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

Bin 8945 Worth Looking Into

An American wine bar and bistro, the new Bin 8945 may actually fill the void of a French bistro with deliciously straight-ahead food. Steak with frites ($29) is peppery and sweet, the fries cooked in duck fat for fantastic flavor. Duck leg confit ($27) is succulent and tender, arriving on a bed of flageolets, cavalo nero, and pancetta. Steamed mussels in coconut curry broth with homemade Italian sausage sounds like fusion gone overboard, but it actually works really well. And it’s easy to overlook the salt cod brandade, but it’s good stuff.

The star of the show, though, is the wine, and at the moment there’s a far bigger selection of vino than vittles (though the food side is scheduled to do some catch-up). To give you an idea: more than 60 wines by the glass. You might catch manager and wine director David Haskell bussing tables, decanting wine or greeting people–try to chat him up about wine.

Service is polished and professional, even opening week, and still friendly.

8945 Wine Bar and Bistro [West Hollywood]
8945 Santa Monica Blvd., Robertson, West Hollywood
310-550-8945
Map

Board Links: Zelo’s and Bin 8945
Bin 8945

Box It Up: Sushi to Go

You can get boxed sushi almost anywhere these days, but some otherwise reliable markets can trip up here. Always great when it comes to fish: Fish King. The versatile Japanese-run fish market (also a fine choice for fish and chips) has a huge and tasty spicy tuna roll for only $6. You can even call ahead and order fresh filets of your choice to be cut into sashimi.

Plain tuna is kind of dull, but yellowtail, salmon and albacore are all good. Sometimes you can even get something exotic like mirugai (giant clam) in small quantities.

Japanese markets like Nijiya are a great place to pick up sushi bento. The futomaki rolls are huge and generous, notes pinkshch, and the tempura shrimp rolls are very good as well.

PayorPlay adds that their selection has broadened lately to include dim sum items like cha shu bao (BBQ pork buns), shiu mai and har gow. They might also have Osaka-style battered sushi or salmon eggs with bits of tamago, cucumber and tuna over rice.

Mitsuwa and Marukai are good sources–Dommy loves Mitsuwa’s spicy crab roll, with real crab.

Davina recommends Farm Boy in Sherman Oaks.

Famima stores are popping up like mushrooms. At the one in Pasadena, mr mouther reports the fish is excellent and stands up even without the rice. But whynot had a totally different experience at an unidentified Famima, with way too much rice and tasteless fish.

Surprisingly, Trader Joe’s sushi–gummy, inedible monstrosities–is among the worst out there.

Fish King Seafood & Poultry [East San Fernando Valley]
722 N. Glendale Ave., North of 134 Fwy., Glendale
818-244-2161
Map

Nijiya Market [Sawtelle Strip]
2130 Sawtelle Blvd. #105, Los Angeles
310-575-3300
Map

Nijiya Market [Little Tokyo]
124 Japanese Village Plz. Mall, Los Angeles
213-680-3280
Map

Nijiya Market [South Bay]
2121 W. 182nd St., Torrance
310-366-7200
Map

Nijiya Market [South Bay]
2533 Pacific Coast Hwy., Torrance
310-534-3000
Map

Nijiya Market [Inland of LA]
17869 Colima Rd., City Of Industry
626-913-9994
Map

Mitsuwa Market in Yoahan Plaza [Little Tokyo]
333 S. Alameda St. #100, Los Angeles
213-687-6699
Map

Mitsuwa Marketplace [Beaches]
3760 S. Centinela Ave., Los Angeles
310-398-2113
Map

Mitsuwa Marketplace [South Bay]
21515 Western Ave
Torrance 90501
310-782-0335
Map

Mitsuwa Marketplace [San Gabriel Valley]
515 W. Las Tunas Dr., San Gabriel
626-457-2899
Map

Mitsuwa Marketplace [South OC]
665 Paularino Ave., Costa Mesa
714-557-6699
Map

Marukai Market [South Bay]
1740 W. Artesia Blvd., Gardena
310-660-6300
Map

Marukai Pacific Market [South Bay]
1620 W. Redondo Beach Blvd., Gardena
310-464-8888
Map

Marukai Market [Little Tokyo]
123 S. Onizuka St., Suite 101, Los Angeles
213-893-7200
Map

Marukai Corp [Inland of LA]
1420 S. Azusa Ave., West Covina
626-918-0825
Map

Farm Boy [East San Fernando Valley]
14107 Riverside Dr., Hazeltine, Sherman Oaks
818-501-5567
Map

Famima [Pasadena-ish]
25 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena
626-578-0545
Map

Famima [South Bay]
22529 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance
310-378-1984
Map

Famima [Beaches]
1348 3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica
310-393-2486
Map

Famima [West Hollywood]
8525 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood
310-659-2684
Map

Famima [Wealthy Westlands]
1465 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles
310-231-3432
Map

Board Links: famima … alot of rice
rank the boxed sushi choices

Tamarind Gourmet: Middle Eastern in Morningside Heights

You could walk right past Tamarind Gourmet and its window display of middling-looking muffins without suspecting that there was decent Middle Eastern takeout inside. But if you slow down and step in, you’ll find very tasty tabouleh, hummus, chicken, and babaghanoush, among other things, at this deli near the 125th Street subway station, reports Simon.

Tamarind Gourmet and Health Food [Morningside Heights]
3161 Broadway, between Tiemann Pl. and LaSalle St., Manhattan
212-663-8116
Map

Board Links: everyday lunch options near columbia

Like an Old Sweet Song: Elmhurst’s Georgia Diner

At Georgia Diner, the little things tell the story. Some single out the warm feta bread or house-made salad dressings at this peach-festooned Elmhurst landmark. For Eric Eto, an unmistakable sign of a caring, talented kitchen is the addictively good trio of salads that come with every entree–bean, beet, and (especially) a Platonic version of coleslaw that strikes a faultless balance of cabbage, carrot, and slightly sweetened mayo.

And you won’t end up pushing the rest of your meal around the plate, Eric promises–broiled halibut, Roumanian steak, chicken parmigiana, and stuffed chicken, among other entrees, are all quite good. Others praise roast turkey and steak and eggs. (One misfire: tasteless, overcooked spaghetti served with the chicken parm.) Two smart orders are hamburger and chicken souvlaki–though they aren’t full entrees, so they don’t come with the salads. Best deal on the menu is the weeknight special: soup, salad, entree, dessert, and coffee (plus that bottomless salad trio) for $17.

Leave room for one of the house-made desserts in the spinning case. Rice pudding is best of type–simple, straightforward, practically perfect.

“The best diner in Queens by far,” declares KellyBelly. “They treat you well, you get a ton of food for the money, and they make it fresh whether it is 3 p.m. or 3 a.m.”

Georgia Diner [Elmhurst]
86-55 Queens Blvd., between Broadway and 55th Ave.,
Elmhurst, Queens
718-651-9000
Map

Board Links: Best Diners?
Georgia Diner, Elmhurst

Talking Pizza in Norwalk, CT: Letizia’s Stakes Its Claim

Letizia’s Neapolitan-style pizza boasts top-notch toppings and flavorful sauce on a solid, medium-thin crust that balances a touch of char with proper chewiness. “It’s the best place in Norwalk,” declares TD, “and right up there with Colony as the best in Connecticut.”

If you’re thinking it might be something like New Haven pizza, think again. “This is not New Haven pizza. It doesn’t even copy it,” writes TrishUntrapped. “It is thin crust, and the sauce and cheese go almost to the very edge of the pie. There is no thick rim. Cheese and sauce are good, and the sausage is very good.” Adds TD: “It is very different from–and better than–New Haven pizza. New Haven pizza has a very thin, very dry crust. Letizia’s crust is charred to perfection but retains enough moisture on the interior to prevent it from drying out. Letizia’s sauce is also better than any I’ve had at Sally’s, Pepe’s, or Modern Apizza–very flavorful, yet it does not overpower the cheese.”

Since we’re talking pizza here, naturally there’s disagreement. “I’ve never understood the hype. It’s average at best,” sniffs vegas. “Colony Grill is much much better.”

Letizia’s Pizza [Fairfield County]
666 Main Ave (Rte 7), between Grist Mill and W. Rocks Rds, Norwalk, CT
203-847-6022
Map

Colony Grill [Fairfield County]
172 Myrtle Ave, between Frederick and Elm Sts, Stamford, CT
203-359-2184
Map

Board Links: Has anyone tried Letizias pizza in norwalk, Ct?

Penzey’s for Spices

Penzey’s spices are very fresh, and their extracts are equally wonderful. Customers rave about their excellent customer service.

Of all their cinnamons, the Vietnamese Extra Fancy is the best. liu has tried them all, and says this one has real deep cinnamon flavor.

Check out Penzey’s magazine called “One”, which features diverse recipes from its readers.

Board Links: spices

Ben & Jerry’s Portion Control

A pint of ice cream can disappear awfully quickly. The solution: Ben & Jerry’s new mini-size, delivering a relatively healthful four ounce portion, along with a small spoon. One weird report: John Seberg says that not only is the portion skimpy, but the size of the chocolate and cherry chunks in the Cherry Garcia flavor seems smaller as well (“isn’t that what Ben & Jerry’s is all about? Big Chunks?”).

Also new and self-limiting from Ben & Jerry’s: “The Cone”, a new drumstick-type ice cream hounds find more satisfying.

Board Links: Little Ben & Jerry’s

Scrambling the Golden Egg

Should you luck into a fresh goose egg, don’t get fancy. Goose eggs are rich and full flavored, and benefit from simple cooking. Scrambling (over low heat) or omelettes are good choices, but frying won’t bring out the golden egg’s best qualities, as goose eggs, like duck eggs, have firmer whites than chicken eggs that turn tough when fried.

heidipie got her hands on a just-laid goose egg, and says It scrambled up beautifully. “Goose eggs are to chicken eggs as goose meat is to chicken meat. So very rich!”

Board Links: One Goose Egg…

Spicy Popcorn

Chowhounds like a spicy spin on their popcorn. Here are some favorite methods.

Use chili oil instead of vegetable vegetable oil for stove-top popping, plus add Parmesan cheese and salt (chowmeow).

Pop on stovetop in olive oil, then top with melted butter, kosher salt, and smoked Spanish Paprika (JaneRI).

Make “homemade” microwave popcorn in a plain paper bag: use 1/3 cup popcorn, a few drops water (around 1/4 tsp), around 1/2 tsp of chili oil, and a few shakes of coarse salt. Shake to distribute everything, fold top of bag over a few times, and microwave about 3 minutes (you’ll have to play with the time to see what works for your microwave (cheryl h).

Or, toss garlic powder, cayenne and Parmesan with standard unflavored microwave popcorn (MeowMixx).

Board Links: Spicy popcorn

A Dim Sum Steal

The best siu mai in Chinatown, declares K, can be found at Family Pastry: huge suckers filled with chopped, not ground pork, for only 40 cents each.

Family Pastry [Chinatown]
715 N. Spring St., Ord, Los Angeles
213-680-4584
Map

Board Links: A sad day for dim sum in LA….