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

The New Goat Champion

streetgourmetla has completed another one of his exhaustive, Los Angeles–spanning mega-surveys. This time, he and his team visited five beloved joints specializing in birria di chivo.

This is a specialty of Jalisco and the central states of Mexico: a goat, roasted in a pot or in the oven, with the drippings turned into consommé. "It can be stewed as well, but the roasted goat is a more intense experience. There's nothing like walking into a bunch of birrierias like the famed Las 9 Esquinas in Guadalajara, or outside the mercados in Zacatecas completely surrounded by the seductive aromas of slow roasted goat and cumin," explains streetgourmetla.

The top joint, by overall consensus, is Birrieria Tepeque. "As soon as I walked in to this place, the haunting aromas of goat, and that familiar sense that we were in the right place set in," says streetgourmetla. Tepeque cooks in the style of Apatzingán, Michoacán, and stews its birria. "Their dedication and cooking are stellar," says streetgourmetla. "The consommé was balanced and packed with flavor. All natural and all good. The special salsa of pure dried chiles and oil elicited ooos and ahhhs all 'round our table."

The lovely goat flavors slowly trigger the pleasure sensors, says streetgourmetla. Best of all is the goat ribs. "This was a goat taste, quality, and polish that retained an edge over all the other birrierias that day."

Birrieria Tepeque [East LA-ish]
3249 E. Gage Avenue, Huntington Park
323-588-8350

Discuss: Taco Task Force: The Best Birria de Chivo in Los Angeles, America's Goat Central

A Latte That’s Worth $3.75

"This is hands down the best latte I've had lately," says WBGuy, speaking of the brew on offer at Espresso Cielo. "I've never tasted milk that is so smooth, creamy, and not overwhelming, complement perfectly with the coffee below. I want to go back tomorrow and more than happy to fork over another $3.75 for a tiny little cup of latte."

Espresso Cielo will also soon offer single-origin coffee by the cup.

Espresso Cielo [Westside - Beaches]
3310 Main Street, Santa Monica
310-314-9999

Discuss: Expresso Cielo - Main on Santa Monica

The Return of Hatfield’s

Hatfield's, a "bastion of contemporary Cal/French cuisine," has finally opened at its new location, reports kevin h. It's a bigger space to take the restaurant to the next level: bigger menu, extended hours.

Turns out the new incarnation's doing just fine. Seafood is a strong point: Frisée and smoked trout salad is unabashedly salty and tangy, and "the fish's smoky, briny essence was apparent in spades," says kevin h. Beet-cured Japanese fluke is wonderfully textured, with soft, supple fish and the great crunch of buckwheat.

There's charred Japanese mackerel, with the powerful fishiness of mackerel moderated by sweet pineapple and lush, creamy avocado, as well as olive-oil poached Alaskan halibut, with ridiculously tender fish, and perfectly smoky, nutty pumpkin seeds in the crust. And the prawns a la plancha with Espelette pepper channel the flavors of Asia with Thai-style spice, peanuts, and coconut.

"The new space is very elegant and even as the room filled it was easy to hold a conversation," says BHAppeal."Hatfield's is back with a vengeance," says kevin h.

Hatfield's [West Hollywood]
6703 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles
323-935-2977

Discuss: Opening Night at the New Hatfield's

Overheard on the Los Angeles Boards

"Antica's friendly, casual Neapolitan ambience is absolutely the perfect antidote to the often loud and obnoxious experience all too common in the City of Angels." - lapizzamaven, on Antica Pizzeria in Marina del Rey.

"The Roma Market & Deli on North Lake in Pasadena has a phenomenally good mortadella, as well as about all the other meats and cheeses you might want ..." - Will Owen

"I'm always looking for unique dishes at Chinese restaurants, so the Hot Links Fried Rice I found today at Wok on the Wild Side on La Brea and Centinela in Inglewood is definitely worth the mention." - Chandvakl

The Dark Side of the Sunny Side

The Washington Post's Checkup blog is all freaked out about commercials for Eggland's Best featuring eggs sunny-side up. If you weren't in the know, as, apparently, I wasn't, sunny-side up eggs are perceived by many to be only slightly safer than fugu or warthog anus in terms of their potential health impact.

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Taiwanese Street Snacks Land Downtown

From the streets of Taipei to downtown Manhattan comes the gua bao. This steamed, stuffed wheat bun is the specialty at Baohaus, a little shop that opened around Christmas on the Lower East Side. Lau, wary of the glut of faddish Asian sandwich joints, was pleasantly surprised.

The Chairman Bao, filled with slow-braised Niman Ranch pork belly, pickled vegetables, crushed peanuts, and cilantro, boasted tender, flavorful, uncommonly light-tasting meat in a fluffy, slightly sweet bun, he reports. Other choices are skirt steak and pan-fried tofu. Baohaus also serves boiled peanuts, another typical Taiwanese street snack. Its version, flavored with vinegar and maybe star anise, is tasty. "I was pretty skeptical," Lau says, "but I was very pleased by this place and they're doing a really good job bringing real Taiwanese food to Manhattan."

wew seconds Lau's recommendation, describing rich, delicious pork; zippy seasonings and garnishes; and "jumping fresh" bread. But he says it's a pretty pricy bite at $7.95 for two smallish buns. "The very bad news is that they are just so good as to put a smile on your face," he concludes.

At Xian Famous Foods' two-month-old Chinatown branch, the news has been mostly good, as mainstream media attention has brought a flood of business. HLing thinks the strain may be showing; the popular lamb and pork burgers were disappointing on her recent visit, she writes. But she adds that another menu item, Chang-an spicy tofu, is quite good; it's a savory dish of soft tofu with a layer of chile oil, pickled turnip, and a few whole soybeans.

wew has sniffed out some other highlights here, including spicy-sour Mount Qi pork noodles and the richer zha jiang noodles in savory-sweet beef sauce. Despite the suddenly long lines, he says, "my romance with the food remains intact."

Baohaus [Lower East Side]
137 Rivington Street (near Norfolk Street), Manhattan
646-684-3835

Xian Famous Foods [Chinatown]
88 E. Broadway (entrance on Forsyth Street), Manhattan
No phone available

Discuss: Baohaus - real taiwanese gua bao in the LES
Baohaus's Gua Bao
bing tang hu lu in Chinatown & Chang An Douhua
Xi'an Famous Foods Opens Up Chinatown Branch A Week From Saturday