Los Angeles Area rss

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

For Indecisive Omnivores, There’s President Square Food Court

“Do you ever have that hankering for a Chinese meal, but for the life of you, you have no idea what it is exactly you’re craving?” asks pleasurepalate. If so, President Square Food Court is the place to go, with seven food stalls including a patisserie and a boba shop.

At Hsin Hsin Shau May Deli, the range of hot items is dizzying—a three-item combo comes with soup and rice. Tofu skin–wrapped pork is delicious, light and moist like a good meatball. Fried tofu, cooked in an onion and bell pepper broth, has a nice kick that suggests chile.

Black mushroom and bamboo noodle soup at Zilin Noodle House, cooked to order, is divine, with thick and meaty mushrooms and plenty of bamboo. Leek veggie box, on the other hand, is like a really firm omelet filled with leeks, glass noodles, tofu, and bean sprouts—but it’s greasy and has a strange aftertaste.

You can also pick up some yummy roast pork to go from Full House B.B.Q. Even if you take the long way home, the skin will still be crispy. “On my way out, I couldn’t resist going to Full House BBQ and after seeing that whole roasted pig hanging in the display with its deliciously crispy skin, I ordered some to take home. Even hours later, that skin was still crispy and how can you go wrong with roasted pork? Yum!”

President Square Food Court [San Gabriel Valley]
Near 99 Ranch Market
1220 S. Golden West Avenue, Arcadia

Board Link: REVIEW w/pics: President Square Food Court

’Tis the Season for Mexico’s National Dish

Superlative chile en nogada, a seasonal specialty, is back at Babita, and it’s as delicious as ever, report several hounds. Dommy says she grew up eating this in Mexico and has tried most versions in town, and Babita’s is the closest to the real thing: chile stuffed with ground meat, smothered in a creamy walnut sauce, and studded with pomegranate seeds. While you’re there, the sweet corn and cream of mushroom soups and the tender, flavorful beef cheeks are also worth ordering.

But Babita’s chile en nogada may not be for everyone—Mel Gee says, “This is one of the few dishes I dislike at Babita, because the stuffing is stewed meat, to which the chef-owner is partial, and it tends to be mushy. If you don’t mind the texture, fine, the flavor is good, but I much prefer the ground-meat approach at La Casita Mexicana, which serves Chiles en Nogada year-round. With the meal at La Casita you also get a delicious bowl of soup and excellent chips dripped with mole. (The recent creamy potato and poblano soup was so good that I took a large container home.) La Casita service ranges from very good to very good and charming. It’s a small place, popular with locals, so I always try to go at an off-hour—early or late.”

La Cabanita’s version threw CucumberBoy for a loop, with the sweet-savory pecan sauce and the whirlpool of flavors.

La Huasteca also does a delicious chile en nogada, says hpcat, and it seems to be available throughout the year.

Babita [San Gabriel Valley]
1823 S. San Gabriel Boulevard, San Gabriel

La Casita Mexicana [Southern LA]
4030 E. Gage Avenue, Bell

La Cabanita [East San Fernando Valley]
3447 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale

La Huasteca [Southern LA]
3150 E. Imperial Highway, Lynwood

Board Links: Chile en Nogada back at Babita
Chilies en Nogada

Just Wingin’ It

LA may be a long way from upstate New York, but at the Slice—whose owners are from Syracuse—the Buffalo wings are fairly close to those at Buffalo, New York’s famed Anchor Bar, says handlertaper.

But pretty much every thread about chicken wings ends up as a tribute to Ye Rustic Inn. “Suicide extra crispy, accept no substitutes,” declares blackbookali.

Big Wangs makes some good wings—good for the taste buds, not so much for the arteries. Speaking of arteries, Big Wangs truly excels with tater tots, and its “heart-a-tot” is a huge order of them, covered in Alfredo sauce with bacon and parsley.

The extra-spicy Buffalo wings at Ribs USA may not be as hot as the suicide wings at Hoagies and Wings (though those are kind of soggy, says jimmyodonnell), but they’re the best Jwsel has had in LA, with great flavor. You can also get spicy fries, big thick ones coated in the same sauce. Everything else sucks, though.

The venerable Prince o’ Whales, which declares itself LA’s oldest sports bar, can also boast about its meaty, crisp, and moist wings, says Kris P Pata. They come in three levels of heat, but only the type who downs habaneros by the fistful should go beyond medium. This dive is immensely popular with local airline workers and also pro coaches: “The sight of then-NY Knicks coach Pat Riley struggling to maintain his coiffed ’do and the pressed dignity of his polo shirt while ingesting a basket of wings, was a treat for us Lakers fans who didn’t like the way he left LA.”

Chicken wings are a house specialty at Kyochon, a Korean fried-chicken joint, says bulavinaka. The slightly sweet batter is infused with the heady flavor of garlic, and the chicken, double-fried to order, is crisp and tasty, with all the flavors and juices sealed in. The spicy wings, brushed with a chile-infused glaze, are a hell of a lot like Buffalo wings.

For a minimalist Asian take on wings, Furaibo is also good, notes ladius. Crisp but not spicy, they’re just dusted with salt and pepper. Unlike Kyochon, Furaibo has booze, and plenty of it.

The Slice [Westside]
1622 Ocean Park Boulevard, Santa Monica

Ye Rustic Inn [Los Feliz]
1831 Hillhurst Avenue, Los Angeles

Big Wangs [Hollywood]
1562 N. Cahuenga Boulevard, Los Angeles

Ribs USA [East San Fernando Valley]
2711 W. Olive Avenue, Burbank

Prince o’ Whales [Westside]
335 Culver Boulevard, Playa del Rey

Kyochon [Koreatown]
3833 W. Sixth Street, Los Angeles

Kyochon [South Bay]
In Freshia Market
2515 Torrance Boulevard, Torrance

Furaibo [West LA]
2068 Sawtelle Boulevard, Los Angeles

Furaibo [South Bay]
1741 W. Redondo Beach Boulevard, Gardena

Furaibo [Inland of LA]
17859 Colima Road, City of Industry

Board Link: Best Buffalo Wings in Los Angeles?

Who Needs the Beef?

When it comes to potato tacos, El Atacor #11 is considered the champ. Still, bigtums loves the ones at My Taco and thinks they’re even better.

On the weekends, El Huarache Azteca makes killer potato quesadillas, made to order outdoors, says gonzoeats. The quesadillas are deep-fried masa, stuffed with beautifully spiced potatoes. They’re actually less greasy than El Atacor’s. Try the rajas and squash blossom quesadillas while you’re at it.

Alegria can be annoying at times, but its potato tacos are consistently good, says DanaB. At lunch, a special of hard taco stuffed with potatoes, cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes is just as good.

Loteria has good potato tacos as well as taquitos, which you don’t see every day, notes sherpa50.

El Gran Burrito has very tasty potato flautas, and Malo’s eggplant-and-potato tacos are not bad either, says DanaB.

El Atacor #11 [East LA]
2622 N. Figueroa Street, Los Angeles

My Taco [Highland Park]
6300 York Boulevard, Los Angeles

El Huarache Azteca [Highland Park]
5225 York Boulevard, Los Angeles

Alegria on Sunset [Silver Lake]
3510 W. Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles

Loteria Grill [Mid-City]
6333 W. Third Street, Los Angeles

El Gran Burrito [East Hollywood]
4716 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles

Malo [Silver Lake]
4326 W. Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles

Board Link: Potato Tacos, who has the best?

Double the Pleasure of Skaf’s Lebanese Grill

“When it comes to Lebanese, you may keep your Carousel, you may keep your Carnival, you may keep your Cedar House–my love lies with Skaf’s,” declares Das Ubergeek.

And now there’s twice as much to love.

A new Skaf’s has opened in Glendale, with all the same great food and some fancified additions. Oh, and it’s got décor. And parking!

Instead of order-at-the-counter, there’s table service, and the menu is a bit bigger. It includes hummus with beef and pine nuts, more salads, desserts beyond baklava … and frog’s legs.

This is one of the few places that will cook shish kebab to medium rare if you ask, and the portions are gigantic: A $9.95 shish kebab plate comes with a dish of the best hummus in the world, a deep bowl of cabbage salad, a big pile of rice, a tomato, two pitas, and two skewers of some very tasty steak.

Oh, and it’s still family-run—the patriarch is keeping the original location going, while his wife, son, and sister-in-law are in charge of the new place.

Skaf’s Grill [San Fernando Valley]
6008 Laurel Canyon Boulevard, North Hollywood

Skaf’s Lebanese Cuisine [Eastside]
367 N. Chevy Chase Drive, Glendale

Board Link: Skaf’s Grill, now in double vision!

Bashan, Heir to Bistro Verdu

Bashan is a worthy successor to Bistro Verdu, say those who were among the first to try it. It’s still a small, cozy bistro but with dishes that compare to Lucques and Spago.

The menu is brief but well executed. Definitely get the heirloom tomato and burrata appetizer, advises Griller141. It’s bursting with tomato essence, and the glass of tomato water alongside is delicately flavored, like a fine cocktail.

Veal sweetbreads are deliciously rich, set off by parsley, capers, sun-dried tomato, and pepper relish.

And don’t pass up the ravioli filled with delicate, sweet corn; they win raves from tatertotsrock.

Halibut, with glazed beets and shredded fennel, is fresh and full-flavored; John Dory with Mexican shrimp and bacon is a winner.

You might think steak is too boring a choice, but it’s not. It’s deconstructed and laid out on a Maui onion purée.

Desserts are decent but not quite as exciting as the rest of the menu—panna cotta is one of the better bets.

The main issues seem to be the amount you get for the price—three corn ravioli cost $12, for example—and service when the place is busy.

Bashan [Eastside]
3459 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale

Board Links: Bashan (Glendale) Guide
Canelé: Good food, shame about the service…

Vietnamese Flavors Meet Ritz Style

In an unassuming little breakfast and lunch restaurant tucked behind a Laguna Hills mall, a former executive sous-chef from the Ritz is showing some serious skills, says woojink.

Brunch here might start with a cinnamon sticky bun ($6), baked and served in a cast iron pan with coffee syrup, a pecan glaze, and plenty of pecan-studded whipped cream.

There’s also an incredible corned beef and sweet potato hash ($4.50) with char-grilled slices of succulent corned beef, tarragon-braised cabbage, and whole-grain mustard sauce.

Pork braised with “essence of five spices” (likely cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns) is a knockout, served with cornbread made with fresh corn, napa cabbage slaw with mango, and two poached eggs, tempura fried ($9.50).

Biscuit and gravy involves a buttermilk cheddar biscuit (that tastes a lot like polenta) and moist, chargrilled, Vietnamese-style pork ginger meat loaf sluiced with sausage-espresso gravy ($4.50).

At lunch, braised beef cheeks and tongue are tops, and shrimp noodles with fresh rice noodles are fab.

Break of Dawn [Orange County]
24351 Avenida de la Carlota #N-6, Laguna Hills

Board Link: Break of Dawn–Gourmet Vietnamese inspired food–South OC. REALLY GOOD.

Mom-and-Pop Persian

Family-run Reyhaan is a new, consistently good Persian restaurant in an unlucky corner of Culver City, says thericequeen.

Kashk-e bademjan, a roasted eggplant concoction, looks like an unpromising gray paste floating in olive oil, but it explodes with flavor. Chicken kebab—grilled, marinated, boneless chunks of breast—is tasty and moist and goes well with the grilled tomatoes.

The word is that the couple who own the place are from rural Iran, so there may be some interesting off-menu specialties.

Lunch prices range from $7 for a special to $17 for the sultani beef kebab.

Reyhaan [Westside]
11800 W. Jefferson Boulevard, Culver City

Board Link: Reyhaan Persian Cuisine

Japanese Restaurants Spread the Love

A new Shin-Sen-Gumi restaurant just had its grand opening in Monterey Park, bringing its stellar yakitori and shabu-shabu to the SGV. Yes, unlike the ramen-only Shin-Sen-Gumi or the yakitori-only Shin-Sen-Gumi, this place is a hybrid—and unfortunately, the yakitori menu seems to be less than half as long as the all-yakitori branch’s menu.

The location is amazing, says exilekiss, who went on the first day. It’s the most elegant of the Shin-Sen-Gumi restaurants by far, with gorgeous red wood paneling and brick walls. Classy and clean, yet somehow romantic as well.

For the grand opening, the restaurant’s master chefs manned the grill, setting a high standard with moist, tender shio yakitori, roasted chicken thigh with green onions and salt marinade. The master’s touch was evident: This was better than at the original branches. Cartilage, gizzard, and beef tongue skewers were just as good as the originals.

As for the shabu-shabu side of things, there are some unusual stews in addition to the usual Japanese-style hot pot with thinly sliced beef. Motsu nabe, a Hakata regional specialty, is a flavorful soup—the tripe might be a turnoff for some, but this is a good way to try it, says rameniac.

There’s also a small selection of izakaya-style dishes, including chicken kara-age (fried chicken, moist and delectable) and tako wasabi (superfresh raw octopus in a wasabi marinade). Fried pork feet in Dijon mustard-and-apple sauce is a little heavy on the mustard but tasty. Tuna carpaccio is top-notch. Sadly, the bacon-wrapped maki items are missing from the menu.

There’s a good selection of sake, if not as extensive as the one in Fountain Valley.

Dinner only; lunch service starts in November.

Another izakaya fave, Orange County–based Honda-Ya, recently opened a branch in Little Tokyo. tokyoastrogirl has longed for the fun, festive, and casual atmosphere of a real izakaya since moving back from Tokyo seven years ago; Honda-Ya is the answer to her prayers. (Musha in Torrance also fits the bill but is too far away, she adds.)

A word about what to expect from an izakaya: It’s basically a Japanese pub. The food isn’t supposed to be gourmet or refined. Nor do you want to order the kinds of dishes that are traditionally served at specialty restaurants, like ramen or sushi.

The menu is big—maybe too big, as there are some clunkers in there. Some of the best are marked with red stars. Hound-recommended dishes: wasabi octopus, a nice combo of flavors and textures; crab shiu mai; chicken skin; nasu miso, eggplant on a bed of miso-sautéed onions; buta no kakuni; and bacon-wrapped grilled anything. There’s also ika natto, squid in fermented soybean sauce—but only order this if you know what natto is and like it. Natto is very much an acquired taste and ika natto even more so.

The new restaurant draws comparisons to Musha (Santa Monica and Torrance) and nearby Izayoi.

“Part of the problem is that Honda Ya has a huge menu, where Musha has a much tighter menu,” says Professor Salt. “But tighter doesn’t equal better. Overall I still prefer Honda Ya. Your mileage varies. Such is life.”

rameniac agrees, pointing out that Izayoi is a whole different ball game—upscale, pricier, open late, and run by an ex–sushi chef.

The space is huge, complete with tatami room options, and service is attentive.

Oh, and Musha in Santa Monica has reopened and is as good as ever, reports SauceSupreme, who checked it out with a few fellow hounds.

Shin-Sen-Gumi [San Gabriel Valley]
111 N. Atlantic Boulevard #248, Monterey Park

Honda-Ya [Little Tokyo]
333 S. Alameda Street, Los Angeles

Musha [Beaches]
424 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica


Musha [South Bay]
1725 W. Carson Street, Torrance

Izayoi [Little Tokyo]
132 S. Central Avenue, Los Angeles

Board Links: NEW Shin Sen Gumi
Izakaya: Haru Ulala or Izayoi or ?
Izakaya Honda Ya–Little Tokyo
Izakaya Honda Ya–Quick Review
Musha Re-Opening

Das Ubergeek’s Adventures in the SGV

When en route to a famed noodle joint, what better way to whet the appetite than with a bowl of spicy Szechuan noodles? So thought Das Ubergeek, heading into Chung King restaurant in Hacienda Heights (no word on whether it’s related to the restaurants in San Gabriel and Monterey Park). This Chung King also goes by the name Mr. Swiss. It’s apparently code for “generic Americanized Chinese food like orange chicken,” and our hero was having none of it. After some berating of the waitress, dan dan noodles, chopsticks, and teacups (you know, for the tea in the teapot) were successfully procured. And the noodles ($4.25) are good, very good—swimming in chile oil, dotted with peanuts and scallions.

Over at Malan Noodles, he won the heart of the waitress by writing a Chinese character on his order form and was treated to samples of scallion pancake (overdone) and duck doused in what seemed like ginger oil (very good). The house specialty, beef noodle soup ($5.50 small, $5.95 large) is excellent: toothsome noodles that soak up all the flavors of the long-cooked broth. The beef is a bit smoky, and there are plenty of greens in there. Watching the noodles being made is a show in itself: In 30 seconds, a lump of dough turns into an insanely long noodle.

For dessert, Phoenix Food Boutique is a great place to browse—and serves as a cheap trip to Hong Kong, this modern, minimalist-style teahouse. Desserts and small delicacies are everywhere. Junjong or yuanyang (“the blend of tea, coffee, condensed milk and milk that is what keeps the youth of Hong Kong going”) is great but completely eclipsed by the shaved ice, the best he’s had: very fresh fruit, finely shaved ice with condensed milk, and tiny pearls of barely tasteable tapioca. Junjong is $2 and shaved ice $5.

There are a lot of Phoenix permutations; the Food Boutiques serve up Taiwanese and Hong Kong–style fast-food type dishes and snacks, Phoenix Dessert is dessert only, and Phoenix Restaurants are full-blown restaurants with more formal dishes than the boutiques but without the desserts, explains ipsedixit.

Chung King/Mr. Swiss Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
15840 Halliburton Road, Hacienda Heights

Malan Noodles [San Gabriel Valley]
2020 S. Hacienda Boulevard #B, Hacienda Heights

Phoenix Food Boutique [San Gabriel Valley]
1709 Nogales Street, Rowland Heights

Phoenix Food Boutique [San Gabriel Valley]
Pacific Square
31 E. Valley Boulevard, Alhambra

Phoenix Food Boutique [San Gabriel Valley]
1108 S. Baldwin Avenue, Arcadia

Phoenix Food Boutique [San Gabriel Valley]
712 W. Las Tunas Drive, San Gabriel

Phoenix Food Boutique [Eastside]
456 S. Fair Oaks Avenue, Pasadena

Board Link: REVIEW: Noodling Around in the East SGV