>> Eat the World Los Angeles

Friday, 17 September 2021

Naga Cafe Khmer Street Food

CAMBODIA 🇰🇭

COVID-19 UPDATE: The dining room is open although most customers get pickup or takeout.

Walking into one of Cambodia Town's newest eateries, you see photos of what gets to the essence of Cambodia's image quickly. Along with the iconic Angkor Wat, a city scene, and traditional dance, another photo shows a street vendor grilling skewers of chicken. These photos are hung above about half of the small restaurant's seating; a long, communal table that seems sadly out of place in 2021 but hopefully sees more glory days very soon.

Alas, for now most customers are coming in from nearby businesses and homes during the lunch hour to grab their meals to go. But sitting down here is enjoyable, watching the rhythms of the restaurant, the limes being squeezed for their fresh lime soda or coffee grinding for a cappuccino.

Since "street food" is in the name, it makes sense to choose those foods you will find cooked and put together on the curb in Cambodia's cities. But then again, almost all food is street food in Southeast Asia, as many restaurants have kitchens in front with bowls of noodles put together in front of everyone, attracting more customers.

In addition to the regular menu, a chalkboard off to the side lists some "off the menu" items like spring rolls and Naga wings, the latter of which has hand-drawn fire emojis before and after. The place is small, probably family-run, and can get a little discombobulated at its busiest lunch hours, but come mid-afternoon or in the evening and you might have to look for someone behind the counter.

Start with one of their fresh num pang, Cambodia's rival to the more well-known banh mi. You will often find these made with a more round roll, but here at Naga they also use the longer French-style baguette like their neighbors. It is toasted a bit over fire and is just as nice as some of the top banh mi spots.

Called "Khmer sandwiches" on their menu, the BBQ pork ($7, above and below) takes those skewers from the photo and puts them between bread. You can also get the beef or chicken, but the sweetness of this pork marinade might pair the best with the stack of fresh and pickled vegetables and slice of jalapeño.

When in the mood for beef, save that order for the beef skewers rice plate ($10, below). A scoop of rice serves as the perfect pair to the trio of slightly charred skewers. A cup of pickled green papaya and carrots also comes with this and can help to cut through richness if desired.

These three same meats are available on the rice plates, or you can go for grilled prawns, which looked quite tasty on someone else's tray on a recent visit. Naga Cafe also makes a shrimp fried rice if you are in the mood.


First and second on the menu and obviously worth your time are bowls suited for some of the cooler recent weather but delicious any day of the year. Noodle soups are fawned over during the winter months in Los Angeles, but Cambodia never really cools down, making noodle enjoyment a year-round activity.

The base of the soup is the same for all options, but once again you have the choice of many meats in your bowl. The house special Phnom Penh noodle ($11, below) is attractive for its variety, a combination of sliced and ground pork, liver, pork meatballs, chicken, crispy duck, and shrimp. Pretty much a taste of everything in the bowl.

House special Phnom Penh noodle

The bowl is simple and comforting as it should be, and topped with plenty of fried garlic. Squeeze in fresh lime and add the pickled hot peppers as desired (all of them, please!). Everything is fresh and satisfying, especially at the price point and indeed leads to a very full belly.

The restaurant does not open until 11:00 each day, but you can get rice porridges typically eaten for breakfast at any time. Once again the house special version is the most alluring; the house rice porridge ($9, below) has pork blood, pork belly, liver, and shrimp.

House rice porridge

Fried garlic once again plays a big roll in each bite, and lime juice and pickled peppers are begging to be added as well. The only thing missing is a fresh piece of cha kway to eat it with.

A bit over two years old now, Naga Cafe is a really pleasant addition to the food scene in Long Beach, making quick and tasty Cambodian takeout available for those without the time for a full sit down meal.

📍 3225 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., Signal Hill, The Harbor

🇰🇭🇰🇭🇰🇭

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 please tell your friends about us and if 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, 15 September 2021

Lẩu Tôm 5 Ri

VIETNAM 🇻🇳
Facade of Lau Tom 5 Ri

COVID-19 UPDATE: The dining room is open and a couple tables are outside in the parking lot with a heat lamp for night seating. The staff, unlike a lot of the county, is masked.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The flag of Vietnam is used as a placeholder and not a political statement.

While popular ramen chains from Japan and barbecue and other specialists from Korea are constantly setting up shop for their respective expat and multi-generational communities in and around Los Angeles, the Vietnamese of Orange County have a bit different relationship with "back home." If something is trending in Bangkok, you will most certainly find it within a year or two in Thai Town. But does the area see the hottest new ideas from Hanoi, Hue, and Ho Chi Minh City?

While Vietnamese people started showing up as a result of the failed American War in Vietnam in the last half of the 1970's, not a ton has changed in the decades since, as this time period also served as a severing of lives and families. Therefore it was with some excitement that the words "Bien Hoa, Since 1992" showed up under the sign of new Lau Tom 5 Ri in Fountain Valley, alluding to a business that has decided to make the jump and open stateside.

Sweet snails with tamarind sauce (ốc hương rang me)

When counted alone, Bien Hoa is the fifth largest city in Vietnam and lies just northeast of Ho Chi Minh City. As one of the biggest locations of resistance to the North Vietnamese after the fall, it almost makes sense to see one of its restaurants become a hot spot in Orange County, a place you will still rarely if ever see the flag of Vietnam to this day. The beloved foods of the Mekong Delta region, not too far away from Bien Hoa, are what you will find here, using the fresh catch of Southern California as a substitute.

You can start a meal with one of four sauce options on sweet snails (oc huong), big, meaty creatures of surprising length once fished from their shells. Oc huong rang me ($15, above) are in a very good tamarind sauce, but you can also select crowd favorite salted egg yolk, garlic butter, and lemongrass versions. Regardless of what you decide, the snails are cooked very fresh.

Spicy grilled squids (mực nướng sa tế)

On this occasion an order of the popular sugarcane shrimp or chao tom were unfortunately unavailable, but this was forgotten as soon as the muc nuong sa te ($12, above) hit the table. These spicy grilled squid are cooked over fire, giving them burnt edges and smokiness to combine with the excellent marinade.

The spicy dipping sauce they come with will start to get used by pieces of everything else on the table, as it is outrageously delicious. The meaty chunks of squid have the pleasant consistency closer to a fine steak or pork chop than they do to cheap bar snack calamari.

House special prawns hot pot (small) Lẩu Tôm Càng Đặc Biệt

No matter how good the starters are though, everything seems like build-up to the main event of canh chua, a soup made sour by tamarind and served in a hot pot (lẩu). It is also a bit sweet from pineapples and tomatoes and full of morning glory, okra, and a doc mung, which was being freshly chopped up in the back as the meal began.

In Bien Hoa and Ho Chi Minh City locations of this restaurant as well as many other businesses, this soup is often served with the freshwater fish found in the Mekong River Delta. It can also be paired with prawns, squid, fish cakes, or even spare ribs or quail eggs.

House special prawns hot pot (small) Lẩu Tôm Càng Đặc Biệt

Here in Fountain Valley the top options for the soup are shrimp and prawns, and it is hard not to select the version with the largest freshwater prawns, the house special lau tom cang dac biet ($43 small, above). These are almost comically large, with heads ready to be sucked. A plate of pre-cooked vermicelli noodles is served alongside, which you can add to the hot pot or to your individual bowls.

While the prawns are undoubtedly fresh and divine, the soup itself is the real star here, full of so many flavors to explore. The morning glory (ong choy) is the vegetable that stands out the most, and also is used in salads and many other dishes at the restaurant. In fact, upon venturing out to the parking lot after the meal ended, a delivery of fresh bushels had just arrived in the back of a family member's SUV.

📍 17431 Brookhurst Street, Fountain Valley, Orange County

🇻🇳🇻🇳🇻🇳

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 please tell your friends about us and if 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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Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Persepolis Pizza & Subs

IRAN 🇮🇷
Facade of restaurant

COVID-19 UPDATE: There are four tables which a few people might use inside. Most people are picking up orders. Plastic screens and masks are the norm.

If you have ever spent much time in Iran, you come home with a very clear feeling about how important both food and hospitality are to Iranians. Make friends and suddenly you are the guest of honor in their home, course after elaborate course set in front of you. But the other feeling you will take away is that just like Los Angeles and most other cities, Tehran and Iran's other urban areas love their pizza and sandwiches.

Los Angeles has a large and established enough Iranian diaspora to cater to both of these types of meals as well. Persian sandwiches, led by the beef tongue at Attari Sandwich Shop in Westwood, are seen at quite a few spots in neighborhoods with many Iranians, while Persian-style pizza joints are a little more rare.

On one wall, a history in photos of Persepolis F.C.

Since 2002 Persians in the Valley have been able to enjoy their pizzas from a tiny spot in Reseda named after the former ceremonial capital of the First Persian Empire. Stepping inside you start to feel that it is actually named after one of Tehran's biggest football clubs and perennial Asian Champions League contender Persepolis F.C., which has an entire wall devoted to its history.

There is also a good chance you will walk in to see a football match from Iran or Europe on the television and a group of men watching it at the tables. There may be a pizza in front of them, but there is an even better chance that each has their own "sub" in one hand. Reseda Blvd. seems to be the secret location to find interesting foods at places with "subs" in the title, as just up the street in Northridge the word hides some tasty Sri Lankan food behind it.

Olovieh and mortadella Persian sub

The Persian beef tongue sandwich may have been made famous or put into the lexicon of non-Persians in Los Angeles by rave reviews of Attari, but it is made in other places along with a range of other Persian sandwiches. A large pot sits on the stove in the back of Persepolis which may appear to be some stew or soup being cooked, but it is actually the home to the beef tongue, by far the most popular sandwich made.

Having never strayed from that choice at Attari, it was time to sample some other favorite sandwich ingredients from back home in Iran. Under the "special subs" list, the olovieh and mortadella ($11.99, above) stood out on the initial visit, a combination of two things you can also find commonly on their own. Persian mortadella is actually kalbas, a halal deli meat made from beef or veal rather than pork like in Italy, and filled with pistachios rather than peppercorns. It has a nice strong garlic note and really bumps up the tastiness when paired with the relatively subtle potato salad olovieh (commonly spelled elsewhere as olivieh).

Ash e jo (barley soup)

While they list both a lentil and barley soup available daily, it is more likely that you will find the latter, known as ash e jo ($10.99, above and below). This version is paired down from what you may be used to served in a fancier restaurant, but it acts the part of pizza shop stew, still filled with good comforting flavors.

Pick up a spoon and you will also find plenty of lentils mixed with the barley in this vegetarian stew, as well as some chickpeas and leeks. The top is covered with a mound of freshly chopped parsley, which should be mixed in well for more flavor.

A spoonful of barley

If you happen to dine in the small restaurant and stay long enough to enjoy your soup and sandwiches, you will start to crave those pizzas as you see many of them being picked up. Hardly a word of anything in the shop besides Farsi makes it apparent that these will be of the style you will find in Iran, incredibly cheesy and without a hint of sauce.

There are many pizza styles around the world that a pizza snob would turn their nose up to, but all sorts of these are the ones people knew from back home and nowadays make them have those feelings again. When food makes someone feel home, this is arguably much more successful than another type that earns a "prestigious" award.

"Persepolis" pizza with sossis, mortadella, green peppers, and mushrooms

In Los Angeles, this tiny pizzeria in Reseda may be the closest two Iranian-born parents can come to bringing their family out for pizza night and feeling what it is like back home. Persian pizza is not super different than other pizzas in the States, but would satisfy that small percentage of overlap in a Venn Diagram of folks who love pizza and also do not like marinara sauce.

In its place, another layer of cheese finds its way to the pie, covering the top and many of the toppings. On a Persepolis ($13.99 for a 12", above and below), the namesake pizza has sossis (sausage/hot dog), more mortadella/kalbas, mushrooms, and green peppers above and below the cheesy layers. The whole thing is baked at a high temperature, which allows the cheese and the toppings peeking out to be nicely browned and crisp.

Closer look at the pizza toppings and crust

Like any good Persian pizza purveyor, they offer you ketchup and ranch dressing whether you are eating in or carrying out. Before COVID, you would find squeeze bottles of each on the table when a pizza was ordered. This may seem odd to people having their first, but watch everyone else and you will soon see that both of these are important and heavily used.

The whole pie is dashed with a healthy portion of oregano, making for a pizza with many tastes coming together. For the customer who is willing to transport themself to another land rather than compare with what they might think is a top-quality pizza, Persepolis is guaranteed to hit the right spot. It sure does for its many longtime regular customers.

📍 6900 Reseda Blvd., Reseda, San Fernando Valley

🇮🇷🇮🇷🇮🇷

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 please tell your friends about us and if 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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Monday, 13 September 2021

Kruang Tedd

THAILAND 🇹🇭

COVID-19 UPDATE: A large outdoor area gets popular in the evenings but is quite hot during the day. The air-conditioned interior is open with half a dozen tables for groups.

Despite being open for lunch, if you drive down Hollywood Blvd. in Thai Town during the early afternoon you might not even notice Kruang Tedd, which shares a small strip mall with its more famous neighbor Jumbo's Clown Room. On a night the strip club is open, good luck finding space in the parking lot, which has been further reduced in size by multiple outdoor dining setups.

But once you do find your way in, night time is when you will see Kruang Tedd (and Jumbo's!) alive, with large hot pots over tabletop gas burners and raw meats ready to grill. Coming to do one or both of these setups is the reason to dine here, but the rest of the menu should not be ignored as there are definitely some stars, as well as some to pass.

Grilled pork jowl

No future meal can be imagined here without a quick order of grilled pork jowl ($12, above) which served as a last-minute replacement for the sold out gai yang one night. While the pork itself is just about perfect, the more significant event is unlocking the nam jim jaew for the table. This dipping sauce is a wonderful homemade version and can be used on everything going forward.

In English, the spicy crispy morning glory ($14, below) does not quite tell the tale of where the "spicy" is coming from, a freshly prepared bowl of ground pork, shrimp, and nam prik pow. The last ingredient is made from a chili oil shrimp paste and packs the punch. Take spoonfuls of it and a few ultra-crispy sticks of morning glory together for some really great bites to start any meal.

Spicy crispy morning glory ยำผักบุ้งกรอบ

KT Jim Jum beef set จิ้มจุ่ม ชุดใหญ่

The style of dining here is best setup for groups of at least four people, with $49 set options for either tabletop grilling (moo ka ta) or hot pot cooking (jim jum). For either choice, you can select pork, beef, chicken, or seafood. The kt jim jum beef set ($49, above and below) comes with two trays stacked with sliced beef and two eggs.

Crack an egg over each tray and mix it into the meat as someone else puts the vegetables, glass noodles, garlic and thai chillies into the now boiling broth. Cook the egg-soaked meat, use the provided dipping sauce (nam jim suki), and enjoy. You may have noticed as mentioned that the nam jim jaew was tastier and this could lead to an annoying number of requests to the staff for more.

KT Jim Jum beef set จิ้มจุ่ม ชุดใหญ่

If you prefer not to do your own cooking, you can still enjoy hot pots consisting of a variety of seafood or a large yen ta fo bowl, the latter of which was seen a couple times on other tables and promises to be satisfying on the next visit.

The surprise of the meal may have been the deftness with which the som tum poo plara ($14, below) was executed. This Lao-style version is laced with fermented fish paste (plara) and is served with a fermented black crab (poo). The plate does more than just scratch an itch for those in the mood for som tum, it was completely wiped clean.

Papaya salad (poo plara) ส้มตำปลาร้า

Late nights in Thai cities often lead to orders of large bubbling soups made with Mama, the country's ubiquitous and beloved packaged ramen noodles. One of the favorites is available here: Mama tom yum talay ($20 medium, below), which is a good soup but suffers a bit from the freshness of the seafood, not quite up to Southern California standards.

This is unfortunate since the dishes using Mama can be intensely satisfying when done well, especially when some drinks have been involved.

Mama tom yum talay (medium)

Meals can be finished off with sweets of course, one of which is the coconut ice cream sandwich ($10, below), a riff on what you find from vendors in Thailand. There you will find a cheap snack of a scoop of ice cream placed on one slice of white bread, surprisingly satisfying.

The plate here takes a hot dog bun and gives three scoops, two of coconut and one taro. Coconut jelly, peanuts, and corn are sprinkled over everything, and despite the name it would not be recommended to pick this up. Unfortunately the boring hot dog bun does not combine with the ice cream as well as white bread, but the dish is enjoyable enough before you reach the bottom.

Homemade coconut ice cream sandwich

📍 5151 Hollywood Blvd., Thai Town, East Hollywood

🇹🇭🇹🇭🇹🇭

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 please tell your friends about us and if 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.

Thank you!
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Monday, 6 September 2021

Golden Deli

VIETNAM 🇻🇳
Front facade, courtesy of Google Maps

COVID-19 UPDATE: The interior is open for dining, with plastic dividers between tables and masks required while not at the table.

EDITOR'S NOTES: Part of the "Los Angeles Classics" series. The flag of Vietnam is used as a placeholder and not a political statement.

For as long as you have been eating at restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley, there has been a crowd out front of Golden Deli waiting to be seated. There is obviously a good reason for this: as fads come and go and the masses move on, Golden Deli was never a fad to begin with and most of their customers come from relatively nearby. And they come often.

Like most Vietnamese restaurants in Southern California, the menu is broad and covers a lot of ground, dishes from the North, Central, and South of Vietnam. There are better places to eat banh mi, bun bo hue, and many other dishes in the San Gabriel Valley and Orange County, but in general everything is prepared to a high standard. Golden Deli is no one hit wonder.

Phần chả giò, plate of 5

At the top of any greatest hits of the restaurant, and certainly on top of every table, is a good portion of their delectable cha gio, pork-filled fried spring rolls (they call them egg rolls in English on the menu) wrapped in rice paper. You can order them as a smaller portion of two, or atop any number of dishes, but a full portion of phan cha gio ($11.50, above) comes with a heaping plate of fresh vegetables and herbs to make wraps and plenty of nuoc cham for dipping.

These cha gio are similar to the delicate beauties you may have come across when in Vietnam (called nem or nem ran in the north of the country), made exclusively with a rice paper wrapper and begging to be eaten immediately. Many (most?) places outside of the country have switched to a wheat flour wrapper to give the rolls a longer shelf life, holding up to delivery and allowing for larger batches to be made instead of fried to order.

Bì cuốn, plate of 2

The problem with coming to Golden Deli is that it is the type of place that will ruin those run-of-the-mill cha gio that you may have been enjoying from other places. It is hard to go back after such pleasure. It is a wonder of the world that never does an imperfect roll come out of the kitchen.

The "springrolls" section at the beginning of the menu is a selection of seven non-fried rolls that are usually called "summer rolls" in English. Those like the bi cuon ($5.25, above) are a selection of meat (this has shredded pork and pork skin) wrapped tightly with lettuce and other vegetables and herbs in rice paper. They are all probably better at the place you already think makes the best, but are enjoyable enough here not to pass over if the craving finds you.

Bún chạo tôm nem nướng chả giò

Bowls of bun, a salad of rice vermicelli noodles and vegetables, are frequently seen on other tables and executed very well here. They are priced by how many toppings you receive on top, so this bun chao tom & nem nuong & cha gio (above) comes out to $13.50 while two items will be $11.25. Either way, there is absolutely no skimping on the meats or rolls, this order upped the table's cha gio ante another two full pieces.

Rice plates are just as nice, like this com bi cha chao tom & suon ($14.50, below) which throws the kitchen sink on rice: A thin pork chop, baked egg casserole, shredded pork skin, and fried shrimp paste. Combined with everything else ordered and shared, plates like this are a way to try a little bit of each.

Com bì chả chạo tôm & sườn

The entire cacophony of sights and sounds, plastic plates and chopsticks and thin metal silverware, phones constantly ringing with orders, and the overall busy nature of Golden Deli give it the feeling of any beloved diner you might frequent. And at its roots this is what it is, the foods are not made beautiful when plated, but you know each component was made just right in the kitchen.

At the end of the meal, when the check shows up before asking for it (Hey, they have people waiting!), you even take it up to the register to close out your tab. Fall into the rhythm, sip that last bit of iced coffee, and catch up with your friends outside or somewhere else.

📍 815 W. Las Tunas Drive, San Gabriel, San Gabriel Valley

🇻🇳🇻🇳🇻🇳

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 please tell your friends about us and if 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.

Thank you!
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Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Gish Bac

MÉXICO 🇲🇽
(OAXACA)
Washington Blvd. facade

COVID-19 UPDATE: The interior dining room is back open at full capacity, and they are still using the large tent in the back lot as well. At the time of writing, masks were required for customers when not at the table.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Part of the "Los Angeles Classics" series.

It seems like much longer than just over a decade since this Arlington Heights institution opened and immediately starting attracting Oaxacan communities and general food lovers alike. While it may be slipping off listicles and year-end round-ups that need to infuse freshness and fad, it consistently makes some of the best Oaxacan food in the city and that will probably never change.

For that reason you are likely to hear Zapotec or Mixtec from the adults at neighboring tables, and in the next sentence their children speaking English in response. It may be sleepy for a weekday lunch, but there is always a table or two filled with a couple or men working nearby. Come on a Sunday after one of the Spanish-language masses ends across the street at St. Paul's and it may take a while to get a table.

Chips, mole negro, and a tlayuda are served

In Zapotec, "gish bac" translates roughly to what people from Tlacolula call their city, a name that itself is Nahuatl for "place of abundance." This abundance is probably best seen on a Sunday in the city's famous market, where barbacoa vendors will probably yawn if you tell them you did not know barbacoa was a thing in Oaxaca. There in the state's second largest city, it is most certainly more than a thing.

The other specialties of Oaxaca are all done with a skilled set of hands in the kitchen here, which seemingly never has an off day when it comes to quality. For many diners this starts with the large tlayudas you can see stacked in the kitchen. Like any Oaxacan restaurant worth its salt, these are imported from a trusted source in that state, and because they contain so little water can survive the journey and come back to life when needed.

Tlayuda with cecina and tasajo

To do this, a base layer of asiento is laid down first, followed by a thin streak of beans and stringy cheese before going on the griddle and the rest of the colorful toppings and fresh vegetables are added. You can mix and match up to three meats on your tlayudas, the usuals of cecina, tesajo, and chorizo. A two meat tlayuda (above) costs $16.75 and is already a ton of food.

Note that cecina in Oaxaca is a thinly sliced adobo-rubbed pork loin and tesajo is salt-cured beef. The two pair together wonderfully.

Mole negro

The skill of the kitchen is maybe even more apparent with orders of any of their three moles. Mole negro ($15.85, above) is dark like an oil spill, its gloss reflecting the fluorescent lights overhead. And just like an oil slick, if you look closer you will see different colors within, a hint of the many flavors about to hit your tongue.

Dried chilhaucle negro chiles give the mole its namesake color, but the first flavors to hit your mouth are hoja santa and star anise. Throw in ground nuts, dozens of other herbs, spices, and chiles, and you could spend the entire meal just trying to figure out the ingredients of such a complex and wonderful flavor. Better yet, do not think about it at all and just enjoy bites with some of their big handmade corn tortillas or rice.

Mole coloradito

More on the sweet side (but not overly) and also dark and full of deep reds like the name would suggest, the mole coloradito ($15.85, above) is just as full or somehow maybe even fuller of flavors. Once again, one ingredient does not dominate the others, while the color this time is created by dried ancho chiles.

Both of these moles are presented with chicken and can be enjoyed with dark meat or breast for $2 extra for some reason. The restaurant also makes a mole amarillo that can be eaten with beef or chicken.

Tacos de barbacoa enchilada with consomé

As you may have guessed from the mention earlier, barbacoa plays an important roll at Gish Bac. On weekends you can try the style the chef used to cook in Tlacolula's market; barbacoa blanca named not for the finished product's color but rather the fact that the lamb is not rubbed with adobo or other colorful marinades and uses salt and a simple garlic and oregano paste.

On weekends and any other day you can enjoy the barbacoa enchilada, goat marinaded with chile guajillo. This can be as a full plate or two tacos de barbacoa ($15.45, above) which also comes with a bowl of consomé. If you come on Tuesdays, the price for the two tacos is reduced to $10. The large corn tortillas are full of barbacoa, wrapped like burritos, and much more filling than they might appear in a photo. Squeeze in plenty of lime juice to cut the richness and splash in some of their tasty green salsa that comes with the pre-meal chips if that suits you.

Costillas de puerco en salsa verde

There are a couple dishes that might be seen on the menus of more "general" Mexican restaurants, like costillas de puerco en salsa verde ($14.45, above). If you are in the mood for one of these, it is with great confidence that you know the kitchen will knock it out of the park with their supreme skill.

They have a few nice homemade aguas frescas for $4, but go for the horchata oaxaqueña ($5, below), an upgrade that tops the drink with walnuts, canteloupe, and nieve de tuna. This last ingredient is a wildly popular ice sorbet made with cactus pear. Agua de chilacayota is also available when that gourd is in season.

Horchata Oaxaqueña

📍 4163 W. Washington Blvd., Arlington Heights, Central Los Angeles

🇲🇽🇲🇽🇲🇽

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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 please tell your friends about us and if 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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Monday, 30 August 2021

Poly Grill & Bakery

SAMOA 🇼🇸
Carson Street facade

COVID-19 UPDATE: The small space is limited to four customers at a time, otherwise the takeout-only food is just as always. Operating hours have been reduced to four days, please check before going.

While many Samoan spots in the South Bay or down by the harbor will have the flags of that island nation flying in the front, Poly Grill & Bakery takes a different approach. Their logo also chooses to include Hawai'i, Tonga, Fiji, Tahiti, and the Marquesas on it, and every time they advertise or post on social media it is addressed to the entire "Poly Fam."

While there is a pocket of Marshall Islands folks in Arkansas, Southern California has long been home to more Polynesian-born peoples than anywhere else on the mainland. Besides an abundance of Hawaiian restaurants and a smattering of Samoan operations, this has not necessarily translated to food businesses open for the public, but look close on the steam tables here and you might find Fijian taro or mamoe tao, a favorite on Niue as well as Samoa.

A loaf of cinnamon bread

Poly Grill & Bakery is tucked into the corner of a small strip mall on Carson Blvd. east of the 405 and the Dominguez Channel before it empties into the harbor, and is a small square room which lets customers focus on their steam table offerings. There has been a business here with the same name for quite some time, but the current owners upgraded the space and reopened in November of 2019.

There are two parts to the small space, a steam table dominates the left half of the room and most everything that is available on any given day will be on display. The case and area behind the register on the right are usually filled with breads, sweet raisin rolls and German buns, wildly popular fried dough balls filled with jams or other sweet goodies. A loaf of the cinnamon bread ($8, above) is great for making French toast or just for a sweet treat.

Turkey tail and sapasui

When approaching the steam table, you do need to consider the weight of everything. The price for most foods is $8.99/pound and can add up pretty quickly because of the natural heaviness of Samoan and Polynesian foods, which focus more on meats, oils, and gravies than leaves. On a couple different visits, there was a noticeable level of surprise sticker shock from some customers that had went for it with big orders.

The steam table is full of options though, and this is probably why most customers end up with big orders. The shop closes at 3pm but come well before that because as lunch hours go on the choices do get smaller. The baked goods are made fresh daily and the desserts go quickly. Staples like turkey tail and sapasui, a Samoan chop suey with thick vermicelli noodles, are available on most days (above).

Chicken and gravy

As is quite popular you can throw in some corned beef with your sapasui or have the former more traditionally paired with taro in coconut milk. For even more coconut milk, they also sometimes have fa'alifu ulu, a Samoan breadfruit that is cooked in it.

Samoan sausages called sosisi can be eaten with a thick, rich gravy as can chicken thighs and legs as seen above. Both of these benefit from a side of rice, which can be added to any order and helps cut the intense richness.


You can also get drumsticks baked with spices without gravy, fish casseroles with more coconut (above, top right), and at this point you would have only started to scratch the surface.

The people that work here are very friendly and happy to answer questions and make recommendations. This makes gathering takeout meals easier for those that are less familiar with the foods of Polynesia.

📍 1329 E. Carson Street, Carson, Harbor

🇼🇸🇼🇸🇼🇸

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 please tell your friends about us and if 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.

Thank you!
VENMO: @JAREDCOHEE
CASH APP: $JaredCohee
PAYPAL: (no account necessary, use link)