Los Angeles Area rss

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

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
626-286-0298
Map

Chung King Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
206 S. Garfield Ave., Garvey, Monterey Park
626-280-7430
Map

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
Map

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

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

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.

Highlights:

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
323-951-9890
Map

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
323-225-0044
Map

Super King Market [South OC]
10500 Magnolia Ave., Cerritos, Anaheim
714-527-5809
Map

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
818-957-3060
Map

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
626-308-9238
Map

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
310-815-9075
Map

Al Gelato Continental Desserts [Midtown]
806 S. Robertson Blvd., Gregory Way, Los Angeles
310-659-8069
Map

Mateo’s Ice Cream & Fruit Bars [Midtown]
4222 W. Pico Blvd., Crenshaw, Los Angeles
323-931-5500
Map

Mateo Ice Cream & Fruit Bars [Culver City-ish]
4929 Sepulveda Blvd., Lucerne, Culver City
310-313-7625
Map

Mateo’s Ice Cream & Juice Bar [Inland of LA]
522 E. Vine Ave., Glendora, West Covina
626-919-2090
Map

Board Links: Coconut Ice cream.

An Oasis of Spice in Orange County

Tropika seems like a mirage in the middle of Orange County: white linen, full bar, and authentically spicy Malaysian food. And did we mention that it’s in Orange County? elmomonster checked it out and confirmed its culinary cred.

Start with roti prata (also known as roti canai), a classic snack with Indian roots. “Similar to naan, but stretched impossibly thin, the texture of roti is flour tortilla meets phyllo dough–crisp and crackly at its periphery, paper-thin and chewy throughout.” Dip it in the aromatic red curry with chicken and potato.

Tropika does a spot-on version of nasi lemak, rice cooked with coconut milk, so richly flavored you could eat it alone. But you don’t have to, since it comes with chunks of deep-fried chicken steeped in spicy red curry, fried anchovies with peanuts in sambal (chile paste), and hard-boiled egg and cucumbers to balance out the heat.

Rendang beef, a dish beloved in Indonesia as well as Malaysia, is braised in coconut milk with ginger, garlic, coriander and lemongrass. Tropika’s rendang is properly falling-apart tender, the sauce reduced to a sticky brown paste. The spices are as sharp as a hot blade, sharper than even the mellower Indonesian style.

Seafood hor fun is more subtle and nuanced, flat rice noodles stir-fried and sluiced with a velvety gravy, with shrimp, squid, scallops and baby bok choy mixed in.

At lunch, soup (a tangy broth stocked with vegetables) and salad come with all dishes. For less adventurous dining companions, there’s also pad Thai (the restaurant bills itself as Malaysian and Thai cuisine), and it’s pretty tasty.

Roti prata is $3.25, nasi lemak is $8, beef rendang is $13, and hor fun is $9.

Tropika [South OC]
17460 E. 17th St., Yorba/Enderle, Tustin
714-505-9908

http://www.tropika.com

Map

Board Links: Tropika in Tustin–New Malaysian Restaurant for O.C.–Review with PHOTOS

Peri Peri Gives Everything Sizzle

Vegetable napoleon might not sound like a native African dish, but it’s tasty stuff–a tower of grilled vegetables layered with gooey mozzarella and fresh spinach, topped with tomatoes, onions, and a pomegranate dressing.

A salad featuring peppadrops (a hybrid of teardrop tomatoes and bell peppers) includes field greens and red cabbage, drizzled with a simple dressing of oil, vinegar and peri peri, a Mozambican chile pepper that’s also used in a classic hot sauce. The peppadrops are slightly spicy but exceptionally sweet–like candy.

Durban curry is a fabulous red stew with lamb and vegetables that comes with two chutneys, one hot and one sweet. Also on the side is a mixture of tomatoes, onions, and banana to cool your mouth if it gets overheated (although the curry is only medium spicy).

Rib-eye steak (18 oz, bone in) gets coated with peri peri sauce and grilled medium rare, and the kick of the pepper enhances the meat.

For dessert, white chocolate and banana bread pudding is a beautiful mixture of the pudding, fresh berries, whipped cream, and chopped macadamia nuts.

Dinner for two runs $125 with tax. Durban curry is $24, rib-eye steak $36, vegetable napoleon $8.50, salad $12 and bread pudding $8.50.

It’s a stylish place, dark and clubby inside. An interesting drink selection (there’s a full bar) includes the Drunken Elephant (vodka, Amarula fruit liqueur, and Frangelico) and the cocktails tend to be strong.

Tip: Use the valet and save yourself the stress that is trying to park in Laguna Beach. Valet is only $5.

Mozambique Restaurant [OC Beaches]
1740 S. Pacific Coast Hwy., Agate, Laguna Beach
949-715-7777
Map

Board Links: Road Trip Review: Mozambique–Laguna Beach, CA

Cozying Up to an Italian

When it comes to romantic, cozy Italian restaurants, Pasadena dwellers are lucky enough to have two top-notch choices. Trattoria Tre Venezie is intimate and candlelit, with handmade food of the Veneto region. However–romance and regional cuisine ain’t cheap, at least here.

Celestino boasts gnocchi that haunts the dreams of ipse dixit, they’re’s so rich and creamy. But it’s the rapini pasta with sausage that’s out of this world, says petra: a creamy, vibrant green sauce with tiny morsels of pork on strozzapreti. Not a dish you’ll find often, if anywhere in this town.

Chowhound fave La Buca is small (VERY small) and romantic–if you don’t need a lot of elbow or leg room.

La Luna is consistently tasty as well as romantic and very comfortable, says JJ, who’s never had a bad meal there.

Il Buco has a real Italian feel about it, and offers a good selection of pastas, gnocchi, and mains.

Less romantic, but a great neighborhood place, is Il Forno. There are some duds on the menu, but when you get the good stuff it’s like hitting a home run. Start with the tomato-garlic bruschetta–the bread is nothing special, but the crazy garlicky-vinegary flavor really makes it.

Radicchio-romaine salad with pecans, balsamic vinegar and a stellar dry-aged ricotta is lovely, and the house Caesar (with anchovies) is super. Minestrone soup is just okay.

If you spot veal ravioli with creamy tomato sauce on the specials menu, pounce. It’s too good to get away. Spinach-ricotta ravioli are fluffy and delectable; so are gnocchi with pesto and vegetables. But rigatoni with tomato-meat sauce is good-not-great, and capellini with scampi is an outright dud–puny shrimp and not much flavor.

Note to wine lovers and bargain hunters: if you buy a bottle of wine at Wine Expo, there’s no corkage at Il Forno.

Trattoria Tre Venezie [Pasadena-ish]
119 W. Green St., DeLacey Ave., Pasadena
626-795-4455
Map

Celestino [Pasadena-ish]
141 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena
626-795-4006
Map

La Buca [Hollywood]
5210 1/2 Melrose Ave., West of Wilton, Los Angeles
323-462-1900
Map

La Luna Ristorante [Larchmont Village]
113 N. Larchmont Blvd., 1st St., Los Angeles
323-962-2130
Map

Il Buco Pizzeria Restaurant [Beverly Hills]
107 N. Robertson Blvd., Wilshire, Beverly Hills
310-657-1345
Map

Il Forno Caffe & Pizzeria [Beaches]
2901 Ocean Park Blvd. #109, 29th St., Santa Monica
310-450-1241
Map

Board Links: La Buca.
Celestino–PK’s Review