>> Eat the World Los Angeles

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Cetana Mon Myanmar Restaurant

MYANMAR 🇲🇲

[COVID-19 UPDATE: Cetana Mon took about a month off at the beginning of the shut down, but has re-opened for takeout with a more limited menu for now.]

With a smattering of locations spread out all around town, the cuisine of Myanmar is not the most in-your-face food in and around Los Angeles, but it is also not the rare find that many Daw Yee-only diners make it out to be. This El Monte restaurant, which took over the former site of Little Malaysia at the very beginning of 2017, has quietly lived like many of its peers, without making any waves in big media.


For anyone who has traveled or lived in Myanmar, some of the strongest sensual memories come from early mornings sitting over spicy bowls of mohinga, the fish noodle stew that is ubiquitous on busy streets. Especially on cold winter mornings, pots are steaming well before the sun comes up and tired faces sit together slurping before work.

Depending on the night you visit, a schedule not quite clear enough to make suggestions yet, dishes can be hit or miss here. One of the unfortunate misses was the mohinga ($6.99, above), a dish that seemed universally praised on the small bit of mentions the restaurant gets online. I suppose if Daw Yee is the only frame of reference you have for the dish, it could be considered well done here, but it certainly will not satisfy those with early morning memories from Myanmar.


The other most well-known Burmese dish tea leaf salad ($9.99, above) is fortunately on the hit list, checking off all the boxes that it must. It is hard to rival the amount of fighting yet balanced flavors and textures that are all at work in this salad, spicy and sour and funky, crunchy and soft and slimy.

On their website they show all the different components of the salad before mixing, a way of presentation that will require the server to mix at the table. Disappointingly the dish arrives pre-mixed, but the high quality of it made up for this.

BIG MISS: Tofu salad ($7.99).

HIT: Shan noodles ($8.99).

HIT: Nan gyi thoke ($7.99).

MISS: Boiled egg in tomato sauce ($8.99).

🇲🇲🇲🇲🇲🇲
EL MONTE San Gabriel Valley
3944 Peck Road

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!

Monday, 29 June 2020

Tire Shop Taqueria/Taqueria San Miguel

MÉXICO 🇲🇽
(BAJA CALIFORNIA)

Even if you are not following the latest and greatest trends on Instagram and reading food media constantly, the plumes of smoke that emanate from this South Los Angeles taco stand during the evening will eventually come into your life. They are the first sign of something special. The second is the fantastic smell that comes inside your car windows on a nice night as you cruise on Avalon.

The third sign, and what seals the deal, is the perpetual line of hungry souls always here waiting for their turn to order. Finding a place to park nearby is not usually all that hard, as most of the businesses in the area are closed for the night and besides tacos and laundry, not much is happening once the sun goes down.

For years, this stand had no formal name and English speakers would refer to it "Tire Shop Taqueria," a name that even shows up still on Google Maps. The stand always set up in the parking lot of the tire shop called El Jarocho, so the name was fitting and fun. References to the stand by Spanish speakers often called it "El Jarocho Tacos," for the same reason.


While the tire shop has apparently moved on recently, and the stand has switched parking lots to the other side of the building, the name remains. Feeling the need to give themselves a brand, signs for "Taqueria San Miguel" have been up for a couple years now, but if you told someone that was your destination, absolutely no one would know what you were talking about.

One thing remains constant, this operation is truly professional and that line which seems daunting always moves very quickly. By the time you get your bearings and start to think about your order, the first lady will approach you asking how many quesadillas and mulitas you want. She will press large tortillas for those and get them started before you reach the first station. There you will find the constant pressing of more masa for all of the tacos.


When you reach the taquero, your order for tacos is taken and the real show begins. He grabs the proper amount of tortillas, cuts all the meat, and starts flipping salsa and everything else into the air and down into your taco. Each one is made in under ten seconds even if you did order con todo.

When answering affirmative for that at a Baja-style stand, it lands you avocado salsa in addition to their delicious red salsa, chopped onions, and cilantro. On the grill to the taquero's left you will notice long, thin cuts of carne asada and bright red chorizo sausages charring, together the reason for that smoke noticeable from nearby blocks.


Those should be your hint on what to order here, both are what this stand does best. The cabeza is pretty good, the al pastor is fine, but these can be found better elsewhere in the city so resist the urge to diversify and concentrate.

Each taco is large, and made with just one of their handmade tortillas, a bit thicker than standard. These hold up very well and don't leave half the meat in your lap while also providing a corn flavor boost to your bites, something most tortillas these days cannot claim.


There are a few tables, but seating is limited. Come with someone that needs a chair and undoubtedly one will be freed by another patron for them. Just hang out for a bit and your group will be able to sit, as turnover is high. Everyone is in a good mood from eating such good tacos, and they know the drill.

Taking a bite of that first carne asada taco here is an experience you will always remember. The slices of skirt steak seem to be vacuum-sealed with smokiness, the cuts of meat juicy and tender. It is a wonder that the price is not double for such high quality.


With such a bright color, the taste of the chorizo has a lot to live up to. Somehow, it not only does that, but surpasses the expectations by miles, the spices in each bite are quite extraordinary. The balance of every ingredient, including their spicy red salsa makes you wonder about all the times you put a mediocre taco in your body.

An order of the mulita (below) can be a good way to combine the two meats, but otherwise is an absolute gut bomb. Since their tortillas are thick, it becomes a bit heavy with masa, without enough cheese to balance. It is quite full of meat though, and again very high value. If this is to your taste, you will not be disappointed.


After sitting down and getting your hands free, don't forget to grab some of the complimentary beans and grilled onions to round our your meal, and order one of their homemade aguas frescas to wash it all down.

Is there room for another taco or two? Probably.

The lavanderia does not like taco customers.


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, 26 June 2020

Sakura-Ya

JAPAN 🇯🇵

[COVID-19 UPDATE: The business has always been setup for takeout, and continues to do so during the pandemic. They are closed Monday and Tuesday.]

Sakura-Ya on S. Western Avenue is the type of place that has caused plenty of ink to be spilled about how it never seems to change, or maybe that you walked through a time warp when you open the front door, or possibly how much there is to wax poetic about the generations of history involved behind this counter.


And for good reason. These pages would have done the same thing had there not already been plenty out there to read already. You know about Sakura-Ya already; maybe you have never been or maybe you have been coming since you were a child like our friend LauHound who was the first to insist on a visit.

As seen on the ever-changing menu above, those $1.90 balls of goodness are available in two varieties: The more popular mochi rice flour and also manju wheat flour. While the mochi are classic, and incredible here, it always pays to grab a few manju just to enjoy the difference.
 
Sweet azuki bean with soy bean powder.

The price seems to slip up a nickel or a dime on each visit (admittedly too infrequent), but for the price there is hardly better bang for your buck. The recipe and style of everything has not changed much from when they first opened in 1960, which tells you just about everything you need to know.

Don't fix what is not broken.

Sweet azuki bean.

In some modern shops you will see modern interpretations, and while there is obviously nothing wrong with this, there is just something pure and real about the mochi and manju at Sakura-Ya.

You can buy as many as you like, but the shop has never "upgraded" to any wholesale business, making walk-in customers not only their priority, but their livelihood.

Sweet white bean.

Japanese mugwort with red bean.

Mashed sweet potato.

Crushed chestnut.

🇯🇵🇯🇵🇯🇵
GARDENA South Bay
16134 S. Western Avenue

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!

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Mariscos Guillen

MÉXICO 🇲🇽

[COVID-19 UPDATE: Despite having very little presence online, Mariscos Guillen is open for pickup and takeout orders. Give them a call to confirm hours and menu.]

On flights in and out of LAX, avoided when possible but sometimes inevitable, the silver lining is always food. For a while it was Mariscos Chente that was the first destination when returning, but lately the Lyft instructions usually point toward 106 Seafood Underground. Before most travel came to a halt, a recent trip returned on a Tuesday, Chef Sergio's day off, and afforded the opportunity to seek out more LAX-adjacent mariscos, this time in Hawthorne.

Mariscos Guillen, named for the original owner, was a fun lunch find and much more than the simple counter-service joint it presents itself as. The menu of offerings is actually quite vast, but the stack of tostadas near the register for ordering might clue you into what most people are eating here.


With a truck that parks in Inglewood and another bricks and mortar location in Santa Monica they call "La Playita," the franchise makes a name for itself up and down the 405. None of them are fancy, remaining workaday mariscos joints through and through. You will see construction workers and locals here, people that demand a lot for their money.

Pay in cash, take your seat, and get settled. As simple dishes like the ceviche tostada ($2.50, above) are enjoyed, someone will come over and make sure everything is good. The place has all the makings of a joint you want to become a regular in.


If you are more interested in clean, fresh shrimp unadorned, the shrimp tostada ($6, above) is a good call. A little surprising, but then again not really, was the offer of ketchup. "Is that the style here?"

"Yes."

Add a little heat with their delicious salsa made with chiles de arból, which could really be slathered over everything.


For those that want a few more ingredients and fresh vegetables, the fish and shrimp tacos (above) are an even better choice, coming with their house-made smoky mayo. The chef does a great job toasting up the tortillas.

Make sure to add more of that salsa on top of the mayo, and prepare yourself to walk back up to the counter to order some micheladas once you notice most of the other customers enjoying them. Settle in, you're already a regular.


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!

Monday, 25 May 2020

Berolina Bakery & Pastry Shop

SWEDEN 🇸🇪

[COVID-19 UPDATE: The bakery is open for pre-order and takeout business. The best place to order ahead is through their online store.]

Despite being around since the 1960's, it was in 1991 that Berolina Bakery & Pastry Shop switched to its current ownership, a married team with roots in Stockholm, Sweden and Antwerp, Belgium. The couple had met in California four years prior to this and moved to Sweden together, but came back and transformed their new purchase into the European baking specialist it is today.

Overlooking a section of Verdugo Road in the northern foothills of Glendale, the bakery has the feeling of belonging to a bohemian town many miles away from the big city. Groups of cyclists and outdoor types roll in with all their equipment and take a break, enjoying the pleasant outdoor seating especially during months that are not blazing hot.


While the café does have a strong Swedish and Scandinavian flare, on any given day the general "European" term holds true as the racks are stocked with Bretagne-style pastries, while Brussels waffles are a breakfast favorite. Grab a bag of Norwegian knekkerbrød, a toasted bread cracker, or Swedish limpa, a fragrantly sweet rye bread filled with anise seeds and orange zest. If you are feeling super-extravagant, try Swedish princess cake, known as Prinsesstårta, full of thick cream and jam and topped with marzipan.

The Swedish cinnamon roll (above) is so light it almost floats off the plate and is nothing like the sticky sweet versions more often found in airports or shopping malls. A layer of crunchy crumbled sugar gives an enjoyable texture to the roll.


Come in the morning to take advantage of their breakfast sets, of which the simple Scandinavian breakfast ($7.50, above) provides the best sense of transport to your friend's cabin in the woods outside of Stockholm.

It comes with coffee and very fresh orange juice, a bread roll and Danish of your choice, and slices of havarti cheese. The poppy seed roll pairs nicely with the cheese, and the coffee is surprisingly good for a Swedish café. The Danish is just as light and delicious as the cinnamon roll, and for the price the set is quite a steal.

🇸🇪🇸🇪🇸🇪

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!

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Moqueca Brazilian Restaurant

BRAZIL 🇧🇷

[COVID-19 UPDATE: Both of Ventura County's Moqueca locations closed down when the state ordered restaurants to stop dine-in services, but on 08 May they reopened for takeout, curbside pickup, and delivery (including caipirinhas!) All the information is on their website.]

Right off of Thousand Oaks' main drag and anchoring the west end of a new-ish strip mall, Oxnard's beloved Moqueca Brazilian Restaurant has expanded to a second location that is almost four years old now. For those driving from Los Angeles County, travel times to enjoy the wonderful seafood stews of Brazil's Espírito Santo state have been cut down with easy to access right off the 101.

The dining room at both locations is sleek and modern, a white table cloth affair but far from stuffy or pretentious. Colorful artwork adorns the walls while bottles of cachaça line the back bar, both telling a different story than the formal dining scene and joining the music to create a fun vibe.


The mostly Brazilian staff is attentive and efficient, and possibly because of location and past experience, will go directly into an explanation of Brazilian food as if you have never even heard of the country before.

As you peruse the drinks menu, inspired by that bar in the back, it would be a mistake to not follow their cues and enjoy one of their caipirinhas. The house caipirinha ($11, above) uses Leblon cachaça and is made with real skill and freshness.


Much of the menu of the restaurant focuses on the foods of Espírito Santo, the birthplace of the original chef in Oxnard. One item that deviates from this is the plate of coxinhas ($12, above), originally a food from São Paulo but enjoyed throughout much of Brazil now.

These are quite a bit smaller than the fried snacks you will find sold out of restaurant windows everywhere in cities, but retain the signature teardrop shape that is a nod to the original that once was made with a chicken thigh (coxinha means "little chicken thigh.") Nowadays most are filled with shredded spiced chicken, onions, parsley, scallions, and sometimes catupiry cheese.


More typical of the central coast state are starters like the casquinha de caranguejo ($8, above), which is named "crab shell" for the item that is most often used to serve it. This crab meat appetizer is served here in a small clay replica, mixed with spices and cream cheese, and baked with a parmesan crust.

The namesake dish of the restaurant is also served in the state of Bahia, but even these neighbors have very distinct regional variations.The more northern version in that state is known as moqueca baiana or moqueca peixada, and is a further evolution of the moqueca capixaba from Espírito Santo. The version from Bahia takes local African and Portuguese influences, adding more palm oil and coconut milk.


The moquecas offered here are of course the capixaba versions, which are lighter because of their use of extra virgin olive oil rather than palm oil. Only a touch of coconut milk is added, along with urucum essence in the tomato-based stew. The moqueca is always a seafood dish, but there are many options. For a bowl of good variety, the moqueca de peixe com mariscos ($27, above), is a good choice including large high-quality cuts of whitefish and a mix of shellfish.

This portion is meant for one according to the menu, but it is plenty to share between two or three people if you plan to order other dishes. A plate of wonderfully-oily Brazilian-style white rice is served with it, but add the delicious feijão ($4, above in back) to get an important plate of black beans on the table.


Any moqueca served in Espírito Santo will come in the black clay bowl seen above, which Moqueca Restaurant imports from the state. These beloved pots are glazed with the sap of mangrove trees and must be seasoned with oil multiple times before use.

Save some room (or just submit to gluttony) and grab the dessert menu, which includes both the unique pavé de amendoim ($7, above), and pudim de caramelo ($7, below).


As the desserts were polished off and belts loosened, a restaurant full of joy continued unabated. A birthday party with children, a group of Chinese feasters, and a few Brazilians were scattered around all talking happily amongst each other.

Both Thousand Oaks and Oxnard will be better places when these dining rooms are open again, and all of the greater Los Angeles area is lucky to have such quality regional Brazilian available.



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!

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Brussels Bistro

BELGIUM 🇧🇪

[COVID-19 UPDATE: As of this post, Brussels Bistro is open and selling frozen sous-vide meals to prepare at home. They can deliver and have set daily pickup times for online orders. Find out more and order at their website.]

Before the world changed, Brussels Bistro was one of the most happening happy hours in southern Orange County. They now have two locations, one in San Clemente and the one visited for this article in Laguna Beach.

After happy hour ends, you may find the bar and most of the restaurant clear out, but it is just as likely that it stays vibrant, especially on Tuesdays when they offer all you can eat mussels, of which it takes eating more than 11 pounds to get close to the record.


Those mussels, also available in limited portions, are very satisfying and of course are always served with a cone of crisp fries. The moules marinières ($17 small portion, above) is bathed in a sauce of butter and white wine, as well as plenty of garlic, celery, and onions.

While enjoying this pot of mussels, two birthday parties got into full form, desserts were brought out with lit fireworks and plenty of singing. Along with the Belgian beers going fast during happy hour, it further cemented the place's atmosphere of joy and celebration. While there are plenty of couples that come here for good meals, a majority of the customers seem to be groups.


Bitterballen ($9, above) are fried balls originating in the Netherlands but also hugely popular in Belgium. These croquettes can have quite a variety of ingredients, while the ones here are served with minced beef thickened up with flour, parsley, onion, and pepper. It all takes on the texture of pâté.

The fact that these are a great snack for drinking is right there in the name. Bitterballen are a type of bittergarnituur, or "garnish for bitters." It does not take a taste for bitters though, as the balls pair just fine with a strong Belgian beer or possibly a glass of Dutch genever. No matter what you are drinking, the spicy mustard it comes with should never be passed over.


One of the more interesting and more rare offerings on the menu is served in another deep metal pot, this time full of meatballs made of beef and pork. Boulets Liégeoises ($21, above) take their name from the city of their birth, Liège. The meats are combined with bread and smothered in a gravy that is both sweet and sour.

Every once in a while you will bite down on an even sweeter raisin, a wonderful balance to savory bites. Get ready to eat more fries because this comes served with them as well. And when you are bad-mouthing the (100% factually correct) folks that are dipping their frites in mayonnaise, do it quietly as not to offend.



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!