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

Sweet, Porky Chile Rellenos

pleasurepalate had some pleasant surprises at Cafe Antigua Guatemala. Pickled cabbage, beets, and carrots? It seems almost Eastern European. And mayonnaise-based bean, carrot, and potato salad? But, assures streetgourmetla, it is perfectly Guatemalan. "Potato salad is very much a part of, well, I believe just about every cuisine," he says.

But whatever you think about where the dishes come from, they're all delicious. Cafe Antigua Guatemala is a wonderful find, says pleasurepalate. "I absolutely fell in love with the side of black beans," she says. "The best way I could describe it is that the texture was silky smooth and it had a sweet-earthiness to it that I really enjoyed."

Chile rellenos are killer. They might be a little surprising if you're used to the Mexican version; these are built inside a soft, sweet red pepper, filled with ground pork, beans, and carrots, and deep fried.

Cafe Antigua Guatemala [Mid-City]
5421 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles
323-465-0755

Board Link: REVIEW w/ pics: Making a U Turn for Cafe Antigua Guatemala

Japanese Flavors, European Techniques

Cafe Hiro is sort of a neighborhood fusion place. It's a tiny restaurant in a tiny strip mall, says attran99, and it mixes Japanese flavors with French and Italian techniques: ahi tuna tartare with avocado and wasabi cream, wonton chips and a drizzle of shoyu. There's beef tataki—well-marbled, and barely seared, with shoyu-ponzu gelée, and even seafood carbonara, with scallops, clams, mussels, and shrimp, all perfectly cooked.

Cafe Hiro put on a good lunch, too, says ToroTaku, with good curries and pastas, and kindly service. It's affordable too, for all its high-class stylings: a meal for two with tax and tip was under $50.

Cafe Hiro [Orange County]
10509 Valley View Street, Cypress
714-527-6090

Board Link: Review – Cafe Hiro (Cypress, CA)

Overheard on the Los Angeles Boards

"Yunchuan Garden is the flagship location of a four restaurant chain which has operated under various names in the past and present, each name always beginning with Yun... something... They've changed the name 3 or 4 times—why, I don't know."
-Chandavkl

"I went Monday...and was blown away the care and execution of every dish...flavors were beautiful."
-peppermonkey


"Juanito's, Los Cincos Puntos and La Indiana are all within a stone's throw of each other. Pick up some from all and decide."

-monku

Purple Yam’s Pig Worship

Cendrillon closed in March, priced out of SoHo, and with it went Manhattan's only option for upscale Filipino fusion. Now its owners are back in business at Purple Yam, which opened this month in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. As before, much of the menu is a celebration of the pig. Elaine Snutteplutten loves lechon kawali, crispy piglet belly with a soy-vinegar dipping sauce.

While Filipino food is the starting point, the chef and co-owner, Romy Dorotan, has always ventured into other Asian cuisines. Here he's off on a serious Korean tangent. Korean-style meatballs are delicious, Elaine says, with clean, spicy flavors. They're served as sliderlike bites, tucked into bread made with purple yam flour and served with kimchee. Vegetarian bibim bap (with squash and shiitakes), made with a short-grain heirloom rice from the Philippines, is flavorful and surprisingly light. In a town where so many overhyped newcomers disappoint, Elaine writes, "this is one new restaurant that didn't—at all."

gnosh enjoys the vegetable green curry, goat curry (with rice pancakes), and kimchee fried rice, but cautions that portions can be small. "It is pretty good, but I walked out with a surprisingly large check feeling kind of pleased but not totally sated."

Purple Yam [Ditmas Park]
1314 Cortelyou Road (between Rugby and Argyle roads), Brooklyn
718-940-8188

Board Link: Purple Yam

Singular Sweets, Uptown to Downtown

Anneliese's, a neighborhood spot uptown, gets little hound attention. "It's a nice clean local shop that nobody seems aware of—the anti–Magnolia," omnidora says. It deserves a sniff, she suggests, for homey sweets like its pumpkin tart, whose filling is faultless, just sweet enough. Strawberry shortcake is satisfying and served with real cream. Oatmeal raisin cookies are another good bet. Macadamia and peanut butter cookies, however, are too sweet for omnidora's taste.

Nut-lovers with a sweet tooth should seek out Güllüoglu's must-try chestnut baklava, buttertart reports: "The chestnuts are fresh and moist and the pastry gilding on the rose. Utterly divine." This Midtown shop—the newish Manhattan outpost of an Istanbul confectioner that has already come ashore in Brooklyn—also makes hazelnut baklava that fm1963 pronounces "astounding." Pistachio and cherry versions are excellent, too, as are savory bites like su böregi, a cheese pastry that Striver finds addictively delicious.

Another recent arrival, L.A. Burdick, bakes a beautiful raspberry tart with a jammy filling loaded with fruit yet also piquant enough to cut the buttery richness of the crust, wew says. This new Manhattan location of the New England chocolatier also makes a fine gugelhupf, a Viennese-style marbled pound cake.

The Doughnut Plant is no newcomer, but guttergourmet only recently caught up with its tres leches doughnut (“I was too busy trying every other kind"). It turns out to be heavenly, and he thinks he's figured out doughnut master Mark Isreal's secret: "he must be using mother's milk ;)."

Anneliese's [Upper East Side]
1516 First Avenue (near E. 79th Street), Manhattan
212-396-9961

Güllüoglu [Midtown East]
982 Second Avenue (between E. 51st and 52nd streets), Manhattan
212-813-0500

L.A. Burdick [Flatiron]
5 E. 20th Street (between Fifth Avenue and Broadway), Manhattan
212-796-0143

Doughnut Plant [Lower East Side]
379 Grand Street (between Clinton and Rutgers streets), Manhattan
212-505-3700

Board Links: Upper East Side, unhyped pastries, snacks...
A little bite of heaven: chestnut baklava from Gulloglu 2nd Ave between 51st and 52nd
L.A. Burdick Cafe
Tres leches donut...mother$#%&ing good

Windsor Terrace Cheers Its New Bistro

Windsor Terrace hounds have been hungering for a restaurant like the new Le P'tit Paris. Its hanger steak is first-rate: flavorful, tender, and cooked to a spot-on medium rare, jinx says. A duck entrée boasts perfectly roasted breast meat, crispy (if slightly salty) confit, and, perhaps best of all, a knockout timbale of roasted potato, mushroom, and garlic; "amazing ... I could have eaten a full dish of it," jinx sighs.

elecsheep9 recommends tuna tartare, punched up with caviar; hearty, satisfying coq au vin; and the Sacre Coeur salad (mesclun, leek, haricots verts, blue cheese, walnuts, and beets with Dijon dressing). Others like the bouillabaisse (a Friday special) and the mushroom and goat cheese crêpe. Prices are moderate, with no entrée over $20; oysters on the half shell are an especially good deal.

Not everyone is sold on this place, which was opened a month ago by the chefs from the Manhattan bistros Citron and Cassis. imsohungry's moules frites featured overcooked mussels and fries that seemed to have been frozen; "frankly, fairly inedible." "It breaks my heart to write this," she says. "We have been waiting for a good restaurant in WT for ages."

Le P'tit Paris [Windsor Terrace]
256 Prospect Park West (at Prospect Avenue), Brooklyn
718-369-3590

Board Links: Le P'tit Paris Bistro-Looks like we've got a winner!
Best Steak Frites in Brooklyn

Overheard on the New York Boards

"They made me understand the love of scones. Never understood why someone would waste so many calories on a lump of flour and butter. ... Trois Pommes scones are amazing (I'm eating a pumpkin one as I type)."
-vvv03

"It started with the samosas, which were crisp and light, not at all heavy like the ones you get everywhere else. It was the kind of meal where you can't stop eating because you can't decide which flavor you want in your mouth last."
-missmasala

"[I]t took a moment of reflection and a lot of imagination to realize that there was indeed a hint of lemongrass and chili oil, the kind of hint one would expect from the vermouth in a very dry martini."
-Peter Cherches

Real-Deal Memphis ’Cue

Tomm's BBQ recently opened in Oakland, and "it's the real, smokier than hell itself, sauce-slathered, meat falling off the bone, Memphis deal," says South Carolina-bred dls999. "I spent the rest of the day irritating my spouse with exclamations like, 'Dude, I've been waiting 20 years for this' and 'Did we just have real bbq or am I having that dream again?' "

The meat is "delicious, tender, almost buttery," says Agent 510, who had the pork shoulder. It's excellent even without the sauce, thanks to a dry rub that Glencora describes as "quite spicy, salty and smoky."

Hounds give thumbs-up to the brisket, pork shoulder, and beef ribs (which come Flintstones-style, in one huge, uncut slab), but PegS found the pork ribs "a tad but not unacceptably dry in parts."

Tomm's BBQ & Deli [East Bay]
3446 Market Street, Oakland
510-420-8900

Board Links: Finally, finally, finally — real bbq in Northern CA
Oakland: Tomm's BBQ of Memphis opens "Where friends meat"—BBQ rag bologna and Broasted chicken too

Chicken-y Comfort in a Bowl

The closing of Singaporean restaurant Kopitiam in Lafayette has hounds wondering where to go for rich, chicken-y Hainan chicken and rice.

Robert Lauriston
says he's always preferred the version at Singapore Malaysian Restaurant, where the chicken and rice may not be cooked together in the traditional way, but "the rice is really rich with chicken fat and juices." abstractpoet likes the Hainan chicken at Cafe Salina, preferably with their excellent fried rice. For his part, david de berkeley says the HCR at ABC in Chinatown is deliciously comforting, and "the ginger-garlic sauce is pretty much spot-on to the places I've been to Singapore."

And as for the Thai version, khao man gai, twocents says the one at Sa Wooei is particularly flavorful.

Singapore Malaysian Restaurant [Richmond District]
836 Clement Street, San Francisco
415-750-9518

Cafe Salina [Peninsula]
235 Broadway, Millbrae
650-692-2992

ABC [Chinatown]
650 Jackson Street
415-981-0685

Sa Wooei [East Bay]
10621 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito
510-528-0709

Board Links: Kopitiam in Lafayette Closing
Hainan Chicken Rice or Khao Man Gai Recommendations in the Bay Area?
Thai - Khao Man Gai (Chicken and Rice) in the Bay Area?

Ambitious Indian at Madhuban

"Madhuban is part of a great local trend toward Indian restaurants with more adventurous menus, better decor, better service, and better food quality," says mdg.

The usual complimentary pappadum come with "a much better than usual tamarind chutney," and the chickpea salad that comes with ragda (potato) patties is intriguingly flavored. Achari goat is flavored with actual pickles (achar), unlike the version at Hyderabad House that just uses the pickling spices. "The goat flavor was just wonderful; perhaps the best I've had in a year of fine goat dishes," mdg says. It goes great with jeera pulao, basmati rice flavored with onion, cumin, and other spices.

There's a nice beer and wine selection, and the Madhuban lassi is an unusual variation on the yogurt drink, with mango and rose syrup.

Madhuban [South Bay]
50 Skyport Drive, San Jose
408-436-7959

Madhuban [South Bay]
544 Lawrence Expressway, Sunnyvale
408-735-7130

Board Link: Madhuban—Sunnyvale and San Jose