Monday, August 25, 2008

CLOSED--A pearl is truly rare thing:Colombian seafood at a Swap Meet?

La Fiesta Outlet Mall on Sherman Way in No. Hollywood

La Perla glows bright in the food court in La Fiesta

Arroz de mariscos

Empanada de camaron con aji

The glorious patacon, que chevere!

Colombia. I have many fond memories.I'm always looking for a good spot to indulge in some comida Colombiana, have an aguardiente, and stay abreast of the important news stories in Colombia by reading La Prensa. Waiting to order my lunch at La Perla del Pacifico, the new Colombian seafood destination at the La Fiesta Outlet Mall, I decided to read about the controversy between Venezuela and Colombia. No, I'm not talking about Uribe's cross-border invasion, but of course, the Miss Universe pageant. La Prensa stated that Miss Colombia was racking up the points throughout the pageant, and was a crowd favorite too, when Miss Venezuela stole the show. I thought Taliana Vargas was robbed, and this important news feature in La Prensa just validates my position!

Ok, the find. The La Fiesta Outlet Mall is a lifesavor, and alongside the King Seafood Market, make for a serious day of shopping. This bastion of inexpensive low brow shopping for the Latino community has all the stuff you can get downtown, minus the pirate DVD's, hamsters, and bellydancer outfits. But hey, you can get a kimchi refrigerator, too! Plus, you get to mix and mingle with cholos, girls named Sad Girl, and the unaccomodating merchants. At these prices, who can afford congeniality?

But, amidst this bargain shoppers dream lies a true gem, La Perla Del Pacifico, the only Colombian seafood restaurant in Los Angeles. Even more rare is the focus on the cuisine of the Pacific Coast of Colombia, as opposed to the more well known Caribbean Coastal dishes of Barranquilla and Cartagena. The Pacific Coast has European, African, Arabic, and Japanese influences to name a few, but the African influence is predominate, especially in the mostly Afro-Colombian population in the department of Nariño.

I popped in this past Sunday for a sample of this special restaurant, I really love Colombian food after having visited there four times, but was becoming weary of the city city cuisine from Bogota and the surrounding areas, which is all we have here. The Colombian restaurants around Los Angeles seem to share the same menu, save for an item here and there.

I had the arroz de mariscos, a dish that lives up to its name with ample amounts of mussels, clams, and baby octopus, almost as substantial as a paella. A cool pickled salad and a perfectly fried patacon, one the best I've ever had. I started with a shrimp empanada, fried corn flour dough with ample crunch. It startled me at first because it was a little harder than the typical cigar shaped empanadas from Colombia you find around town, but these are Pacific Coast style.

My Colombiana, the creme soda like national soft drink was a sweet juxtaposition to the zestful seafood.I would have preferred Club Colombia beer, but that's how it goes with the stringent California liquor laws.

The menu is replete with colorful and unique Pacifico entrees: encocao of either shrimp,black clams, angel fish, or crab legs (all cooked in coconut milk); grilled fish, tapao de pescado(fish soup with plantains), sancocho de pescado (fish stew), ceviche (Atlantic or Pacific coast styles), a paella-like rice with seafood, and rice with shrimp (arroz de mariscos and arroz con camarones)--oh, and they have a nice cazuela de mariscos (seafood casserole), too. There are also Colombian hot dogs and hamburgers for those so inclined.

Aphrodisiac beverages such as the arrechon (strong fermented corn drink), jugo de borojo (Colombian fruit), and the champu (fermented corn drink). Jugos with water or milk and agua de panela, the brown sugar drink. There's lots to explore here on this menu.

The husband and wife team of Justo Gomez and Ana Milena run La Perla Del Pacifico, her behind the stove, and him at the counter. They said this is a new cuisine here and are anxious to see how people will respond, as even most Colombians are not used to this food. LA Colombianos are eating carnes! After many disappointments in Los Angeles with Latino seafood restaurant experiences, I can say with pleasure that La Perla is not amazing because it's a one of a kind, but because they make traditional Pacifico cuisine with the quality, execution, and care reserved for first-rate restauranteurs. Que chevere, que bacano, La Perla!

La Perla Del Pacifico
12727 Sherman Way Ste. #B-8
North Hollywood, CA 91605
0r 323-508-6173 cell
In the La Fiesta Outlet Mall
closed on Tuesdays

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Nicaraguan comes to the Valley

Welcome to the nieghborhood, amigo.

Carne Asada Nicaraguense

Sweet and spicy pickled onions

Queso frito, maduro, y la carne

Nicaraguan Soda Roja

Finally, a Nicaraguan restaurant has come to the Valley, even better, right in my neck of the woods.Nica's Kitchen has been open for a little over a month, and they've got the Grand Opening sign to proove it.They are closed on Tuesdays, so Monday's menu is pretty basic.I went today and had the Carne Asada Nicaraguense:Carne asada, gallo pinto(rice and beans),platano maduro(plantains either sweet and soft or crispy),ensalada(very much like Salvadorean curtido), and queso frito all for $9.Cebollitas, the Nicaraguan spicy pickled onions were a sweet and hot condiment to accent. Everything was fantastic, and tasty with a variety of textures and temperatures to delight the senses. Crispy maduro, cold ensalada, and fried cheese beautifully placed atop the gallo pinto and carne asada.
On a previous visit I had their soulful cacao drink, which the owner said was similar to horchata.I had stumbled upon this place and wandered in; the owner insisted I try his cacao drink.This is our kind of place!Today I had the Soda Roja, a very sweet and unique tasting soda from Nicaragua.Nica's also has chancho asado(pork), brocheta de cerdo(pork skewers),pollo asado, and bistec encebollado daily, and from Wednesday through Sunday:Vigoron(yucca root w chicharron, chanco con yucca(pork ribs with yucca root), and sopa de mondongo(tripe).On the weekends you can get the famous nacatamal, and baho(a mixture of meat, plantains, and yucca cooked in banana leaves).
The restaurant is dedicated to comida Nicaraguense and presenting tipical dishes.This place is a hole in the wall and with fans blasting and no AC, I actually felt like I was in Nicaragua.A little hot and humid to go with my lunch.But, such a wonderful dive and one of my new favorites.Alcohol should be on its way, the owner said that he is working on it.There is also a mini-chain Salvadorean restaurant and panadaria located in this up and coming strip mall.

Nica's Kitchen
9AM-9PM daily(breakfast, lunch, and dinner)
closed Tuesdays
11640 Victory Bl.
North Hollywood,CA 90606

Monday, August 4, 2008

Lennoxico tour w/pics

The Latino Inner City paradise, Lennox,CA!

Ever been to Lennox? I've stopped there over the years wandering back from LAX looking for restaurants and had eaten at a few spots, surprised at the dense Latino population that has grown there over the years, mostly Mexican and Central-American.

The stretch of Inglewood Ave. between Century Bl. and 111th St. is a residential neighborhood zoned for business, so there are houses that have been converted to restaurants and other Latino owned businesses. I took the metro red, blue, and green to the Hawthorne station for a little taste of Lennoxico.

Lennox Pollo is a serious pollos rostizados joint, and although I didn't eat there, the chicken looked and smelled wonderful.

La Feria reminds me of a tourist restaurant in Mexico, with a menu all over the map with seafood to carnes. Caldo michi, cocteles, pescado zarandeado, carne asada a la Tampiquena, and Southwestern fajitas, nachos, and combo plates.Mariachis regularly perform at this family restaurant with a nice ambience.This place could be in the Zona Dorada in Mazatlan! It's a place for the locals to celebrate birthdays,etc.Didn't dine here either, but it was nice to see this type of place, very oddly located on Inglewood Bl, in LA.

Don Rogelio's Tex Mex restaurant has been on my list for a while.An authentic Tex Mex place in LA not affliated with a ridiculous chain, or some other poor version of the substantial Tex-Mex cuisine. Don Rogelio's sits about 50 yards back from the street amidst a few vibrantly colored country houses, a little bit of Los Olivos in Lennox, despite the planes flying over every 5 minutes.Yes, Don Rogelio's is in a flight path. What caught my eye this day was the fabulous looking and smelling cocido being prepared. When cocido is done right it might be the only thing on the menu for me, when done wrong it's just a tedious beef stew, an irksome addition to the card. Don Rogelio's cocido is beautiful.

Don Rogelio's
Dine in Don Rogelio's country garden, surrounded by a Latino candle shop, barber shop, market, and fountains with cords running along the grass.
The cocido has huge Texas sized vegetables and tasted delicious.Along with some tortillas and the chorus of low flying planes, pure heaven on Earth.Their menu has barbacoa,lengua chile verde, enchiladas, Tex-Mex menudo, Southwestern mole, caldo de pollo, and guisados, to name a few.All recipes are from la senora, a true Tex-Mex transplant to Lennox.

Mariscos Chente is run by a family from Los Mochis specializing in Sinaloan seafood. I enjoyed a nice taco de marlin here, and will be back armed with a 6-pack of Pacifico's.

I had some good food here a few years ago at Angelica's homey little joint, which is like a comida economica with Mexican and Salvadorean antojitos and platos.

There are other places to eat, street vendors, and a panoply of beauty salons located in people's houses.

These restaurants are great, the kind that I wish were in my neighborhood. I can't wait to get back to try some more of Mariscos Chente, Lennox Pollo, and Don Rogelio's. I love LA.