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

Horn of Africa Meets the Heart of O.C.

A mountain of outrageously tasty food awaits at Merhaba, an Eritrean restaurant nearly hidden in a dingy Orange County minimall, says Das Ubergeek. It’s the kind of place where non-East African customers may draw stares.

The menu lists the usual Ethiopian dishes, but in Tigrinya rather than Amharic. The traditional combo is billed as being for two people, but it would actually serve four. You get more than a cup each of doro wat (spicy chicken stew), yebeg alicha (mild lamb stew), a fiery Eritrean take on yebegsiga wat (spicy beef stew), and yellow lentils, collard greens and an orange paste that tastes of spicy carrots, all poured onto an injera-lined tray. The injera (a pancake-like bread) is properly sour here.

Unlike many other Ethiopian/Eritrean restaurants, the meats shine here, although the vegetables are also good. Doro wat can be dry, but emily, a fan of the restaurant, says despite some off days, it’s usually delicious.

Traditional combo, $20. Canned soda and bottled water are $1. Lunch and dinner prices are the same.

Merhaba Restaurant [South OC]
2801 W. Ball Rd. #5, Anaheim



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Gelato, Gelato Everywhere

Gelato can now be found at the Viktor Benes bakery in the Century City Gelson’s, says PayOrPlay, with some very good flavors (sour cherry, pink grapefruit). There are 8-10 varieties, and they change regularly.

In addition to the gelato at Pazzo (look out for the fruit flavors made from farmers’ market produce), Eastsiders who don’t want to make the trek to Boule can find its chocolate truffles and pates de fruit there. There’s even a discount–the truffles, notes kevin, are $2 apiece instead of $2.50. But then, they don’t come in a little box with a ribbon. Also: baked goods from South Pas’s excellent Heirloom Bakery.

In Pasadena, Noodle World has reopened, and is also serving gelato.

Viktor Benes Continental Pastries [Century City]
at Gelson’s Market
10250 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles



Pazzo Gelato [Silverlake]
3827 Sunset Blvd, Hyperion, Los Angeles



Noodle World [Pasadena-ish]
24 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

Noodle World [San Gabriel Valley]
46 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra

Board Links
Pazzo Gelato
Noodle World!
valley gelato

Mad-Scientist Ice Cream

A laboratory for eclectic ice cream flavors, the LA City College-adjacent Scoops has been getting some press lately. Owner Tai Kim uses tropical fruits (mango, ube) as well as wasabi, and chocolate jalapeno. Brown bread, believe it or not, is a popular flavor, and there are also vegan ice creams. You can even write a flavor suggestion on his dry-erase board.

For the less adventurous, pistachio, chocolate, and tiramisu are good bets. Flavors rotate about once a week. Two scoops are $2.

Scoops [East Hollywood]
formerly Taicecream
712 N. Heliotrope Dr., Los Angeles

Board Links
Scoops Ice Cream @ Melrose & Heliotrope?
Scoops on Heliotrope in Silverlake?

Hawaiian Food Dream Factory

The cook at Aloha Food Factory says he can make anything you want.


Well, if what you want is along the lines of a burrito stuffed with Spam, pineapple and kalua pork, drenched in teriyaki sauce and spiked with wasabi, yes.

OK, it sounds…odd, but ipse dixit insists, “The nice salty, crunchy feel of the slightly charred spam mixed in with the sweet pineapple and pork…all of it blended in nicely with the wasabi. Oh, and of course, the teri sauce just makes sure it all goes down the windpipe with ease. This was so damn good.”

On the more traditional front, spam musubi is good here, with a good proportion of spam and nori compared to the rice, says AquaW. Fried-to-order sesame chicken is pretty awesome too.

Shaved ice hits the spot on a hot day, but isn’t quite like what you’d get in the islands.

Aloha Food Factory [San Gabriel Valley]
2990 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra

Board Links: I have found my reason for living … ALOHA FOOD FACTORY!

Hawaiian Shave Ice

True Hawaiian shave ice can be tough to find on the mainland. Key ingredients: good ice cream, adzuki (sweet red) beans, house-made syrup (and a variety of choices), and powdery, properly shaved ice.

You’re probably best off going to Teri Hawaii, where syrup flavors include strawberry, lilikoi, and pineapple–and you can get them together. Ice cream and adzuki beans are available, and the result is creamy, fruity, and delectable.

Teri is Hawaii-authentic, if not the same quality as Matsumoto, the famed shave-ice spot on Oahu’s North Shore, says ek. Mike Q, though, hands Teri the advantage for serving the shave ice in a good-size cup, not a paper cone. A serving is about $3.

A couple other recommendations: Maui BBQ, where shave ice is served with ice cream and adzuki, and about eight flavors of syrup. And in Simi Valley, of all places, there’s Tutu’s Hawaiian Ice Cream Shack, where they’ve got all the fixings.

Teriyaki Hawaii [South Bay]
a.k.a. Teri Hawaii
1425 W. Artesia Blvd. #34, Gardena

Maui Hawaiian BBQ [North OC]
1323 S. Harbor Blvd., Orangethorpe, Fullerton

Tutu’s Hawaiian Ice Cream Shack [West San Fernando Valley]
4332 Cochran St., Simi Valley



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Fabulous Tofu Dish

“It’s been a long time (probably the early 1980s) since we’ve been able to utter “Golden Dragon” and “good food” in the same sentence…” notes Chandavkl, “But thanks to a recent banquet I’ve discovered the best tofu dish I can recall eating at a Chinese restaurant in the Los Angeles area.”

Called fried tofu in special sauce (or something), it consists of round, silver-dollar-size slices of deep-fried tofu, tender inside, with mushrooms and vegetables in a savory light sauce with an elusive yet terrific flavor.

Golden Dragon Restaurant [Chinatown]
960 N. Broadway, Los Angeles

Board Links: Fabulous Tofu Dish At Golden Dragon (Chinatown)

Persian in Glendale

Rarely (if ever) mentioned in discussions of Glendale’s stable of Persian and Armenian restaurants is Moon Mart, a small place tucked into a mini-mall. terim swears by the deliciousness of the food—don’t be deterred by people smoking outside. Bring a group in order to try more of the tasty side dishes.

Moon Mart Kabab [East San Fernando Valley]
400 S. Glendale Ave. #A, Glendale

Board Links: persian or armenian glendale

Taiwanese Restaurant Face-Off

The new branch of Ay-Chung Noodle is going head to head with fellow Taiwanese joint Nice Time Deli in Irvine, says elmomonster.

After ordering at the counter (if there’s a crowd you’ll have to take a number, but they’ll assign you a table), food comes out pretty quickly. The restaurant’s most popular dish is its house special thin noodle, a bowl of angel-hair-fine wheaten noodles in a cornstarch-thickened soup punched up with garlic, bonito, cinnamon and star anise. “The noodles, by contrast, were rough and sturdy; like denim to the soup’s silk.”

Fried crispy squid is basically what’s known elsewhere as squid in spicy salt–deep-fried and dusted with white pepper, salt, and other spices. It’s greaseless and tender.

Chinese sausage rice is substantial for the price ($5.25). Shorn pieces of sweet lap cheung, soy-sauce boiled egg, and tofu come atop a mound of steamed rice doused with some of the broth the tofu was cooked in.

Disappointing: dry, overcooked shrimp pancake (in a batter of rice flour and beaten egg) and house special steak, which is gristly, chewy, and blanketed in something like watered-down Ragu. Still, there are 119 more items on the menu. House special noodles are $3.50; house special steak is $7.95; other dishes are in between.

Ay-Chung Rice Noodle [South OC]
formerly Bin Bin Konjac
5406 Walnut Ave. #C, Irvine

Ay-Chung Flour-Rice Noodle [San Gabriel Valley]
140 W. Valley Blvd. #208, San Gabriel

Nice Time Deli [South OC]
in 99 Ranch Plaza
5408 Walnut Ave., #A, Jeffrey Irvine

Board Links: Ay-Chung Noodle–Irvine–A Review w/ Photos

Tender Are the Greens

Heads up, Westsiders: this new spot specializes in farmers’ market-fresh fast food (like salads with ahi, flatiron steak, or free-range chicken). The owner was formerly executive chef at Shutters. Everything is made from scratch, says Adam Fleischman, who was impressed by a salad with sweet baby beets and steak, and a fantastic lemonade.

Tender Greens [Culver City-ish]
9523 Culver Blvd., Culver City

Board Links: Tender Greens–Open & Excellent