>> Eat the World Los Angeles

Thursday, 8 April 2021

La Esperanza Restaurant & Bakery

GUATEMALA 🇬🇹

COVID-19 UPDATE: The restaurant has re-opened for indoor dining, with plexiglass in between tables. There is a (previously covered) outdoor area in the parking lot that was not open on the last midday visit.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Big thanks to Any's Tamales for this recommendation.

Outside of the normal epicenters of Central American communities in Westlake, Pico Union, and South Central, this Western Avenue restaurant in Torrance might be the place in Southern California that buzzes the most with Guatemalans and Salvadorans. You do not have to search very long to find the latter in Los Angeles, but their cuisine has some overlap of both dishes and customers, so it is offered to broaden the baseline.

As seen in the above photo, the banner for pupusas could stop a hungry soul traveling down Western Avenue. But for the interest of this article, it is the roots of the restaurant and its Guatemalan favorites that will be discussed and recommended.


On a first visit many months ago a simple order of their hilachas ($19.99, above) was placed, a generous portion that easily feeds two with rice, three thick homemade tortillas, and a small cup of beans. This hearty stew of shredded beef and potatoes is Guatemalan home cooking at its finest, but would satisfy even the least adventurous of your friends.

If you have ever been invited into a home in Guatemala, hilachas are one of the dishes you might find served for you. In fact, they are not widely found on the menus of the city's restaurants, and even when you do find it they are often disappointing. The version here is strong and worthy of grabbing.

Where Guatemalan food is most different from Salvadoran is in their dishes with roots in Mayan cuisine, far before ships started arriving. The most common of these dishes, which is also eaten in what is now southern México where Mayans also proliferated, is pepián ($19.99, above and below). What their menu calls a "thick Guatemalan-style salsa" is made of pepitas, tomato, and sesame seeds.

You can get the thick, nutty dish with either chicken or beef, the latter of which was selected for the first time after a spirited recommendation from the manager. This turned out to be a great decision, as the ancient recipe combined and penetrated the beef quite well.

Dig under the surface and you will also find string beans, chayote, and carrots. Once again like most of their entrees, three tortillas come with an order and are perfect for making your own creations and combinations. These are so good you could munch on them on their own without a problem. Both the hilachas and pepián are also served with a small tamal de chipilín.

While not sampled yet, the menu has a wide array of Guatemalan antojitos that were seen arriving at tables as the last takeout order was placed. You can also find specialties like pollo con crema or a plate of churrasco guatemalteco.


Order the full portion of caldo de gallina for $18.99 and it comes with a grilled half hen on the side like usual, but ask for the caldo de ½ gallina ($9.50, above), and the soup is served with feet, necks, and gizzard.

As you can imagine, sipping the soup is warming and comforting and perfect, but those looking for larger portions of meat with their soup should order the full portion.

📍 22832 S. Western Avenue, Torrance, South Bay

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I COULD USE YOUR HELP
Eat the World Los Angeles is and always has been free. It is a hobby born of passion and never solicits money or free food from restaurants. No advertisements block the content or pop over what you read. If this website has helped you explore your city and its wonderful cultures a little better and you have the means to contribute, please consider doing so. Eat the World Los Angeles is a labor of love, but also takes a lot of money and time everyday to keep running.

You can Venmo me @JAREDCOHEE, Cash App $JaredCohee, or click here to send PayPal donation, where no account is necessary. Thank you!

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Sunday Food Vendors at Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep

THAILAND 🇹🇭

COVID-19 UPDATE: Vendors are located in a covered area open to all sides. Tables for eating are very well-spaced, and masks are required in all spaces while not eating. As of this writing, the hours every Sunday are 10am to 3pm.

After closing down for most of 2020 and early 2021, the vendor and eating grounds have been expanded for reopening, adding quite a few stalls and an entire field of picnic tables and umbrellas for shade. The people that are in charge have been working hard during the pandemic and the whole area is very nice for a Sunday outing.

Such is the story of life for this future Thai temple, whose beginnings were in Whittier and have nothing to do with the famous temple of the same name in Chiang Mai. They bought this land in 1996 and have been running classes for children, meditation, and offering a place for Thais to come to pray and speak with monks. Renderings show the massive temple they have in the works to build someday.


The variety of foods available and pricing are about on par with that of Wat Thai of Los Angeles in North Hollywood, which is still temporarily closed as of this writing. The items can also be hit or miss just like at those weekend openings as well, but overall the visit is enjoyable and there is now a stage that will host live performances starting around noon each Sunday.

On the most recent weekend, over half of the patrons were Chinese, and the music even started with some songs in Mandarin to cater to their group. The line for pad thai was consistently long, as apparently that was the item they all wanted most. Here are some more scenes of the grounds and foods that were sampled last Sunday:
















วัดพระธาตุดอยสุเทพ ยูเอสเอ/Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep USA
📍 2948 Chino Hills Parkway, Chino Hills, San Bernardino County

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I COULD USE YOUR HELP
Eat the World Los Angeles is and always has been free. It is a hobby born of passion and never solicits money or free food from restaurants. No advertisements block the content or pop over what you read. If this website has helped you explore your city and its wonderful cultures a little better and you have the means to contribute, please consider doing so. Eat the World Los Angeles is a labor of love, but also takes a lot of money and time everyday to keep running.

You can Venmo me @JAREDCOHEE, Cash App $JaredCohee, or click here to send PayPal donation, where no account is necessary. Thank you!

Monday, 5 April 2021

Asa Ramen

JAPAN 🇯🇵

COVID-19 UPDATE: The small restaurant is doing limited indoor dining now and no outdoor dining.

While there are quite a few flashy bowls of expensive ramen in Sawtelle Japantown that are trying to wow you with flavor and technique, they often fall flat in one or many ways. Sometimes it is the setting, other times the preparation, and maybe just the lack of parking. Meanwhile most places in Gardena and Torrance that are offering more simple bowls and experiences are rarely disappointing.

One ramen spot just north of the 405 on Western that serves sublime bowls is Asa Ramen, a place that intricately makes you feel like you have stepped back in time at least a couple decades. Even the cigarette smells wafting in from the connected karaoke/hostess cafe next door make it seem a long time ago. But what is better than five or ten years ago, at least from the customer's point of view, is that the weekend waiting lists are hardly a thing and the influencers (the new hipsters) have moved on.

The atmosphere here is always relaxed, service might seem aloof but simply asking for something usually gets it right back in gear. The first time you came here was probably late at night, probably after a few drinks, and indeed that might be when the space is most alive as midnight approaches. But even as the only customers when the restaurant opens, rest assured that your ramen will be excellent.

Most of their noodle offerings are available in both "regular" and "large" portions, the former priced at such a low point that it allows you to splurge on some starters like edamame ($3.50, above), which are actually chamame literally meaning "tea bean" and considered one of the most delicious varieties.

Another way to begin meals here is with chicken karaage ($8.50, above), which like pizza is almost always enjoyable even when mediocre. The version here is not that, quite a few steps above actually, and very delicious with perfectly fried dark thigh meat. Each nugget is gently dusted with flour and very slightly spiced, letting the taste of the bird shine through brightest.

A plate of fishcake fritter with dried seaweed ($4.50, below) are hollow tubes of fried goodness rather than discs, and a surprise joy. The dried seaweed comes in the form of a potent powder, and once again the dish is not overly battered.


Pan frying is done just as well here, as proved by a plate of fine gyoza ($5.50, above), which taste and feel as if they have been made to order. They are delightful and very light, somehow it feels like they will float away. Make sure you are not sharing this with too many others, as you will most certainly want more than one.

The pork kimchi ($8.50, below) appetizer sounds simple but is a glorious flavor bomb that will be devoured the moment its aromas hit the table. The pork here is fairly large pieces of belly, probably from the stock used for chashu slices on the ramen. The fermentation zing combines so well with the fattiness of the meat, so do your best to grab at least some of each in every bite.


As alluded to at the beginning, the ramen bowls here are not flashy, instead offering excellent simple versions of each on the menu. Most people come here for kotteri shoyu ramen ($7.75 regular, above, or $10.25 large), and that is a must-try entry point for the restaurant. This bowl is somewhat of a hybrid between a clear bowl of shoyu and that of a murky fatty bowl of tonkotsu.

The word kotteri is the first tip of this, meaning something like "rich" and almost always having an opaque broth in the end. The soy sauce-based broth and pork bone components match up unexpectedly well, while the noodles have been cooked perfectly for each bowl since the beginning of the restaurant's life. Has anyone ever complained about the noodle texture here?

If tonkotsu is not your thing, the second selection on the menu is assari (light) ramen, which is also shoyu but in a clear, clean broth. Better yet might be the salt ramen ($7.75 regular, above), which uses a complex base of salt, chicken, fish, and pork. These items are all used minimally, as despite being full of flavor the soup is very modest and comforting.

After coming five straight nights and feeling like you might want a jolt of another taste, the curry ramen ($9.25, below) bowl might be for you. Using the same shoyu bases, this unfortunately just feels like an additive, much like the fire ramen which completes the menu. It is worth sticking to the top of their list.


As it feels like just a matter of months before life gets back as close to normal as it can, thoughts about sitting drunk at the counter alone slurping a large bowl of Asa Ramen's classics has joy written all over it. Yes, friends, hugs, family, all that too... but ramen is a private event so get your own bowl.

📍 18202 S. Western Avenue, Gardena, South Bay

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I COULD USE YOUR HELP
Eat the World Los Angeles is and always has been free. It is a hobby born of passion and never solicits money or free food from restaurants. No advertisements block the content or pop over what you read. If this website has helped you explore your city and its wonderful cultures a little better and you have the means to contribute, please consider doing so. Eat the World Los Angeles is a labor of love, but also takes a lot of money and time everyday to keep running.

You can Venmo me @JAREDCOHEE, Cash App $JaredCohee, or click here to send PayPal donation, where no account is necessary. Thank you!

Friday, 2 April 2021

Carasau Ristorante

ITALY 🇮🇹
(SARDEGNA)

COVID-19 UPDATE: Indoor dining is open with limits. The outdoor garden is very pleasant with heaters for evenings and well-spaced tables.

If you search for images of Sardinia, beautiful photographs of crystal clear aqua waters and rocky coastlines will fill your browser. The interior of the Mediterranean Italian island is rolling farmland and clouds that resemble some of the beautiful lands of the Midwest here. But look a bit closer at the cows. Even the cows seem happy.
 
There have not been any cows in Culver City for a while, but if there were they probably would not be happy amongst all the apartment buildings and the flashy new Culver Steps mall plaza. Veer southeast from the plaza onto Van Buren Place though, because there lives the city's and Southern California's only Sardinian kitchen.

Pane carasau.

The restaurant is named after for pane carasau, which means "toasted bread" in the Sardinian language, and an unavoidable part of your appetite when on the island. It has been made for thousands of years, originally by shepherds living for long periods of time away from their homes. When kept dry, it can last for many months, which makes it much more practical than "regular" bread.

You will find the pane carasau served with many of the Sardinian dishes, sometimes as a side, and other times used playfully. The owner of the restaurant originally opened it because of the lack of food from his home here in Los Angeles. Although there are many Italian standards on the menu, come here for the items you will not find anywhere else. If this is your first time trying Sardinian food, find him before ordering and get a lay of the land and some focus.

As temperatures rise, the shrimp catalana ($19, above) makes a good starter. Overheard being described to others later as similar to ceviche, this was not wrong. A couple broken off pieces of pane carasau come with the dish, but do not feel timid to ask for more.

The name might be confusing at first, a sauteed dish reminiscent of something cooked in Barcelona might be conjured up. But rest assured, this is Sardinia-style, fish and especially lobster (aragosta alla catalana) are cooked this way, first boiled lightly and then combined with lemon juice and the other fresh ingredients.

If you thought you had tried all the pasta in the world, you may have a couple more to add to your list. The best and most memorable of the specifically-Sardinian pastas is of course malloredus. Here this pasta style, which bears more than a passing resemblance to mealworms, is served as malloredus capidanese ($21, above).

Already hearty with pork sausage, this preparation is generous in its portion and full of meaty and fennel seed flavor. The tomato sauce has a bit of saffron and the entire dish is topped off with pecorino cheese. It is really lovely.

Trips to Sardinia and now to Carasau Ristorante should not end without trying another unique pasta dish called culurgiones ($18, above), which are stuffed with potato. These nuggets are compared to ravioli for the layman to understand, but the pasta itself is much less thick than the usual version of that.

There is also the distinct taste of mint in each bite, and pecorino once again is grated on top of the dish to finish it off. While the malloredus probably are more enjoyable, and give you a taste of the all-important pork sausage beloved back home, these should be ordered simply for the experience.

Less unique but still pretty delicious and excellently fried is the pollo carasau ($24, above), two wings of juicy breast with an enjoyable breading. This comes with an arugula and tomato salad and house-made chips.

The restaurant also affords you the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful wines of Sardinia. Because they are less well-renowned around the world than some other regions of Italy, bottles like a wonderful Olianas Cannonau can be purchased at decent prices for a restaurant. The owner remarked that he plans to eventually phase out his non-Sardinian options so that guests will become more familiar with those from his home.


Also featuring a piece of pane carasau is the thoroughly-Sardinian dessert known as seadas ($12, above), a deep-fried pastry made with honey and cheese. While somewhat difficult to get down after such a bountiful meal, it is the perfect end to a lovely evening.

On the next visit, the focus will be on fregola, the other Sardinian-specific pasta dish they serve. These are small pasta pearls, cut down from spaghetti-sized rolls made of semolina flour, and typically served with a selection of fresh catch.

📍 3918 Van Buren Place, Culver City, Westside.

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I COULD USE YOUR HELP
Eat the World Los Angeles is and always has been free. It is a hobby born of passion and never solicits money or free food from restaurants. No advertisements block the content or pop over what you read. If this website has helped you explore your city and its wonderful cultures a little better and you have the means to contribute, please consider doing so. Eat the World Los Angeles is a labor of love, but also takes a lot of money and time everyday to keep running.

You can Venmo me @JAREDCOHEE, Cash App $JaredCohee, or click here to send PayPal donation, where no account is necessary. Thank you!

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Ora's Kitchen

PANAMÁ 🇵🇦

COVID-19 UPDATE: This is a home-based business, everything is outside in a spacious backyard. Most folks come for pickup pre-orders.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Since this is a private residence, it does not have hours to drop in. They put on special events and should start getting back to normal (once every few months) now that the pandemic hopefully continues to be better controlled. Please get in touch with me through Twitter or Instagram if you would like warning about the next event when that is announced.

If you have ever been to the annual Panamanian Independence Day parade celebrated in late October downtown, you were probably handed a flyer or saw vendors or information being passed out on some of the only spots to track down Panamanian food the rest of the year. One of the most established of these is Ora's Kitchen, which lives in the enormous backyard paradise of a home in Carson.

Under the shadow of the noise-reducing walls of the 91, a small residential neighborhood exists in the far north of the harbor community. Close to the border with Compton, and surrounded on the other three sides by light industrial buildings, this quiet group of homes is also where to find one of Los Angeles's most unique experiences, and a food that does not exist in any restaurant throughout the Southland.

Under tents, canopies, umbrellas, and the Carson sun, be prepared to enjoy the tiniest slice of Panamá as those from the country drive from all over the region to pick up Ora's Kitchen's delicious frituras (fried goodies). The latest event was held on Sunday 28 March 2021, was blessed with perfect weather, and was also a fish fry. Deep frying pans filled with bubbling oils were at capacity for the duration of this visit.

Fish plates consisted of pargo frito (fried red snapper), patacones, and salad, and were priced at $16 or $20 depending on the size of the fish. Also included is a small cup of very lively habañero salsa that works on just about everything you order. The fish itself is fried just right, the meaty flesh still juicy and not overcooked.

Many of the other items seem to be available during most events, an assortment of Panamanian frituras. In the back of the plate below, empanadas de maiz ($2.50 each) are filled with a deliciously spiced ground beef surrounded by a hard and crispy corn shell. On the softer side are torrejitas de bacalao ($3 each, below right), cod fish cakes that also seem to have a hundred nice flavors all happening at once.

For something completely unique to Panamá, grab an order of hojaldre ($2 each, above left) and pair it with bofe ($3 per 6oz, below). The latter is a picadillo made from spongy cow lung cut up into small pieces and combined with plenty of spice and pepper. For those put off by the iron taste of the offal, pairing it with the slightly sweet hojaldre is a good remedy.

This pair is common during breakfast in Panamá, where you can find many things to eat with your hojaldre, but you will be craving it at all times of day after the first bite.


Inside the carimañolas.

Carimañolas ($2.50 each, above) can be seen on the full plate above or in section right here, more fried goodness with a meaty interior that is reminiscent of the empanadas. The difference here is that the container is made from yuca and there is a bit of cheese added inside.

If you have ever traveled to Panamá, you know that this rum-centric country also cares deeply for its drinks and its music, both of which are here for you in Carson. Ora's Kitchen sometimes host folkloric dance groups and other events. There is a separate bar hut that probably gets up and running more in the evenings when events are happening, but if you require some Ron Abuelo with Coke, they can make it happen anytime of day.

📍 Carson, The Harbor.

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I COULD USE YOUR HELP
Eat the World Los Angeles is and always has been free. It is a hobby born of passion and never solicits money or free food from restaurants. No advertisements block the content or pop over what you read. If this website has helped you explore your city and its wonderful cultures a little better and you have the means to contribute, please consider doing so. Eat the World Los Angeles is a labor of love, but also takes a lot of money and time everyday to keep running.

You can Venmo me @JAREDCOHEE, Cash App $JaredCohee, or click here to send PayPal donation, where no account is necessary. Thank you!

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Oste

ITALY 🇮🇹
(ROMA)

COVID-19 UPDATE: The pinseria has limited indoor dining according to code and a pleasant covered patio overlooking 3rd Street. Takeout and pickup is limited to pinsa only.

You will see WeHo on their logo and such, but they are not quite there. If we defined West Hollywood by the borders of those businesses (and people) that claim to be in it, it might extend all the way to the 101 in some cases. The good news is that both people who care about that sort of thing and those who do not will be interested in what is happening in the kitchen of Oste regardless of the exact geography.

And what is pinsa? The biggest difference with this Roman-style flatbread is the dough, which takes 72 hours to rise due to its usage of more water and less salt than standard pizza dough. This gives it a light and fluffy texture, which is scorched for a very short time at very high heat.

Go in for a closer look to get a better sense of the fluffy crust that distinguishes a pinsa from a pizza. All those differences also lead to the benefit of not feeling bloated and heavy afterwards as well, or so they say.

Some past pinsa experiences were all with lighter than usual toppings, letting the dough be the star of every bite, but here they pile things high and make sure both are important.

The xxtra pepperoni lovers ($25, above) is certainly a party of cups, some scorched around the rim and others underneath barely cooked. San Marzano tomato sauce and mozzarella are generously applied below, while sprinkles of parmesan and chili oil top it all. Add the $3 upgrade for Calabrian chilies. This must be the most popular since its price has risen a good $5 or $6 since ordered a couple weeks ago.

The patate ($18, below) does not use mozzarella or tomato sauce, opting instead for a bit of raclette. Garlic oil, black pepper, and rosemary finish off the bite, and sausage is a recommended addition for $4.



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I COULD USE YOUR HELP
Eat the World Los Angeles is and always has been free. It is a hobby born of passion and never solicits money or free food from restaurants. No advertisements block the content or pop over what you read. If this website has helped you explore your city and its wonderful cultures a little better and you have the means to contribute, please consider doing so. Eat the World Los Angeles is a labor of love, but also takes a lot of money and time everyday to keep running.

You can Venmo me @JAREDCOHEE, Cash App $JaredCohee, or click here to send PayPal donation, where no account is necessary. Thank you!

Friday, 26 March 2021

Ichimi Ann

JAPAN 🇯🇵

COVID-19 UPDATE: The small space at Ichimi Ann has been reduced to a takeout and pickup counter. There are also now four or five tables with varying degrees of shade out front for eating after you order and pay. The offerings of their menu have been pared down, but seem to be coming back little by little as the darkest days of the shutdown get further behind.

When a place ships fresh Japanese buckwheat across the Pacific in refrigerated cargo containers and even supplies some local South Bay favorites like I-naba with soba, it clues you in to the must order dish offered at Ichimi Ann, which also has "Bamboo Garden" on its sign in English. That soba, while different from a hot pepper for sure, also bursts with flavor on each bite.

The magical noodle they make here is at the same time very light and with high density. In better times the most popular order is probably the simple zaru soba, fresh noodles laid out on a bamboo draining mat (zaru), topped with nori, and served with their beautiful dipping sauce, which pats on your tongue softly with both salty and sweet.

If you are taking your soba home with you, it might make more sense to get it as some kind of hot or cold soup, helping the noodles come back to life after sitting in a container, a process they never desire. On cold evenings bowls of hot niku soba ($13 with tanuki upgrade, above and below) are never a bad way to go. They would not dare serve a broth unworthy of putting on their star noodles, but the way it is both earthy and warming while still being pristine and light is more magic.

This bowl is perfect for someone that needs a bit more protein, as ultra-thin slices of beef populate the broth as well. These seasonings are delicate and subtle, allowing the soba to remain of utmost importance in every bite.

When the sun is out and faded Old Town Torrance is not so chilly, it is also a great time to try their cold soba dishes, which also come with clean and pleasant soups that ooze the precision of the country of their origin.

Selections like tsukimi soba ($9.50, below) can be enjoyed any day, not just during the moon viewing events they are named after because of the fresh raw egg that tops the bowl.


If you are in the mood for some tang, try the yuzu oroshi ($12, above) which adds both the namesake citrus and grated daikon to the top of the soba bowl.

Better back with a hot soup base is the ten kake ($15, below) which throws on quite of assortment of their freshly made tempura. This could have probably benefited from having the tempura served on the side so that they do not get soggy, but if you do order it prepare to eat quickly.



For diners that are in the mood for something more hearty on a pandemic-pared down menu, the half-half combo of beef and curry over rice ($10, above) sticks out and does not disappoint. The same thinly cut strips of fatty beef found in the niku soba above are joined by a nice pour of gently seasoned curry.

It was always so much enjoyment to come here, place an order and find a small table or counter seat, but this past year over multiple visits it is quite a feat that Ichimi Ann has been pulling off such good offerings of their food for takeout as well.

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I COULD USE YOUR HELP
Eat the World Los Angeles is and always has been free. No advertisements block the content or pop over what you read. If this website has helped you explore your city and its wonderful cultures a little better and you have the means to contribute, please consider doing so. Eat the World Los Angeles is a labor of love, but also takes a lot of money and time everyday to keep running.

You can Venmo me @JAREDCOHEE, Cash App $JaredCohee, or click here to send PayPal donation, no account is necessary. Thank you!