park
626-288-3568
Map

Board Links: Macau Street, dinner last night

Stuck on This Kebab

The secret herbaceous ingredient in Heider Baba’s koobideh sandwich was driving mr mouther wild. Mint, Thai basil, dill?? Whatever it is, is blended masterfully with the creamy dressing and spiced ground beef. The sandwich also has lettuce, tomato, and pickle. Adds bfez, the adas polo (rice pilaf with raisins, lentils, and more) is great.

Heidar Baba [Pasadena-ish]
1511 E Colorado Blvd., at Hill, Pasadena
626-844-7970
Map

Board Links: great pita sandwich from Heider Baba in Pasadena

Sweet Relief: Mango Shaved Ice

After two weeks of eating Taiwanese mango shaved ice every other day, TonyC says the absolute best is at Shau May on Valley Boulevard.

What makes this mango shaved ice so darned special?

A ton of condensed milk
Free shaved ice refill
Plenty of fresh mango chunks
Mango juice in addition to condensed milk
Various bits of almond/fruit jelly squares
AND a whole cup of mango jello on top

They’re running a buffet special for $4, plus $1 for shaved ice. Shaved ice alone is $2.99, an unbeatable deal for flavor euphoria.

Shau May Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
250 W Valley Blvd., between New and Del Mar, San Gabriel
626-282-7123
Map

Board Links: Best Taiwanese Mango Shaved Ice (at least in the SGV)

Downtown’s Great Mexican Bakery

The new panaderia at Grand Central Market is a fab addition, says joe. One triangular pastry yields a filling of what seems like pineapple-coconut paste. Or try the tamales, especially tamales de elote (corn). They’ll knock you down, especially with the crema, promises abrahamincpt.

La Adelita 6 [Downtown]
in Grand Central Market
317 S Broadway, at 3rd., Los Angeles
213-628-0777
Map

Board Links: finally, a high-quality panaderia downtown

Tlapazola Branches Out

Tlapazola Grill has a new location down around Marina del Rey, and the kitchen and staff are up to speed in their first week in business, says Just Larry. It’s a good thing, because the crowds have turned out for Cal-Oaxacan fare like top-notch barramundi over vegetables with lime-caper sauce, nontraditional crab cake, spinach crepe, and good vegetable tamale with mole coloradito.

First courses are $7-8, mains $12-16. Glass of Zin or Syrah, $6.

Tlapazola Grill [Beaches]
4059 Lincoln Blvd., at Washington, Marina Del Rey
310-822-7561
Map

Tlapazola Grill [West LA]
11676 Gateway Blvd., at Barrington, Los Angeles
310-477-1577
Map

Board Links: New Tlapazola Grill dinner

Move Over, Here Comes Big Papi

When Big Papi’s opened over July 4th weekend, without so much as a sign out front (a giant neon wurst still sits on the roof, a vestige of the previous tenant, the late lamented Atlas Sausage) it did a booming business simply on the strength of the aroma of smoke and meat from the barbecue pit outside, which perfumes the neighborhood for blocks.

The BBQ is the real deal, and the meats were excellent even dry. Says GVDub: “Their rub was superb–a hint of sweet, a hint of spice, a hint of salt, all nicely balanced by the kind of smoky flavor that only comes from the proper ‘low and slow’ cooking over a well-banked fire. The pork ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender and the beef ribs were appropriately chewy, but not overly so. The chicken was beautifully permeated with smoke, tender, and still juicy.”

The sauces were really good too, more vinegar-based than sweet (Memphis rather than Kansas City), setting off the meat’s natural sweetness nicely. The hot sauce doesn’t blast its way through your mouth, but lets its heat sneak up on you.

pizzafreak raves about the chopped pork sandwich, but wasn’t quite so keen on the mild sauce that comes on top. “The pork was out of this world, wonderfully charred on the edges, the meat just a bit pink, fabulous aroma, wonderful taste.”

Sides keep up the high standard–mustardy, herb-flecked potato salad; creamy, rich coleslaw; slightly smoky, not-too-sweet beans; and perfectly done greens.

It’s a classic family-run joint, and there’s pretty much always family hanging out there. Since the only furnishings are four picnic tables, eating in is naturally family-style.

OK, not everything is perfect at this joint–the beverage assortment is limited to Pepsi products and Mexican sodas. Still, the menu seems to be a work in progress–cornbread is coming, and the owner says he’s working on getting a larger pit. Dare we dream of whole barbecued pigs??!!

Plates come with choice of two sides. Small is $5-6 depending on the meat; large $8-9. “The Hookup” combo platter is $12, and you can also get meats by the pound.

Big Papi’s Rib Shack [East San Fernando Valley]
10626 Burbank Blvd., at Willow Crest, North Hollywood
818-506-7960
Map

Board Links: New Q in North Hollywood
Big Papi’s further review

A Nice ‘L’ at BLD

Well, BLD (from the owners of Grace) just opened, and Chowpatty was one of the first hounds to try it and report back on the L.

“Menu was a little less imaginative than I had hoped, but as you might expect from Grace, ingredients and preparation were first-rate all the way. My main quibble was the prices–I guess this isn’t the ‘90s anymore!”

Hemp seed-crusted tofu salad with Asian greens and grilled shishito peppers ($12) is light and flavorful with a soy dressing. The hemp seeds give a nice crunch. The menu could use some more salads–does anyone really want bean and bacon soup right now? Turkey burger with Gruyere ($12) weighs in hefty and looks mighty good.

Dinner is the same as lunch, plus grilled half chicken, hanger steak, or grilled salmon with two sides each.

Several of the sandwiches–Wagyu burger, short rib sandwich, and pork sandwich–are over $15.

The former Opaline, thrn former Cafe Capo space has been nicely updated–again–and now has an airy, open layout, with the former bar area serving as the entrance.

BLD Restaurant [Midtown]
formerly Cafe Capo/Opaline
7450 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles
323-930-9744
Map

Board Links: BLD for lunch review