pollo El Criollo, but mix those beans and rice, brother.
lengua guisada, a simple yet satisfying creole culinary gem.
tostones dotted with lethal amounts of garlic.
If you've never been to El Criollo, the pride of the Sera family, now is a great time.Their new location is comfy, more spacious, and is still serving mom's same delicious Cuban recipes.I'd been a regular at the old location on Victory and was there as soon as they opened up on Van Nuys Bl., just up the street from Puro Sabor.This is the place in LA to enjoy Cuban creole(criollo)home cooking.Simple comfort food made from traditional sauces, the mojo(garlic and bitter orange) and the sofrito(tomato, peppers,onions, garlic, and cuban spices). Niurca Sera, the cook and wife of the host and owner,William Sera, has been blessing Angelenos with her Cuban delights for 30 years, only 6 months in the new digs.
In Cuba, the paladares(privately owned restaurants found in homes)are where you find this wonderful cooking, and many state run restaurants too.Simple dishes with pork, chicken, and beef like the classics picadillo(ground beef in sauce), lechon asado(roast pork), and fricase de pollo. The paladar La Julia in Habana Vieja has a killer lomo ahumado(smoked pork)served with congri(red beans and rice) or moros y cristianos(black beans and white rice mixed together "moors and christians").Too bad we can't get Cristal or Bucanero here, the two cuban national beers, light and dark respectively.They are excellent. At El Aljibe, the state run shrine to cuban roast chicken, the government guards their secret recipe like they do Castro's medical records.
Niurca also guards her recipes, my favorites are the rabo encendido(oxtail), lengua guisada(tongue), and the cuban tamal.The other night, 17 of us had a variety of dishes that were enjoyed by all.My lengua guisada was tender with a wonderful cuban tomato sauce, just like you would find in a cuban paladar.The oxtail is but into sections and stewed in wine and cuban spices until it melts into a heap of divine texture and flavor.These plates will put a smile on your face and a montuno in your step.The sides of tostones(fried green plantain), yuca, and maduro(sweet plantains are prepared with love. Have some tostones with the mojo de ajo(garlic sauce)to start and you will have breath that could wake the dead, but it'll be worth it.My favorite part of dining at El Criollo though is when the 80 something William Sera with ageless charm and grace suggests the moro rice(beans mixed with rice), or the rice and beans separately.But, with a sly grin William adds"these are better if you mix them together","muy sabroso".Have your beans and rice mixed by Niurca, or mix them yourself! There is no slowing down for Niurca and William Sera.The only thing missing at El Criollo are people playing dominoes out front and those delicious bucaneros, perhaps a diplomatico "churchill" to smoke after the fall off the bone oxtail.
6622 Van Nuys Blvd.
Van Nuys, Ca. 91405