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

Lobster “Culls”

A cull is a lobster missing a claw. It still has plenty of good meat, of course. Culls were once highly discounted, but consumers caught on and the price has increased to the point where they may not work out as bargains anymore, pound for pound. And if claw meat is your favorite, you’re likely better off buying a whole lobster.

Board Links: Lobster Retail Value–Cull vs. Whole?

Chow 101: Miso

The healthful properties of miso are legendary. It’s a living food, with enzymes and other microorganisms said to aid digestion. It tastes good, too! It’s made from fermented soy beans and other grains and is a mainstay of Japanese cooking. The lighter colored miso is delicately flavored and used in light soups, sauces and salad dressings. Use darker miso in heavier dishes, like stews, or as a table condiment.

South River Miso is artisanal and fire-roasted. Their products are for sale at their website, which includes lots of miso information and recipes ranging literally from soup to nuts (and miso desserts, too).

Board Links: artisan tofu makers

Roast Beets Make Great Salads

Roasting beets concentrates their earthy sweetness, transforming them into intense mouthfuls of deliciousness that play well with lots of other tastes and textures. And all kinds of great salads are possible.

To roast beets, cut off any greens (good eating in their own right) and scrub bulbs clean. Wrap them tightly in foil (or put them in a covered roasting pan or casserole) and roast until tender when pierced with a knife (around an hour at 350F, depending on size). When cool, skins will peel off very easily (wear powder-free latex or vinyl gloves, or hold them with a paper towel, to avoid staining your hands).

A range of fruits and vegetables complement roast beets in various ways. Some match their soft texture and/or sweetness (avocado, oranges, mangoes) and others lend textural contrast (endive, raw fennel). Other popular additions to beets salads are nuts and soft, salty cheeses (goat, blue, feta). Most suggest using light dressings on beet salads; walnut and olive oils are good bases.

For something a bit different, mix beets with yogurt, a little garlic, and fresh dill (oaklandfoodie).

Board Links: Really good beets at home [topic digression moved from SF board]

Getting Creative With Kimchee

Chowhounds love to use kimchee to perk up all kinds of simple recipes.

Kimchee is delicious chopped into tuna for sandwiches.

theannerska serves it with seared tofu, just a little soy sauce, and scallions.

Kimchee’s great atop burgers, but bigjeff likes it even better mixed into the ground beef before he forms the patties.

It adds oomph to soup: try kimchee with broth and dumplings; or GretchenS’s combo of kimchee, shredded cabbage, scallions, and tofu in chicken broth, with some of the juice from the kimchee jar added in at the end.

Dommy makes kimchee pizza by mixing a little kimchee juice into her sauce and spreading on a prepared crust, adding fresh mozzarella, and baking. When it comes out of the oven, she puts kimchee on top. bigjeff adds kimchee to leftover pizza, and reheats in the oven.

Board Links: what can I do with my kimchee besides stand in front of the fridge and eat it

Punto Fijo: Peruvian Sleeper In Jackson Heights

Jackson Heights’ Punto Fijo deserves more attention than it gets for its homey, traditional Peruvian food, says kenito799. “It will fulfill all your Peruvian cravings,” he promises, especially if you’re hankering for carapulcra, a meaty stew made with dried potato. Also recommended: ceviche tiradito; anticuchos (grilled thin-sliced cow heart, excellent with green aji sauce); jalea (fried mixed seafood) or fried chunks of corvina; papas a la huancaina.

“I’ve been a few times and have not been disappointed,” reports sandrina, who singles out the fried calamari, served with cassava fries, a creamy green hot sauce and a pinkish sweet one.

Punto Fijo Restaurant [Jackson Heights]
89-12 Northern Blvd., between 89th and 90th Sts, Jackson Heights, Queens

Board Links: Punto Fijo Peruvian (moved from Manhattan Board)

Saigon Grill Goes Downtown, and other NY News

Saigon Grill–the popular Vietnamese restaurant that is either really good or just good for uptown, depending on whom you ask–has opened a long-awaited branch in the Village. “If you enjoy the uptown Saigon Grills, you’ll love the downtown version,” suggests newcarcaviar. “The food is identical and prices comparable to their other locations, but the decor is much hipper and vibier.” One early report, though, suggests that the new place has stumbled out of the blocks with missteps in both the kitchen and the front of the house.

In other news, changes are afoot at hound haunt Sullivan Street Bakery, whose co-owners have gone their separate ways. The Hell’s Kitchen shop remains Sullivan Street Bakery. The Sullivan Street original has been rechristened Grandaisy Bakery. So far the menus haven’t diverged much. CornflakeGirl was relieved to find the famous potato pizza as good as ever at Grandaisy. “In fact,” she observes, “almost everything looked the same.” On 47th Street, meanwhile, they’re tearing down walls to make seating space where customers can munch on the newly introduced sandwiches and other chow. First take from Peter Cuce, who has sampled a sandwich of pancetta, mango and basil–“amazing.”

In the East Village, Mo Pitkin’s has pared back its self-styled “Judeo-Latino” menu. “The much-derided ‘Mo’s Pickins’ (a six-way appetizer sampler for $13) is gone,” reports eeee, “but, sadly, so are some of the more interesting dishes”–shrimp al ajillo, tuna ceviche or salad, pasta paella. However, several hound favorites made the cut–including latkes, deep-fried macaroni and cheese, the Mo Burger (topped with fried egg, onions, and chicken liver), and the Cuban Reuben (corned beef, ham, roast pork, cheese, pickles, Russian dressing).

Saigon Grill [Greenwich Village]
91 University Pl., between E. 11th and 12th Sts, Manhattan

Saigon Grill [Upper West Side]
620 Amsterdam Ave., at 90th St., Manhattan

Saigon Grill [Upper East Side]
1700 2nd Ave., at 88th St., Manhattan

Grandaisy Bakery [Soho]
formerly Sullivan Street Bakery
73 Sullivan St, near Broome, Manhattan

Sullivan Street Bakery [Clinton]
533 W. 47th St., between 10th and 11th Aves, Manhattan

Mo Pitkin’s House of Satisfaction [East Village]
34 Avenue A, between 2nd and 3rd Sts, Manhattan

Board Links: Visited the new downtown Saigon Grill last night
Saigon Grill University
Mo Pitkins
what’s going on w/ SULLIVAN ST BAKERY in soho?

Mexican Finds

Chulada is a little gem, reports Sandra W. after a lunch there. Carnitas are perfectly cooked, and chicken mole stars moist breast meat. It’s all cooked fresh, so there’s a wait after you order. Corn tortillas, also fresh, are fab.

hermit has gotten hooked on El Sauz, where the carne asada burrito is now a favorite.

Original Chulada Grill [Midtown]
5607 San Vicente Blvd, Hauser, Los Angeles

El Sauz Taco [East San Fernando Valley]
4432 San Fernando Rd., Glendale

Board Links: El Sauz
Chulada Grill–Miracle Mile area

Good Oaxacan Beyond Guelaguetza

Guelaguetza overshadows the scene of Oaxacan restaurants, but there are a ton of smaller Oaxacan restaurants out there–some even better.

After a meal at the oft-recommended El Fortin (including OC Weekly’s Gustavo Arellano, who says Guelaguetza is nowhere near as good), adamclyde says he only regrets that he didn’t have a big enough stomach to try everything.

Mole negro is awesome: thick, complex and flavorful. Mole coloradito: great rich sauce with just the right level of piquancy. The version with pork is beautifully minimalist, three large chunks of tender pork in mole with white rice on the side. Quesadilla is really good, and huge, filled with Oaxacan cheese. The botana, a mixed plate, is nothing fancy but includes tasajo (a kind of beef jerky) with a deep smoky flavor. The only thing that falls a teensy bit short is the tamal oaxaqueno, whose masa is crumbly rather than creamy, but still has great flavor (mole negro). No liquor license.

Antequera de Oaxaca is a little family-run place with all the usual moles, cecina, and Oaxacan specialties, but the real prize, says sku, are the botana plates including appetizers such as memelas, cheese, chicharron, chorizo, and guacamole. They also have some interesting beverages, like squash-pumpkin seed, and a good hot chocolate. No liquor license.

Juquila is a great choice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, says estnyboer. The mole negro is particularly tasty, and the coloradito is also darned good.

El Sazon Oaxaqueno is a board favorite. So is the epic taco truck La Oaxaquena, where Dommy loves the memelas much more than Guelaguetza’s. Still, she gives Guela points for their delicious horchata.

Guelaguetza [Koreatown]
3337 1/2 W. 8th St., Irolo, Los Angeles

Guelaguetza Restaurant [Koreatown]
3014 W. Olympic Blvd., Normandie, Los Angeles

Guelaguetza Palms Restaurant [Culver City-ish]
11127 Palms Blvd, Sepulveda, Los Angeles

El Fortin [North OC]
700 E Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton

El Fortin 2 [North OC]
10444 Dale Ave., Stanton

El Fortin 3 [Inland of LA]
5368 Riverside Dr., Chino

Antequera de Oaxaca [Hollywood]
5200 Melrose Ave, Wilton, Los Angeles

Juquila Restaurant [West LA-ish]
11619 Santa Monica Blvd, between Federal and Barry, Los Angeles

El Sazon Oaxacqueno [Beaches]
12131 Washington Place, Los Angeles

La Oaxaquena Taco Truck [Beaches]
on Lincoln Blvd at Flower, south of Rose, Venice

Board Links: ISO Good Oaxacan besides Guelaguetza and Monte Alban
El Fortin in Fullerton (oaxacan)

Shanghai Style Banquet at Claypot

Claypot can put together a great banquet if you balance your order well. Most dishes are hits, especially soups and cold dishes.

Shredded tofu and cilantro is among the best dishes; it has just a hint of heat in the tofu dressing that really brightens the dish, says vliang. Five-spice crispy duck is both savory and aromatic. Shredded fish and spinach soup has a subtle flavoring and very soft fish meat. It nails just the right proportion of spinachy flavor–enough to please Popeye but not so much to turn off spinaphobes, says Eugene Park. Nice hit of white pepper in the soup, too. Lion’s Head meatballs are dense, coarsely chopped, and flavored with lots of ginger and light on the five spice/anise.

Other dishes, like sauteed eel, braised pork, and drunken chicken, are a disappointment because sauces are too similar and quite sweet. Order them separately, and only get one per meal. Skip Squirrel Mandarin fish–the head has too little meat, and the fried preparation would work better with black sea bass.

All in all, you can get very good food with unhurried service. A recent meal of around ten pre-ordered dishes cost $25/person including tax and tip.

Clay Pot Seafood House [East Bay]
809 San Pablo Ave., Albany

Board Links: Claypot in Albany Chowdown

Around India, Around The Bay

Had enough CTA (chicken tikka masala)? Bored with dosas? Done with the Pakwan/Shalimar/Naan’n’Curry standards? Then it’s time to branch out and try other Indian regional offerings!

Fijian-Indian: To some, Fijian-Indian can be full of bones with little meat and thin gravies, and few of flavors we’d expect from Indian cuisine, says Sixy. But Curry Corner could change your mind. It’s the first Indian food rworange really liked: strong flavors, freshly ground spices, and critters still in the shell or on the bone, just as God or the evolutionary impulse intended.

Desi-Chinese: Masala Grill has a good selection of Indian (a.k.a. “Desi) -Chinese food. They’ve received mixed reviews in the past, but from the high quality of non-Desi dishes she’s recently had there, Caitlin McGrath thinks it could be a good bet for Desi-Chinese items, as well.

Gujarati: Gujarati food is known for fried snacks called farsans, and chutneys that are both sweet and salty. Sultan will prepare a Gujarati meal if pre-ordered; their Gujarati dishes are not on the regular menu. Shayona and Krishna also have Gujarati food, but more snacks than full meals; Krishna also has a thali at lunch that’s very good and inexpensive.

Andhra: For red-hot Andhra thalis, try Tirupathi Bhimas. Quality, variety are both terrific, and they do beautiful, brilliantly fresh vegetarian curries, raves Melanie Wong.

Curry Corner Takeaway [East Bay]
26657 Mission Blvd., Hayward

Sultan [Tenderloin]
339 Taylor St., San Francisco

Masala Grill [East Bay]
39158 Paseo Padre Pkwy, in Gateway Plaza shopping Center, Fremont

Shayona Snacks and Catering [South Bay]
in Bochasanwasi Swaminarayan Hindu Temple
25 Corning Ave., Milpitas

Krishna Restaurant [East Bay]
40645 Fremont Blvd #1, Fremont

Tirupathi Bhimas [South Bay]
1208 S Abel St., Milpitas

Board Links:
Curry Corner Revisited – Mom’s cooking & Tales of Indo-Fijian Food