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The Best Dishes Eater Editors Ate This Week

Follow Eater editors each week as they share their favorite dishes around town

For edomae-style sushi without leaving the San Gabriel Valley: Kisen Sushi.
Deluxe sushi lunch set at Kisen Sushi in Arcadia.
Cathy Chaplin

The editors of Eater dine out several times a week, if not per day, which means we’re always encountering standout dishes that deserve time in the limelight. Here’s the very best of everything the team has eaten recently.


March 28, 2022

Whole roasted orata at Magari in Hollywood

Whole roasted orata at Magari in Hollywood. 
Whole roasted orata at Magari in Hollywood.
Wonho Frank Lee

The Japanese-Italian ambitions of Hollywood’s new Magari are somewhat of a question mark for Angelenos, who certainly know well of the two cuisines but have really only seen them together at Orsa & Winston or more casual spots like Spoon House or Pasta e Pasta by Allegro. Uni-topped yuzu tagliatelle (a terrific pasta, though the uni is really skimpy and not really worth it) and the katsuoboshi acqua pazza below this roasted orata are examples of fusion at play here. This entree was spectacular, with the smokiness of the wood coming through in the delicate flesh while the fish didn’t get overly drenched as it hovered over the broth thanks to the spongy grilled focaccia. I’ve had a lot of grilled fish this month but I think Magari’s, with its balance of roasted flavor and punchy umami broth, was the best of the bunch. Still, a lot of the dishes at Magari are pricey or scantly portioned (like the tiny, tiny little gem salad with crab), but the whole roasted orata, $38, is big enough for two to share. 6115 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles. —Matthew Kang

Deluxe sushi lunch set at Kisen Sushi in Arcadia

For edomae-style sushi without leaving the San Gabriel Valley: Kisen Sushi.
For edomae-style sushi without leaving the San Gabriel Valley: Kisen Sushi.
Cathy Chaplin

Newcomer Kisen Sushi in Arcadia claims to be the first restaurant in the San Gabriel Valley to specialize in edomae sushi, a traditional style that emphasizes the purity of ingredients; no bells or whistles, just meticulously prepared rice and the most pristine seafood. After eating a lot of sushi takeout throughout the pandemic, it was lovely to dine in Kisen’s minimally appointed space. The “deluxe” sushi lunch, which also includes miso soup and a trio of small bites (cold tofu, pickled cucumbers, marinated kale), was the perfect midweek pick-me-up. Priced at $33, the set included an array wondrous bites like ikura, sea urchin, and Spanish mackerel. Nailing the basics is imperative here and the rice and fishes were as good as anticipated. An omakase at the sushi bar is definitely in my future. 1108 South Baldwin Avenue, Suite B6, Arcadia. —Cathy Chaplin

Dim sum madness at NBC Seafood To-Go in Monterey Park

Dim sum at NBC Seafood To-Go in Monterey Park.
Dim sum at NBC Seafood To-Go in Monterey Park.
Farley Elliott

Want all the dim sum but none of the weekend waits? Well, if you’re willing to chow down on har gow from a takeout container, then the new Kristie Hang-approved NBC Seafood To-Go storefront in Monterey Park is pretty much perfect. All the usual hits are here, from dumplings to bao to pan-fried turnip cakes, veggies, and beyond, with paper menus in each corner of the room for speedy ordering. Dishes are listed alongside the number of pieces per order and are grouped by price, making a scalable Saturday meal with friends a cinch. There are a few smaller cafe tables out front (if you can snag one), but it may be best to hit a local park or hang out in the ample parking lot while you nibble, dishes spread out for easy grabbing. The folks waiting in front of NBC Seafood proper will likely be a little bit jealous of the fast, easy eating, but that’s okay; there’s room for everyone at NBC Seafood To-Go, any weekend that you want. 404 South Atlantic Boulevard, Monterey Park. —Farley Elliott

Dover sole at Nobu in Malibu

Dover sole at Nobu in Malibu.
Dover sole at Nobu in Malibu.
Damla Ercan Heard

In a city like LA, it’s not worth waiting in line, making an advance reservation, or paying steep prices to eat very good food. Angelenos don’t need to go through such hurdles to enjoy a delicious meal — the city is filled with a plethora of options ranging in the affordability scale to that effect. Yet, if exclusive is what you’re looking to find — and to experience a special meal in front of one of the best views in LA — Nobu once again outdoes itself in that realm. The cold classic yellowtail with jalapeno is palatable to even someone who doesn’t like spice, but the Dover sole is perhaps the real gem hidden on the menu. Cooked in a lemon butter sauce and buried under just-the-right-amount-of-crispy baby spinach, one forgets how difficult getting a table at Nobu is, and almost forgets the bill. 22706 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu. —Damla Ercan Heard


March 21, 2022

Choripan sandwich at New Buenos Aires in Burbank

Choripan sandwich at New Buenos Aires in Burbank.
Choripan sandwich at New Buenos Aires in Burbank.
Farley Elliott

Los Angeles isn’t a sausage or hot dog town in the way that, say, Chicago is, but that’s to take nothing away from our fair city. LA offers bacon-wrapped dogs all over the place (particularly after live events), and chorizo and Thai sausage can be found on menus from north to south. At Burbank’s New Buenos Aires the focus is on Argentinian delights across a broad spectrum, including a still-sizzling choripan option that is simple, buttery, garlicky, and delicious. This is easy lunchtime eating from a small, quiet Burbank specialist, so don’t expect anything too fancy; just quality sausage links served on crusty bread. As with many of LA’s best sausage and hot dog options, the ambiance is besides the point — this is the spot to hit when you’re hungry, in a hurry, and want something that satisfies. 1723 West Verdugo Avenue, Burbank. —Farley Elliott

Beef noodle soup at Chao Wei Ju in San Gabriel

Chiuchow-style beef noodle soup at Chao Wei Ju in San Gabriel.
Chiu chow-style beef noodle soup at Chao Wei Ju in San Gabriel.
Cathy Chaplin

Is it just me or are English translations of some dishes overly simplified and thus hardly helpful? My latest grievance is with the term “beef noodle soup” — a generic phrase that’s applied to Vietnamese pho, Taiwanese niu rou mian, and anything that contains beef, noodles, and broth, really. All that to say, the beef noodle soup from Chao Wei Ju in San Gabriel is seriously slurpable (and quite different from Vietnamese pho and Taiwanese niu rou mian). Don’t be fooled by the chiu chow-style broth that’s lighter in color because it packs a flavorful punch. Rounding out the supremely satisfying bowl are rice noodles, two kinds of tripe, and tender meaty cuts. Hop on up to the condiment counter to sample an array of housemade sauces that pair exquisitely well with each bite. 401 West Valley Boulevard, San Gabriel. —Cathy Chaplin

Smoked meat and sides at Moo’s Craft Barbecue in Lincoln Heights

Smoked meat and sides at Moo’s Craft Barbecue in Lincoln Heights.
Smoked meat and sides at Moo’s Craft Barbecue in Lincoln Heights.
Matthew Kang

There was a hilarious photo posted a few years ago on Twitter about the ‘best barbecue in Brooklyn with a quarter pound of meat and a few pieces of bread. Of course the post got dunked on because the notion of big cities doing barbecue seemed preposterous. Moo’s Craft Barbecue in Lincoln Heights makes sure every platter they serve looks incredible. Even a rather humble tray of four meats and three sides looks like a feast, with colorful pickles and garnishes. The meats are always moist and flavorful, with a moderate amount of smoke that would impress anyone from here to Lockhart, Texas. The creative weekend sides, like the Korean-inflected smoked pork belly burnt ends, are must-orders as well. I can’t think of a better barbecue place to recommend in LA. 2118 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90031 —Matthew Kang

Grilled A5 wagyu at Yellowtail in Las Vegas

Grilled A5 wagyu at Yellowtail in Las Vegas.
Grilled A5 wagyu at Yellowtail in Las Vegas.
Matthew Kang

The view of the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas never get old, especially while dining “lakeside.” The last time I was at Yellowtail, I dined with a friend that became one of the most non-romantic, but actually romantic meals I’d ever had. This time around, I enjoyed the lakeside meal with my wife and another friend, which still made the dinner a memorable one. Akira Back’s enduring modern Japanese restaurant has inflections of Korean flavors across the board, like the seaweed and onion-marinated A5 grilled to the exact specification that the beef calls for. Juicy and tender with a balance between the melting fat wedged into the meat, each bite was better than the last, with the light soy marinade getting a kiss of flame to sear the outside while the inside was an ideal medium rare. Most of the dishes at Yellowtail are excellent, but this grilled beef was our favorite, good enough to stand up to the soaring tunes of Elton John and the light sprayed mist of those iconic fountains falling on us. Bellagio Hotel & Casino, 3600 South Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas. —Matthew Kang


March 14, 2022

Spiny lobster crudo at Crudo e Nudo in Santa Monica

Spiny lobster crudo at Crudo E Nudo in Santa Monica.
Spiny lobster crudo at Crudo e Nudo in Santa Monica.
Cathy Chaplin

Spiny lobster season only comes around once a year and chef Brian Bornemann at Santa Monica’s Crudo e Nudo knows exactly how to make them shine. He removes the lobster’s tough shell and leaves its flesh completely raw. Next, he brings in the saffron-rich flavors of bouillabaisse to soak through the supple meat. Served simply with seeded and toasted bread, the seemingly simple preparation dazzles in both texture and flavor. And even though it will be an entire year before this dish returns to the menu, it’s a reminder that all good things are worth the wait. 2724 Main Street, Santa Monica. —Cathy Chaplin

Tea-smoked spare ribs at Sichuan Impression in Alhambra

Tea-smoked spare ribs at Sichuan Impression in Alhambra.
Tea-smoked spare ribs at Sichuan Impression in Alhambra.
Sichuan Impression

After an epic playground session on Saturday, my family headed to Alhambra to see whether we could snag a table at Sichuan Impression. For our spontaneity, we were rewarded with ample outdoor tables and a feast to please both a toddler and her parents: toothpick lamb (okay, that one was just for the grownups), stir-fried beef with scallions, garlicky a choy, and tea-smoked spare ribs. The ribs were, as always, the hit of the night (and, according to our server, one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes). I loved the ribs’ delicate smoke and slight heat, my toddler loved the tender meat she gnawed off the bone. 1900 West Valley Boulevard, Alhambra. —Hillary Dixler Canavan

Latte and blueberry fairy pastry at Kumquat in Highland Park

New England latte and Friends & Family’s blueberry fairy pastry at Kumquat in Highland Park.
New England latte and Friends & Family’s blueberry fairy pastry at Kumquat in Highland Park.
Mona Holmes

It’s hard to plan for coffee and a pastry outside of your neighborhood. The coffee and carbs craving hits hard and fast, so it’s best to think ahead, or just go around the corner for morning goods. Thank goodness Highland Park’s Kumquat Coffee secures its baked goods from Friends & Family, saving me a trip to Hollywood to secure the blueberry fairy, a compact puffy creation filled with cheese and blueberry that makes a delicious mess during consumption. Pairing it with Kumquat’s New England vanilla latte is an ideal way to take in a Sunday morning, with perfect measurements of espresso and simple vanilla syrup that’s weighed on a scale — it’s perfect every time. Sit in the cozy covered patio with others and embark on the same morning strategy. 4936 York Boulevard, Highland Park. —Mona Holmes

Bouillabaisse at Bicyclette in Beverlywood

Bouillabaisse at Bicyclette in Beverlywood.
Bouillabaisse at Bicyclette in Beverlywood.
Matthew Kang

It’s unclear why LA doesn’t have a ton of good bouillabaisse. It could be that there are simply better fish stews to be had around town, from caldo de siete mares from Central American and Mexican seafood restaurants to Korean maeuntang to the SF-inspired cioppino at Heroic Italian in Santa Monica. Bicyclette, however, has taken upon itself to make a bona fide version of the southern French dish, with pristine shellfish and seafood, and a pensive broth that doesn’t shout but rather demands a subtle enjoyment. Sure, there isn’t aioli or crouton, but this is a refined version where the stellar ingredients shine. My favorite part of the dish might be the pan-fried skin on the striped bass, which hovers above the broth so it stays crisp. 9575 Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles. —Matthew Kang

Pizza and pastries from LaSorted’s / Gemini Bakehouse in Silver Lake

At McDonald’s, the best time to score a crossover breakfast-and-lunch meal is 10:30 a.m., when staff members just may allow one to score both an egg McMuffin and, say, a Big Mac. At the combo space LaSorted’s and Gemini Bakehouse in Silver Lake, that magical shifting moment happens at 2 p.m. On the right day, and with the right amount of pleading, it is possible to enjoy some cookies and pastries from daytime operation Gemini Bakehouse as well as pizza, sandwiches, and sides from LaSorted’s. There are no guarantees that it’s always available (Gemini is popular, and often sells out), but when the confluence happens, embrace it — ideally with friends at a nearby park. Happiness like this can be fleeting, so enjoy each scone and slice while you can. 2847 Sunset Boulevard, Silver Lake. —Farley Elliott


March 7, 2022

Crispy jumbo lump crab cake at La Boucherie in Downtown

Lump crab cake from La Boucherie in Downtown.
Lump crab cake from La Boucherie in Downtown.
Matthew Kang

I’m a bit of a sucker for crab cake on appetizer menus. There’s something so immediately enjoyable and satisfying from ample amounts of sweet, delicate crab encrusted with butter and carb. The kitchen at La Boucherie takes this formula and wraps a wonderfully crisp bird’s nest around it, with a tangy red pepper coulis on the bottom that makes this dish feel like a throwback to the 1990s. And like fashion and music, the 90’s are back.

Tucked underneath the bird’s nest, which shatters in every direction, is a solid three or four ounces of generous crab that two or three people can share. The vast, towering views of Downtown LA from this 71-story steakhouse reaffirm the Blade Runner feel of eating at La Boucherie. The steak and sides are solid here, as good as one could expect from a view-centric steakhouse in Downtown, but the crispy lump crab cake is a must-order. 900 Wilshire Boulevard, Floor 71, Los Angeles. —Matthew Kang

Chilaquiles at Pepe’s in Montrose

Chilaquiles from Pepe’s in Montrose.
Chilaquiles from Pepe’s in Montrose.
Farley Elliott

If the Downtown skyline views don’t get you (on a clear day, at least) up to Montrose, then the weekend farmers market and old-school walkable charm of this sunny hillside hideaway certainly will. Nestled just north of Glendale proper, Montrose is home to a fiercely loyal band of locals — and some decent restaurants, too. Among them is Pepe’s, a staple spot playing Mexican standards since the 1970s. Here it’s possible to dive into a large booth for combo plates, to take home a burrito the size of a Buick, or to hit the makeshift front patio (a crucial option during the pandemic) for warm plates of crispy chilaquiles. Heavy on the beans and rice, these plates come fast and filling from the kitchen, and are served with just a dollop of sour cream for mixing textures, temperatures, and flavors all at once. Every community deserves a warming local Mexican spot, and Montrose has several to choose from. Go ahead and try them all when skipping up for some produce and those views, supposing you start with Pepe’s of course. 2272 Honolulu Avenue, Montrose. —Farley Elliott

Gunpowder baby shrimp at Camphor in the Arts District

Baby shrimp gunpowder at Camphor restaurant in Downtown Los Angeles
The gunpowder baby shrimp from Camphor.
Wonho Frank Lee

It does feel very familiar walking into the Camphor space. It’s impossible to forget those amazing meals I had at Nightshade before its closure in 2020. Camphor hardly qualifies as a replacement for Mei Lin’s restaurant, this is a space and group that brings in entirely new energy and food to the Arts District, where co-chefs Max Boonthanakit and Lijo George prepare inspired French classics with some surprises too. Case in point, the baby gunpowder shrimp. This platter of sweet shrimp already leads with a slight sweetness. Boonthanakit and George flash fry them while dusted with the perfect amount of aromatics that you feel within 15 seconds, but the dish doesn’t overwhelm the senses. Paired with one of wine director Kalani Lau’s selections, and it’s a wonderful surprise from this youthful restaurant crew. 923 East 3rd Street, #109, Arts District. —Mona Holmes


February 28, 2022

Spaghetti all’arrabbiata at Mother Wolf in Hollywood

Spaghetti at Mother Wolf on a white plate.
Spaghetti all’arrabiata at Mother Wolf.
Mona Holmes

When in Rome — or Evan Funke’s LA tribute restaurant to Rome — get the pasta. Bring the right group and order big, but be open to the less trendy dishes. It’ll be tempting to first go for the rigatoni with oxtail ragu or the carbonara, but please order Funke’s spaghetti all’arrabbiata, which suits the city’s love for spice. Funke compiled a combination of four different chiles the chef says would be sent back to the kitchen in most parts of Italy, but is perfect for a spice-loving city like LA. It’s amazing that this dish is full of aromatic heat but doesn’t annihilate the taste buds. Easily take in each layer and appreciate Funke’s technique with the sauce and its perfectly made spaghetti. Once seated, appreciate the stellar service, classic hip hop bumping through the speakers, and the stylish yet friendly crowd. 1545 Wilcox Avenue, Hollywood. —Mona Holmes

Eggs and coffee at Nick’s Cafe in Downtown

Bacon and eggs at Nick’s Cafe with hash browns on a plastic plate.
Bacon and eggs at Nick’s Cafe.
Farley Elliott

Welcome to the Ham House, one of LA’s most important diners. This is Nick’s Cafe, a Chinatown diner that has been serving up ham steaks, scrambled eggs, and hash browns since 1948. That’s a few lifetimes by LA restaurant standards, which makes the enduring business of this daytime spot all the more surprising — it has aged in place, but still feels as timeless as ever. Here servers spring “darlin” on every conversation; they drop hot sauce on every table without asking, because they just know it’s wanted. And they whir away into the back with impossibly precarious stacks of thick breakfast plateware, smeared with yolk and crumbles of toast. The griddle sears the pork and heats the eggs, the coffee burners keep the morning fuel warm. All is as it should be at the Ham House, every day, forever. It’s a beautiful thing to see. 1300 North Spring Street, Downtown. —Farley Elliott

Cauliflower shawarma and tricolor falafel at Bivrit at Smorgasburg

Cauliflower shawarma and falafel pita sandwiches from B’virit at Smorgasburg LA on a checkered paper lined plate.
Cauliflower shawarma and falafel pita sandwiches from Bivrit at Smorgasburg LA.
Matthew Kang

I’ve been on a major plant-based bender at Smorgasburg, which features a ton of very cool vegan-friendly vendors selling flavor without any compromises. B’ivrit, an Israeli pop-up from Amit Sidi, serves a delicious cauliflower shawarma that has all the seasonings and texture of a chicken version but with chopped slices of the brassica instead. The tricolor falafel stuffed into plush pita is even better, each bite different from the next. There’s careful balance between the crunchy, pickled ingredients and all the sauces. I can certainly see thing succeeding as a full time restaurant somewhere in Silver Lake or Echo Park. This perspective of Israeli/Middle Eastern food doesn’t really require meat, and you won’t even miss it with the flavors that Sidi packs in here. It’s no wonder my colleague Farley Elliott considered the cauliflower shawarma one of his best dishes from 2021. I guess I’m the one that’s late to the party, as usual. Find B’ivrit on Instagram with various locations around town, and at Smorgasburg every Sunday. —Matthew Kang


February 14, 2022

AB grand prime short rib at AB Steak in Beverly Grove

Grilled beef short rib from AB Steak over an open grate grill and bone.
Grilled beef short rib from AB Steak.
Matthew Kang

The menu at AB Steak has transformed into a much simpler, upscale Korean barbecue restaurant and the early results are pretty fantastic. Last week I tried the AB Grand prime short rib, a whole bone’s worth of fatty beef that they grill over a well-ventilated grated flame on the table. If the goal was to emulate and even surpass the likes of the Michelin-starred Cote in New York City, AB Steak could very well be on its way to accomplishing that. Already the banchan and the starters are impressive, boasting balanced seasoning and quality ingredients. The short rib is delicious with a dab of the housemade doenjang and a sliver of crispy garlic.

The lack of seasoning or marinade allowed the beef to shine and felt like a really luxurious Korean barbecue dish, something I haven’t had since Daedo opened. The quick table side sear allowed the browned outside to contrast with the juicy interior. In fact, I preferred this cut over the soon-to-debut gochujang-cured dry-aged ribeye, which was still very good. It’s hard to think of a better Korean barbecue place this far west, so Beverly Hills/West Hollywood/Beverly Grove denizens should take note. 8500 Beverly Boulevard, #111, Los Angeles.—Matthew Kang

Texas platter at Herc’s Barbecue in the Inland Empire

Plate of barbecue from Herc’s on a tray with sides.
Plate of barbecue from Herc’s on a tray with sides.
Farley Elliott

What better way to usher in a weekend of football, Los Angeles love, and live music than with a platter of barbecue from Texas? Well, not Texas exactly; Herc’s Barbecue out of the Inland Empire is one of a number of newer Angeleno barbecue spots that take their cues from Central Texas smoke. Wavy strips of brisket, hot links loaded with cheese inside, a beef rib with the bone still jutting out… all perfect for a weekend in front of the TV, surrounded by dips and friends and fun.

This is rich stuff, so best to pair with sharp, bright drinks to cut through all the fat, like a say a craft beer from Eagle Rock Brewery (where Herc’s popped up over the weekend) or Nova Brewing (where the ’cue operator appears regularly). When combined, the beer and the barbecue and a sunny LA day make it feel like anything is possible — even winning a Super Bowl in a $5 billion stadium with a 13-year-veteran quarterback and third-round MVP wide receiver. —Farley Elliott

Nachos sencillo at Tallula’s in Santa Monica

Whose house? My house this weekend, apparently, since I was hosting a Super Bowl watch party to bring the Rams to victory. Yesterday, I ventured to Tallula’s, an above-average Mexican restaurant tucked on Entrada Drive, to pick up an obscene amount of food — or so I thought before the guy in front of me picked up an order twice the size of my own. Primarily, I came for its Super Bowl takeout package, which satisfied everything I needed to supplement the watch party provisions I already had in pocket to fete the Rams — a motley assortment of dips, chips, and blood orange margaritas.

The verdict? Tallula’s package was so perfect that I hope it runs the same special next year: from a loaded seven-layer dip; wings in a citrus-spiked buffalo sauce with cilantro-lime dressing; a pumpkin seed-studded Caesar salad; achiote braised chicken tacos with rice and beans; and its nachos “sencillo,” which came in a put-it-together format featuring a velveteen cheese sauce, black beans, a rainbow assortment of pickled peppers, pico de gallo, and cotija crumbles. Needless to say, the nachos were the hit of the party (my lemon pepper chicken dip from the Los Angeles Times not far behind). 118 Entrada Drive, Santa Monica. —Nicole Adlman

Appetizer combination platter at Little Belize in Inglewood

Garnaches from Little Belize on a floral decorated plate.
Appetizer platter from Little Belize.
Mona Holmes

We’re lucky to have Little Belize making magic in Inglewood. Belize is such a gorgeous intersection of Caribbean, Central, and South American flavors, so order the combination appetizer platter when heading there. The platter is perfect for snacking and can easily be an entree with the duo of panades and garnaches. Panades can be easily mistaken for empanadas, except for the flavor and technique. They start with masa flour, stuff them with fish or beans, and drop in the fryer until crispy, while a dip in the habanero sauce is not for those who cannot handle heat. Traditional garnaches must be eaten hot to keep that crisp texture on the deep-fried tortilla, which is so salty and wonderful with a smear of fried red kidney beans as the base. It’s then topped with cheese, chopped onions, tomatoes, and onion sauce. Little Belize stations a handful of tables out front to consume this goodness. The street view is a pleasant stretch to watch the neighborhood go by. 217 East Nutwood Street, Inglewood. —Mona Holmes


February 7, 2022

Spit-roasted duck at Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas

Spit-roasted duck at Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas.
Spit-roasted duck at Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas.
Cathy Chaplin

I headed to Las Vegas this past weekend to celebrate a milestone birthday on the horizon. The first reservation of the trip was at Joel Robuchon, a plush purple temple dedicated to French-style fine dining. Located inside the MGM Grand (next to a sea of glowing slot machines and the Cirque du Soleil theater), the restaurant’s been on my bucket list for the better part of my adult life. And after what’s felt like a never-ending pandemic, it was beyond lovely to experience seasoned hospitality again. From the bread cart at the start to the dessert cart near the end, and the iconic dishes in between, the meal was as spectacular as I’d imagined. Under chef Christophe De Lellis’ care, the tasting menu included a number of Robuchon classics, along with newer dishes inspired by late chef Robuchon’s meticulous aesthetic and attention to detail, like the spit-roasted duck with honey and coriander. The duck’s crisped skin gave way to moist and flavorful meat, and served on the side were glazed turnips stacked with seared foie gras. The dish was exquisitely over-the-top in the very best way. 3799 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas. —Cathy Chaplin

Hot chicken tenders at Main Chick in Pasadena

Hot chicken tenders with crinkle cut fries in a paper boat.
Hot chicken tenders at Main Chick Hot Chicken in Pasadena.
Main Chick Hot Chicken

It’s my birthday week, and this past Sunday I celebrated with a park picnic party themed around one of my favorite combinations: fried chicken and champagne. Birds n’ Bubbs. Clucks n’ Champs. It was potluck-style and everyone brought a bucket from somewhere different. There was Dinah’s, of course, and Howlin’ Rays and Kyochon and KFC’s Beyond nuggets (pretty good!) some truly bonkers homemade smoked fried chicken, but my favorite bite might have been a “medium spicy” tender from local Nashville-style hot chicken chain Main Chick. My friend scooped up several boxes of tenders and crinkle fries from the Pasadena branch and they were precisely the right mix of almost-too-hot, a-little-sweet, and super juicy. My lips burned, my face sweated, but I was still left with enough taste buds to enjoy my birthday cupcakes 20 minutes later. 20 Union Street, Pasadena. —Lesley Suter

Green curry with beef at Chao Krung in the Fairfax District

Green curry with beef at Chao Krung in the Fairfax District.
Green curry with beef at Chao Krung in the Fairfax District.
Matthew Kang

A claim to being the oldest of a certain kind of restaurant isn’t a guarantee of anything except continued patronage. After moving from Thai Town to Fairfax District, Chao Krung has less competition along the busy stretch but also a more difficult venue at which to park and gather. It’s a shame because the dining room has a fresh take on a more traditional ambiance, along with an all-female winemaker list that pairs nicely with the food. The menu’s highlight was the green curry, one of the best examples of the dish I’ve had stateside. Chef Amanda Kuntee says she goes old-school with the preparation, using a mortar and pestle to bind the spices and aromatics into a paste. The stew’s broth isn’t overly rich with coconut milk, instead letting the bell pepper, makrut lime leaves, galangal, and Thai eggplant to showcase the strips of meat. This green curry was more than enough evidence to me that Chao Krung is one of the top Thai restaurants in town, and possibly one of the most underrated as well. 111 North Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles. —Matthew Kang

Chirashi at Osawa in Pasadena

Chirashi at Osawa in Pasadena.
Chirashi at Osawa in Pasadena.
Hillary Dixler Canavan

I’ve lived in Pasadena for over a year now, but that’s how long it took for me to sneak out for a weekday lunch at Osawa, Old Town’s legendary sushi destination. Over an order of chu-toro, I marveled at how long it had been since I’d had great sushi. I also sprung for ikura and chirashi from the dinner menu, to really hammer the point home. If you find yourself in the neighborhood, you should do the same: though pricier than the black miso cod bento my husband picked off the lunch menu, the chirashi is top-to-bottom impressive, a far cry from the basic delivery options you might have gotten used to as a pandemic indulgence. As soon as we left, we started planning our next visit. 77 North Raymond Avenue, Pasadena. —Hillary Dixler Canavan

Fried chicken platter at Dune in Atwater Village

Fried chicken platter at Dune in Atwater Village.
Fried chicken platter at Dune in Atwater Village.
Mona Holmes

Los Angeles has such an abundance of outstanding Middle Eastern offerings, there are many that stay on my regular go-to list, but Dune stands out for its mini outdoor patio, quality hummus, housemade flatbreads, fried chicken, and combination platter that includes all of the aforementioned. The free-range dark meat is the jumping-off point for flavor, but the wonderfully seasoned, lightly breaded chicken is one of the best in the entire section of Northeast LA. To balance the brine, there’s Dune’s toum/garlic sauce and a delightful salad with pickled radishes, marinated cabbage, onions, olives, seasonal greens, and a smattering of herbs that covers the hummus. Take some baklava to-go for later. 3143 Glendale Boulevard, Atwater Village. —Mona Holmes

Kouign-amann at FrenchiFornia in Pasadena

On those LA-cold winter mornings, where it’s chilly enough to put on the thick coat and walk around gripping a cup of coffee… those are the days that many Angelenos, eager for a change of temperature, look forward to all year ’round. They’re fun, fleeting glimpses of a different kind of life; we live in LA for lots of reasons, but the generally great weather is one, which makes the occasional crisp morning all the more stark and inviting. AM hours like that call for that cup of coffee and for some flaky pastries, grabbed from a nearby shop — perhaps one you’ve walked by 100 times without stopping — and eaten with little care for crumbs or sticky fingers. At FrenchiFornia on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena the croissants are lighter, less shatteringly lacquered, than elsewhere, making them perfect for walking and ripping and sipping some coffee. There are vegan options too, tucked in with berries, but the star of the menu may well be the traditional kouign-amann — it’s the shop’s best-seller for a reason. Shuffle past soon for a bite yourself, before those summer morning temps return. 247 East Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena. —Farley Elliott


January 31, 2022

Half-chicken at Big Daddy’s Kickin’ Chicken in Inglewood

Half-chicken at Big Daddy’s Kickin’ Chicken in Inglewood.
Half-chicken at Big Daddy’s Kickin’ Chicken in Inglewood.
Farley Elliott

There’s no such thing as going off-script at Big Daddy’s Kickin’ Chicken, the reborn flame-roasted chicken spot in the heart of Inglewood. After multiple previous locations and years of not serving at all, the McCan clan returned in 2019 with a truncated menu of charbroiled musts — and that means one very, very tight menu, served in an equally narrow space. But really, what else is there to get than the spiced and marinated bird, served as a takeaway dinner with sides like beans and macaroni and cheese. The bright red and heavily blackened chicken will be familiar to any Angeleno who knows names like Dino’s; this is quintessential LA stuff, satisfying and simple, with no need for endless externalities. Pick-up a plate or three this week before the Super Bowl hubbub really gets underway to catch a true taste of not just Inglewood, not just Big Daddy, but LA as a whole. 214 East Nutwood Street, Inglewood. —Farley Elliott

Daily bento at Azay in Little Tokyo

Daily bento at Azay in Little Tokyo.
Daily bento at Azay in Little Tokyo.
Meghan McCarron

Whenever I visit Little Tokyo, I wonder why I don’t eat every meal in Little Tokyo. I feel this way about several far-flung neighborhoods in Los Angeles, so I guess it’s good I live in… Los Angeles. This week’s perfect Little Tokyo meal was lunch at Azay, which was suggested by a friend who was missing Japan. Opened in a historic storefront that housed Anzen Hardware since 1946, and still owned by the same family, Azay’s menu is half Japanese and half French, featuring precisely executed, elegant standards from both cuisines; the chef, Akira Hirose, trained in both countries. The chawanmushi, studded with mushrooms, was silky and comforting in the slightly chilly weather. And the daily bento was a box of delights: springy soba noodles, lightly sweet frisee salad with raisins, pungent pickles and a few perfect bites of Japanese-style meatloaf. All of the seating is outdoors on the wide Little Tokyo sidewalk, and other diners greeted friends passing by as they enjoyed one of the best new additions to one of LA’s most historic neighborhoods. 226 1st Street, Los Angeles. —Meghan McCarron

Uni panna cotta at Here’s Looking At You in Koreatown

Uni panna cotta at Here’s Looking At You in Koreatown.
Uni panna cotta at Here’s Looking At You in Koreatown.
Cathy Chaplin

Sidling up to the bar at Here’s Looking At You last Thursday night felt like something out of a pre-pandemic dream. Chefs Jonathan Whitener and Thessa Diadem were cranking in the kitchen, while owner-slash-hostess Lien Ta was charming diners in the front of house; the dining room was packed with revelers and bursting with energy. Here’s Looking At You is finally back after an unplanned for slumber, and it doesn’t miss a single beat. My girlfriend and I practically ordered the entire menu, and each dish was as creative and delightful as ever. Especially memorable was the uni panna cotta — a cool, savory, and oceanic pudding prettied with ikura, dill, and wild rice. It was so good that we honestly should have ordered two. Next time... 3901 West 6th Street, Los Angeles. —Cathy Chaplin

Clams y chorizo at Guerrilla Tacos in Arts District

Clams y chorizo at Guerrilla Tacos in Arts District.
Clams y chorizo at Guerrilla Tacos in Arts District.
Matthew Kang

From a heralded Arts District restaurant to a bit of a question mark after the departure of founding chef Wes Avila, Guerrilla Tacos has had quite the journey in the past few years, with operator Brittney Valles now overseeing the place with executive chef Jason Beberman, formerly of Simone. The daytime menu is mostly tacos and cocktails, but the dinner slate opens up a slew of creative dishes that show Beberman’s own talents, like this clams y chorizo served atop a thick slice of sourdough toast sogged up with the juices and flavors of the two main ingredients. Smoky beans, broccolini, and the hit of Fresno chile, plus fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime, shows a terrific version of this mashup that feels both Italian and Mexican. Tacos are still really good here, with the hefty octopus taco laden with blackened habanero chilmole and crispy pork belly taco with nutty peanut sauce and the sweet, tangy hint of yuzu mustard. Throw in a nicely appointed (if a bit noisy from the restaurant’s own and the adjacent businesses’s tunes) outdoor back patio, and Guerrilla Tacos is worth checking out again. 2000 East 7th Street, Los Angeles. —Matthew Kang

Spicy limeade from Apryl’s Life In A Bottle in Florence

Spicy limeade from Apryl’s Life In A Bottle in Florence.
Spicy limeade from Apryl’s Life In A Bottle in Florence.
Mona Holmes

Instead of buying something wonderfully salty, savory, or deep-fried, I did the complete opposite last week. Plenty of Angelenos commit to some kind of shift in the new year, from “drynuary” or omitting meat for the month. This time of year, I simply lean towards fresh, so I ordered a handful of juices from Apryl’s Life In A Bottle while easing back on the takeout. Apryl’s juices were a refreshing way to take in some the country’s finest produce in juice form, but the spicy limeade was something that I could easily drink daily. It’s got a slight kick, and if we’re being fully honest, a shot of vodka or tequila will do nicely with this combination of lime, raw agave, ginger, cayenne pepper, and spring water. Apryl Sims — who managed Simply Wholesome for years — has multiple spots throughout town to pick up her creations, from Hot and Cool Cafe in Leimert to New Earth Health Food Store in Compton, Locali in Hollywood, and Amped Kitchens in South LA. 6130 Sout Avalon Boulevard, #210, Florence. —Mona Holmes


January 24, 2022

Beef curry plate at Baja Subs Market & Deli in Northridge

Beef curry plate at Baja Subs Market & Deli in Northridge.
Beef curry plate at Baja Subs Market & Deli in Northridge.
Meghan McCarron

At Baja Subs Market & Deli, you’re not there for the Mexican food — you’re there for the Sri Lankan menu displayed on an unassuming chalkboard to the side of the steam table. Like many of Los Angeles’s Sri Lankan restaurants, Baja Subs and Market is tucked away in a strip mall in the San Fernando Valley — Northridge, to be precise — and the space’s plain atmosphere is in direct contrast to the blast of flavor and heat coming out of the kitchen. At the moment, there’s no dining in at all, and as I waited for my food, several solo men came in to pick up takeout orders they’d phoned in, which seemed to be the best move. I took a beef curry combination plate to go, as well as a breadcrumb-coated chicken roll (a Sri Lankan snack based on the Chinese egg roll). The chicken roll I ate sitting in the car, and its filling, redolent with chile and cinnamon, fortified me for the trip back over the Sepulveda Pass. The beef curry plate ended up making two meals for two. Every single element was spicy and delicious — my favorites were the vegetable curries. I’m excited to go back for hopper night. 8801 Reseda Boulevard, Suite A, Northridge. —Meghan McCarron

Suckling pig tacos at Los Sabrosos al Horno in Cudahy

Suckling pig tacos at Los Sabrosos al Horno in Cudahy.
Suckling pig tacos at Los Sabrosos al Horno in Cudahy.
Matthew Kang

During a 33 mile bike ride into Southeast LA and back toward Downtown, we made it a point to stop by Los Sabrosos al Horno in Cudahy for one of LA’s most amazing tacos. Suckling pigs are roasted Nayarit-style and then chopped into oblivion before being assembled into plush double corn tortillas. They’re topped with chopped cabbage and two kinds of salsas: a tangy mustard and something a bit spicier with some chiles. The crunch of the cabbage, the sweet-tender roast pork, and the piquant salsas offer a stunning taco that stands on its own among the pantheon of LA tacos. The generous sliver of crackling pork skin is the coup de grace. Run (or bike), don’t walk to this incredible street stand, which only serves on weekends from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. or until they sell out. 4901 Patata Street, Cudahy —Matthew Kang

Khachapuri at Old Sasoon Bakery in Pasadena

Khachapuri at Old Sasoon Bakery in Pasadena.
Khachapuri at Old Sasoon Bakery in Pasadena.
Cathy Chaplin

The latest COVID surge has me staying closer to home, which means visiting beloved (but sometimes neglected) neighborhood spots like Old Sasoon Bakery. For nearly four-decades, this family-run shop has been churning out incredibly tasty and reasonably priced Middle Eastern baked goods including flatbreads, like lahmajoune (ground beef, tomato, onion) and maneish (za’atar), beorags (savory hand pies), and best of all, khachapuri, a Georgian breakfast staple comprised of a boat-shaped flatbread topped with a blend of cheeses, one or two runny eggs, and a few pats of melted butter. Eat the khachapuri straightaway at one of the tables along Allen Avenue and pack the rest for later — each one reheats beautifully. 1132 North Allen Avenue, Pasadena. —Cathy Chaplin

Chicken kebab and beef luleh combination platter at York Kebab in Highland Park

Chicken kebab and beef luleh combination platter at York Kebab in Highland Park.
Chicken kebab and beef luleh combination platter at York Kebab in Highland Park.
Mona Holmes

Everyone needs a no-frills kebab joint in their neighborhood. One where the owners focus on preparing fluffy basmati rice, fresh tabbouleh, creamy hummus, tangy tzatziki, and perfectly skewered meats with care. Mine is York Kebab, on the border of Highland Park and Eagle Rock, tucked into a mini strip mall in a largely residential stretch. While waiting for an order, it’s fairly common to see families, individuals, or Occidental College students picking up meals from this small Middle Eastern restaurant, whether kebabs fresh off the grill with traditional side dishes that include the aforementioned along with dolmas, ghormesabzi, falafel, or gheymeh with chopped mushroom, split peas, and fried onions. Even though they’ve got a small crew, it took just 10 minutes to prepare an order. 4682 York Boulevard, D, Los Angeles. —Mona Holmes

Grilled chicken with Peruvian spices at the Strand House in Manhattan Beach

Grilled chicken with Peruvian spices at the Strand House in Manhattan Beach.
Grilled chicken with Peruvian spices at the Strand House in Manhattan Beach.
The Strand House

It’s hard not to admire the views from the Strand House in Manhattan Beach. As the self-evident name indicates, the upscale evening restaurant offers sweeping views out to sea, up and over the strolling locals and well past the sand and pier. The decade-old restaurant is so magical, most nights, that scoring an upstairs table against the all-glass western wall can seem like a futility, lest one book out weeks in advance. Thankfully at the Strand House there’s room for everyone (a must in the sunset-casual South Bay), form outdoor streetside dining to downstairs cocktails to those evening upstairs views. The menu too works wonders for the masses, from locally-made craft beers and unassuming grilled chicken to bespoke barrel-aged bourbons, marked for their rarity, and truffle risotto topped with crisped sides of delicate fish. But even here, under the watchful eye of chef Craig Hopson, that chicken is lightly charred from the grill yet somehow still juicy at the breast, heated with aji amarillo pepper, and surrounded by small, well-fried marble potatoes and shishito peppers. As with the views, it’s hard not to admire the complex simplicity of a California sunset, or a thoughtful plate of chicken. 117 Manhattan Beach Boulevard, Manhattan Beach. —Farley Elliott


January 10, 2022

Pork belly at Here’s Looking At You in Koreatown

Pork belly at Here’s Looking At You in Koreatown.
Pork belly at Here’s Looking At You in Koreatown.
Nicole Adlman

The last time I was in front of Here’s Looking at You, the Koreatown restaurant from chef-owners Lien Ta and Jonathan Whitener, it was to buy a T-shirt emblazoned with its name during the 2020 sidewalk sale held in its final days before a prolonged pause. On its January 9 reopening night, I returned to a restaurant that was warm, warmly lit, full of life. I sat at the bar, where HLAY’s original bar program director, Harry Chin — now based in Honolulu — served my partner and me some of the best tiki-influenced cocktails we’ve had in Los Angeles from a list featuring past heavy-hitters (one diner we sat next to was referenced in a cocktail description for having ordered it religiously prior to a seasonal menu change in 2019).

It felt good to be in HLAY, a beloved neighborhood spot on 6th Street with a menu that always embraced rule-breaking, both in its genre-bending lens and juxtaposition of flavors. We got some of the classics, of course — the salsa negra-crusted frog legs (true to its “just like chicken wings but extra” tagline in a June 2020 Instagram post); the eggy tartare; the maple-sweetened chicken liver — but the best dish last night, for me, was a fatty pork belly slab served with charred pineapple, key lime, and bright Thai herbs. The dish felt joyful, a reclamation of space and a mouthful that proved that though time had passed, almost no time had passed. I would say it was good to be back, but it was my first sit-down meal in HLAY, so I’ll say this instead — it will be good to be back. 3901 West 6th Street, Los Angeles. —Nicole Adlman

Fish plate at Gjusta in Venice

Fish plate at Gjusta in Venice.
Fish plate at Gjusta in Venice.
Matthew Kang

It’s hard to think of a better place to nosh in Venice during the day than Gjusta, which has ample outdoor seating and a consistently ‘lax attitude toward service. It’s also a good place to go knowing your boss might pick up the tab for the first in-person meeting of the year. My favorite thing to order for lunch is the fish plate, which comes with cream cheese, sliced veggies, crusty bread, and the daily selection of smoked or cured fish. Last week it was gravlax, oil-cured anchovies (which I asked for), and smoked whitefish, all of which were delicious. I’m a sucker for firm but gently vinegary anchovies, so that’s the one thing I always make sure I get. But honestly, all of the prepared fish is as good as any top-tier Jewish deli, especially since LA no longer has a Barney Greengrass. My only regret was not ordering the larger plate, but at a cost pushing $60 that’s the kind of thing that I couldn’t ask my manager to expense. 320 Sunset Avenue, Venice. —Matthew Kang

Basturma at Garo’s Basturma in Pasadena

Basturma at Garo’s Basturma in Pasadena.
Basturma at Garo’s Basturma in Pasadena.
Cathy Chaplin

While Pasadena’s Armenian population is quite smaller than Glendale’s, the local contingent is robust enough to support many excellent Armenian businesses, including Garo’s Basturma. The deli and grocery store has been making its namesake cured meat for nearly 40 years in northeast Pasadena. While lesser quality basturma can be a bit chewy and overly dry texturally, the expertly cured beef at Garo’s was meltingly tender, with a delicate crust of fenugreek, cumin, black pepper, and paprika. Marbled just so, wonderful savory, and a touch spicy, there’s a reason why Garo’s is the king of basturma. 1082 Allen Avenue, Pasadena. —Cathy Chaplin

Chicken parm at Nuthin’ But Cutlets pop-up

Chicken parm at Nuthin’ But Cutlets pop-up.
Chicken parm at Nuthin’ But Cutlets pop-up.
Farley Elliott

It’s still magical, somehow, after two very long years of on and off at-home pivots and takeout meals, to saunter up to a residential home on a weekend with the full intent of ordering a meal. It’s novel (for many) and offers a sense of secretive fun and purpose to a weekend meal — and it helps that the year-old Nuthin’ But Cutlets also makes its turnouts a party, complete with a few lawn chairs and lots of (masked) smiles. The Los Feliz home pop-up doesn’t cook every weekend but has managed to draw a loyal following every time it does show up at the side-street address, turning out East Coast-style chicken cutlet sandwiches in a variety of flavors, from banh mi to spicy buffalo to the classic, cheesy chicken parm. Served on seeded rolls, these are big $12 sandwiches meant to be eaten hot and fresh in the sunshine. After all, isn’t LA at its best when dining outdoors? Check Instagram for pop-up dates and details. —Farley Elliott

GGET Breakfast Burrito at Go Get ’Em Tiger in Culver City

There’s nothing good about this surge of COVID cases, but at least I have my little routines. Curbside pickup from the grocery store; a variety pack order from the wine shop down the street; a hike up to the top of the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook. And Go Get ’Em Tiger’s breakfast burritos. The potatoes are always crispy, the chorizo is always spicy, and the eggs are never overcooked. On weekend mornings, my partner and I leash up the dog, tap out an order on GGET’s extremely well-designed app, and walk 10 minutes to get our coffees and our burritos and maybe a cranberry frangipane scone. The burritos are good, but if I’m honest, more than half the pleasure is in their reliability, and the ritual. 10000 Washington Boulevard, Suite 103, Culver City. —Meghan McCarron


January 3, 2022

Nem nuong cuon at Brodard Chateau in Garden Grove

Nem nuong cuon at Brodard Chateau in Garden Grove.
Nem nuong cuon at Brodard Chateau in Garden Grove.
Cathy Chaplin

My partner is from Orange County, and we spent a lot of time driving the southern half of the 405. Since 2020, we’ve added a new ritual. As we head back to the freeway, I open up my phone and plug an order into the Brodard app. It’s cliche, but the first thing I add is four of the famous nem nuong cuon, the texturally decadent pork spring rolls on which the restaurant group has built its empire. More than merely a perfect dish, they are a perfect pandemic take-out dish. They don’t get cold, or soggy, or melt on their journey back up to Los Angeles in a bag nestled between my feet. The thin, soft wrapper, the dense pork, crisp vegetables, and delightful crunch is nearly as satisfying consumed out of plastic bowls as in the restaurant. To compensate for my basic love of these rolls, I order something new every time. Last Saturday, it was the papaya salad topped with beef jerky and smoked pork liver. Pretty wonderful! Even better with nem nuong cuon. 9100 Trask Avenue, Garden Grove. —Meghan McCarron

Hamburger at Fellow in Westwood

Hamburger at Fellow in Westwood.
Hamburger at Fellow in Westwood.
Farley Elliott

In one of my last indoor dining meals of 2021, I… ate a burger at the bar of an upscale restaurant. Shocking, I know. But the truth is, the bar burger at Westwood’s finer dining restaurant Fellow is anything but usual, combining the talents of chef Chris Flint (Nomad, Maude, Eleven Madison Park) with quality dry-aged beef and owner Philip Camino’s gorgeous restaurant interior. When layered together, it’s the kind of simple, satisfying dining experience that LA has always embraced: Fine, but not fussy. Flavorful, but not formidable. Lots of other dishes on Fellow’s menu — the tempura-fried maitake mushrooms, the black truffle gnocchi with crispy chicken skin — stand out and are worth an evening jaunt to Westwood, but (for me) it’s the simple pleasure of a bar burger on a cold winter night that remains a staple dining experience in Los Angeles. The good news is that it’s all possible at Fellow, with room to blow up the bill or sip quietly at the bar. What more could Westwood, or any neighborhood, ask for? 1071 Glendon Avenue, Westwood. —Farley Elliott

#44 sandwich at Langer’s Deli in Westlake

#44 sandwich from Langer’s Deli in Westlake.
#44 sandwich from Langer’s Deli in Westlake.
Matthew Kang

On a chilly but sunny day last week, a break from the relentless late December rains, we mustered up the courage to head to Langer’s Deli and order curbside. I then subjected my wife, sister-in-law, and her boyfriend to a 15-minute meandering trip through Westlake up into the hills of Elysian Park, creating minor nausea in all of us from the winding roads. But we were rewarded with a newly washed (from the rain) picnic table with pristine views of Northeast LA and Downtown, the perfect place to enjoy matzo ball soup served in a glass jar and this immense #44 sandwich, a pressed Reuben-style creation with sauerkraut and nippy cheese. What is nippy cheese? I’m not exactly sure but it seems to be a kind of cheddar cream cheese, like Velveeta but upgraded. The buttered rye bread got a little soggy from the journey but still held up. And of course, the hand-sliced pastrami, meaty and smoky and tender to the last bite, made all of this effort worth it. 704 South Alvarado Street, Los Angeles. —Matthew Kang

Taiwanese mochi at Corner Beef Noodle House in El Monte

Taiwanese mochi at Corner Beef Noodle House in El Monte.
Taiwanese mochi at Corner Beef Noodle House in El Monte.
Cathy Chaplin

Though it didn’t make a whole lot of logistical sense to lunch in El Monte on a recent drive to San Diego, the allure of homey Taiwanese cooking on a rainy afternoon was too tempting to resist. After settling into a spacious booth at Beef Noodle House, we proceeded to order too much food considering the yet-to-be-had holiday feasting that awaited us. I singlehandedly finished an entire order of slick pigs feet, while my daughter took care of the sweetish sliced sausages. A deluxe bowl of beef noodle soup that contained both tendons and tripe was shared all around. And even though we were much too stuffed to even consider dessert, the Taiwanese mochi went down miraculously easy. The hunks of supple and sticky mochi were ready to take on whichever flavor we fancied: honey-roasted peanuts, bitter black sesame, or best yet, a balanced bit of both. 3948 Peck Road, El Monte. —Cathy Chaplin

Wings and poached Hainan chicken at Cluck2Go in Pasadena

Wings and poached Hainan chicken at Cluck2Go in Pasadena.
Wings and poached Hainan chicken at Cluck2Go in Pasadena.
Mona Holmes

I swore a vow over the 2021 holiday season: to spend less time in the kitchen. That meant easy dishes, or in last week’s case, ordering takeout for a small family gathering from Cluck2Go in Pasadena. When I say this was the way to go, I mean every word. The combo package is enormous with its central star being the Hainan poached chicken. It’s a wonderful, beautifully seasoned, and perfectly cut whole chicken with side dishes of cucumbers, brown rice, green beans, chicken soup, and fried peanuts. I’m a bit obsessed with Cluck2Go’s deep-fried wings, and both — honey garlic or the salt and pepper flavors — will make you want more. There was immense joy when spreading out this bounty in my kitchen. It felt like a homemade meal, but professionally executed, with minimal cleanup. For a moment, can we chat about what holiday gatherings would be like without cooking? And can we make this a thing? 1771 E Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena. —Mona Holmes

Pupusas con queso y loroco at Los Cocos Panaderia y Pupuseria in Del Rey

Los Cocos Panaderia y Pupuseria, a 15-year-old Salvadoran bakery and cafe in Del Rey, had been in my periphery on drives down Centinela for a too-long stretch of time; I finally made it in on one of (the many) wet, rainy Los Angeles days leading up to the New Year last week. The menu here offers a classic array of pupusas, including pupusas with squash, pupusas with beans and cheese, and its “pupusa mix,” more commonly known as pupusas revueltas, a hearty blend of beans, chicharron, and cheese spooned into the soft, pan-crisped masa cake; there’s a separate vegan-friendly menu for those who follow a plant-based diet. I ordered a selection of six to share, my favorite being a melty mesh of queso and loroco, a flower indigenous to El Salvador and other countries in Central America. Served with Los Cocos’ crunchy purple curtido (a colorful spin on traditional curtido) and a cumin-inflected salsa roja, this was a perfect last bite before 2022. 4804 S. Centinela Avenue. —Nicole Adlman