Fifteen Reasons to Try Something Different
Before we get to 1999, let’s revisit the best bites of 1998 as Charles Perry, Barbara Hansen and Max Jacobson choose their 15 favorite Counter Intelligence dishes of the year:
This big, healthful meal-in-a-dish is soybean sprouts, lettuce, seaweed, a fried egg, rice, sweet bean paste and spicy pickled cabbage (kimchi). You stir them all together in a big bowl, producing a great blend of textures and tastes.--B.H.
Jeon Ju Korean restaurant, 2716 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 386-5678. Bibim bap: $9.
When the Dal Rae opened 40 years ago, Continental dishes were ne plus ultra of fine dining and there was no such thing as a StairMaster. The menu still lists a gloriously unfashionable Lobster Thermidor: lobster meat baked in the shell with a staggeringly rich hollandaise enriched with mushrooms, Sherry and cream.--M.J.
Dal Rae, 9023 E. Washington Blvd., Pico Rivera. (562) 949-2444. Lobster Thermidor: $24.75.
Chocolate Marshmallow Cake
The homey, family-run Cajun restaurant Mossville 70663 makes excellent cobblers, pralines and cakes. The fudgy chocolate cake is frosted liberally on all sides with a sweet, gooey marshmallow cream.--M.J.
Mossville 70663, 1327 E. 4th St., Long Beach. (562) 495-3100. Chocolate marshmallow cake: $3.50.
La Barca Jalisco’s huge concoction of seafood (and some avocado) in a sweet, slightly spicy tomato sauce is as good a seafood cocktail as you’ll get this side of coastal Mexico. A warning: The coctel Campechana is so big you might not be able to eat anything else.--B.H.
La Barca Jalisco Restaurant, 3501 Firestone Blvd., South Gate. (213) 564-5141. Coctel Campechana: $8.50.
The Southland’s best falafel is served at a place called the Hamburger Hut. The delicious balls of deep-fried garbanzo bean paste (more like the Indian bhaji than the usual falafel) are deep green from cilantro and parsley.--M.J.
Hamburger Hut, 824 S. Gaffey St., San Pedro. (310) 832-4813. Falafel: $4.25.
Fortunately, some homey, old-fashioned Italian dishes remain at the newly spiffed-up San Antonio Winery. One is this lasagna, which layers lean ground beef, fresh spinach and mushrooms, ricotta, Parmesan and mozzarella with lasagna noodles and tomato sauce.--B.H.
San Antonio Winery, 737 Lamar St., Los Angeles. (213) 223-1401. Florentine lasagna: $8.95.
One place where you can still get food with the rich flavor that comes of long braising is Flossie’s, a shrine to Southern cooking. Its very meatiest dish is short ribs, from which the bones and most of the fat have been removed. Get the excellent collard greens and wonderful candied yams on the side.--C.P.
Flossie’s Healthy Home Cooking, Yukon Shopping Center, 3566 Redondo Beach Blvd., Torrance. (310) 352-4037. Short rib dinner: $10.99.
Minced ‘Squab’ in Lettuce
Veggie World replicates Chinese and Vietnamese meat dishes with ingredients like tofu and wheat gluten. The best is “squab” made from gluten, bamboo shoots and toasted pine nuts, minced fine and eaten on lettuce leaves smeared with plum sauce. It’s a sort of NewAge burrito.--M.J.
Veggie World, 9016 Mission Drive, Rosemead. (626) 237-0162. Minced “squab” in lettuce: $6.95.
There are a lot of delightful dishes at tiny Rosalynn Thai, from a crunchy appetizer called krathongtong to tropical fruit ice creams. But if there’s one best dish, it’s the duck salad: duck meat perfumed with ginger and star anise tossed with lettuce in chile and lime dressing.--C.P.
Rosalynn Thai, 2308 Lincoln Blvd., Venice. (310) 397-2647. Duck salad: $6.95.
Mole Amarillo de Pollo
Monte Alban, the Westside’s latest Oaxacan restaurant, makes a delicious mole amarillo de pollo. This chicken in a sweet, spicy sauce with a hint of smoke is available by itself or as a filling for a burrito-like Oaxacan empanada.--C.P.
Monte Alban, 11927 Santa Monica Blvd., West L.A. (310) 444-7736. Mole amarillo de pollo: $6.25.
You’d probably settle for a good burger at a goofily gorgeous location like Union Station, but Traxx has great food, such as the pan-roasted tenderloin, which comes with a rosemary and blue cheese topping, a grainy meat reduction sauce and mashed potatoes with a couple of crinkle-cut fries sticking out of them like rabbit ears.--C.P.
Traxx, Union Station, 800 N. Alameda St., L.A. (213) 625-1999. Pan-roasted tenderloin: $19.95.
Philadelphia Cheese Steak
These days, everybody from Jack in the Box to falafel stands are selling cheese steaks, and you may wonder what all the fuss is about. Here’s a place where you can get the real thing: chopped-up steak and buttery white American cheese on a spongy bun flown in from Philadelphia. Add some hot peppers, and that’s eating.--C.P.
The Philadelphia Connection, 633 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena. (626) 304-9944. Cheese steak: $5.25.
Stuffed Chicken Wings
G.C. River makes extraordinary deep-fried chicken wings with a glutinous rice stuffing. A dark, fruity dipping sauce complements them perfectly. They’re not on the regular menu but you can call in advance to order them.--B.H.
G.C. River, 727 E. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel. (626) 288-6182. Stuffed chicken wings: $2.50 each.
Most of Zazou’s dishes have the trademark exuberance of California cuisine, but none more than the grilled ahi with “air-roasted” (baked, presumably) tomatoes. It’s a mug made of couscous filled with sweet roasted tomatoes, piled high with seared tuna, surrounded by eggplant caponata.--C.P.
Zazou Cuisine of the Sun, 1810 S. Catalina Ave., Redondo Beach. (310) 540-4884. Grilled ahi: $16.95.
Tandoori Sea Bass
Sea bass and rack of lamb: It’s really a tie between the Clay Pit’s fish and lamb for best tandoori dish of the year. The lamb has luscious, if unconventional, seasoning and the tender succulence of the spicy fish is delightful. But if I had to pick one, it would be the sea bass.--B.H.
The Clay Pit, 145 S. Barrington Ave., Brentwood. (310) 476-4700. Sea bass: $13.50.