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Restaurant recommendations, new openings, and highlights from the LA Chowhound community.

A Time to Worship Fried Fish

It’s Lenten season, and it’s the time for a fish fry. And what better place to find a Lenten fish fry than church? Dommy says her multiethnic church mixes it up, and is currently doing Cajun fish fries.

That means snapper and catfish in cornmeal batter (go for the catfish), with lots of Louisiana hot sauce. Those church ladies have got it goin’ on—the coating is great and crispy, the fish moist and fresh.

Sides are pretty industrial, but the potato salad is good, perked up with some pepper and, of course, hot sauce.

A fish plate with sides and soda is $7; a few extra bucks gets you dessert, like sweet and fluffy banana pudding.

Fish fry happens on Fridays, 4 to 7 p.m. Good Friday features Mexican ladies with homemade ceviche.

Holy Spirit Catholic Church [Mid-City]
5300 W. Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles

Board Link: Holy Spirit Church Cajun Fish Fry

A Slice of Chicago

The Inland Empire is getting a much-needed injection of Chicago pizza goodness with a new location of Rosati’s, a Chi-town chain. Despite Chicago’s rep with deep-dish pizza, Rosati’s actually specializes in the thin-crust variety.

The owners of the Corona place are native Chicagoans, reports Dlish, and they’re having Chicago sausage brought in.

Rosati’s of Corona [Inland Empire]
2150 California Avenue, Corona

Board Link: Chicago pizza chain opening in Corona - Rosati’s

Seven Courses of Goat, Including Blood

You know the Vietnamese seven courses of beef? Well, modernist has sniffed out seven courses of goat at Binh Dan. Grilled goat sausages with goat fat is just incredible, and there’s also a dry-fried goat curry and a soupy goat curry. There are a couple of so-so soups, both similar, and then there’s jellied goat blood.

It’s like tangy Jell-O, topped with peanuts and cilantro. “You put it on a rice cracker and squeeze some lime on it,” says modernist. “The acid immediately liquifies the Jell-O and bright red blood begins to dribble into your rice bun noodles like you just got punched in the nose.”

Despite the grandiose sound of “seven courses of XX,” modernist assures us that this is a typical hole in the wall, with guys playing Texas hold ’em on a laptop at the cashier counter, groups huddled around hot pots, and lots of beer being consumed.

Binh Dan Restaurant [Little Saigon]

10040 McFadden Avenue, Westminster

Board Link: more for goat lovers! (eating the meat) Binh Dan Restaurant

Spicy, Pungent Tastiness (with a Cherry on Top)

There are mind-bogglingly great dishes at Szechwan Best, according to TonyC.

Fen zhen pork with taro is pork short ribs seasoned with five-spice powder, each bite packing a punch of texture and taste. “You have the creamy taro, with the mushy yet particled house-made ‘fen’, the porkiness of the steamed short ribs and the crunchiness of the cartilage all in one mouthful. Tastewise, there’s a light dose of five-spice, matched with excess of crushed Szechuan peppercorn and chili oil all intertwined with the distinct taro sweetness.”

Crispy pungent duck is braised, then deep-fried—better than anything at Sam Woo, continues TonyC. With the sweet hoisin/sesame oil dip, it kicks the ass of any Peking duck.

More reasons to love Szechwan Best:
• Buy one, get one free Budweiser before 7:30 p.m.
• $6 daily specials including: Monday, ma po tofu with fish fillet; Tuesday, sizzling rice with seafood; and Wednesday, the excellent ma la fried lamb chop.
• “Prodigious use” of Szechuan peppercorn (ground and whole) and chile pepper flakes (oil and paste).
• Personalized hot pots for two.

And there is also a mysteriously great culinary adventure: “Eye of the dragon” sticky rice, which is red bean paste wrapped in savory stewed pork belly, topped with maraschino cherries, itself on top of glutinous rice.

In all, the Szechuanese dishes are tasty and thoughtfully prepared, and you’re sure to find something new. See the original thread for a translation of the Chinese specials board.

Szechwan Best [San Gabriel Valley]
621 W. Main Street, Alhambra

Board Link: Eye of Dragon Sticky Rice @ Szechuan Best

Isaan that Great?

Are you still waiting for Renu Nakorn to reopen to get a fix of northern Thai cooking? Cancoon churns out some fine Isaan food, including sai krawk isaan—a type of sausage, 100 links of which are hand-stuffed weekly by Eddie and his family, says TonyC. Laotian soup with kabocha, lotus root, bamboo, and more sets a high standard for 2008.

Renu Nakorn should be reopening in late February, says russkar, who in the meantime has been hitting Tropika instead.

There’s also Renu Nakorn’s perennial rival, Thai Nakorn.

Renu Nakorn [Little Saigon]

13019 Rosecrans Avenue #105, Garden Grove

Cancoon Thai Food [710 Corridor]
9887 Alondra Boulevard, Bellflower

Tropika [Orange County]
17460 E. 17th Street, Tustin

Thai Nakorn [Orange County]
11951 Beach Boulevard, Stanton

Board Link: Oh Renu Nakorn, how I miss you

For Date Night in Little Saigon, Xanh Bistro

Culinary instructor Haley Nguyen just opened Xanh Bistro in Fountain Valley. It’s a small, rather upscale place with good food, although the staff is still a bit green, says whiteonricecouple.

Claypot white fish is moist and delicious, with garlicky mustard greens. Banana blossom salad is tossed with a thrillingly bold, sweet-salty-sour dressing, and served with chicken skewers infused with lime leaves.

Green mango salad with shrimp is enjoyable, and tender short ribs come with a well-placed touch of five-spice powder, says bsquared2.

Cold soy milk with toasted rice is like Vietnamese horchata, and the dessert menu features dishes such as chocolate soufflé with ginger ice cream (needs to be ordered early). Vietnamese coffee, unfortunately, is a little weak.

Xanh [Little Saigon]
16161 Brookhurst Street, Fountain Valley

Board Link: Xanh Bistro - New Vietnamese in Fountain Valley

Great Peruvian Food Down South

When it comes to Peruvian food, many Angelenos know only Mario’s, which is fine but often overcrowded. For Peruvian food that’s just as good or better, with Chinese or Japanese flourishes, head on over to Gardena.

Kotosh at Kamiyama does all the standard Peruvian dishes, but the preparation and balance of flavors are far better than Mario’s, says bulavinaka. Sudado mixto (steamed seafood in tomato-onion sauce) and pescado a lo macho (deep-fried fish in spicy sauce) are plate-lickin’ good, and the salsa aji is beloved by all. There’s also a sushi bar.

El Rotoco’s focus is Peruvian-Chinese dishes—tallarins, chaufas, and saltados—but the execution is also superior and the menu varied. If you like seafood, go for the jalea or picante de mariscos (mixed seafood with potato and hard-cooked egg, made in a thick, rich, milky sauce).

Nino’s Place is a Peruvian joint that also does some Mexican food. It’s small, the folks are nice, and so far the food is promising, says velozo155: suprema de pollo, breaded (or grilled) chicken breast with flavorful rice that seems like it’d been simmered in broth; and arroz con pollo, chicken with herbaceous, spicy rice. Salsa aji comes on the side. Daily specials, about a dozen of them, run $6.50.

El Virrey does really good sudado de mariscos and picante de mariscos, and has friendly service.

Mario’s Peruvian [Hollywood]
5786 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles

Kotosh at Kamiyama [South Bay]
2408 Lomita Boulevard, Suite #C, Lomita

El Rocoto [South Bay]
1356 W. Artesia Boulevard, Gardena

Nino’s Place [South Bay]
16104 S. Vermont Avenue, Gardena

El Virrey [South Bay]
1353 W. Rosecrans Avenue, #5, Gardena

Board Links: Mario’s Peruvian

El Virrey–Gardena (Comida Peruano Mariscos)

Nino’s Place in Gardena (Comida Peruano y Mexicano)

Squeals for Oinkster Happy Hour

Changes are afoot at the Oinkster, where a happy hour menu just debuted with specials from 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Deals include:

• Burger-fries combo, $3.99

• Belgian fries, $1

• Chili fries, $2

• Pound of Belgian fries (that’s a LOT of fries!), $5

• Pints of beer, $2 to $3

• Pitchers of beer, $7 to $10

As for non–happy hour Oinkster, Will Owen says the rotisserie chicken is his new favorite. Make sure to get one fresh off the rotisserie, and it’ll be succulent and luscious, with just aggressive enough seasoning and meltingly tender dark meat. Red slaw on the side is laced with fresh, nose-tingling mustard that’s balanced by some sweetness. And when the fries are on, they’re excellent.

Quarter chicken with fries, aioli, and slaw is $5.13 with tax. The Oinkster will soon start serving breakfast on weekends.

The Oinkster [East of Hollywood]
2005 Colorado Boulevard, Eagle Rock

Board Links: Happy Hour at the Oinkster?
Oinkster chicken: move over, EPL!

Paperfish Has It Wrapped Up

Paperfish in Beverly Hills may be the newest outpost of Joachim Splichal’s Patina Group, but Chef Yianni Koufodontis is already known to some hounds as the former chef of the Greek-Californian restaurant Petros in Manhattan Beach.

At Paperfish, the focus is squarely on fish: oysters on the half shell with pomegranate granita mignonette, marinated and grilled octopus, and of course the namesake snapper en papillote. The restaurant opened for lunch and cocktails around the holidays and recently began serving dinner as well.

The chef will make a whole fish if you request it a day in advance, and it’s fantastic, says trojans, who got a rotisserie loup de mer, or branzino. It’s nicely charred on the outside and very moist. Candied hazelnut salad with blue cheese and apple also gets top marks.

Deconstructed “paella” is absolutely delicious, declares New Trial, and each element—saffron rice, two shrimp, two clams, one mussel, one large scallop, two strips of chicken, and two rectangles of lamb—is perfectly cooked.

As usual, russkar went for the tasting menu, deeming it surprisingly good.

But wasabica was totally underwhelmed by overly salty main dishes, including the short rib ravioli with overcooked scallops, and says the snapper en papillote tasted of ginger and nothing else. Plus, portions are wee.

Appetizers are $10 to $15, mains $18 to $30. Paperfish joins Patina in being the only Patina Group restaurants to charge corkage—a whopping $20.

Paperfish [Beverly Hills]
345 N. Maple Drive, Beverly Hills

Board Links: Paperfish Beverly Hills
Paperfish—a good catch
PSA: No more free corkage @ Patina Group restaurants

Revived Vietnamese Restaurant Shows How It’s Done

There’s a lot of buzz in the local Vietnamese community about Pho Le Loi, which recently reopened under new family ownership, says Erik M.

The menu is a well-edited roster of about a dozen central and northern Vietnamese classics. You know that turmeric fish dish at Viet Soy Café folks have been talking about? Here you can get the real thing, cha ca thang long: turmeric-scented fillets with onion and dill, served spitting and sputtering in a cast iron pan.

Rice vermicelli with sliced grilled pork and pork patties in a warm dressing (bun cha ha noi) is another standout, besting the iconic version at Garden Grove’s Binh Minh.

There’s also bun bo hue, central Vietnamese–style noodle soup with pork hock, sliced beef shin, and house-made steamed pork loaf. Pho ga is considered a big draw, but Erik says it’s the same as what comes with Hainan chicken, and he found it overextracted.

Pho Le Loi [San Gabriel Valley]
107 Valley Boulevard, San Gabriel

Board Link: Pho Le Loi