>> Karibbean Cuisine | Eat the World Los Angeles

Friday, 30 September 2022

Karibbean Cuisine

Venice Blvd. facade of El Bronco Taqueria
Hidden within El Bronco Taqueria

๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ด DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
๐Ÿ“ 5427 Venice Blvd., Mid-City, Central Los Angeles
(Located inside El Bronco Taqueria)
๐Ÿ…ฟ️ Plaza has a small parking lot
๐Ÿฅค No Alcohol

EDITOR'S NOTE: Check with restaurant for hours. At the time of this writing, the chef was only open Thursday-Sunday.

And so the trend continues of having only one or even zero Dominican spots available to Los Angeles eaters. For a very brief time in late 2020 and early 2021, a self-proclaimed New York City-style chimis spot opened in Bellflower, but it seemed to disappear almost before it started. Now after another year and a half break with zero, Santo Domingo-born chef Ilonka Garcia is once again trying to prepare her foods for the city, this time in a part-time deal inside another restaurant.

Based on some shared information online, it appears that this little Dominican fix has been operating since sometime around April, but the only hint of it outside of the chef's circles and Dominican community is a neon sign that lights up in the window during open hours. Unfortunately this would be impossible to see driving by on Venice Blvd., so hopefully the word can continue to spread from patron to patron.

Neon sign in window

The chef is currently sharing space and a kitchen with the operators of El Bronco Taqueria, who have a big, colorful dining room and spacious cooking area to make it all possible. El Bronco has been around for decades, a local spot that still sees a decent stream of regular customers coming for lunch. During this visit, their owner was a couple hours late to get things set up and Chef Ilonka had to give some customers the bad news.

While there does not seem to be a lot of cross-pollination yet, hopefully this can change as regulars coming in for El Bronco's food discover what Dominican guisados are all about. It is a cuisine that Los Angeles has not had much of over the years, but as more and more Caribbean people choose Southern California instead of Florida and the east coast, Los Angeles County keeps seeing a wider variety of Caribbean flags being flown.

Jugo de chinola

There are complimentary bottles of water for diners at Karibbean Cuisine, but also grab a fresh jugo de chinola ($4, above), which puckers your cheeks with an unexpected tartness. Chinola (and sometimes parcha) is the word Dominicans use for passion fruit instead of maracuya, and this juice tastes more like eating the actual sour fruit than most. Just a touch of sugar is added, it is excellent.

When you get close to the counter and talk with the chef, you are likely to see big pots of bubbling and steaming guisados, especially if you arrive near the beginning of service when she is setting up. For those new to Dominican cuisine, guisados are the place to start at this restaurant, make sure to ask what is available on the day you show up.

Pollo guisado

Pollo guisado ($13.99, above) is dark and rich, and looks full of flavor. On first bite, there is even more bold taste than you expect and the wooden chair you are sitting on suddenly feels like a comfortable fluffy sofa. Some recipes throughout the world just have a way of holding you like grandma would, and this chicken stew is a warm embrace.

The cuts of meat are also good and prepared well, the only thing you might be lacking is an extra scoop of gravy which the chef will be more than happy to provide. Once it starts to get sucked up by the rice, you will feel there is never enough.

Chivo guisado

On this day there was also chivo guisado ($17.99, above), and seeing as how the first guisado was an expression of love, the goat version was ordered to go so it could be enjoyed later. Like most plates here, a big portion of white rice and a cup of red beans comes with the meal. The beans (which Dominicans call habichuelas and never frijoles) are nothing like a can of Goya Dominican Red Beans, so you can thankfully put that out of your mind. Instead, it is like another guisado and has enough ingredients to be as flavorful as if an entire pig had been stewed in the pot.

The guisado itself is also just about perfect, combined with the habichuelas it is almost like getting a two-handed slap in the face from deliciousness. The goat has likely been stewing for at least a couple hours, tender meat that has barely a hint of the gaminess that makes many avoid this choice.

Bistec encebollado

If you are more in the mood for beef, ask the chef to prepare a plate of bistec encebollado ($15.99, above), a thin cut of good steak sauteed with red onions. The dish hums loudest when you combine the sweetness of these onions with the savory bistec, lightly rubbed with salt before cooking. Bites of these together with the beans and rice, and sometimes sweet plantain, are like being back on one of the island's many tropical beaches.

You can usually find seafood options like shrimp in coconut sauce or fried whole fish served with tostones, but also grab some Dominican-style fried empanadas if she has those available. In fact, get enough to take home. Stop by and welcome chef Ilonka back to the Los Angeles restaurant scene. Hopefully for everyone, this one will last a long time.

๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ด๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ด๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ด

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