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

Perfect for Winter Chill: Japanese Hot Pot

You can get oden, Japan’s contribution to the hot pot canon, every day at Kushiyaki Dan – it’s hard to find in L.A.–says charliep. As you can tell from the name, their main specialty is grilled things on skewers; there are a few Japanese-Korean dishes too, like natto (fermented soybean) with kimchi.


Kushiyaki Dan [Midtown]
4001 W. Olympic Blvd., Norton, Los Angeles
323-634-9992
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Oden every day

Israelis One-Up the Greeks on Yogurt

If you like Greek yogurt, you’ll probably love the Israeli yogurt at Elat Market. It’s even creamier, and a bit more sour than regular plain yogurt, says arkestra. It comes in fat-free, 1.5% and 3% fat versions. Look for “Danone,” from the Strauss dairy at Elat, an Israeli supermarket. A 6-7 oz container costs almost $2.


Elat Market [Midtown]
8730 W. Pico Blvd., at Robertson, Los Angeles
310-659-7070
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Get your Israeli groceries

Your Own Personal Guacamole Mixmaster

Los Gueros is a bargain delight that offers a fantastic tableside guacamole, says The Oracle.

Their guac has the right amount of everything, and the flavors blend harmoniously. Since it’s made in front of you, you can get it customized (i.e., more or less jalapeno or onion or something). Chips, unfortunately, are sometimes overcooked.

Enchilada with chicken, mushrooms, and spinach in a flour tortilla comes with half green and half red sauce, a side of rice and salad. The enchilada is as huge as a burrito, stuffed with tender chicken chunks and flavorful, juicy mushrooms. Not much spinach in evidence, though. Rice is decent, but salty.

It’s a small space, with red, white and green booths, banda music playing on the speakers and specials handwritten on a board at the entrance. They have some great deals, like 99-cent Corona/Pacifico on Mondays, kids eat free on Tuesdays, 99-cent margaritas on Wednesdays, and 99-cent pina coladas on Thursdays.

The owner also has a hole-in-the-wall sports bar just down the street, adds RoxyGirl. Everyone’s really friendly, and they make mean carne asada tacos you can eat while playing pool.

Get a coupon for free tableside guacamole.


Los Gueros Mexican Restaurant [Pasadena-ish]
313 W. Huntington Dr., at Magnolia, Monrovia
626-358-0200
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Great tableside guac

The Taste of Taiwan in Freshly Made Bao

Diho focuses on one thing: fresh, tasty Taiwanese pastries (steamed buns, dumplings, and cakes), says Chubbypanda. No boba or meal sets at this mom-and-pop Taiwanese bakery in Orange County.

The bao are the real standout. They’re made fresh each morning, and they’re at their very best right out of the steamer. That’s why large crowds gather at the bakery on weekend mornings. The selection of bao is massive.

Their top seller is the pork and vegetable steamed bun (cai rou bao), with ground pork, leeks, ginger, and rice noodles. The pork is juicy without being greasy, the seasonings are well balanced and bold, and the noodles…well, they’re nice to chew on.

Cha shu bao is an unusually good version of this old standby, the BBQ pork bun–not too sweet, juicy instead of dry. Good bun-to-pork ratio, too.

Mushroom bao (xiang gu bao) hold a flavorful mixture of sauteed shiitake mushrooms, ground beef, and onions.

Su cai bao, or vegetable steamed bun, is like a bao version of the best egg roll you’ve ever had. Stuffed with stir-fried shiitakes, cabbage, carrot, garlic, and seasonings, it even tastes healthy without sacrificing any flavor.

As for the breads, the pickled mustard green bun pretty much captures some quintessential flavors: pickled mustard greens and sauteed ground beef. This savory mixture comes enveloped in a light, soft, brioche-like dough.

Raisin bread is mildly sweet and studded with plump, juicy raisins. With a soft crust and thick, fluffy, chewy crumb, it’s like a cross between brioche and pain de mie.

If you really want to try a variety, get a four-in-one bun–four mini buns that are risen next to one another so they meld into one (easily separated) bun when baked. Diho’s has green onion and shredded pork, cha shao (char siu, or BBQ pork), custard, and sweet red bean fillings.


Diho Bakery [South OC]
14130 Culver Dr. # J, at Scottsdale, Irvine
949-857-6415
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Awesome Taiwanese bakery

As You Like it: Shabu Shabu Sliced to Order

At the new Shabu Ya in Hacienda Heights, they slice the meat to order, right in front of the shabu corner. It’s the standard shabu shabu house fare, in generous portions. House beef is super yummy, says MeowMixx, and they have Kobe as well. Vegetables are clean and fresh, and sesame sauce isn’t too sweet or overpowering. Ponzu sauce is also good. They also have appetizers such as grilled Japanese sausage and sea bass.

Decor is cute and clean; servers are attentive and on top of their game.


Shabu Ya [Inland of LA]
18184 Colima Rd., at Fullerton, Rowland Heights
626-964-7602
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New shabu joint

If You’re Not Ready to Commit: Opus’s Bar Menu

From the many raves about Opus, you’d think that the tasting menu was the only way to go. But the new bar menu has a bunch of outrageously tasty small plates that don’t require as much of a commitment of time and money, says woojink.

Stuffed poblano pepper on a spicy ragout in a crust is a cool take on a chile relleno–spicy and really great. Fried pork belly sandwich with fried egg is like a fabulous alternate-universe version of an Egg McMuffin. Lamb meatballs–spicy, delish. Seafood salad with shrimp, octopus and squid satisfies; pan-fried soba with shrimp is like very good Japanese comfort food.

Some of the dishes are also on the a la carte menu. They’re all between $7 and $13.

Opus Bar & Grill [Koreatown]
3760 Wilshire Blvd., at Western, Los Angeles 90010
213-738-1600
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Fried Pork Belly Sandwich with Fried Egg, Pan Fried Soba with Shrimp… GREAT Bar food

Cemitas by a Mexican Sandwich Genius

Moomin has had cemitas poblanas, those lovely sandwiches from Puebla, at most of the usual suspects around town: the taco trucks at Venice and Centinela, at Venice and Sepulveda, and at Pico and Cotner. A cemita with everything from La Zandunga doesn’t look much different from the usual cemitas: a seeded roll split and toasted, finger-thick segments of cheese, avocado, thinly sliced white onions, three whole chipotles in thick red adobo and a few slices of what looks like headcheese.

But one bite vindicates the genius sandwich artisan behind the counter at La Zandunga. “The balance of crisp toasted roll, smoky sweet spice of the chipotles, and unctuous richness of the cheese and the avocado makes the choice of meats nearly irrelevant,” says he. “Nearly, but not entirely. The sliced meats have both a porcine saltiness and a toothsomeness that most deli meats lack. It’s all melted together into a crispy molten mass that both tantalized and satisfied from first bite to last.”

They also have pambazos, another kind of sandwich dunked in salsa. But only after 6 p.m.

Pambazos and cemitas are $5 each.

In the same minimall, an Ensenada-style taqueria called Super Taco has replaced Mama Voula’s. Their selection of homemade salsas is excellent, and their fish tacos are fried, if a little limp. They’ve also got pretty appealing-looking tortas, on well-toasted rolls with black beans and the rest of the usual fixings.

La Zandunga Meat Market [West LA-ish]
11933 Santa Monica Blvd., at Stockton, Los Angeles
310-996-1066
Locater

Super Taco [West LA-ish]
formerly Mama Voula’s
11923 Santa Monica Blvd., at Stockton, Los Angeles
310-478-9464
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Rostiseria La Zandunga is seving fantastic Cemitas (and might just have Pambazos as well)!

Gotta Go to Go’s

To get to the sushi bar at Go’s Mart, you have to push your way through a bunch of shelves holding Japanese videos, refrigerated cases of sake, beer, and soda, and possibly other customers trying to make their way out. It’s worth it for a truly great unsung sushi joint, says kevin.

The bar itself seats only about eight, plus there are a couple of two-tops and one four-top.

Ankimo sashimi arrives beautifully sliced and cold, living up to its reputation as the foie gras of the sea. It’s sauced with sweet miso that complements it wonderfully.

Buri, a type of wild Japanese yellowtail, is a thing of beauty. Kawagishi toro is like toro tartare, no sinews or fibers–just beautiful bliss, melting in your mouth like pure butter.

But sushi isn’t the only pleasure at Go. There’s Kobe beef, straight from Japan. Thinly sliced and seared with a blowtorch, it’s delicious, with a beefy savor that kicks in later and lingers.

Grilled toro steak is pretty great too–and covered with gold leaf and a light ponzu–but doesn’t reach the heights of the regular or kawagishi toro.

Go’s Mart [West San Fernando Valley]
22330 Sherman Way # C12, at Shoup, Canoga Park
818-704-1459
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Go’s Mart Sushi, Canoga Park–a little long

Malaysian Street Food and Island Fare

“We Malaysian transplants are hard pressed to find a suitable L.A. eatery that serves authentic fare,” says copacetic. Little Malaysiam however, is true to its name.

Some favorite dishes:

Char kway teow, the classic street food of stir-fried flat noodles. Get it hawker style by asking for it extra spicy, and get some chopped chile in soy sauce on the side.

Satay beef is a knockout, skewered on bamboo sticks and accompanied by chopped red onions swimming in a syrupy sweet sauce.

Seafood in garlic sauce is just plain delicious…and healthy.

Clear soup with fish balls is a reminder of the simple food from the island provinces.

Kankung belacan is vegetables with fermented shrimp paste–this one can be an acquired taste.

Beef rendang, complete with cloves, isn’t quite as good as that at Penang but still damn tasty.

Little Malaysia Restaurant [East LA-ish]
3944 Peck Rd. # 8, at Forest Grove, El Monte
626-401-3188
Locater

Penang Malaysian Cuisine [Inland of LA]
987 S. Glendora Ave., at Vine, West Covina
626-338-6138
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Little Malaysia Review

Two Foods Become One: Pastrami Pizza

One thing may bring you out to Downey Pizza Co: pastrami pizza. It’s like a pastrami sandwich on a pizza–pickles, mustard and all. Amazing, say russkar. Well, as long as you like pastrami. Everything else is more like Chef Boyardee, says ipse dixit.

Downey Pizza Co. [South LA]
9026 Florence Ave., at Lakewood, Downey
562-862-1112
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Pastrami Pizza