MARISCOS EL VIEJON

On our third stop, we ended up going to a place visited by many, including a group of my friends, that is located in the heart of Lynwood. El Viejon has a very relaxed, casual atmosphere, with a sea life-based mural on one wall, and ocean blue painted on others. There are a few TVs located throughout the restaurant to watch the latest games/matches that were taking place. Definitely fuels the summer attitude with the outdoor seating they have. I had been there once before after a night of drunkenness in Hermosa Beach with a group of friends and getting a Marine shitfaced, we all certainly had a TON of fun. When we were there, I had the consommé, which was very delicious, which is why I wanted to come back and try the rest of the food.

The place was almost full when we showed up and many more people came afterwards. We were lucky to get there when we did, since within minutes of ordering our first round of drinks, a group of musicians/mariachis came in playing a quick round of traditional Mexican music. Then, all of a sudden, we had vendors join in making their rounds trying to sell customers their merchandise. In this day and time in our economy, I couldn’t blame them for trying to get their hustle on. Not everyone is able to find work in legit job placements, and EVERYONE’S entitled to try and make a living however they can, legally, of course.

If there’s one thing people should know about restaurants is that patience is a virtue. I’m not innocent of this either in other situations, but when it comes to restaurants and your food; learn to wait a little bit. It certainly won’t kill you. There were a few people sitting down getting impatient that they didn’t notice the waitresses were swamped with an almost full house, with only two servers on duty taking everyone’s orders. Some people don’t appreciate the effort restaurant staff put into their work, busting their backs taking all the orders, running the food, and making sure all are taken care of. In other words, make sure you tip your waiter/waitress well, they deserve it!

There was quite a bit to choose from when we looked at our menu. Since they were out of a few selections including the Callo de Hacha and Botana de Caracol, which I wanted to try; this is what we ordered instead:

El Viejon Aguachiles

  • Camarones Aguachiles- Raw shrimp, diced tomatoes, avocados, cucumber, and julienne red onions tossed in a fiery (or so it should be), tangy marinade to lightly cook the shrimp in the acids of the lime juice. Shrimp was very tender, barely cooked in the mixture with a sweet and slightly spicy feel to it that rolls down the back of your tongue. Balanced with the freshness of the cucumber, and buttery sweetness from the avocado. In my opinion, it could’ve been a bit spicier, but was still packing a lot of flavor. If you’ve never tried eating raw shrimp, or aguachiles, this is certainly a good way to start.

El Viejon Campechana

  • Coctel Campechana- Shrimp, oysters, imitation crab, imitation abalone, octopus with chopped tomatoes, avocado, red onions, and cilantro in a light, spicy tomato based mixture. It was decent, was slightly bland/watery so we definitely had to add some salt and limes into it. I didn’t necessarily mind that at all as much as I did them using imitation crab/abalone. If I hate using imitation crab at home, why would I want to go to a restaurant and pay for it there? It’s like going to a restaurant and paying them to microwave me a frozen burrito or a hot pocket. I know it’s illegal to commercially sell/purchase actual abalone due to their over harvesting in the past, but I would’ve preferred that they would just leave anything that’s imitation off the menu.

El Viejon Mariscoco

  • Coctel Mariscoco- Same as Campechana, but with chunks of coconut, and served in the shell of the coconut. Honestly, these two dishes tasted the same, as if they just took a bowl of the Campechana, tossed in some chunks of coconut and served it to us. Slightly better taste with it, though. The tomato mixture was served on the side from the main ingredients. Nice little presentation, but would’ve been better with the flavors being up to par as well.

El Viejon Botana de Camaron Y Pulpo

  • Botana de Camaron Y Puplo- Cooked shrimp and octopus, garnished with cucumber, avocado, tomatoes, and sliced red onions. Served with a similar marinade as the aguachiles, drizzled with a little bit of a Mexican hot sauce. Had pretty good flavors coming through from the delicate flavors of the avocado and shrimp, to the boldness of the heat coming from the sauce, to the freshness of the onions and cucumbers. Had good flavor profiles all around. The one thing I wish they would change is to use fresh seafood, not frozen. Especially with the octopus. Any kind of seafood is always best when using fresh. Once you freeze it and thaw it out, it takes on a different texture and flavor. Aside from that, it ranked second on the list of food we tried that day.

El Viejon Jill Double Fisting

 

Also, my friend and I had been craving micheladas for weeks since the start of this endeavor. And now that we finally had a chance to get them, hell yeah we did… lol. Since the micheladas hit the spot to quench our thirsts after stressful days in our lives, we indulged the crap out of them! I believe, that since we liked the micheladas more than some of the food here, it kind of raised their level a tad bit in our opinions. However, you can’t fully judge what you’re really there for based on a few drinks that lower your standard after a few as you would at a club when you’re trying to get lucky and the fish aren’t biting, lol. I will have to come back to try the other items I didn’t get a chance to try this time. In the end our favorites were (in descending order): Aguachiles, Botana, Mariscoco, and Campechana.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EL POLLON

On our second stop for the best ceviche in town, we went to El Pollon in East LA. We would have gotten there earlier if it wasn’t for the metro train crashing into a car that thought it could beat it. There was a relaxed atmosphere in the restaurant, with TV’s all around replaying the previous soccer matches- I did not want to see a repeat of the USA game so soon. They also have pictures of Peru throughout the restaurant; my favorite was of Machu Pichu on a glass wall dividing the eating area from the cashier. Aside from the soccer matches, there was a steady line of customers ordering take out, along with a handful of customers savoring the meals they had ordered.  The handful grew to almost being full during the time that we took dissecting and devouring our food. Our waitress was awesome, being very patient with us taking our time and explaining the different dishes to us.

El Pollon Machu Pichu

We were going to try their other ceviches, but unfortunately, they had run out. So instead, this is what we had ordered:

El Pollon Ceviche

  • Ceviche Mixta - With red snapper, squid, shrimp, octopus, and mussels garnished with yams, red onions, and Cancha (toasted Chulpe corn). In the past, we found some ceviches were pre-cooked and then tossed in the marinade. Sure as hell not this place! It had a bright, spicy flavor to it that made you NOT want to stop eating it! You can taste the assertive flavors of the chilies and lime used in the marinade. Thick slices of squid, the big chunks of red snapper and shrimp, each single bite was jam-packed with flavor. With every morsel you took in, you could tell that it was cooked in the marinade since the flavors were deeply infused within the ceviche. The garnish of the Cancha was perfect with the mixture, since it added a nice texture/crunch to it.  As with the sweet potato, it balanced out the heat and tartness from the marinade. Thinking about it now still makes this chonchudo’s mouth water.

El Pollon Jalea

 

  • Jalea Mixta - Included prawns, green lipped mussels, calamari, shrimp, red snapper, octopus, clams, and yucca (cassava root) – all fried. Served with sides of house made tartar sauce, Cancha, and Salsa Criolla (pickled red onions). Having to fry such a huge amount of food, some restaurants might overcook their dish. Luckily at El Pollon, they fried everything perfectly. Every item was still very tender, moist, and not overcooked, considering how much was on the plate! The whole dish in itself was well balanced from the sweet flavors coming from the seafood, to the richness and tartness from the tartar sauce, to the acidity of the salsa criolla. Didn’t hurt to add a little spice from their house made Aji hot sauce (salsa verde), either.

El Pollon Lomo

  • Lomo Saltado -  A sliced tenderloin served with thick cut fries, tomatoes, sliced red onion, all sautéed together into a beautiful palate of flavors served with a side of white rice. Was stupendously decadent with its complexly rich sauce, layered on top of the meat. Although I doubt they are making their fries from scratch, the whole meal in itself was amazing, making us want to just drop everything and go to Peru itself for a week or two. You can never go wrong by adding some kick from the salsa verde.

El Pollon Chicha Morada

  • Chicha Morada – Made from purple corn. The drink was pretty sweet with a hint of acidity from the lime juice they add to it. Tastes like blueberries, but without the strong tartness of them. Although actual chicha is an alcoholic drink made from fermenting corn, this Peruvian style wasn’t.

El Pollon Maracuya

  • Maracuya - Made from passion fruit, but has a sweeter flavor with a mango taste than the first mentioned. Straight to the point, it is very delicious and refreshing.

Again, the ONLY thing we were missing at this meal was, of course, a nice cold beer or michelada. Even without the alcoholic libations, the food was still amazing that we again had a hard time finishing the food. In other words… those of you that didn’t get a chance to make it to this event, you SERIOUSLY missed out! By far, some of the best Peruvian dishes I have ever had. Quite possibly might have surpassed Mario’s in Hollywood for both quality and price. I absolutely will be coming back here to try more of their dishes. El Pollon has certainly set the bar pretty high for any other Peruvian ceviches we will be trying in the near future. All other Peruvian restaurants, beware…

 

LA CEVICHERIA

3809 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90019

La Cevicheria is a place you wouldn’t notice unless you’re actually looking for it as it’s a small space located between a tire shop and a laundromat. Luckily, with its aqua sea foam coloring, it stands out from the rest. This restaurant was recommended by a family member, who felt it should be our first and last stop on our hunt for the best mariscos/ceviche in town. La Cevicheria has built a reputation among the neighborhood and beyond, especially since they have been around for over ten years.

As for appearance, it doesn’t have much to show in its interior, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The waitress was very helpful and friendly, she was always available and ready to help us. Chef Carolina Orellana was awesome as well. She greeted us and proceeded to humbly discuss her dishes, including her inspirations behind them. She even recommended other Guatemalan restaurants to try out in LA. When we went, we went hungry and ready to try everything on the menu.

This is what we ended up ordering:

LaCevicheriaCalamari

  • Fried Calamari- Certainly on the stale side for me, although one of the guests with me particularly relished it. Well, to each their own, lol. The appetizer was paired interestingly enough with ketchup instead of a traditional marinara. Maybe it was just me, but the calamari tasted as if old oil was used to fry them.

LaCevicheriaCampechana

  • Coctel Campechana- Included abalone, octopus, shrimp, red onion, avocado, in a tomato sauce mixture. We all had a few issues with this one. Even after we squeezed all the limes we had into it, it was still missing salt and acidity. The other and more flagrant issue that we had was that the octopus didn’t seem to be cleaned well, as there were a few chunks of skin floating within the container. Even with those two issues, it still had a better flavor than the Peruvian style ceviche.

LaCevicheriaPeruvian

  • Peruvian Ceviche- Consisted of squid, red snapper (even though this is what was written on the menu, it looked and tasted like tilapia), shrimp, thin sliced red onion, served with a side of Aji Amarillo sauce with a side of chilled potatoes. Was positively on the bland side and definitely needed more seasoning including salt, lime, and a bit of heat. The fish didn’t have any of the flavors absorbed into it as if it were cooked first, chilled, and then tossed into the marinade right before sending it out. The same could be said about the rest of the seafood in this ceviche.

ConchaNegra

  • Concha Negra Ceviche- With blood clams, shrimp, octopus, avocado, Worcestershire sauce, mint, and the traditional ingredients used in ceviche. They are known as bloody clams (also blood cockles) due to the large amounts of hemoglobin in them. They are a bit sweeter, and less briny than regular clams. Since the mixture is not too salty, it goes great with the saltine crackers that were served on the side to accompany this mouth-watering delicacy. They counter each other with the saltiness from the crackers and the sweetness from the clams and octopus, along with the rich buttery flavors from the diced avocado added in.

CHAPINCEVICHE

  • Chapin Ceviche- Complete with octopus, crab, shrimp, tomato, onion, Worcestershire, lime juice, and Hierba Buena (also known as mint). Served with a house made habanero salsa on the side. One of the things that stood out immediately to me was that they were using real crab meat, unlike other places that defile their food with imitation crab meat- thank goodness! Something else I noticed was that instead of adding chopped coriander leaves, they used chopped mint giving it a different level of flavor and freshness to the dish that welcomes it to your palate with open arms. Perfectly balanced the sweetness, fresh taste, and tartness of the seafood and mint mixture with the heat and smokiness of the habanero sauce. The habanero sauce itself had ginger, yellow bell pepper, and when you smell it, you notice that it has mustard in it as well. By far, was the favorite of the group, hands down.

Our favorites were the Chapin, and Concha Negra ceviches. There were a few misfires thrown in our direction, but the two heroes overshadowed the troublemakers we encountered on our visit. We all left completely stuffed, damn near waddling all the way to our cars. Even though the owner doesn’t want to get a beer license, it would work in his favor since nothing goes better with ceviche than a nice cold beer or Michelada. If you don’t know what a Michelada is, it’s the Latino version of a Bloody Mary with beer instead of vodka. I will most certainly be keeping Chef Carolina and her restaurant in mind to visit again and see what other creations she will bring to the table for this hungry little fat boy…

 

 

 

 

 

 

VAKA BURGERS

On our third stop for the evening on the Epicurean Food Safari, we ended up driving into a neighborhood in Glassell Park until we saw the beacon of lights calling out to us like a mirage in a desert. We got here just in time, since they rotate the location they serve depending on the day of the week.

My friend and I were able to talk to the owner for a bit in between the moments he had  from customers coming up to order and him planning out his appointments for upcoming events. I was glad to hear he had an opportunity to compete, and win on the show “Cutthroat Kitchen” for the episode of “A-Crepe-Y-Situation“.

Even though the chef and I were getting full from the previous meal at Wurstküche, we could not pass up the opportunity to indulge in on Chef Aaron’s creations.

 

Vaka Burgers Dirty Fries

  • Loaded Fries- topped with onions caramelized with stout beer, crumbled Greek feta cheese, house made Russian dressing, parsley, and garlic aioli. The aioli came through softly, not too pungent. They felt as if in-n-out had opened an upscale location serving up their animal style fries. They were so good that we felt guilty for not being able to finish them when they were freshly made.

 

Vaka Burgers OG Burger

  • O.G. Burger- topped with cheddar, beef steak tomato, red onion, shredded lettuce and Russian dressing. Has a beautiful sweetness that peaks through from the house-made Russian (1000 island) dressing. As I’ve said in the past (if you’ve read my reviews before), I normally don’t like having ketchup in any of the foods I eat. This was definitely an exception. One of the rare moments where the chef put the burger together so well that I shut my fat mouth up and had a gastronomic orgasm as I ate the hefty bounty of food before me. As for the meat? It was extremely juicy, and cooked to a sultry medium well that I think a lot of so-called top burger spots should come over and take a lesson, or two from the Chef here. Like the chef I went to eat with said, “This is exactly what a burger should taste like”. And just for $8, this bad boy won’t break your bank.

 

VAKA BURGER VAKA2

  • Vaka Burger- wow… just wow! a two-hander of a thick juicy burger seasoned with black pepper, topped with muenster cheese, thick-cut Maui onion ring, house made bbq sauce, lettuce, and, oh yes, BACON JAM! All on a toasted, delicious bun that is freshly baked everyday and delivered from Artisan Crust Bakery, the very same company that makes the buns for Umami Burger. The bacon jam is made with a few ingredients that include molasses, onions, and beef stock combined to make his irresistible creation that any fatty would want to eat by the spoonful. Sweetness, smokiness, and a tiny bit of spice come through in his style of a barbecue sauce. So good, it is a guilty pleasure concoction that will stick to your ribs, and you won’t care because it’s worth having in your life like a cool breeze in the middle of summer. Kind of tastes like an upscale version of a bacon western cheeseburger from a certain star-logoed fast food burger chain. Well balanced with the onion ring, that is dipped in a beer batter/tempura mixture to make them extra light and crispy. And all for $10? Well worth it…

 

By all means, there was nothing missing from these handfuls of ecstasy that were teasing my taste buds. Normally, I don’t partake in onions. But in this case, I had no complaints whatsoever in any of the food we were humbly served. I most certainly will be coming back here with other friends so they can experience what I did that night. Absolutely worth trying out if you haven’t already.

WURSTKÜCHE

WURSTKUCHE

One thing you need to know before coming here is that there is always a line to get in and place your order, which is why my friend and I decided to go do a beer tasting at Angel City Brewery before visiting Wurstküche. This is also why it was our second out of three stops on our Epicurean Safari for the night. The staff is very friendly. What’s even better is that you can order a beer and drink it in line while waiting to order. As you are waiting in line, you also notice how small the kitchen is, and yet, they still pound out the orders within minutes.

WURSTKUCHE SELECTIONS

Once you’ve placed your order, you walk down a long hallway to the seating area where you can either sit outside or enjoy the hipster/bar/club atmosphere inside with a male/female duo switching between the ones and twos, spinning up-tempo music. If you choose to sit inside, as we did, the tables are covered in butcher paper topped with small boxes of crayons everywhere so anyone can write or draw on them. And yes, we did that, also. We were lucky to find a place inside to sit since it is always jam packed with boisterous conversations, awesome music, and people from all walks of life indulging on a few tasty creations that consist of different meats ranging from buffalo to rabbit, to duck, and to rattlesnake.

Since my friend and I had just come from doing a beer tasting down the street, we were starving and ordered:

wk rattlesnake

  • Belgian Fries – Thick-cut fries served with bleu cheese, walnut, and bacon dipping sauce. Simply mouth-watering awesomeness. If there’s one thing you can learn from me, it’s that you can never go wrong with bacon in anything! Easily balanced with the tartness of the bleu cheese, sweetness from the walnut, and the rich flavors coming from the bacon. What more do you want?
  • Rattlesnake & Rabbit- Tastes like chicken! Just kidding… lol. It was pretty good, actually. The meat itself had a unique sweetness to it that was balanced out by the hints of fire and brightness poking through from the jalapeños.

wkduck

  • Buffalo, Beef & Pork- A bit on the dry side, but very delicious. Has a slight taste of game, with waves of smoke, sweetness, and heat undulating through from the chipotle peppers added in these little bad boys. Tasted like a Latin chorizo, but on a whole other level of experience. It tasted even better paired with sauerkraut and roasted poblano peppers.
  • Duck & Bacon- My favorite of the previous three that we tried. A bit of spice rolls through from the jalapeños added into the sausage. Brimming with flavor, very juicy, with hints of smoke penetrating through. Went well accompanied with sweet peppers to balance out the jabs of heat in it. No condiments were needed as the flavors were amazing by themselves.

All in all, best hipster vibe I’ve experienced by far. I can never be a skinny person with foods like these to eat all throughout Southern California, and I don’t want to be, lol.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ANGEL CITY BREWERY

 A friend of mine who is a chef had done special work with Project Angel Food decided to do an Epicurean Safari with me starting with the newly renovated area of the arts district in downtown L.A. We were going to start with Wurstküche on 3rd Street, but decided on Angel City Brewery instead as the line was predictably long from the doors to the sidewalk at Wurstküche.

Initially, we didn’t know it was a brewery. We thought there may had been an exhibit taking place since there were a large amount of people heading over to what seemed to be an artist showcase from outside and a flea market in the parking lot. Upon entering, we saw it was filled with lively people from all walks of life, friendly bartenders, and live music playing in a corner of the open-spaced brewery. Only a small list of beers on the menu, but with the prices and flavors in them, it is worth coming down to find their location and enjoy what you order. I, for one, tried all of them…lol.

Angel’s flight consisted of 4.5 fl.oz. of:

ANGEL'S FLIGHT

  • Eureka Wit- Traditional white ale brewed with coriander and orange peel. A smooth, thirst quenching flavor that is well suited for the summer weather we are beginning to have here in Southern California. With a slight sweetness, and palate cleansing effervescence, it was by far one of my favorites that they have on top at this moment. With 4.9% alcohol in this brew, you can definitely have a good time laughing it up with friends while filling up on a great local beer.
  • Angeleno IPA- A great IPA that can also be enjoyed by those who don’t usually go for strong flavored beers. Strong notes of malt and hops come through with a bit of smoothness that flows nicely off the tongue.
  • Gold Line Pilsner- Czech style pilsner that is not as strong and better suited for the American general audience. Great bodied feel at the start with a dry finish at the end.
  • White Nite- A creamy stout, with strong notes of coffee, and cacao. This batch is nitrogenized giving it a thick head (the layer of foam that forms at the top of the beer when it is poured into a glass), that helps the aromas and flavors come through.
  • Imperial Cherry- It has a soft flavor of cherries that doesn’t overpower the taste of a regular wheat ale. Insanely better than the imitation cherry-flavored wheat ale from a certain large-scale Boston brewery.

And finally, I tried the last beer on their list, a special limited release for Thursday night’s mystery cask..

PORTER BELLA SPECIAL LIMITED RELEASE

  • Porter Bella- Simply put, it’s ACB’s version of Ambrosia for the GODS! Has a thick head when poured, but doesn’t have a strong carbonation in the taste. A smooth, creamy feel from this batch that is cask conditioned. This one is even better than their White Nite selection, with strong flavors of coffee, toffee, and chocolate coming through on the palate.

Overall, Angel City Brewery is a GREAT place to try awesome beers that do change tap depending on the season and availability. Definitely worth going to relax, enjoy music, try great beers, eat delicious food from stands that change throughout the week, and pass time conversing with friends, while also making new ones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ELENA’S GREEK AND ARMENIAN CUISINE

I came to this little spot in Glendale when a friend who knows Armenian food invited me here. It’s a quaint little joint that has a unique energy running through it with Armenian techno playing in the background, which apparently everyone was used to. When we first got there, there were only a handful of people. But within minutes, it was as if we had called in the cavalry and the place was completely full with a quick turnaround and people grabbing their own to go boxes from the shelf to take back their leftovers. The wait staff appeared to be nice, but at times felt like I was being rushed to order something quick so they could rotate the tables quickly for more covers.

One thing I noticed that was interesting, was that instead of serving bread and butter or chips and salsa, they served a small plate with pickled cabbage and carrots.

Chonchudo017

  • Hummus- to start off our meal, the hummus was served with a big portion of pita bread. When it came to the dip, it had a good typical Mediterranean flavor to it with the paprika, tahini (sesame paste), the pungency of garlic, and the brightness of the lemon juice. The only thing I have to say that was negative about it is that it was drenched in olive oil. Olive oil is normally drizzled around as a garnish, but in this case it was a lake of olive oil floating on top of what otherwise would have been a great hummus.

 

  • Small Salad- The salad (if we can call it that), was sent as the precursor to the pork chops. It consisted of lettuce, tomato, English cucumbers, parsley, and… white onions? Aside from the fact that the salad had a good amount of onions in it, there was no dressing whatsoever in it- except for the water draining off the salad, forming a barrier between the food and the plate. Perhaps the soup would have been a better option.

 

  • Grilled Chicken Sandwich- Moist, tender cuts of char-grilled chicken breast traditionally seasoned with paprika and wrapped in flat bread. Then,  layered with paprika paste, which is tomato paste and paprika mixed together, and (you guessed it) onions.

 Chonchudo016

  • Grilled Pork Chops- They were served with rice pilaf, roasted tomato and banana pepper, and… again with the sliced onions & parsley? I’ve got to say the chops smelled amazingly delicious with wisps of the caramelized exterior seasoned with paprika tempting me with every step it got closer to me. They reminded me of the first time I had ever tried them at a friend’s family gathering some years ago. Nicely charred, but surprisingly not overcooked since they were thin cut chops. The rice had a rich, buttery feel to it with hints of turmeric and stock coming through.

 

  • Tarragon Soda- I saw the soda with its bright green color in their display case and instantly became curious about it. The smell was in between licorice and peppermint. Same with the taste, with hints of Dr. Pepper in the aftertaste.

 

If it’s one thing I learned, it is that the onion must be Armenia’s national vegetable, lol. Just note that if you are not into onions, definitely let them know or you will be stuck with at least one whole sliced onion on your plate, daring you to eat it and try to end a date with a kiss- won’t happen.  But jokes aside, there are some things that could be fixed, but I am willing to come back and try some other dishes that did look pretty appetizing.

THE RAYMOND

 You don’t really notice it from the outside as it’s surrounded by greenery, making it feel as if you’re on an endeavour to find an elusive object of mythological proportions. Hidden away from the city, it feels like a treasure, even though it is smack dab in the middle of it. When you first walk in, you’ll feel that you’ve found the entrance to The Secret Garden. Once you are inside, the place looks like a petite cottage style restaurant that apparently used to be a small hotel/ resort in its yesteryears. but once you check out the outdoor seating, you immediately notice it is larger and much livelier than once anticipated and yet still rocking some of its past with a wrought iron chandelier above the outdoor seating.  The indoor seating is more intimate, fit for a romantic date. The outside on the other hand, is definitely set for groups or those that love outdoor seating, because it feels as if you are eating in a luxurious tree house in the middle of the forest. The vibe outside has a spunk to it with great music ranging from the killers and Fabulosos Cadillacs, to beck, MIA, and DEADMAU5. Some of the tables even started dancing a few minutes before they finished their meals and parted ways.

 As for the staff? They were amazing, too. I know that in the past there were issues with the service and time management, but not anymore. The staff was completely knowledgeable of the entire menu. They were also very friendly, attentive, approachable, and even took time to converse with us for a little bit in between tables about food and life.

  • Artisanal Baguette- Freshly baked with a thick crust served with creamy, sultry cultured butter exquisitely made by the Vermont Creamery. One of the better butters (try saying THAT fast six times) I have tasted in a while from artisanal creameries.

Chonchudo018

  • Salmon Creek Pork Belly Confit $14- Served with house made kimchi and grilled pears. Simply amazing. The pork is cooked for many hours in duck fat, giving a whole other layer of complexity and oh-so-good flavor to this mouth watering, pornographic display of visual temptation. Crispy on the outside, meltingly tender on the inside. Richness is cut through with the tangy, spiciness of the kimchi, and sweetness from the grilled pears.

 Chonchudo009

  • Hand Harvested Scallops- beautifully paired with guanciale, lollipop kale, muskmelon, bet gel and powder. Beautifully seared, sweet, buttery, and fork tender. Strong, potent flavor comes through from the melon that is delicately balanced with the earthiness from the beets, sweetness & bite from the Guanciale, and crispness from the kale.

 Chonchudo020

  • Small Farm Massachusetts Oysters $4ea- Served with Chef Tim’s hot sauce, made with Habanero, carrots and, well, a few extra ingredients that I cannot divulge. Remarkable… sweet and succulent with whispers of brininess fluctuating through with the only added flavors coming from the hot sauce.

 Chonchudo019

  • Spring Vegetable Risotto $14- Garnished with asparagus, peas, pea tendrils, and morel mushrooms. Ever since I tried a perfectly made risotto at an amazing Michelin rated restaurant in Hollywood, I fell in love with it. For this reason, The Raymond is now in my top 5 restaurants when it comes to risotto. The saltiness from the Parmigiano balanced with the creaminess of the Mascarpone is elevated with the “mountain notes” of the morels, and freshness from the pea tendrils, and asparagus.

 Chonchudo024

  • Octopus and Bone Marrow Bruschetta $16- Baby octopus tentacles and bone marrow served in a cast iron mini tray with thinly sliced radish, carrots, grape tomatoes, kalamata and Manzanilla olives, and capers. Tender octopus on toasted bread, with the acid of the tomatoes, and briny flavor of the olives cutting through the richness of the bone marrow. Now, not everyone will like bone marrow right away, but it’s worth giving it a try or two before you completely make up your mind on this delicacy…

 Chonchudo021

  • Roasted Duck $35- garnishes with pan roasted haricot vert, smoked cipollinis, hazelnuts, and what they call “flavors of the forest.” How can you go wrong with tender, juicy duck with crispy skin? The answer is never, as is the case here. Smooth creaminess coming through from the cipollini puree, and the delicate “flavors of the forest” that consist of hazelnut, rosemary, juniper berries, thyme, and raisin.

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  • Broken Arrow Venison $40- braised in butter, and seductively partnered with creamy mashed potatoes, maple turnips, American lardo (cured fat), and nasturtium. Unfortunately, we had to get it medium-well since the person I went with is used to eating everything as we affectionately call in the industry “burnt to a crisp”. Since she liked it medium well, hopefully in time I can get her to see the beauty in medium rare or rare. Even then, the meat was seared to an amazing level of sexiness and cooked to perfection. Has a slight smokiness and richness to the meat, with slight hints game. The whole meal itself tasted as if everything was just harvested from the forest and artistically orchestrated on my plate.

Overall, the food sent out by Chef Tim Guiltinan was simply mouth watering and worth every penny. This place is incredibly, one of the hidden jewels of Pasadena. Not too many people know about it, but once you discover it, it is sincerely worth trying out and enlightening others of the diamond you found hidden in the rough…

 

COMEDOR BELLA VISTA

I visited this spot because I had gotten a craving for Pupusas, but did not want to go to La Flor Blanca since it’s a little drive away, and pretty much overrated. Luckily, I remembered passing by this joint a while ago on my way to party with some friends. It used to be a rundown burger joint in its previous incarnation, and now is a yearling in its new form as a Salvadorian restaurant with a casual family owned vibe to it as if you’re lounging in a small restaurant on the shores of one of its famous and renowned lakes like Ilopango. On my first visit, we ordered the Pupusas, Horchata, and the Empanadas.
When our group went inside on the second visit, we were lucky there was a table for us since they were noticeably more packed during dinner service than the first time I had food from here. It was an enjoyable atmosphere with the sounds of casual conversations sprawling around the room. I also noticed that at least a good handful were coming for their first time by hearing good word of mouth promotions coming from their friends/family checking it out. Also, in the background they had their TVs displaying soccer matches to pass the time by. The waitstaff were very friendly (and beautiful) women who were always checking on their tables and making sure that their customers were being taken care of. I got to say, even in some finer dining restaurants, you can’t find those type of employees all the time. On this visit, I tried the Aguas Frescas, Sopa de 7 Mares, and the Carne Asada with Chorizo.Image

  • Pupusas: Unfortunately, none of the pupusas came with the ubiquitous Salvadorian herb called Loroco, except for the plain Queso con Loroco, and the Revueltas. I had to ask for it to be added to the others at an extra charge, even then, they barely had any inside them. I understand that some people might not be a fan of this herb-it’s actually the buds of a plant that only grows in El Salvador-but I, for one, expect it in all of the pupusas I eat. Even though I might have a few disappointments with a couple of their pupusas, it is not all bad. For $2, you get a pupusa that is quite larger than pupusas of any other place I’ve tried. One alone can almost cover your whole plate, depending on how large your plate is. I got full off of three of those suckers, and if you see me, you KNOW I can eat more than three regular sized pupusas. That’s why it’s called The Chonchudo Files… lol

-Carne Asada and Queso- Nothing extraordinary here, it is exactly what you would expect to taste. Felt like I was eating a Mexican quesadilla (not to be confused with the Salvadorian quesadilla, which is a type of sweet bread made with cheese), made with a thick corn masa tortilla.

-Jalapeños con Queso- as the name implies, you would expect to get a strong flavor and kick to come from the jalapeños, right? Yeah, so did I. I got no spice, and barely saw any jalapeño in it. Should have gone with the regular Queso con Loroco.

-Revueltas- Although normally Revueltas have queso con loroco, chicharron (pork belly), and beans. These didn’t have the latter, but still had a great flavor to them. Out of all the ones I’ve tried here, these were my favorite. I was able to taste the loroco in the cheese, as well as the tomato, peppers, and cumin in chicharron. When people see the chicharron before it goes into the masa, they think it’s raw, ground pork because it looks slightly pinkish. This is not the case. It takes on that color because once it is fried, it is passed through a food mill along with bell peppers, garlic, onion, tomatoes, and salt/pepper/cumin S&P&C (HIMYM joke, but true) for flavor. So, once it has all been ground together, it takes on the reddish hue due to the added ingredients.

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  • Sopa De 7 Mares- The Salvadorian version of seafood Consommé that contains: crab, mussels, clams, octopus, white fish, shrimp, calamari, carrots, squash, with speckles of parsley strewn around. Rich broth with its succulent flavors that are uniquely balanced due to the variety of jewels from the sea added to this dish to elevate it to another level. You can never go wrong with a squeeze of lemon to add  a little more complexity to it.

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  • Carne Asada con Chorizo- A grilled steak, served with Salvi style chorizo, rice pilaf with diced vegetables, creamy refried beans, salad, and Chimol, which is the guanaco version of spicy pico de gallo with radish. Simply put, it made this fatty’s day… lol. The meat was done just the way I like it, charred on the edges, a medium well in the center. It was just thick enough to get a great sear on the outside, but still juicy with a thin line of pink in the middle. The chorizo was nicely seasoned, with hints of paprika, onion, and acidity provided by the vinegar. Surprisingly enough, it was not as oily or greasy as a regular Salvi chorizo- insert joke here, lol. Can you imagine all of this on one big plate, also served with handmade masa tortillas? And for less than $20? Yeah, now you know why this gordito was in heaven.
  • Empanadas de Platano- Custard filled plantain fritters, that have been the best I’ve had so far. Normally, people make the fritters thick from the plantain and minimal filling inside. Not this place. They fill these little grenades of thin fritters to the brim with custard to the point that they are on the verge of exploding while you are trying to grab one of these bad boys. Usually topped with a little bit of sugar, and it’ll be the best way to end your meal.
  • Horchata- FINALLY! A true Salvadorian style Horchata to be proud of. Sweet and nutty in its flavor that it instantly reminded me of when I was a little kid buying bags (that’s how it’s sold out there) filled with this cooling refreshment while walking down the streets to the market square in Santa Ana, EL Salvador. Mexican horchata is made with rice, cinnamon, water, and lechera (sweetened condensed milk). Not this one. It is made from what is called ‘Semilla de Morro’, which is a seed from a fruit tree that is also called Mexican calabash. Since the seed is very hard, it goes through a few processes that includes boiling and grinding before it can be made into horchata for the masses to enjoy.

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  • Aguas Frescas- These were some juices made from Central American fruits that most places I’ve been to did not have. Since these fruits, are not typically found in regular stores, you can find them in the frozen aisles of Latino markets.

-Arrayan- Slightly acidic and tastes kind of like a blend between guava and a pear. Very refreshing, it is in the guava family, but more on the sour end of the spectrum.

-Marañon- A very sweet drink with chunks of the fruit floating in the glass as if frozen in time. You wouldn’t have thought of it, but is actually made from the fruit of the cashew nut. The fruit is a bright orange color and naturally sweet, but too thick to be sucked through their straws.

Even though they had a few downfalls with a few of their pupusas not being up to par, do not hold it against them- I’m sure they will take care of it. The rest of the food and drinks on the other hand, are well worth stopping by to at least try and get hooked on to keep coming back.

CAFE MASSILIA

I found this cafe by shear luck on Wednesday (4/30/14), looking for parking to go into the record store around the corner. luckily, I decided to check the place out. I got there pretty early so I was one of the first people to get there. I didn’t get to talk to the owner much, but he was on top of making sure I was taken care of, nice guy.

Its got a nice decor, slight moulin rouge feel with the color scheme they went with. Definitely like the art on walls, makes you wish you were in paris during the early turn of the century. Relaxing, yet intriguing selection of acoustical aphrodisiac that makes you want to start dancing with the crowd, while toasting with a glass of champagne as it tickles your nostrils with the hypnotic perfumes of sweet seduction brought on by peach, n spring floral notes as if you got a whiff of your loved one while you’re kissing the nape of her neck. Which is quite reasonably priced ( about $8/glass for champagne) with a well balanced, n varied selection of wines on their list. Here’s what I ordered:

Escargot Massilia- tender, sweet with its natural flavors with the added richness of clarified butter, cut with the acidity of slightly roasted tomatoes. Tasted amazing, kinda feels like you’re makin love to your partner with your mouth, where every time you get another taste of it, you want to keep going for more and never stop… Lol

Steak frites- the fries have been some of the better fries topped with garlic, considering its the precut garlic that is bein used and tossed with parsley. unfortunately, not everything was on par from everything that I ordered…The steak, for example, was not was is shown in their website. A little monotonous in flavor, fairly thin steak that is very hard to get to the temp ordered- which is why i figured it didnt hav that nice of a sear on it. What was served as steak to me was better suited for a carne asada, not a steak. Could be better if was switched with maybe a hanger or flat iron steak that would let you get a great sear on it as well as serve it at the temperature desired. Hopefully, I get a chance to come back and try other items on their menu…