Halfway through her plate of crispy, juicy masitas de puerco (hot hunks of deep-fried pork), mrs rabo, as Cuban as they come, looks up and says, "I tell you---this is the real stuff".
"Better than El Cochinito?" I inquire, through a mouthful of garlicky yuca.
Considering the fierceness with which mrs rabo has loved and defended Silverlake's beloved "Little Pig" in the past, this is akin to the pope suddenly proclaiming he's a Jew. Or Robert Novak planting a wet, juicy smooch on James Carville's cheek. And as much as it pains me to admit it, she's right (disclosure---I'm about as Cuban as Al Pacino).
The toasted Cuban bread is miles above the dry discs of concrete offered up at El Cochinito, or the far inferior Versailles. We start off with a couple of finger-shaped croquettas. A little salty, and nothing that will put Porto's out of business, but good nonetheless.
A tip: all entrees come with rice and beans. Instead, order moros y cristianos and yuca (no extra charge). The former ("Moors and Christians") is merely the rice and beans cooked together with peppers and cumin. COLMAO does it up with chunks of pork, rendering a much less dry moros than is served up at most Cuban joints. The latter is cassava root, much like boiled potato. COLMAO slathers on about two tons of freshly chopped garlic, again trumping other renditions.
Mrs rabo's aforementioned pork is marvelous. Rabo (that's me) orders "rabo estofado", which is basically "rabo encendido" by any other name---a bright orange, tangy stew of oxtail, tomatoes and potatoes. The soup zings, the meat melts, and Yours Truly is gnawing the gelatinous fat off the bones like a caveman on crack. It's a chalkboard special, but they almost always have it. Sinfully terrific stuff.
The cafe cubano is excellent here, and puts Porto's to shame.
2328 W Pico Blvd (near Hoover)
Los Angeles, CA 90006