Food

Critics' Choice: Breakfasts from around the globe in L.A. area

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After Thursday's extravaganza, it might be the right time to think about the lightest meal of the day — or the meal that affords us the rest of the day to burn off some calories, anyway. Forget pancakes. How about savory Taiwanese crullers dipped in super-fresh soy milk, house-made longaniza sausage with eggs, sweet Belizean ducunu (they're like logs of unfilled tamale made with fresh corn grated off the cob) or poached-egg soup with hand-patted tortillas? Whether on La Brea Avenue or Bolsa Avenue, early-morning options abound. Here are several places to try from recent Find columns.

— Betty Hallock, C. Thi Nguyen, Linda Burum, Miles Clement

Little La Lune: Mornings here bring bowls of congee, the Cambodian iteration of rice porridge. It's teeming with swollen grains of rice, slivers of fried garlic and a scattering of cilantro. Pork is the prevailing order (perhaps for the extra bits of offal that find their way into each bowl), but the chicken and catfish porridges are each as satisfying. Add a batch of bean sprouts and a squeeze of lime for texture and tang. Then order the freshly fried Chinese crullers known as cha kwai, dippable doughnuts that could probably fuel you through a marathon.

2054 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach, (562) 856-5800, http://www.littlelalune.com. Open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Huge Tree Pastry: Having Taiwanese breakfast at this Monterey Park newcomer is like looking at an American diner breakfast, just slightly refracted. The Taiwanese classic glutinous rice roll, called "salted rice ball" on the menu, is soft, sticky rice wrapped around a long, crispy fried doughnut with a layer of slightly sweet Chinese cotton-candy pork fluff in between. The green onion pastry, a sesame-studded morsel of golden flaky pastry, is halfway between an onion scallion pancake and a croissant. Try the savory soy milk and the sweet bean curd. You'll notice most of the regulars order the long Chinese doughnut called a "twisty curler" to dip into their bowls of soy.

423 N. Atlantic Blvd., No. 106, Monterey Park, (626) 458-8689. Open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

Flavors of Belize: Breakfast is a weekend indulgence here. You can get a Belize-style breakfast with over-easy eggs and puffy fry jack (fried dough), a succulent chicken-filled tamal with the texture of a delicate savory pudding and a cold drink of puréed guanabana fruit called soursop juice. And there are always ducunu. These unfilled tamales, made with fresh corn grated off the cob, then ground and formed into sweet-savory logs, taste wonderful on their own and spectacular with stewed pork, beef or chicken.

1271 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 931-4840. Weekend breakfast. Open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.

Uyen Thy: Breakfast on Bolsa Avenue usually means a bowl of pho or maybe a pork-packed pâté chaud. Here, it's egg heaven. Tear off a hunk of fresh baguette, pile on a smear of rich pâté and a slice of pale Vietnamese ham and run it all through the golden yolks of a pair of sunny-side-up eggs. Or wake up to bo kho. The homey stew is a breakfast staple: cubes of beef shank and carrots slow-cooked in a broth spiked with star anise and cinnamon.

9039 Bolsa Ave., Suite 101, Westminster; (714) 898-9889. Open 6:30 a.m. to midnight daily.

Eatalian Café: Wake up the Italian way at Eatalian, a restaurant in the middle of an industrial zone in Gardena. Have a morning pastry (maybe a wedge of the blueberry crostata) and a shot of caffeine dispensed from a Faema espresso machine, a stainless-steel marvel of midcentury design as iconic as an Alfa Romeo roadster.

15500 S. Broadway St., Gardena, (310) 532-8880, http://www.eataliancafe.com. Open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday.

Mama Fina: The mangu at this modest Dominican-style restaurant in Bellflower is a savory, vaguely sweet dish of crushed green plantains that looks a little like lumpy mashed potatoes. As the foundation of the blowout breakfast, the lightly seasoned mound sits under a sunny-side-up egg surrounded by house-made longaniza from owner Josefina Soto's sausage recipe, a slice of gooey-centered fried fresh cheese and thick rounds of the Dominican-style "salami" that she has shipped from Miami (its taste and texture resemble knackwurst).

17625 Bellflower Blvd., Bellflower; (562) 867-8128, http://www.mamafinarestaurant.com. Weekend breakfast. Open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Amalia's Restaurant: Just north of the traffic-tangling intersection where Beverly, Temple, Virgil, Commonwealth and Silver Lake merge sits Amalia's. There are marvelous breakfast plates with meats, sausages and eggs, or beans, plantains and cream. Sopa de huevo, two eggs poached in an herbal broth laced with home-grown epazote and tomato, is amazing with Amalia's silky hand-patted tortillas. Have these with a house-made drink, an atole of sweet fresh corn or rice.

751 N. Virgil Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 644-1515, http://www.amaliasrestaurant.com. Open 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Friday and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Rollie's Bakery Café: The wall of sweets at this Tustin restaurant — shell-shaped conchas, rows of cinnamon-crusted confections and fluorescent pink pastries — is deceiving. It's part panaderia but also a rare outpost of Bolivian cooking. Order from the Mexican menu at breakfast, when you can bag a still-warm pastry with a plate of chilaquiles. Or try the saltenas: The Bolivian sibling of empanadas, the saltenas here come in shallow bowls that capture the juices that gush from the pastries once they're cracked open. Inside is a finely spiced mix of ground beef and chicken, peas, potatoes, slivers of hard-boiled egg, olives and raisins.

14071 Newport Ave., Tustin, (714) 669-8300, http://www.rollies.weebly.com. Open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday.

Puro Sabor: On weekends, Puro Sabor (Spanish for "pure flavor") serves Peruvian-style breakfasts — meaty, farmhand-style meals built around steaks, eggs and tacu tacu, the Afro-Peruvian mash-up of seasoned rice and beans. The sweetest spot is held by picarones, melt-in-the-mouth pumpkin doughnuts that resemble tempura-light funnel cakes. Drizzled with syrup made from dark, earthy piloncillo sugar, the dessert exemplifies yet again why Puro Sabor is so apt as the restaurant's name.

6366 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys, (818) 908-0818. Weekend breakfast. Open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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