The CHOW Blog rss

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

Move Over, Here Comes Big Papi

When Big Papi’s opened over July 4th weekend, without so much as a sign out front (a giant neon wurst still sits on the roof, a vestige of the previous tenant, the late lamented Atlas Sausage) it did a booming business simply on the strength of the aroma of smoke and meat from the barbecue pit outside, which perfumes the neighborhood for blocks.

The BBQ is the real deal, and the meats were excellent even dry. Says GVDub: “Their rub was superb–a hint of sweet, a hint of spice, a hint of salt, all nicely balanced by the kind of smoky flavor that only comes from the proper ‘low and slow’ cooking over a well-banked fire. The pork ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender and the beef ribs were appropriately chewy, but not overly so. The chicken was beautifully permeated with smoke, tender, and still juicy.”

The sauces were really good too, more vinegar-based than sweet (Memphis rather than Kansas City), setting off the meat’s natural sweetness nicely. The hot sauce doesn’t blast its way through your mouth, but lets its heat sneak up on you.

pizzafreak raves about the chopped pork sandwich, but wasn’t quite so keen on the mild sauce that comes on top. “The pork was out of this world, wonderfully charred on the edges, the meat just a bit pink, fabulous aroma, wonderful taste.”

Sides keep up the high standard–mustardy, herb-flecked potato salad; creamy, rich coleslaw; slightly smoky, not-too-sweet beans; and perfectly done greens.

It’s a classic family-run joint, and there’s pretty much always family hanging out there. Since the only furnishings are four picnic tables, eating in is naturally family-style.

OK, not everything is perfect at this joint–the beverage assortment is limited to Pepsi products and Mexican sodas. Still, the menu seems to be a work in progress–cornbread is coming, and the owner says he’s working on getting a larger pit. Dare we dream of whole barbecued pigs??!!

Plates come with choice of two sides. Small is $5-6 depending on the meat; large $8-9. “The Hookup” combo platter is $12, and you can also get meats by the pound.

Big Papi’s Rib Shack [East San Fernando Valley]
10626 Burbank Blvd., at Willow Crest, North Hollywood
818-506-7960
Map

Board Links: New Q in North Hollywood
Big Papi’s further review

A Nice ‘L’ at BLD

Well, BLD (from the owners of Grace) just opened, and Chowpatty was one of the first hounds to try it and report back on the L.

“Menu was a little less imaginative than I had hoped, but as you might expect from Grace, ingredients and preparation were first-rate all the way. My main quibble was the prices–I guess this isn’t the ‘90s anymore!”

Hemp seed-crusted tofu salad with Asian greens and grilled shishito peppers ($12) is light and flavorful with a soy dressing. The hemp seeds give a nice crunch. The menu could use some more salads–does anyone really want bean and bacon soup right now? Turkey burger with Gruyere ($12) weighs in hefty and looks mighty good.

Dinner is the same as lunch, plus grilled half chicken, hanger steak, or grilled salmon with two sides each.

Several of the sandwiches–Wagyu burger, short rib sandwich, and pork sandwich–are over $15.

The former Opaline, thrn former Cafe Capo space has been nicely updated–again–and now has an airy, open layout, with the former bar area serving as the entrance.

BLD Restaurant [Midtown]
formerly Cafe Capo/Opaline
7450 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles
323-930-9744
Map

Board Links: BLD for lunch review

Palo Alto Sol: Guajillo of Godliness

Cecelia has been going to Palo Alto Sol for ten years. She likes the mole fine, but the thing that really floats her boat is their pure pollo al guajillo. The chicken itself is variable in quality, but the sauce is always fabulous–mellow, complex, and deeply chile, without being spicy. That guajillo always satisfies, in all the dishes that use it.

The salsas are showstoppers, too–a fresh, chunky tomatillo, and a smoky salsa of roasted peppers.

Palo Alto Sol Restaurant [Peninsula]
408 S California Ave., Palo Alto
650-328-8840
Map

Board Links: Palo Del Sol (Palo Alto, CA) —wonderful mole and guajillo sauces

New Quality Sushi Presence

Hime is it, says chaddict. If he didn’t live so far away, he’d be there constantly.

Hamachi sashimi with jalapeno and soy-garlic sauce ($11.20) is one of the best dishes. It’s got just the right amount of jalapeno and very light saucing. You have to get this one.

Kobe beef lettuce cups ($9.50) are not super Japanese, but taste seriously good nonetheless, filled with a warm, savory beef mixture. A dish called “Japanese Garden” ($12) is a terrific example of kaiseki cuisine: eight cold vegetable preparations, all distinct. The textures of the vegetables are sublime; even the yam tastes different, with an utterly unique texture. This is a huge dish–split it, or it’ll be most of your dinner (by no means a bad prospect).

Sashimi moriawase ($19.50) is quite a lot of stuff–fish, scallop, amaebi, and tempura prawn heads–served in a lit bowl filled with ice. Baked black cod with saikyomiso ($18.50) is cooked to absolute perfection–silky delicate, yet boldly flavored. It’s even better than the black cod at Ame.

Forty bucks a person before tip will get you enough food for a lunch’s worth of leftovers.

The place has a great vibe, and exceedingly friendly staff.

Hours: from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
5:30 p.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays.
Closed Mondays.

Hime [Marina]
Formerly Market Place Cafe
2353 Lombard St., San Francisco
415-931-7900
Map

Board Links: Hime’s menu

Bad Food, Great Review

Bad Food, Great Review

"In a world where there's so much bad food even at the high level, I'd much rather eat at a restaurant that at least is taking care." READ MORE

How Much Do You Love Me?

Rule #1: don’t ever bring anyone a $2 bottle. Ever. READ MORE

Illegal Cheese

Illegal Cheese

You know, it's just not a party until somebody busts out the illegal substance. That somebody can be you. READ MORE

Cubicle Cuisine

Cubicle Cuisine

The perfect brown-bag lunch would be part store-bought, part easy-home-made, it wouldn’t take long to assemble the night before. Just like childhood lunch-box spreads, it would have multiple pieces, including snack and cookies. READ MORE

How to Cure a Hangover

We don't guarantee these methods, but we know people who swear by them. READ MORE

How to Remove Red Wine Stains

Someone spilled a whole glass on us and you'd never know. READ MORE