Los Angeles Area rss

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

Boiled Peanuts and ‘Cue

The Eagle Rock farmers’ market features two stands that all displaced Southerners must know about, says czaplin. The Kettle Corn stand sells boiled peanuts, $2 for a pint and $3 for a quart. They aren’t available every week, but when they are, they’re good.

Big Tex Morgan’s BBQ is the stand of a local caterer with great barbecue. “He’s the reason I didn’t give up on tri-tip as a BBQ-worthy meat,” says czaplin. Also check out Geronimo’s nachos (Geronimo is one of the cooks): corn chips, chopped tri-tip, chili, nacho cheese, pico de gallo, sour cream, and jalapeños.

The Eagle Rock farmers’ market is on Friday evenings from 5 to 8:30.

Eagle Rock Farmers’ Market [Eastside]
2100 Merton Avenue, Eagle Rock


Board Link: Boiled P-Nuts and BBQ at the Eagle Rock Farmer’s Market

Big Fish in a Shrinking Pool

Malaysian/Singaporean restaurants are becoming as rare in Southern Cali as a cool day in Kuala Lumpur, notes bulavinaka, who enjoys Yazmin for home-style cooking almost as good as Mom’s. Unlike hawker stalls, home cooking tends to go lighter on the fat and salt. Be aware, though, authenticity here extends to the heavy use of MSG.

First-timers to Malaysian food might want to start with nasi lemak, a kind of all-in-one sampler of coconut rice topped with dried anchovies, peanuts, cucumbers, chile sauce, and a protein like curry chicken, grilled fish, or beef rendang. In Malaysia it’s usually wrapped in a banana leaf and eaten as breakfast, but it can be found—and devoured—anytime.

At Yazmin, one should also get rojak, a fruit salad with a tamarind base; a noodle dish (char kway teow, similar to the Thai pad see ew, has great wok hay, says suvro); a soup (just not laksa curry with chicken, which disappoints); a protein (beef rendang, succulent and flavorful; satays; or any grilled or fried chicken); and maybe water spinach with fermented shrimp paste (kangkong belacan) to round out the meal. If you’ve got room, shaved ice dishes chendal or ice kachang make a nice dessert.

In the South Bay, it’s also worth checking out Belacan Grill; the food’s quite good, although a little pricier than SGV (and a lot more than in Malaysia/Singapore!).

Yazmin [San Gabriel Valley]
27 E. Main Street, Alhambra

Belacan Grill [South Bay]
2701 190th Street, Redondo Beach

Board Link: Main and Garfield, Alhambra?

Indian-Restaurant Newcomers Fire It Up

The Indian dining scene on the Westside just got a boost with the opening of Agra Indian Kitchen, says Lee by the Sea. The restaurant is unrelated to Silver Lake’s Agra.

Lamb vindaloo is authentically Goan—fiery, vinegary, and impossibly complex, without a speck of tomato. “Each bite tastes a little different and the spices bloom in your mouth.” Chicken saag is smooth without having been puréed, and surprisingly light. Gentle spicing underlies the spinach, and the chicken is good-quality breast meat. Malai kofta comes in a decadently rich cream sauce with moderate spicing, good enough to eat with rice long after the veggie-packed koftas are a memory. Lamb pasanda also is deeply flavored and intricately spiced, a satisfying dish.

Mango lassi and masala chai are well made, fresh, and pleasant.

The restaurant is small, with six booths and two tables, not fancy, but clean. However the overall level of food is remarkable. The chef is from London, and makes his own kulfi (Indian ice cream) as well.

There’s a new chef in the kitchen at the Clay Oven in Sherman Oaks and he/she rocks, says mar52. There’s a nice spread on the lunch buffet—two chicken dishes, a lamb dish, three veg curries, salad, two desserts, and chai—and each dish is different and tasty.

Afraid of the steam table? Don’t be, says Lee by the Sea. If anything, the sauced “curry” dishes benefit from their time there, the flavors blending and more fully infusing the meat and vegetables. But pass on crispy things like samosas and pakoras—the steam table only saddens them.

Agra Indian Kitchen [Beaches]
2553 Lincoln Boulevard, Venice


Clay Oven [San Fernando Valley]
14611 1/2 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks

Board Links: Agra Indian Kitchen review
Clay Oven in Sherman Oaks

Hitting the Pinoy Trail

Looking for a great Filipino joint outside your basic turo-turo (cafeteria-style) spot or fast-food eatery? Kris P Pata breaks it down:

“My favorite sit-down family restaurants in LA are either in the southern suburbs or just north of the city in Eagle Rock and Glendale. These include:

“ALEJANDRO’S–Solid, flavorful, 100% family-owned.
“ASIAN NOODLES–Now venerable favorite of downtown LA lunch crowd.
“BARRIO FIESTA–It’s back. And in location opposite a competing cafe run by former employees.
“SALO-SALO GRILL–In my opinion, the best of the type of restaurant you are seeking. They specialize in immense, family-style platters of grilled seafood and mixed grill meats. The honey bbq chicken skewers are a must.”

It’s also worth checking out the reconfigured Eagle Rock Plaza, which houses branches of the popular Filipino chains Jollibee, Chow King, and Goldilocks, plus a huge Seafood City Supermarket, with top-notch produce and a vast array of fresh fish, many of them whole.

elmomonster is practically an evangelist for Magic Wok, declaring its sisig heaven on a plate. It’s a homey, family-run place that’s gotten pretty popular lately—and the lechon kawale is also great.

Normal Garciaparra gives a shout-out to Davao Tuna Grill, with nice sizzling tuna dishes and even kangkong (a green leafy vegetable).

And for traditional Filipino breakfast (anything ending in silog, a combo of fried rice and fried egg), Das Ubergeek declares the best is at Manila Good-Ha—specifically, the branch in Panorama City, with a bunch of meat choices as well as daing (salted and dried fish) and champurrado (rice cooked with chocolate). It’s also cleaner than some of the other branches.

Alejandro’s [Eagle Rock]
4126 Verdugo Road, Los Angeles

Asian Noodles [Chinatown]
643 N. Spring Street, Los Angeles

Barrio Fiesta [Eagle Rock]
4420 Eagle Rock Boulevard, Los Angeles


Salo-Salo Grill [Orange County]
18300 Gridley Road, Artesia

Salo-Salo Grill [Eastside]
130 N. Maryland Avenue, Glendale

Salo-Salo Grill [Inland LA]
2530 E. Amar Road, West Covina

Westfield Shoppingtown Eagle Rock Plaza [Eagle Rock]
2700 Colorado Boulevard, Los Angeles

Magic Wok [Orange County]
11869 Artesia Boulevard, Artesia

Davao Tuna Grill [Eastside]
730 S. Central Avenue #101, Glendale

Manila Good-Ha [Eastside]
900 E. Colorado Street, Glendale

Board Link: Filipino restaurants in California

Chowder Bowl, The Next Generation

You want cream soup in fried toast. You need it. Why? Because it’s the next evolutionary step for the clam chowder sourdough bowl. Imagine a box of fried toast, filled with a Taiwanese chowder, the kind you’d find in a Hong Kong–style café, thick with veggies, chicken, shrimp, and ham in a cream-based broth.

“The soup is a bit salty on its own, but mixed with the fried toast, it’s like Ginger and Fred Astaire, Gilligan and the Skipper, Starsky and Hutch …,” says ipsedixit, waxing about Pa Pa Walk.

The menu has other Taiwanese treats like fried oyster, sausages, stinky tofu, etc. If you’re going to have dessert, don’t pass on the mango shaved ice—a one-dessert weapon against global warming.

Pa Pa Walk [San Gabriel Valley]
227 W. Valley Boulevard Suite 148-B, San Gabriel

Board Link: Run, don’t walk, to PA PA WALK

The Ultimate Banh Mi in SoCal

We’ve talked about Banh Mi Che Cali, a favorite of many hounds for those Vietnamese sandwiches, banh mi. We’ve talked about Lee’s and Mr. Baguette. But after a visit to Banh Mi Cho Cu, Das Ubergeek declares in a particularly eloquent post, “These were the best banh mi I’ve ever eaten. I cut my banh mi teeth on Saigon Sandwich in the Tenderloin of SF, which might be the best banh mi in that city. I’ve been to Mr. Baguette, Top Baguette, Tip Top Sandwiches, Saigon Sandwich, Ba Le, Banh Mi Che Cali, Paris Baguette,
and of course Lee’s, down here, and this just blew them all straight out of the water.”

When you walk in, straight away the messy piles of sweets, the loosely covered tray of cha lua, and the enormous pile of pickled vegetables tell you this place has got it.

Xiu mai (pork meatball) banh mi is a revelation—the xiu mai piping hot and incredibly juicy, the cilantro and vegetables (including cucumber) in good proportion, the chile pepper, well, spicy. The bread is better than at a lot of French places: crunchy outside, soft and slightly gluteny inside. Barbecue pork looks charred to Jerkyville, but it’s actually tender and moist, with an intense caramelized flavor, adds pleasurepalate. Grilled pork sandwich looks and smells (with a lovely lemongrass aroma) just as delicious.

The Vietnamese iced coffee is excellent, though the crushed ice makes it more like a coffee granité.

Banh Mi Cho Cu Bakery [Little Saigon]
14520 Magnolia Street Suite B, Westminster

Board Links: REVIEW: Banh Mi Cho Cu, Westminster
Banh Mi Quartet–a tasting of 4 different restaurants

Non-Dive Vietnamese

“While there’s plenty of good food in Little Saigon, I wouldn’t say
there’s a plethora of ‘finer’ choices,” notes hch_nguyen.

Places like S Vietnamese and Brodard Chateau take the same food from their humbler sister restaurants (like the original Brodard’s excellent nem nuong cuon) and charge more for it in an upscale setting, says kingkong5. He recommends Favori as a pleasant place for good-value authentic food. It’s not exactly elegant, but the service and surroundings are way better than the average Vietnamese joint. Make sure to get the whole baked crispy catfish that you roll in rice paper. Only problem is, the place is popular with families, so it tends to be loud.

Da Lat Bistro has the same roasted fish as Favori, with newer and nicer ambiance, says septocaine_queen. It also does a very good bo luc lac and serves wine.

Benley is an artsy, modern café—stylish if not fancy—serving modernized Vietnamese food with real attention to detail, says Tkn. Make sure to get the buttermilk panna cotta, adds cookee.

A couple of relative newcomers also have a dash of style: Le V Cuisine and Aysya.

S Vietnamese Fine Dining [Little Saigon]
545 Westminster Mall Drive, Westminster

Brodard Chateau [Little Saigon]
9100 Trask Avenue, Garden Grove

Favori [OC]
3502 W. First Street, Santa Ana

Da Lat Bistro [South OC]
16525 Brookhurst Street, Fountain Valley

Benley [South Bay]
8191 E. Wardlow Road, Long Beach

Le V Cuisine [South OC]
17431 Brookhurst Street, Unit A, Fountain Valley

Aysya [South OC]
17271 Brookhurst Street, Fountain Valley

Board Link: Finer Vietnamese Dining in Little Saigon, OC??

A Taste of Honey

Open for two months, Honey is a pretty good prospect for pre-entertainment dining: It’s right inside the Avalon nightclub, and around the corner from the Pantages, says lil mikey.

The menu is typically Hollywood eclectic. You get olive bread; there’s a tuna tartare appetizer, a hockey-puck-size portion, frosted with tiny red fish eggs (delish, though you might want to skip the house-fried tortilla chips); and there’s buttermilk fried chicken with gravy—juicy, tender breast gently flavored with buttermilk, plus perfectly mashed potatoes and a slightly spicy, flavorful roasted-corn succotash.

There are also crab cakes, hummus and baba ghanoush, and thin-crust pizza with bacon and goat cheese for starters; and sea bass, tuna, New York strip steak, and pasta for mains; as well as sandwiches and salads.

Pass on the champagne by the glass and go for the Sauvignon Blanc, fruity and fresh.

Honey [Hollywood]
1735 Vine Street, Los Angeles

Board Link: Honey–In the Avalon, Near the Pantages

Crustacean-Lover’s Delight

Crab stew three ways is the thing to get for crab-lovers at Ondal 2, says ipsedixit.

It’s worth braving a seedy part of town for number two on the menu, which comes out as:

1. Crab stew, straight up.
2. Noodles with crab stew.
3. Rice cooked in crab stew.

The crab stew is frighteningly red, but it looks spicier than it actually is. There are large chunks of crab, and sea squirts—which are kind of like sea cucumbers, but slimier.

The noodles are a lot like the hand-cut beauties at the late Heavy Noodling; they’re basically just clumps of dough ripped apart by hand. They’re great for soaking up the crab soup in all its glory. So is the rice, but at this point in the meal your stomach may be yelling, “Uncle!” Those bibs they give you really come in handy.

Ondal 2 [Mid-City]
4566 W. Washington Boulevard, Los Angeles

Board Link: Ondal 2 … crab lovers unite!

The Yum in Yum Cha

Yum Cha Café, a little place tucked into the San Gabriel Superstore, looks like a Hong Kong tea shop fallen on hard times: harsh lighting, stacks of metal trays, and melamine tables like you had in elementary school. But the food is eclectic and surprisingly good, and the prices unbelievably low, says Das Ubergeek.

The ladies at the counter are friendly and helpful. Make sure to get the brown sugar rice cakes, a treat you won’t find in most places.

The usual dumpling suspects are all delicious and very fresh—juicy shiu mai, un-rubbery har gow, just-made cheung fun, and sweet custard buns that manage to escape oversweetening. And the black bean spare ribs are the meatiest anywhere, adds monku.

Eight items run about $12, and there’s a tea charge of 25 cents per person (most regulars seem to bypass that by asking for a side bowl for their soup and filling it at the tea station).

A freestanding location on Atlantic Boulevard in Monterey Park is either open now or in the works—the address is on the menu.

Yum Cha Café [San Gabriel Valley]
1635 S. San Gabriel Boulevard, San Gabriel

Board Link: REVIEW: Yum Cha Cafe, San Gabriel