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

Kotobukiya’s Worthy Successor

After the demise of much-beloved Porter Square Japanese market Kotobukiya last May, hounds have been eagerly anticipating the opening of Ebisuya in Medford. Reports are that it was worth the wait. It's bigger than Kotobukiya was. Prices are a little higher on many items than H-Mart, but roughly comparable to Kotobukiya's. RoyRon particularly appreciated one special touch on the shelves: A card that translates the Japanese name of each item into English.

There's a great selection of Japanese snacks, instant ramen, and toiletry items, many more than at H-Mart, says chowmouse. There's fresh mochi, premium Japanese brands of kombu and udon, and a rapidly growing selection of DVDs and magazines. The store has free parking behind the building, a boon for shoppers who have to drive to the store, which is far from T stops. The owner says he has permits for on-site food service as well.

Ebisuya Japanese Market [North of Boston]
65 Riverside Avenue, Medford
781-391-0012

Discuss: Ebisuya Market
Ebisuya Japanese Market in Medford

Sichuan Garden’s New Secret Weapon

Sichuan Garden, a place long well-regarded by hounds, now has something extra to recommend it: A new menu to supplement old favorites. Good choices among the recent arrivals:

• Cumin/chile lamb
• An appetizer of deep-fried fish and tofu cubes with spicy sauce on the side
• Xiang la dry fish filet
• Sichuan beef kung bao
• Fish filets with spicy chile sauce
• Old Sichuan chicken
• Dried chicken with chile sauce
• Sichuan wonton with spicy chile sauce, which the owner says is the most popular dish
• Fresh bamboo shoots served with spicy sauce or sesame oil

Sichuan Garden [South Shore]
295 Washington Street, Brookline
617-734-1870

Discuss: Wow, Fantastic Sichuan in Billerica, Ma. - Sichuan Gourmet

Learning to Love Offal

Cookstr.com, coming to us via the Daily Beast, presents a roundup of ways to enjoy offal, those taste-rich little bits of organ meat that so often end up wasted in conventional cooking and food prep.

With highlights including tripe and onions, calf’s liver with orange (a Mario Batali recipe), and seared foie gras with mango and mango vinaigrette, this article is nice gateway into the many dimensions of a sometimes maligned type of meat.

Image source: Flickr member quinet under Creative Commons

Overheard on the Boston Boards

"They served up a super-fresh, super-hot, super-spicy rendition of three cups tofu that was out of this world ... lots of nice white rice on the side. I was in heaven." - gansu girl, on the three cups tofu at Wisteria House

"A vitamina de abacate (avocado shake) with hot pao de queijo, a salgadino or two (baked or fried, whatever is fresh), or a misto quente (hot ham/cheese) is a good way to get the day started. Bolo de mandioca (yuca bread cake) if you want something a bit sweeter." - itaunus on the breakfast options at Padaria Brasil Bakery

"He is also really into all his 'special sushi creations' on the last page of the menu. Always talking about them and has photos of them all over the walls." - hargau on Green Tea Restaurant's proud owner, Sonny

The Many Wonders of La Fiesta Super Mall

The La Fiesta Super Mall used to have an unspeakably depressing food court. But somewhere between 2007 and now, everything changed. "Gone are the mediocre stalls of yesteryear," says Das Ubergeek. "The old mediocre Mexican combo-plate place has turned into a small outpost of Metro Balderas," which is known for its wonderful carnitas. Das Ubergeek continues: "One of the closed stalls has now turned into La Perla del Pacifico, a restaurant specializing in the food of the Pacific coast of Colombia. Not the antioqueña food of La Maria, this is the food of the lands west of Cali and Medellín."

La Perla has surprising empanadas de carne: masa-based treats, with long-stewed, stringy beef inside. "The shell was slightly tough to crack open (think of a deep-fried sope that wraps around things), but in the mouth they weren't tough at all; they crumbled into an intensely corn-y front flavor that complemented stewed beef well."

There is encocado de piangua, ark clams in coconut sauce, with a heavy hit of citrus and garlic. But best of all is sancocho de pescado, a coconut-based soup, sort of like a Thai yellow curry. "You've got big pieces of perfectly fresh, moist, plump whitefish (black cod?) along with potatoes, yuca, plantains, and a thin coconutty sauce with tomatoes, peppers, onions and garlic. These folks can cook, and they can cook well," says Das Ubergeek.

Then, another surprise: Remember Wat Thai, the Buddhist temple with a weekly Thai food festival? The festival that got banished for bizarre code reasons? Remember the stall that served bamboo shoot salad? Well, there's a stall for that here, too!

La Fiesta Super Mall Food Court [San Fernando Valley - East]
12727 Sherman Way, North Hollywood
805-349-2888

Discuss: The Wonders of North Hollywood's La Fiesta Super Mall

From Breed Street to Antojitos Carmen

As usual, streetgourmetla is the first to note a new development in L.A.'s Latin American food scene: One of the best trucks from the much-beloved and sadly-departed Breed Street Sunday night street food fair, Antojitos Carmen, has come back to us in full-on storefront form.

The lady in charge, Carmen, is known for her extended family of sope products: every form of masa disk filled with every possible thing you could want. Want a sandal-shaped huarache, topped with squash blossoms? You got it. Want a gordita with mushrooms and tinga? Done!

There's also stuff straight out of Carmen's home kitchen, like menudo, stewed chicharrones, and ribs in salsa.

Antojitos Carmen [East L.A.]
2510 East Cesar Chavez, 
Boyle Heights
323-264-1451

Discuss: Grand Opening: Antojitos Carmen, a Piece of Breed St. Finds a Permanent Home in Boyle Heights

The Slaw Dogs Take It Uptown

New hot dog shop The Slaw Dogs follows the Los Angeles mini-trend of upscale franks. Vienna Beef dogs are the base, firm and tasty, and the list of toppings is almost overwhelming, says inlikeflt. You get three free toppings with any dog, but you can order as many as you like if you're willing to pay extra.

The menu is quite ambitious, says Peripatetic, with toppings like kimchee, truffle oil, and Thai cole slaw. Slaw Dogs will also deep-fry or charbroil dogs on request.

Peripatetic went old-school with the Original Dog, with chili, cheese, mustard, onions, and cole slaw. "The chili was very good (made with Newcastle Ale), done in the perfect style for chili dogs and chili fries," says Peripatetic. "All around, a very welcome addition to the neighborhood."

The Slaw Dogs [San Gabriel Valley]
720 North Lake Avenue, Pasadena
626-808-9777


Discuss: The Slaw Dogs, Pasadena

SF Food Wars Bread Bake-Off

Sunday's SF Food Wars event was dubbed "Yeast Affliction." Indeed. I've never experienced a rougher carb and sugar crash than I did after sampling 20 different breads and a handful of craft beers. The latest incarnation of the popular food-nerd cookoff series centered around artisan bread (past battles have featured themes such as Mac ’n' Cheese, Holiday Fixins, and Mini Cupcakes). The contestants were chiefly amateur bakers who had never entered a food competition before, and their entries ranged from wild (all manner of nuts, berries, seeds, and alterna-flour) to classic. READ MORE

Overheard on the Los Angeles Boards

"Check out the menudo blanco at El Sinaloense in Huntington Park/South Gate. It has tendon in the mix, a serious menudo, and cool regional treat." - streetgourmetla

"This butcher shop just opened on Hillhurst and we picked up Flatiron steaks yesterday that were excellent. Everything in the case, in fact, looked awesome.... It's exactly what the neighborhood needed." - JPomer, on McCall's Meat and Fish Company in Los Feliz

"Noodles were very good—thick and chewy, and the meat and sauce were also quite delicious." - Chandvakl, on hand-made noodles at Flavor of Beijing, Rowland Heights.

Earl Grey Is In

Earl Grey tea has more of a "pinkies up" vibe than tattooed pastry chefs with gauged earrings, but the tea is being explored as a trendy dessert and cocktail flavoring by folks like Luis Villavelazquez, the executive pastry chef at Absinthe and Arlequin Café in San Francisco. At Absinthe, he's currently serving Earl Grey shortbread with honey Jell-O and mixed citrus sorbet. The tea's floral and citrus aromas make it work naturally with citrus desserts, as well as floral fruits such as quince, explains Villavelazquez. Instead of steeping the tea or making an infusion to flavor his pastries, Villavelazquez says he "spice-grinds it fine into a powder and either mixes it in with the dry ingredients, or the fat." He also digs the way the tea "brings a winter scent" to seasonal desserts.

Also spotted at: Sugar Cube, a new dessert truck in Philadelphia, where it flavors the crème anglaise served on chocolate bread pudding (another trend!); Rye in Williamsburg, in a desserty cockatil called the "hot buttered rye" made with tea, molasses, rye whiskey, and spiced butter; 2941 in Falls Church, Virginia in chocolate cake served with Earl Grey ice cream, almond nougatine, and blood orange segments.