>> Eat the World Los Angeles

Friday, 22 January 2021

Rincón Chileno Delicatessen

CHILE 🇨🇱

COVID-19 UPDATE: The deli is tiny and basically takeout only to begin with. Signs on the door limit the space to a maximum of two at a time.

When you walk into Lawndale's Rincón Chileno Deli, everything is immediately presented in front of you and can lead to a bit of a deer-in-headlights moment, especially in times where customers are limited and people are waiting behind you outside.
 
Under Chilean flags in front of you are wrapped up individual portions of desserts. To the left is a menu of sandwiches, empanadas, and extras. To your right, cases full of those empanadas and other homemade meals with stacks of cookies, pannetone, and condiments above. More snacks as well as bags of yerba mate find their home on shelves above. Take a deep breath.


The Lawndale location is spawned from the original on Melrose in East Hollywood that opened in 1973. They are just about as tiny, except for the attached restaurant that now lives up there. In better days that modest dining room is home to multi-generational families eating together on weekends and sharing stories and memories of back home and what brought them to Los Angeles, as well as passing on the cultures and food traditions to their children.

The second location has one table but has never been a place to sit and gather. It does provide Chilenos living in the South Bay an easier alternative to take home just about all the same foods. Besides these two shops, the only other current Chilean business operating in the Southland is based in Canoga Park.
 

For those that do not live in or around Lawndale but enjoy the beaches of the South Bay, the deli's offerings are perfect for pickup before setting up your umbrellas. They have many kinds of empanadas, including the savory and slightly sweet empanada de pino ($4.95, above and below), which is just about as large as they come.

Besides the size, these baked empanadas are like no other, with a taste very distinct from those of neighboring Latin American countries. The savory beef also has a black olive and hard boiled egg, while the sweetness is added by raisins and caramelized onion. The deli also has chicken and smaller beef versions, spinach and cheese, and ham and cheese empanadas.


The label of "national dish" is something that is always a bit fluid, and Chile might have the longest list of this or that claimed by one person or another, but the most unique of them might be the pastel de choclo ($9.99, below). They have a few of these in the refrigerated case ready to be reheated (if you choose), but they also work just as well to take home and stick in the oven.

Hidden beneath a burnt and crispy (in a good way) top layer is a savory corn and chicken casserole that also includes onions, raisins, and olives. The dark meat has all been taken off the bone, making this very easy to eat. Like the empanadas, it combines elements of sweet and savory. Without the meat, it could almost be eaten as a dessert.


Also perfect for taking to the beach or just for general takeout is a long list of sandwiches that are all with Chilean flair. They make great versions of Chilean arrollado, churasco, and milanesa, but if you are looking for a first taste from the deli try the unique chacarero (($7.99, below).

Like many of their sandwiches, this comes on their homemade hullulla bread, a Chilean specialty. Some consider this dry and boring, probably the result of the use of vegetable shortening, but with the right ingredients inside the light and airy bread works very well. In this sandwich, thin cuts of beef are combined with fresh green beans and tomatoes.
 
Viva Chile mierda!

As you can also do with the empanadas, throw some of their homemade hot salsa before starting. If this is not offered when ordering, you can request a container or two to spice things up.
 
A whole slew of pastries and desserts are available, including the small fluffy ojito ($1.25, below). The crumbly, flaky tube is filled with an apricot jam and dusted with powdered sugar, getting pretty sweet. If you are not far from home or plan to eat it immediately, also try the lucuma ice cream, made of course from the namesake fruit native to the valleys of the Andes Mountains.
 

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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.

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Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Aroma Cafe Mediterranean Delicatessen

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA 🇧🇦

COVID-19 UPDATE: Tables and chairs have been pushed to one side and the small dining room is now a takeout and pickup area. The packaged goods are still available for purchase.

Back in 2005 when Aroma Cafe opened on the Westside, it was a way for its owner to fill the void he felt for his birthplace in Bosnia. Los Angeles has never had the strongest network of people from the Balkans, so it immediately became a place to get together with folks from across the region.
 
Now halfway through its second decade of life and over seven years since Jonathan Gold's praise for the pljeskavica, the restaurant is also a place to pick up your favorite ajvar, Bosnian snacks, drinks, sausages, and cheeses. A small Balkan grocery has been living in the corner for quite some time, and now combined with the refrigerated case has become a lifeline for many who can no longer dine in but still miss the tastes from back home.
 
Skip the grocery store line.

In better days, the restaurant was a bright and comfortable place to enjoy a meal. Tucked in the corner of the Rancho Park Plaza on Overland Avenue, the faux bricks and stucco inside replicating Mediterranean vibes have always felt appropriate for meals of Balkan favorites. Colorful paintings representing life near the sea look over diners.
 
For now, visitors can only peruse the shelves and place orders. You will see a car or two in the parking lot with someone inside waiting. But it is all worth it to bring home a meal and enjoy at home. Soon the dining room will be full again.
 
 

No matter whether you have eaten hundreds or never heard of it, the pljeskavica ($16.50, above), which is served on their housemade flatbread is a no-brainer. Somewhat surprisingly, only a handful of raw onions were served alongside the beef patty and bread, with no kajmak or ajvar to be seen.

Thankfully the bread and patty itself are delicious and can stand alone, the beef has plenty of spice rubbed into it and more onions. Serbians will claim this dish as their own, but it is wildly popular to eat all over the former Yugoslavia. Whether eating your grilled meats as small links known as ćevapi or in this form as a sandwich, nowhere is the meal complete without adding all of those onions and asking for more.


Perfect for chilly and rainy winter days is the Bosanki lonac ($16.95, above), or "Bosnian pot" named for the ceramic pots that it was originally prepared in. The idea is not far from the beef stews of many cultures, slow-cooked meat and vegetables in a savory broth.
 
If there is any criticism here it would only be in the lack of much meat in the stew, especially with the Westside price tag. Thankfully another piece of their delicious bread is included in the order, which soaks up the oily slick perfectly.
 


If you have not already stocked up with their chocolate bars and other Bosnian and Balkan snacks available at the counter, order the tufahiya ($6.50, above), a thoroughly Bosnian favorite dessert. Normally spelled tufahije, this is made from an apple poached in sugar water stuffed with walnuts and is served cold.

For to go orders, ask for the whipped cream and chocolate that is normally on top to be put to the side because it will of course melt.

Monday, 18 January 2021

Muodu Shanghai Cuisine 沪味轩

CHINA 🇨🇳

COVID-19 UPDATE: The front room right at the door has been turned into a small order pickup room. Customers waiting do so outside. You can have your orders delivered as well.

Muodu is the pinyin version of the Chinese word 魔都, which means "magic city" but originally came from a more dark place. This was the nickname given to it by a Japanese author in the 1920's, describing the city's more seedy side, because in kanji the first character means "devil" instead of "magic." Whichever you prefer, citizens of Shanghai have come to use the latter, which folks have taken as their own.

On the awning you just see 沪味轩, which basically means "Taste of Shanghai." Either way, this restaurant that opened at the tail end of 2018 is somewhere those more sinister thinkers will want to eat anyways. What are the flavors found at Taste of Shanghai? More subtle, comforting, and less reliant on chili oils and peppers than some others for sure.
 

The things that you have already tried are good here, so order and get the need for them out of your system. The innocent-looking signature pan fried pork bun ($6.50, above), or shengjian bao, are ready to burst and send fountains of delicious hot juice in all directions the moment you bite down. The browned underside is like a sock keeping everything warm, evidence of the oils these cooked in just moments ago.

Doughy and soft, they hold up very well for takeout and can be steamed at home if necessary. So do the steamed soup dumplings ($7.25, below), or xiao long bao, as delicate as ever but durable until penetration. Use a soup spoon before trying to get inside, and let the sour vinegar dipping sauce mingle with the juicy, porky interior.


Both versions can be made with a pork and shrimp mix, and the xiao long bao can also be done with crab and pork, all delectable depending upon your mood. Either way, the vinegar sauce laced with strips of ginger are the perfect way to cut the richness and get the taste buds activated for the rest of the meal.

Folks from Shanghai are notorious throughout China for not liking a lot of spice in their food, as their cuisine is generally mild. When dining in the restaurant, you would find a small jar of chili sauce tableside, but this is only to fend off the requests of non-Shanghainese diners and is not part of takeout orders unless requested.


To stick with the various items on their special menu pages is to find some unique dishes from Shanghai and much less common than the "Demon City" favorite pork buns and dumplings. A compelling first order is Shanghai fried rice cake ($12.75, above), which combines those chewy, stir-fried ovals with just a bit of pork and cabbage.

Some might find this dish too salty, but it is deeply comforting and hits the spot. Paired with more earthy-leaning dishes like noodle with scallion oil ($7.50, below), the right balances can be found. While the southern regions of China might generally be full of more rice dishes, here at Muodu they seem to excel with perfectly cooked noodles. The aroma in these almost feels burnt, but in the best way.
 
 

Served on a bed of softer, longer-cooked rice noodles are the house special meatball ($9.25, above), which feature two large lion's head meatballs (狮子头). These get their name from the shape, supposed to mimic that of the head of the famous Chinese guardian lion.
 
This dish originates in the neighboring cities of Zhenjiang and Yangzhou, just up the Yangtze River from Shanghai in Jiangsu Province. More recently, it has sort of been absorbed by the catch-all term of "Shanghainese cuisine" especially as more people from those cities moved for work opportunities.
 

The most pleasing and unique dish on the menu might possibly be the potherb mustard with meat noodle soup ($8.75, above), which relies on small ribbons of pork like the rice cake dish but is notable because of its extreme herbal nature.
 
The mustard greens are pickled and combined with broth that again provides a deep comfort. Despite having so much competition in one bowl, the noodles again shine and are cooked just right. This is of course not a vegetarian dish, but feels bright and clean.

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Sunday, 17 January 2021

Steel Pan Pizza

USA 🇺🇸
(MICHIGAN)

COVID-19 UPDATE: As of this visit on January 3rd, the Rodeo 39 Public Market where Steel Pan Pizza is located is still providing outdoor tables and chairs and people are using them. The market is large enough to feel safe going in to order, grabbing your food to go, and leaving if that is your preference (like mine).

Detroit-style pizza proves that the pizza emoji is not all-inclusive. In fact, it does not even begin to describe the experience of eating Detroit-style pizza. Humanity has a long way to go with such narrow-minded emoji options.
 
This new spot that opened up along with the recently renovated Rodeo 39 Public Market gets its name from the history of this style of pizza. The origins go back to cooking in industrial trays that were meant for other uses and had nothing to do with pizza, creating this unique shape and thickness.
 

Cheese is used not just on top, but also underneath and on the edges, giving the crust a crispy and slightly burnt feel. Inside, the middle is still chewy and soft.
 
The cuppy 'roni ($10.50, above and below) pie is a good place to start. Each pie is the same size, a square that is cut into four quadrants. The thin pepperoni cups catch a bit less grease than their thicker counterparts on that hate-filled pizza from New York, but as a whole this pie is fantastic.
 

Steel Pan uses good ingredients for everything they prepare, including the Caesar salad and fries that are slightly visible above and make a good addition for rounding out a meal.
 
While it just appears to be a fresh arugula pie, the Steel Pan style pizza ($12.50, below) is actually an overload of ingredients. Beneath that blanket of greens and Parmesan are grilled chicken and applewood smoke bacon as well as mushrooms. This pie uses a white sauce rather than red.
 
 

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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 or click here to send PayPal donation, no account is necessary. Thank you!

Friday, 15 January 2021

Ají Verde

PERÚ 🇵🇪

COVID-19 UPDATE: The large space is just open for takeout at the moment. They are also on all the blood-sucking delivery apps, but calling in the order yourself and picking up only takes about 15 minutes, and they'll even bring it to your car.

For most of its time on Earth, the back corner units of the MoonStone Square shopping plaza have been empty, possibly an undesirable location hidden from those passing by at high speeds on Alondra Blvd. One of the two units was briefly home in 2019 to a small taqueria specializing in tacos al vapor, but this did not last very long.
 
2020 wreaked havoc on the restaurant world, and presumably delayed the opening of Ají Verde, which combined the two spaces to make a grand restaurant. But in early November they opened their doors and are trying to get through the end of the pandemic before becoming what could be a really fun place to have dinner in Southeast Los Angeles.
 

Until that big dining room can be filled, takeout orders are done very nicely here, each served with a portion of a split pea and chicken soup. This had corn and potatoes within and was delicious enough to have it as a main course. You also get an enormous amount of their homemade ají verde, which after being enjoyed with these meals started to get used on sandwiches and other lunches later.

A good foundation to know what kind of chef you are dealing with at a Peruvian restaurant is the basic ceviche mixto ($15, above), listed here in the appetizer section and full of fish, calamari, and shrimp, all fresh as could be. It is surrounded by boiled and fried corn, lettuce, and sweet potato. Peruvian ceviche is strained after "cooking" in lime juices and spices and served dry, but they include a small shot of the tart marinade known as leche de tigre for you to do with as you want.

Unconsciously wanting to keep the theme green, an order of tallarin verde ($11.60, above) was placed. You can also get this served with breaded steak for a bit more, but on this occasion the quarter chicken was desired. Rather than ají, the green is created here by a cheesy sauce given its color by basil and spinach. A side of Parmesan cheese is ready to sprinkle on top.

The spinach is a northern substitute for the albahaca that would be used in Perú, a green that looks similar but has a much more distinctive taste. You can choose dark or white meat when ordering, and either way this dish is a good way to grab some pollo a la brasa without committing to a full order of it.


If you happen to be here for a weekday lunch, turn the menu over and check out the amazing prices for their lunch specials. Many Peruvian classics are here to choose from, like their very good rendition of lomo saltado ($7.50 lunch price, above). Since this dish has gravy poured over fries, it begs to be eaten immediately if possible, but if you cannot, remove the fries at home and air fry them while warming the rest up more traditionally.
 
No matter what, those fries are where much of the taste comes from as they have soaked up all that delicious gravy. The sauteed strips of lomo were all good cuts, the combination of everything is definitely worth the regular price of $13.35 but at lunch it's basically theft.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

TriniStyle Cuisine

🇹🇹 TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

COVID-19 UPDATE: For the time being, this is an outdoor stand that takes walk-up customers on Saturday evenings from 16:00-21:00.

If you use Google Maps to search for TriniStyle Cuisine, it will lead you to a residential address in Lancaster in the northern reaches of Los Angeles County. Street View will clearly show the truck above parked at the house though, its red and white checkered pattern like that of a tablecloth in an Italian red sauce restaurant.
 
On Saturdays, this truck is driven across the county by its owner from her house to the tiny Century Plaza on the border of Gramercy Park and Westmont in South Los Angeles. They set up their operations under the cover in the middle elbow of the plaza, and plan to move into the space just behind this "soon," the usual length of time when waiting on contractors, paperwork, and bureaucracy.


Until then, when presumably days of operation will expand and hours will be much longer, make a plan to visit them on a Saturday evenings at sunset and dance to the rhythm of this plaza for a small amount of time. Hopefully by summer there are far less COVID concerns, but even now the parking lot is alive with music from a Jamaican flag-colored mobile barber van and the outdoor (and out of your car) nature of the neighborhood, many of whose residents were walking up to the stand in curiosity.
 
After spending some time at Manchester and Van Ness earlier in 2020, then over to Manchester and Western, the TriniStyle team moved to their new location in November and anxiously await their move-in to become a bricks and mortar. This corner is perfect for them, and does the best Los Angeles can to replicate the central nightlife district in Port of Spain.
 

For anyone that has enjoyed themselves in Trinidad and Tobago's capital city, you know that any night out will almost certainly include walking up to at least one of the many vendors that bring their stacks of home-prepared bara and vat of chana curry, along with jars of many chutneys. Doubles ($3, above) are often eaten for breakfast but are just as good or better as a late night snack. This banner food of the country is knocked out of the park here in South Los Angeles.

TriniStyle Cuisine's two fluffy pieces of bara are the perfect stage for their delightful chickpea curry. Take every single chutney they offer especially tamarind, make it spicy like a doubles wants to be, and also enjoy the slight crunchiness they add with chopped up cucumber. Pack the wet napkins and eat your doubles in the parking lot (take it to your trunk please, we are in a pandemic) before grabbing the rest of your order to take home. These deserve to be eaten immediately.


While even hanging out with masks during these times is an enjoyable experience because of the group's hospitality and the atmosphere created at the corner, warm summer nights and hopefully some outdoor tables in the future are something much to look forward to at Century Plaza.
 
The priciest item on the menu is probably stewed fish ($17, above), which is served in a massive circular container and includes big chunks of meaty mackerel (and sometimes red snapper depending on market prices). The sauce of the stew is excellent and oily, fun to mix around and dilute with cabbage and the Trini-style rice and peas. Worth every penny when you find it as the weekly special.


Available every (Satur)day is the stand's fine chicken roti ($11, above), which can do battle with any other in the city. The most prominent difference here is that the meat is still bone-in, just like if you popped into a roti shop in the Caribbean to grab your lunch. Entry level user friendly rotis will get you media coverage and can even be quite tasty, but this is the ultimate craving finisher that Caribbeans will be seeking out.
 
The wrap itself is a fatty, probably more than a meal for all but the biggest appetites. The homemade dhalpuri roti is wonderful and still dusty from the dried yellow split peas used in its making. Bread lovers will be in an extra heavenly place when they find those folds near the end with multiple layers.

Monday, 11 January 2021

New York Style Chimis & More

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 🇩🇴

COVID-19 UPDATE: This is a walk-up stand. Orders can be placed ahead of time or through apps for delivery. The picnic tables are currently unavailable.

Despite being thoroughly Dominican, it is surprising that this new Bellflower walk-up restaurant puts New York in its name rather than the country. Perhaps the influx of Caribbean-descended folks that now make Los Angeles their home are mostly arriving via New York City, the undisputed hub of expats from the island nation.

In true nature to a Dominican-run bodega in New York, the menu veers all over the place with gyros, quesadillas, and wings all on offer, but a few categories make this a first of its kind in Los Angeles County, and a welcome respite for sure for all of those relocating from the east coast.


There is no shame in the occasional craving for some fast food. These junk food desires may come late at night, or maybe just for lunch. Thankfully in your city these meals do not have to lead you to a Burger King, since the junk food habits of many cultures exist here for all to enjoy. And along those lines, look no further than that namesake chimi ($6.50, above, short for chimichurri burger).
 
The thin beef patty always seems to be the least important ingredient on the sandwich. The special sauce of a chimi is salsa golf, a fancy way to say "mayo and ketchup." The bread should always be pan de agua, and a decent pile of chopped cabbage is essential. Each chef will have their own way to make the sandwich their own, but the basic ingredients are usually the same.
 

While shredded meats and sauces have been going on patacones in the Dominican Republic for quite a while, it may have been in New York where the shop owners started following suit with their Venezuelan brothers and turning them into sandwiches of the same name. In a Dominican restaurant you always know the difference because the older, open-faced, dish still goes by the more common tostones or platano frito.

A patacón ($8.95, above and below) is a messy monster and probably pairs best with shredded pork. Tomato and lettuce mix with another liberal application of salsa golf, and since the plantain "bun" is firm be prepared for those things to slip out very quickly. This is not driving food.

New York Style Chimis & More opened about eight months ago, just as the pandemic was kicking into high gear in Southern California. Being somewhat new, their menu keeps evolving and you should look out for weekend specials like this past Sunday's mangú con tres golpes (three hits), which will raise the heart rate of any homesick Dominican.

This specialty centers around mangú, a dish of boiled plantains that is mashed with butter and topped with sauteed vinegary onions. The "three hits" are a fried egg, fried cheese, and fried Dominican salami. It can be eaten at anytime of day but is especially popular for breakfast and hangover cures.


If there was a miss on the first visit, it would probably be the quipe ($2.50, above and below) which was far too dry to give proper dues to its Lebanese roots. Future meals will include fried empanadas instead. Other highlights of the menu include Dominican-style hot dogs that have cheese, bacon, corn, and more salsa golf, while mofonguito is another NYC-Caribbean mashup with roots in Puerto Rico.

Feeling like your heart could use a bit of clogging? Meet the mighty king of Dominican junk food that goes by the name yaroa. Traditionally this dish is made with plantains as well but a version with French fries has become just as popular. Don't plan on using your fingers though, as this is more of a casserole by the time the meat of your choice, a thick layer of mozzarella, mayo and ketchup, and a squirt of nacho cheese are on there. Dame esa vaina!

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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 or click here to send PayPal donation, no account is necessary. Thank you!