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Long-weekend chowing/Harvey's Guss/Cypress-area sushi for Afty/Barrio Fiesta (War & Peace length)

Chris G. | Jul 7, 2003 09:02 PM

This last weekend was one of those rare "all hits, no misses" affairs, thanks in large part to recommendations of others on this board (a huge thank you to y'all).

A visit to Harvey's Guss:

Thursday afternoon I hopped in my car to pick up an order from Harvey's Guss Meat Co. Saturday night was my girlfriend's parents anniversary, but we had to bypass previous plans for a steak dinner at a restaurant (Clearman's, which was pop's choice) because my girlfriend's dad was immobilized due to breaking his leg a week previously. I swung into action with an alternate plan - that being picking up some porterhouse steaks from Harvey's Guss and making the meal myself (an attempt to outshine Clearman's, which, while it worked, now guarantees my status as chef any time the folks desire a steak dinner). I ordered four porterhouse steaks, plus a rack of lamb and a chicken for other meals.

First of all, buying meat from Harvey is a true pleasure. Sure, he has a wacky sense of humor (part of his charm), but he also works closely with you on your order to make sure you get what you want. While ordering he asked how I planned on preparing the meat and made suggestions on what I should order. I ended up with four 28-ounce 1-1/2-inch-thick porterhouse steaks and 16 single-cut lamb rib chops (5.4 pounds), plus a whole chicken. My motive was to grill the steaks and lamb, and slow cook the chicken in a smoker. The total wasn't cheap (porterhouse and lamb was $16/pound, while the chicken at $1.18/pound almost seemed like it was free), but it was really worth it - especially considering that porterhouse at Bristol Farms is $14.49/pound. I walked out of Harvey's with a heavier cooler and a lighter wallet, but felt all the richer with my stash of meats. As an added note, the steaks and chops were meticulously wrapped in heavy shrink-wrap plastic and encased in a gauze-like material, which kept them meat incredibly fresh the entire weekend. You could probably freeze these packages really well, but who'd want to put such beautifully aged steaks anywhere near a freezer (and who could wait to consume them)?

Sushi in Stanton at Mitsuyoshi:

With the meat stored in my refrigerator for use later in the weekend, I felt a desire for sushi. Not wanting to drive all over (I'd already done that picking up the meat at Harvey's Guss) or spend too much money (ditto) I was at a loss at what to do. My girlfriend suggested Mitsuyoshi in Stanton a few miles from my home. While I love Shibucho, Wa, Wa Sa, Wasabe and R-23, I don't always feel like driving that far for a sushi fix. While Mitsuyoshi is not the "bestest" of the best, it's above average for a local sushi joint (way better than other options in the area like Shogun or Uzushio - although they now have new owners and a new chef, so a re-evaluation may be worthy). The chef Pe Pe (who is half Japanese and half Chilean, but whose name made me think of a certain Steve Martin line "Donde esta la casa de pe pe?") trained in Japan and stocks some pretty good fish. I enjoyed the hamachi belly and engawa, and the shiro maguro was exceptional. The sushi bar is rather small in contrast to the larger regular seating area (the emphasis seems to be more on cooked items ordered from the menu, which I didn't check out but will on subsequent visits), and the restaurant has the typical austere but classy wooden Japanese fixtures (sort of like a Japanese version of Father's Office). The prices are reasonable as well - my girlfriend and I got out of there for about $50 bucks (about 10 items of sushi/sashimi, plus a large Asahi). It's a good option if you live or work in the area (Afty, I didn't forget your request).

12033 Beach Blvd. (corner of Chapman)
(714) 898-2156

Filipino on the Fourth:

Friday was the 4th of July, and how did I celebrate it? In the typical American fashion - my girlfriend and I went out for Filipino food. Actually, our choice was inspired by a visit to an early-afternoon picnic that we had arrived at too late and all the food was gone. Walking out of the park, we passed a large Filipino family gathering and voraciously eyed their spread of delicious-looking food. So it was off to Barrio Fiesta in Lakewood.

There were a few small groups in the restaurant that afternoon, most of which were ending their meals with dishes of purple ube ice cream. We ordered simple, basic Filipino dishes: chicken adobo, pancit malabon, garlic rice, and kalamansai juice to quench our thirsts. Everything was wonderful, with the standout being the chicken adobo ladled on top of pungent garlic rice - this takes comfort food to another level; the food equivalent of an overstuffed goose-down bed. The hearty adobo gravy was salty in a good way, accentuating the rich, meaty flavor and subtle spices. The chicken may have been a tad overcooked and dry (at least the white meat was, the dark meat was very moist and tender), but the gravy compensated for the lack of hydration.

The kalamansi was very refreshing with a subtle sweetness and tangy lime flavor, but not as strong as a limeade. The pancit malabon was good - the shrimp, vegetables and chunks of pork distributed amongst the thin glass noodles seemed rather sparse, but the serving was so massive that a pound of shrimp would have looked skimpy amongst all those noodles. In fact, the portions of everything were huge. We had enough food left over for a hearty "encore" dinner that night, and at $25 (adobo was $8.20, pancit was about $8, rice about $2, drinks $2.50 each, plus tax) it was one of the best dining bargains I've encountered in a long time.

Barrio Fiesta
5233 Clark Ave. (near Candlewood)
(562) 633-9689

The Piece de Resistance - Porterhouse steaks:

Now for the best part: the Harvey's Guss porterhouse steaks. My girlfriend and I ventured to the Irvine farmer's market first thing in the morning to get items to complement the meal. There were a lot of good-looking items this time - much more than we had found a few weeks before now that the summer season vegetables are beginning to emerge. Here's a brief breakdown: sweet white corn (five cobs for $2), baby zucchini with blossoms ($4 lb.), brandywine tomatoes, excellent large Haas avocados - really truly large ones of the kind I haven't seen since I was a kid living in north San Diego county ($2 each and worth every penny - makes those dried-out, stringy midget-sized cukes green with envy), and beautiful russet potatoes for 80 cents/lb. Lettuce selections weren't that great, however.

While the grill at my girlfriend's folks was primitive at best (one of the challenges of cooking away from home), all I really needed was a good layer of hot coals to cook the steaks. Despite not having a lid for the grill, I made my best attempt to smoke the steaks by generously applying soaked oak chips over the coals (got a decent smoky flavor, but not as pronounced as I would like). After grilling for seven minutes per side the steaks were perfectly medium rare, with a slightly crispy char on the outside sealing the juices in, and ready to serve (side dishes: grilled corn, fried tempura baby zucchini and blossoms stuffed with goat cheese and basil, Italian parsley and rosemary, mixed greens salad with brandywine tomatoes, avocado and Maui onion - Asian vinagrette dressing, baked potato, La Brea bakery bread, Port-reduction/mustard cream sauce to accompany the steak, '85 Cos D'Estournel bordeaux, Trader Joe's New York cheescake for dessert.

The steaks were phenomenal - the best I've had in many, many years. It was so tender that the steak knife glided through it like (yeah, I know it's a cliché) a hot knife through butter. The tenderloin section was concentrated with rich, almost gamy beef flavor, and each bit dissolved slowly on the tongue like a creamy chocolate mousse. The juices were bursting with concentrated beef flavor - if only you could bottle this you'd give Bordeaux a good run for its money. My girlfriend's parents are usually a talkative bunch, but from the first bite they were stoically silent until the last bite of steak was gone - not an easy accomplishment considering that each steak averaged 28 ounces. All I can say is that Harvey Gussman is a godsend. When it comes to high-quality beef, I doubt I'll ever consider going elsewhere.

Harvey's Guss Meat Co.
949 S. Ogden Dr. (at Olympic)
Los Angeles
(323) 937-4622

As an encore, I grilled the lamb rib chops on Sunday (basil pesto crust, accompanied by fingerling potatoes, same salad as previous evening). This was a similar sensation to the porterhouse extravaganza the night before. Incredibly tender lamb with hearty flavor (but none of the overly gamy aftertaste of inferior cuts). Harvey's Guss rules (today the chicken has been in the smoker - I was going to say I've been smoking the chicken, but that doesn't sound quite right - and I'm sure I'll be equally knocked out).

Thanks to all who have praised Harvey's on this site - you rule, too.

And as a side note I really enjoyed the Chasen's chicken chili I picked up at Bristol Farms and had for lunch on Sunday (I felt silly buying a single shallot for my sauce, so I grabbed a tub of this stuff on a whim). It seems a little preciously priced for chili, but it's really good stuff. It's low-down yet elegant at the same time (maybe the white beans make the difference).

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