Want to give your father a very special treat for Father's Day Sunday?
Take him to dinner at Yang Chow in Canoga Park, recently redecorated by owners Anna and Hoklai Chan, who have run it for two decades--and phone ahead to ask Anna to make your father a batch of sweet rice balls for dessert.
A delicacy originating in Shanghai, sweet rice balls come in a simple warm broth with fruit, and when you bite into one, sometimes you find a black bean in the center, sometimes a cluster of sesame seeds.
The combination makes for an astonishing taste, and probably unique in your father's experience unless he, like Anna Chan, knows the secrets of Chinese cooking.
The Chinese serve sweet rice balls on special occasions--weddings, birthdays and so on.
Since the dessert is not on Yang Chow's regular menu, don't expect to just show up and get it for your father. You must call ahead to ask.
And if the Chans run out of that confection on Sunday, you have plenty of other exotic options with which to surprise your father elsewhere on the menu: "slippery shrimp," fresh conch in a brown sauce, fresh squid in a hot pepper sauce, sauteed green beans, sauteed clams, Peking duck, and--for those with truly educated palates--stewed sea cucumber.
The specialties of the house at Yang Chow range to $13.95. Most of the a la carte items, however, are less than $10.
Yang Chow is at 6443 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Canoga Park, (818) 347-2610; and 819 N. Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, (213) 625-0811.
Some other suggestions for Father's Day:
* If your father likes beer, get him to Sisley Italian Kitchen in Sherman Oaks, where hosts Francine and James Alba will offer all fathers a free draft beer with their meal on Sunday.
On the menu: sausage and polenta, for $14.95, and shrimp and scallops with capers, eggplant, pine nuts in a marinara sauce, for $16.95.
Sisley is at 15300 Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks, (818) 905-8444; at 24201 Valencia Blvd., Valencia, (805) 287-4444; and in the Westside Pavilion shopping center at 10800 W. Pico Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 446-3030.
* Rona Newman offers Father's Day specials Saturday and Sunday at the Steak Joynt in North Hollywood. On the menu: clam chowder or a salad plus a 16-ounce rib eye steak or ribs and chicken served with a peach and ginger chutney, followed by orange sorbet. The price: $19.98.
The Steak Joynt is at 4354 Lankershim Blvd., south of Moorpark Street in North Hollywood, (818) 761-9899.
* Fathers get a free entree from Lanetta Kidd's regular menu at Moonlight in Sherman Oaks, or a reduced price on a Father's Day sampler featuring small shrimp fritters, spinach and cheese empanadas, a salad with hearts of palm, grilled sliced filet mignon with mushrooms and rosemary, a char-grilled chicken marinaded in lemon and served with a cilantro sauce, and oak-plank salmon with a cucumber hollandaise. The price: $29.95 per person, $7 for fathers.
Moonlight is at 13730 Ventura Blvd., west of Woodman Avenue in Sherman Oaks, (818) 788-2000.
* Last but not least, if your father likes the out-of-doors, treat him to a picnic for four from Fins in Calabasas or Westlake.
For $100, you get fresh apples and grapes, sharp cheddar cheese, bread, chilled poached salmon, a cucumber dill salad, a mixed green salad, cold herb-roasted chicken, potato, pasta and three-bean salads. And to top things off, fresh strawberries in Grand Marnier and maple syrup.
Call ahead at least 24 hours to order your basket. Fins is at 23504 Calabasas Road, Calabasas, (818) 223-3467, and at 982 S. Westlake Blvd., Westlake, (805) 494-6494.
* As an alternative, check out the new picnic baskets available at Cha Cha Cha Encino. For Father's Day or any other occasion, you can get a picnic basket stuffed with any of six dishes: a cobb salad with fresh fruit, fresh rolls and dessert; a vegetable or turkey wrap with cole slaw, chips, fruit and dessert; poached salmon with tropical salsa plus a salad and dessert; a barbecue salad with shrimp or chicken, and a Caesar salad with a baked artichoke. Prices top out at $23. Cha Cha Cha Encino is at 17499 Ventura Blvd. (818) 789-3600.
* Juan Hovey writes about the restaurant scene in the San Fernando Valley and outlying points. He may be reached at (805) 492-7909 or fax (805) 492-5139 or via e-mail at email@example.com.