Home from NYC for the holiday, I succeeded in burning reckless amounts of geo-politically problematic desert juice while in pursuit of Southland-only deliciousness. Thought Id share.
El Ricoto, Gardena
Surrounded by Peruvian families tucking into their morning repast, I enjoyed a whirligig of Peruvian breakfast delicacies guided by Low End Theorys Peruvian-American friend Alvaro. Ill try to recount. First, our appetizer was warm rolls served with two delicious, spicy sauces- creamy red and herbal green. Then came the onslaught: fried yucca, sweet-savory papa rellena, the Peruvian potato salad Papa a la Huancaina, revelatory chica morada that was probably from a powder, succulent ceviche enhanced by the crack of toasted corn (Alvaro pronounced this good, but less marinated than it should be, perhaps due to not being a typical breakfast dish and needing more time. In contrast he praised a North Hollywood joint whose name escapes me.), and the reason for our trip: a roast pork butifarra, Limas answer to the torta cubana. Made with a thick slice of pernil-like country ham and served on a huge French-style roll, its something you can see Peruvian truck drivers scarfing down to start their day. Now a mystery: the meaning of the name. Even Alvaro hadnt a clue what el ricoto means. Anyone hazard a respuesta?
Krua Thai, North Hollywood
Made a pilgrimage here not once but twice in 6 days. First time ordered the Pad Kee Mao, second time the Pad Thai. The former was stir-fried noodle perfection, richly garlicy, studded with green onion and ground chicken. The latter was a reinvention of what Pad Thai can be- not just sweet and peanut-strewn, but hot, sour, sweet, and rich in funky dried shrimp that pop with maritime salaciousness. Sadly deficient in the noodle to other-stuff ratio, however.
Brodard, Garden Grove
The salads, the salads! Thats what I should have ordered. Instead, whats reputedly the best Vietnamese in Little Saigon, and thus the Western Hemisphere, maintains its lustre due mostly to the nem nuong cuon (pork and shrimp sausage spring rolls). No surprise- there was an order of at least two on every table. Big surprise- finding the place was an adventure in itself. The other dishes my friend and I ordered were good, but not spectacular, these being the filet mignon beef salad and the chicken hot pot, whose hot pot was MIA.
Tacos Baja (Ensenada), East LA
Not an exact duplicate of the transcendent Ensenada fish market, but excellent nonetheless. The fish taco was like the best chip house fish nestled in two corn tortillas. Shrimp tacos didnt take to their breading but were well worth it. Crema and salsa made for a sweet, almost mayonnaise-like sauce that was used a bit too heavily but helped it all slide down nicely.
Tous les Jours (sic) Korean Bakery, Northridge
Credit this one to my mom, who gamely explored the newish Korean mini-mall in the former Ralphs on Reseda and Devonshire. What she discovered was without a doubt the definitive pumpkin muffin. Yes, the seasonal treat, rendered from Dunkin Donuts to your local bakery, perfected by a Korean baked goods genius. These are rich and moist, perfectly seasoned with nutmeg and cinnamon. Vaulting them to the summit of taste are the toasted pumpkin seeds on top and the occasional chunk of sweet orange pumpkin on the interior- like all great innovations, forehead slappingly obvious only in hindsight. Get them, now.