Tried two new (to us) places last week.
La Estrella - This place is a sit-down joint located in a shoddy little strip-mall on Hawthorne next to Barron's Rental. We had two plates: the carnitas platter and the pastor platter. Both came with refrieds, rice, a little salad, and soft corn tortillas. The carnitas was deep-fried, evidently, and too crispy-chewy for us, not nearly as good as what we had at La Jalisco. The pastor, however, was delicious, one of the best things I've eaten in a while. Everything else on the plate was really good, though predictably heavy on the belly. We also split a pork enchilada with green sauce: absolutely divine, and worth regular visits for these little guys alone. The staff pegged us for adventurous gringos early on, and brought us some extra-spicy salsa for our chips and plates of food. Great staff, too, and it seems to be something of a family operation. We'll be back soon for pastor and enchiladas. Very, very satisfying experience all around.
Shokitini - This is a new downtown sushi joint from the folks who own Shoki's. It's a bit too big-city nightclub-ostentatious in terms of decor, but it's a comfy atmosphere nonetheless. We've never been big fan's of the sushi at Shoki's, but gave this new place a shot anyway. It's quite good, really: the nigiri is really fresh and tasty, skilfully prepared by two very friendly sushi chefs. The tempura was excellent, though approaching room temperature, but that was surely our server's fault. He was pretty lacking in the skills department, always there when you didn't need him and never there when you did, and was utterly ignorant about the cold sake selection. He and the other servers spent a lot of time clustered in a "server pack" around the bar, yacking and such. Anyway, I am afraid that Shokitini continues the Shoki's habit of including some gloopy sweet brown sauce on just about every maki roll they make. It completely disguises the taste of the food. I wish I knew what it was so I could specifically ask for it to be left off. All in all, it's the best sushi we've had since the good old days when Utage was owned/operated by Kizawa and Inoko (sigh). We'll return soon, though we may avoid the maki and instead load up on nigiri and tempura.
Also, gotta give another shout-out to Karen over at Fook's Foods on Baxter. It's an Asian grocery. She has the best tofu in town, far better than at the big grocery stores. Also wonderful is the locally-made kim-chee, the veggie selection, and the canned food selection, with all sorts of curry pastes and pickled veggies and various sauces and such. Everything far outmatches what you find at Kroger or Publix. If you're serious about cooking Asian food at home, Fook's is a wonderful resource. And you can order Peking Duck most weeks; man, I love me some Peking Duck, and she sells some of the best I've had.
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