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Restaurants & Bars 4

Israeli and Mexican in Encino and Tarzana- An Extended Review

Spoony Bard | Aug 29, 200303:11 AM

Taqueria Los Tapatios. Yes, that plucky little taqueria in the heart of Tarzana still exists. Struggling, but hanging on and doing its best to thrive. The decor seems to have been upgraded, with numerous posters and photos relating to Mexico, including one of the town in Jalisco from which hails the owner, Carmen, who glanced at it nostalgically while describing her background. A vegetarian couple, regulars, sat by the wall. The TV perched in the top corner played that John Candy classic, Tio Buck (dubbed). Other than that the heavy wooden tables were empty.

And the food? So good you'll question your short-term memory and think yourself elsewhere than Ventura Boulevard. I ordered three tacos and a horchata. Wish I had room for more. I picked al pastor, suadero, and lengua. Hesitated on the lengua- I've never had it before, but Carmen offered that she'd just finished cooking it when I walked in. The horchata too. How could I refuse? I couldn't, you shouldn't. The suadero was pervaded with the sour marinade, the al pastor sang with flavor, and contained more of the cherished crispy bits than I've yet had, and the lengua was what I presume good lengua should taste like, mild with an intriguing, almost mushroom-like texture. Next time, Sabado o Domingo for menudo. Alas, no birria.

An interesting note- In discussing the sublimity and varieties of al pastor, I learned that Carmen had wanted to install a complete al pastor spit with pineapple slices as you find in Mexico, but the health inspector said no. Why then, can you have such a thing for schwarma, as close as Zankou Chicken at Burbank and Sepulveda? And for that matter, does anyone in the LA area baste their al pastor on a spit with pineapples?

Sassi. This glatt kosher Israeli establishment in Encino has been around for at least a year, but has received no attention from this board that I can tell. Not that this thriving eatery needs us, but it's a shame, because it's surprisingly good, and unique from what I can tell. This is no mediocre Tempo by any means.

So far, I can report on two soups and my schwarma pita. First however, the amuses bouche. When you sit down, three small technicolor bowls of seasoned veggies are placed alongside warm pitas. Orange chopped carrots, green and white dilled cabbage, and magenta cabbage with beets. Though the latter was good, the former two were outstanding, in particular the carrots, which were pungent and intense with garlic, lemon juice, and perhaps basil, though I'm really not too sure what was in there, it was good, and went perfectly on top of warm pita bread.

The soups were a lentil and what they called Yemenite. Both were delicious. Expertly seasoned, with, as the waitress said, "lots of spices." The Yemenite was an electric green oily swamp of a soup, that seemed distinctly Pakistani to me, with a broth that swam with green herbs and a few ping-pong ball sized potatoes and moist chunks of flavorful beef.

Then came the schwarma pita, stuffed with thick slices of lamb, Israeli salad, hummous, and french fries. Yes, fries in the pita. Apparently it's quite common in Israel. To my great surprise here, the schwarma was hardly your standard garlicy, oily, dragon-breath-inducing slivered beef, but was in fact lightly coated in a sweet, cinnamony curry. Combined with the fries and the creamy hummous, and you have a good bastardized curry pocket. I was astonished, but not to the extent that I was prevented from polishing it off with great gusto. Is this a Yemenite thing?

-Taqueria Los Tapatios
18739 Ventura Blvd, Tarzana
between Burbank and Yolanda

Ventura Blvd and Haskell,
South of the Blvd across from Rite Aid

Link: http://www.batista.org/pastor.html

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