Reviews are in for Crenshaw’s Hotville Chicken, Bebot Filipino Soul Food in Long Beach, and the El Ruso taco stand in Boyle Heights. As the first Week In Reviews for 2020, this group of restaurants encapsulates the diversity of Los Angeles dining. There’s delicious food for all in this city, and both the New York Times and Los Angeles Times cover restaurants where the flavor profiles come with heat, and value remains king.
Kim Prince is the niece of Andre Prince Jeffries, who owns both Prince’s Hot Chicken Shacks in Nashville. She’s also owner of Hotville Chicken, which opened in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw mall last month. Tejal Rao from the NY Times recommends biting into the “chile-stained chicken, which packs more than just heat:
“(T)he result is juicy, seasoned to the bone, crisp and crimson. Hot fish is on the menu, too, with a few sides. The beans may seem too sweet before the chicken, but they’ll be a relief afterward. And the mac and cheese has a browned, cheesy top that cooks are careful to spread out evenly among orders — a tiny gesture of fairness that I deeply appreciate.”
Rao also explains that LA’s hot chicken movement is far from a trend:
It’s not having a moment, because a moment suggests an ending, and hot chicken doesn’t end, it only begins, again and again and again, with someone’s first crunch into chile-stained chicken and a cook calling out from the kitchen: “Hot enough for you?”
Bebot Filipino Soul Food
Chef AC Boral went from pop-up to brick-and-mortar last August with Bebot Filipino Soul Food. LA Times reviewer Patricia Escárcega sampled Boral’s “big, bombastic flavors” on Fourth Street in Long Beach.
“Many of the most compelling dishes are on the “new school” side of the menu. Sinigang lumpia, Boral’s take on the sweet-sour Filipino stew, is re-imagined as a crisp, cigar-shaped roll filled with minced pork, rice and vegetables. Each bite, irreproachably crunchy, delivers a fresh jolt of citrus and tamarind.”
Escárcega insists that “ever-changing dessert menu” is worth it, including “a nutty, rich and elegant bibingka brûlée.” She favors Boral’s touches and food:
“The casual, comforting pulse of the menu — tied together by vivid ingredients and a rich sense of culinary imagination — is bound up in personal history, heritage and identity.”
“Start with a carne asada taco. Beans and cheese are optional, but you want them: Soto shows restraint with both. They magnify the savor of chuck-eye steak, grilled to a shade past rosy over mesquite and hacked to a rough mince (often by Soto’s brother, Ervin). Squeeze lime juice over generously; the acidity offsets the booming, smoky richness.”
But Saturdays are for birria de res:
“Saturday, when the glorious stewed meats appear, is really the day to show up at El Ruso right now. The Tijuana-style birria de res follows a recipe from Soto’s mother, the beef simmered in Tecate lager scented with clove and bay leaf. Soto dips tortillas in the birria consommé, dying them traffic-cone orange, before griddling them. The spice in the Sonoran-style chile colorado (Silva’s mother’s version) comes across more earthen than incendiary. Its rich, satiny texture is deep-sigh soothing.”