Los Angeles Area rss

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

Kick-Ass Gyros

This spot has tasty, house-made Greek and Middle Eastern fare: top-notch gyro with plenty of lamb and beef in a house-made pita, with superb yogurt dressing. Falafel sandwich is deeply flavored, and the whole merges into a happily unified mass of chickpea balls, salad, and filling. Sandwiches are about $6.

Green Olive [West LA]
12001 Wilshire Blvd., Bundy, Los Angeles

Board Links: The Green Olive

Fakin’ It, Asian-Style

Did you go vegetarian but miss meat? A bunch of Asian vegetarian restaurants can fill the void with dishes using “fake meat” (tempeh or some such) with fairly convincing taste and texture. This stuff was originally concocted for observant Buddhists, particularly monks, and is mostly a Taiwanese thing, says ladelfa, although it’s also found on the Chinese mainland. Here in LA, you can also find Thai, Philippine, and Vietnamese restaurants that serve fake meat dishes.

If you’re going to try just one, start with Fine Garden. With a new owner, new menu and, thinks ladelfa, the chef from the formerly great (now not so much) Veggie Wok, this place now offers the best dishes from three or four good-but-now-defunct Chinese vegetarian restaurants of San Gabriel Valley.

Probably the best-known Chinese vegetarian place is Happy Family. There’s an all-you-can-eat buffet, but the menu runs to hundreds of items, with some fancier dishes. The fake meat is very good in cold appetizers and the mini Hunan ham sandwiches. Curry chicken, hand rolls, and shrimp dishes are good. Despite the ersatz offerings, AquaW says, “I like it because it doesn’t try to hide the vegetarian quality of the vegetarian meat (which at Happy Family I believe is mostly derived from tofu, taro, or mushroom).” And the flat-out vegetable dishes are really well made, adds Jerome, especially the enokidake lily flower soup (jinzhen tang) and houtougu soup (a special soup with monkey-head mushrooms).

At the restaurant formerly known as Vege House (now called Wang’s Family Restaurant), you’ll find yourself chowing down on more hard-core Chinese dishes with lots of Buddhist monks. Some of the flavors here are an acquired taste for Westerners. Weekday lunch special gets you too much food for about $5.

Au Lac is well known for pretty good vegetarian renditions of Vietnamese dishes–the goi cuon (spring rolls) are delicious. Don’t be put off by the realistic-looking faux shrimp. Noodle soups are pretty excellent, and it’s all very fresh, says Tkn. But ladelfa says their food is generally oversugared and recommends Thuyen Vien as being much better. Try the pickled baby lotus root salad.

California Vegan is a Thai place using fake meat–bijoux recommends the mock chicken with spicy eggplant and the cheap lunch specials.

To make your own, Bodhi Vegetarian Supply has a jaw-dropping selection of frozen fake meats, most of it from Taiwan, says ladelfa. There are also dried soy chunks that you soak in water and use in place of chicken or beef in stews and the like. Prices are about as low as it gets for this kind of stuff.

The San Gabriel Supercenter also has a good selection in its frozen food section–three or four of their open-top freezer units are entirely vegetarian. Adjacent to those is a refrigerated-goods area with interesting soy meats, pressed tofu strips, and more.

The San Fernando Valley doesn’t rival SGV for Chinese restaurants, but Jerome points vegetarians in the area to Vegetable Delight. Turns out the fake shrimp get their realistic coloring from seaweed.

In Orange County, Veggie Bistro has mostly (but not all) Vietnamese fare–faux beef dishes are particularly good, says wendy8869, like vermicelli with beef. Eggplant curry soup and shrimp dishes are also chow-worthy–there are Chinese and Italian dishes too–good for when there are a lot of taste buds to accommodate.

Cerritos has Vegi Wokery (Chinese), and Irvine has Wheel of Life (Thai).

The Filipino restaurant Papillon draws a lot of responses, good and bad. The omnivorous ElissaInPlaya loves it, but after an initial rave, the vegetarian wowimadog went back with Filipino husband and relatives who weren’t impressed–7 out of 10. It’s certainly worth a try, and they have vegetarian and non-vegetarian versions of most dishes. The vegetarian house special chicken is flavorful, and the texture just right, says Nicole.

Fine Garden Vegetarian Cuisine [San Gabriel Valley]
formerly Veg Table Restaurant
841 W. Las Tunas Dr., Mission, San Gabriel

Happy Family Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
608 N. Atlantic Blvd., Hellman, Monterey Park

New Happy Family Of Rosemead [San Gabriel Valley]
8632 Valley Blvd., Walnut Grove, Rosemead

Happy Family Restaurant [East LA-ish]
869 N. Wilcox Ave., Via Campo, Montebello

Happy Family Restaurant [Inland of LA]
18425 Colima Rd., Batson, Rowland Heights

Vege House Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
a.k.a. Wangs Family Restaurant
1400 E. Valley Blvd., New Alhambra

Au Lac Gourmet Vegetarian [South OC]
16563 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley

Thuyen Vien [Little Saigon]
11080 Magnolia St., Katella, Garden Grove

Bodhi Vegetarian Supply [San Gabriel Valley]
8450 Valley Blvd. #106, Rosemead

San Gabriel Superstore [San Gabriel Valley]
1635 S. San Gabriel Blvd., Valley, San Gabriel

Vegetable Delight [West San Fernando Valley]
17823 Chatsworth St., Granada Hills

California Vegan [West LA]
12113 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles

California Vegan Restaurant [West Hollywood]
7300 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles

Veggie Bistro [East LA-ish]
6557 Comstock Ave., Whittier

Vegi Wokery [Artesia-ish]
11329 183rd St., Gridley, Cerritos

Wheel Of Life [South OC]
14370 Culver Dr. #2, Irvine

Papillon Vegetarian Cuisine [Beaches]
408 Main St., El Segundo

Board Links: Vegetarian “Fake Meat” Restaurants- Recs?
City Beat’s “Next Big Ethnic Craze”: Papillion

Best Hole-in-the-Wall Gelato

This little hole-in-the-wall gelateria has lower prices and much better gelato than the often-touted Al Gelato, says Nicole. The owner is super-nice and generous with tastes. Fruit flavors are excellent and natural tasting–strawberry is great. Hazelnut, almond, and coconut are also really good. The owner makes small batches twice a day, so it’s really fresh. Limited seating, but the space is nice.

Gelato Fantasia [Culver City-ish]
10422 National Blvd., Motor, Los Angeles

Board Links: Al Gelato Disappointment

Crown Cafe Taken over by Chung King

The Hunanese restaurant Crown Cafe is no more, and a branch of the Monterey Park Sichuanese restaurant Chung King has taken its place, Chandavkl has found. The menu and deli section look the same.

At the Monterey Park Chung King, minced pork with red and green peppers is terrific, and terrifically hot, says Bob Brooks. Fried chicken with chiles is another great dish–pretty much everything is sizzlingly spicy here, including the incendiary water-boiled beef. Delicious, though. From the deli case, try fried peanuts, jade celery, pig ears, or spicy beef jerky…you can’t go wrong. You may cry (especially while eating the jerky), but you can’t go wrong.

Chung King [San Gabriel Valley]
Formerly Crown Cafe
a.k.a. Hunan Restaurant
1000 S. San Gabriel Blvd., San Gabriel

Chung King Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
206 S. Garfield Ave., Garvey, Monterey Park

Board Links: Chung King Opens Up In Former Crown Cafe Location
Chung King–SGV

Standout Taco Trucks

The cemitas (a kind of Mexican sandwich) at a certain truck that parks in front of a Smart & Final in West LA one-up the rest, being made with Mexican-style cream cheese instead of panela, says Dommy. (She probably means Angelica Cemitas Poblana.) The sturdier panela goes better with tortas, a heftier kind of sandwich. Cemitas can have a variety of fillings–milanesa (thin, breaded and pan-fried beef) is popular, and this truck does carnitas and milanesa de pollo really well.

The mariscos truck on Figueroa (the blue one, not the white) is more like a gourmet seafood restaurant on wheels, says socal–only super-fresh shrimp, scallops; and fish. The tostada mixta features all of those, piled on a hard tortilla with avocado, lemon and hot sauce. It’s friggin’ great.

The best taco trucks aren’t trucks at all, Dommy points out–they’re taco tables. These more stationary setups usually feature something that looks like a hubcap, which actually gives the ingredients out-of-this-world flavor. As meats cook on the raised middle part, onions, jalapenos, and other meats cook in the juices that collect in the sunken center. Check out the one on Vermont, near Venice.

Angelica Cemitas Poblana [Culver City-ish]
Venice Blvd west of Clarington, Los Angeles

Blue Mexican seafood truck [Highland Park]
North Figueroa Blvd & Avenue 49, Los Angeles

Taco stall [Koreatown]
Vermont and Venice, Los Angeles
(in the driveway of a business on the west side of Vermont, south of Venice.)

Board Links: Best Roach Coach in L.A.?

Awesome Small Plates on Third

Tasca, a new joint in a small space on Third Street, specializes in real-deal Spanish-style tapas. They don’t have their wine license yet, so in the meantime, there’s zero corkage. And the food? While none of it is risk-taking, almost everything is well-balanced and delicious, says PoetKitty. This chef’s got talent.


Heirloom tomato gazpacho–topped with crab and avocado, it’s incredibly delish, with a refreshing citrusy twang.

Braised short ribs with butternut squash ravioli–these boneless meaty morsels dissolve in your mouth, and the ravioli is just decadent.

White asparagus gratin–with mild cheese and a drizzle of balsamic, it’s a must for white asparagus lovers.

Arancini with fontina in tomato sauce–fluffy and comforting, they’re a little taste of Sicily.

The interior is warm and cozy, lit by candles. It’s woefully understaffed, though. The average tapa costs about $11, but it takes quite a few to fill up (remember, tapas aren’t meant to be dinner!).

Tasca [Fairfax Village]
8108 Third St., Crescent Heights, Los Angeles

Board Links: Tasca–PK’s Review

Groceries and Kebabs

Super King is like a nicer and cleaner Jons, with nine kinds of feta (including Italian and Hungarian), a zillion salamis and bolognas, ropes of cheese, and an impressive butcher department, says Briggs. And in addition to doing your grocery shopping, you can also get terrific chicken and beef lule kebabs.

Super King Market [Eagle Rock]
2716 San Fernando Rd., Edward, Los Angeles

Super King Market [South OC]
10500 Magnolia Ave., Cerritos, Anaheim

Board Links: Super King–Northeast LA’s Zabar?

Pizza Tailored to Taste

Fratelli’s is an old-school Italian place with old-school pleasures–Stella Artois and Sierra Nevada beer on tap, a nice garlicky spit-roasted chicken, and a highly satisfactory pizza, says Donny Mac. You can customize the toppings, crust, and even the sauce. Arrabiata sauce, for example, is excellent, spicy and garlicky. Extra-thin crust has nice flavor and texture, although it could be a bit crispier. Individual-sized pizzas tend to have thicker/puffier crusts, and the regular sauce is pretty bland.

Fratelli’s Pizza & Deli [East San Fernando Valley]
2064 Verdugo Blvd. #B, Park Place, Montrose

Board Links: Brief Review: Fratelli’s–Good Pizza in Montrose/Glendale/LCF

XLB Update

Dispatch from San Gabriel Valley–there are some awesome xiao long bao, or soup dumplings, at J&J, says estone888, in the same strip mall that houses the pretty-damn-good xlb of Mei Long Village (whose potstickers remain superior).

J&J Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
a.k.a. Jin Jiang Restaurant
301 W. Valley Blvd. #109, Del Mar, San Gabriel

Board Links: J&J XLB–thanks jouznutz

Coconut Ice Cream

Coconut ice cream from the freezer in the market at Simpang Asia is incredibly pure-tasting, says PayOrPlay, like a coconut-milk sorbet. Taro and durian flavors are similar, and really good. And the stuff sold at LAX-C, the mother of all Thai supermarkets, is supposed to be great.

Al Gelato’s coconut gelato may be their best flavor–intensely rich and coconutty.

Mateo’s has enjoyable ice cream bars (paletas) and scooped ice cream, says petradish. The coconut flavor comes in two variations, one being creamier. They also have very good burnt milk (leche quemada) ice cream and tropical fruit sorbets.

Simpang Asia [Culver City-ish]
10433 National Blvd., Mentone, Los Angeles

Al Gelato Continental Desserts [Midtown]
806 S. Robertson Blvd., Gregory Way, Los Angeles

Mateo’s Ice Cream & Fruit Bars [Midtown]
4222 W. Pico Blvd., Crenshaw, Los Angeles

Mateo Ice Cream & Fruit Bars [Culver City-ish]
4929 Sepulveda Blvd., Lucerne, Culver City

Mateo’s Ice Cream & Juice Bar [Inland of LA]
522 E. Vine Ave., Glendora, West Covina

Board Links: Coconut Ice cream.