El Nido, a Nicaraguan restaurant on La Brea just north of the 10 Freeway, has gotten nice write-ups in the LA Times and LA Magazine, among others, but it hasnt gotten much play here at Chowhound. Jerome has recommended it several times, especially for the nacatamal, and in searching for other posts I was shamed to find one of my own, more than two years old, mentioning that I was eager to try it. Well, I finally made it for lunch yesterday. I was solo and not extremely hungry, so this review is a bit tentative, based on only one lunch. I liked it very much and plan to return (hopefully sooner than 2 years!)
El Nido is located in a minimall on the east side of a rough and heavily-traveled block of La Brea; not hard to find but much easier to access if you come from the south (i.e. from the freeway). Its entrance room looks like the counter space of any other cheap fast food restaurant, but when you turn left into the dining room you may be surprised to discover a charming, festive, darkish space with all sorts of parrots, acrobats, and other knick-knacks covering the ceiling and walls, and a big screen TV in the corner that was playing Colombian music videos full of gyrating girls in bikinis. (The website, linked below, has pictures of the room interspersed with photos of scenic Nicaragua.) A nice dish of crispy plantain chips and bean sauce was served immediately.
The menu is very large; on another day I might have gone for the nacatamal or for the fritanga (combination plate featuring various meatsthe waitress description of this sounded mouth-watering). I opted for the indio viejo, described on the menu as shredded beef, corn, bell peppers, and onions, and described by Linda Burum as "Nicaragua's answer to polenta." What arrived was a stew of very tender beef and a lot of onions in a thick sauce, tasty but a bit overwhelmed by the onions. The indio viejo itself was my least favorite part of the meal, but the multitude of side dishes on the plate were all excellent: gallo pinto (beans and rice cooked together like Cuban moros & cristianos), fried plantains, fried cheese, intense pickled onions, and very nice cabbage slaw similar to (but maybe milder than) Salvadoran curtido.
The beverage menu is also large, with lots of juices and licuadospitahaya, granadilla, chichi, etc. I had a big glass of cacao, which was a lighter and spicier version of chocolate milk over icereally nice. Between the cacao and the plantains, my sweet tooth was satisfied so I decided Id have to wait til next time for dessert.
As you can see from the list of dishes on the website, there is lots, lots more to try. Among other things, the menu includes a big selection of mariscos and intriguing soups such as Managua-style crab soup, sopa de caracol, and tripe.
And perhaps most eye-catching of all, something called sopa de sesos con creadilla de toro. Its translated as Nicaraguan bulls eggs soupnice euphemism, but the sesos remain untranslated. Googling confirms that creadilla indeed refers to a bulls testicle, but I couldnt find any recipe or other reference to a dish that contains BOTH testicles AND brains. If thats what this soup really is, well, it sounds like a must-try.
Here is the link to Linda Burums glowing LA Times review from 2/12/03. (Note that the empanada de maduro she raves about is now $3 rather than $1.75. The place is still a bargain, though.)
El Nido Restaurante Nicaragüense
2112 S. La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles CA 90016