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Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.

This Is How We Eat in the O.C., Bitch!

With the sad but fairly predictable demise of the once critically acclaimed television show The O.C. at the end of February, one erstwhile producer plans to use his newfound free time to stick his finger in the restaurant business—by buying up a joint heavily featured on his now-canceled show.

This week it was announced that executive producer McG is taking over ownership of The Arches.

Name-dropping Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, and John Wayne, the current restaurant’s website declares, “The Arches became known as the place where famous people would go who wanted to find privacy.” In the last four years, it has also become known to O.C.-philes as the elegant establishment where the rich and fictional O.C. denizens staged their many fights, make-up dinners, make-out lunches, and drink-in-the-face incidents.

McG will not have possession of the famous name, however. The current owner, Dan Marcheano, explains that while McG (who does this guy think he is, Prince?) is taking over the physical location of the Arches, the executive producer will not own the famous name. Marcheano will be keeping that and moving his business to a new location.

Marcheano said he has for years planned to expand the restaurant’s menu and move it—and that’s coming to fruition.

‘We have got a couple very nice locations we’re involved in right now…. We own the Arches and the corporation, and they’ll be moving with us,’ Marcheano said. ‘What I don’t know is what he is going to call the place, other than I know he is not going to be calling it the Arches.’

Whatever McG names his new establishment, I sure hope he puts “fresh margs” on the cocktail menu.

Burmese at Mandalay Restaurant

Mandalay Restaurant is a Burmese restaurant a few blocks from Burma Super Star, but without a line to get in. schnigglebob finds the food at Mandaly Restaurant to be better–especially the flavorful tea leaf salad, made without lemon or tomatoes. Rainbow chicken, with flavors of mango and pineapple, is also recommended.

Melanie Wong likes the spark and funk of the rainbow salad, which is a wild mix of more than ten different things, including deep-fried shallots and golden-brown garlic chips. Her favorite is the coconut chicken noodle soup (ono kaukswe), with bite-sized pieces of smooth and succulent boneless dark meat chicken and soft egg noodles floating in a mild, curry-flavored coconut milk broth.

daveena highly recommends the nan gvi dok (Burmese rice noodle soup with spiced coconut chicken, split yellow pea powder, and fried onion). It’s a must-eat–the coconut flavor goes all the way through the perfectly chewy, tender noodles. And all hounds like the balada, a flaky, tender Burmese flatbread akin to paratha.


Mandalay Restaurant [Richmond]
4348 California St. (at 6th), San Francisco
415-386-3895
Locater

Burma Super Star Restaurant [Richmond]
309 Clement St, between 4th and 5th, San Francisco
415-387-2147
Locater

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Mandalay Restaurant on California Street, Surprisingly good!
The Road Back to Mandalay

Pollo a la Brasa and Peruvian Doughnuts

Lillian Hsu is grateful to Inkas Restaurant for providing her with a lovely introduction to Peruvian food. Golden empanadas filled with tender ground beef and half a hard-boiled egg are good, but anticuchos–lightly spiced beef heart skewers, accompanied by sweet corn on the cob and slices of sweet potato–are life changing. (For those apprehensive about tasting someone else’s heart, it’s similar to a very good, very flavorful cut of beef.) Try everything dipped in their house-made yellow chili sauce–it’s fantastic, and you can easily work your way through several baskets of bread just for an excuse to eat more of it.

Inkas’ pollo a la brasa (Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken) is some of the best roast chicken ever made, with crispy skin and incredibly juicy and tender meat. You can get it with fries, or substitute perfectly crispy yuca frita. If you have room, taste the Peruvian doughnuts, round sweet potato fritters drizzled with syrup, crisp on the outside and steamy and mushy on the inside. “I’m still basking in the afterglow,” says Lillian.


Inkas Restaurant [Mission]
3299 Mission St., San Francisco
415-648-0111
Locater

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Inkas Restaurant—exceptionally gracious service & memorable Peruvian food

N Love with Westport’s Ndulgence La Patisserie

Ndulgence is a welcome newcomer in Westport, especially now that the good bakeries in town seem to be dying off. Go for fruit tarts, buttery sugar cookies and linzers, or light, eggy rolls, suggests ClippyZ. The personable owner, Victor, is a veteran baker from Guatemala who also makes a haunting, anise-scented corona bread. He’s unusually liberal with free samples, too.


Ndulgence La Patisserie [Fairfield County]
1765 Post Rd. E., in Westfair Center, Westport, CT
203-255-2866
Locater

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New Fairfield/Westport, CT Bakery

Around New York, Steak Plus Sizzle in a Sandwich

If there’s a better steak sandwich in New York City than the one at Pastis, nychowgirl hasn’t heard about it. Expect a generous pile of sliced meat, sweet caramelized onions, melted Gruyere, and frisee on crusty bread. It’s on the menu from lunch through post-midnight supper.

At Westville, well-seasoned beef gets a boost from tasty yet mild horseradish mayonnaise. Alongside the sandwich comes a good-sized salad.

Mooncake Foods hollows out a baguette and fills it with grilled skirt steak plus roasted red peppers and fresh dill mayonnaise. The most delicious steak sandwich ever, declares bigjeff, who adds that it’s a steal at $6.50.

Sapa works in miniatures at happy hour, when it serves little bites of beef and onion marmalade on onion brioche. Tasty, tiny, and just $3 each, says thievery.

Others recommend the steak sandwiches at Chez Laurence, Schiller’s Liquor Bar, and Delmonico’s, whose several options include sliced sirloin on sourdough with three sauces, on the bar menu. In Brooklyn, there’s a hound-endorsed sandwich of grilled rib eye with mushrooms, onions, and roasted garlic on focaccia at Downtown Atlantic. It’s no longer on the menu, but they’ll still make it if you ask.


Pastis [West Village]
9 9th Ave., between W. 12th and 13th Sts., Manhattan
212-929-4844
Locater

Westville [Greenwich Village]
210 W. 10th St., between Bleecker and W. 4th Sts., Manhattan
212-741-7971
Locater

Mooncake Foods [Soho]
28 Watts St., at 6th Ave., Manhattan
212-219-8888
Locater

Sapa [Chelsea]
43 W. 24th St., between 5th and 6th Aves., Manhattan
212-929-1800
Locater

Chez Laurence [Midtown East]
245 Madison Ave., at E. 38th St., Manhattan
212-683-0284
Locater

Schiller’s Liquor Bar [Lower East Side]
131 Rivington St., at Norfolk, Manhattan
212-260-4555
Locater

Delmonico’s Restaurant [Financial District]
56 Beaver St., at William, Manhattan
212-509-1144
Locater

Downtown Atlantic Restaurant and Bakery [Flatbush]
364 Atlantic Ave., between Hoyt and Bond Sts., Brooklyn
718-852-9945
Locater

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Is there a better steak sandwich in NYC than the one at Pastis?

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

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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

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

Little Potato Bites

These little baked potato bites make a great appetizer (or baked in standard-size muffin cups, a good side dish), especially with a dollop of sour cream, says Candy:

2 large eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
3 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 small onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/4 lbs. baking potatoes
paprika

Preheat oven to 400F. Grease 36 mini-muffin cups. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, flour, salt, baking powder, black pepper, and nutmeg. Grate the onion on the large holes of a grater and whisk it and the garlic into the egg mixture. Peel and quarter the potatoes and chop finely in a food processor, using the steel blade. Add the potatoes to the batter and stir well to combine. Spoon a rounded tablespoon of the potato mixture into each prepared mini-muffin cup. Sprinkle with paprika and bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

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I want to share a recipe

Preserved Lemons

Preserved lemons, commonly used in Moroccan cooking, are simple to make at home and keep for a long time. Several recommend this Paula Wolfort recipe. Be sure to use clean utensils–not your hands–to pack and remove your preserved lemons from their jars, to avoid the growth of mold.

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want to hear from anyone who’s ever made Moroccan preserved lemons
Preserved lemons?

Bagel Love

Try a Montreal bagel, and you’ll never go back! Or a Toronto bagel, or one from New York. Bagel love needn’t be monogamous!

Montreal bagels are small, a little sweet, doughy, and at the same time, chewy. carswell proclaims them to be the “pinnacle of bageldom”. Though there is a concern that they’re getting bigger, and the hole is smaller. Just can’t thread them on your finger!

Toronto bagels have their adoring fans. They have a perfect crunchy crust, and are soft and moist inside, says spades. They won’t stick to your teeth, either.

New York-style bagels are more salty than sweet, and soft on the outside. They can be difficult to eat, because they’re so chewy.

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Just Curious: Do any non-Montrealers love Montreal bagels?