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The big veal keeps on turnin'

Wednesday, Nov 4 1998
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Green Field Churrascaria

What to do at the Brazilian steak house Green Field is grab a plate and wander through the long buffet station, picking up fresh hearts of palm, marinated chickpeas, fresh asparagus, nubs of garlic-fried chicken. Then comes the meat, rodizio ("all you can eat") style. Well-done skirt steak, chicken, bacon-wrapped turkey, spareribs, sweet Italian sausages and tiny, well-charred chicken hearts appear, slid by a procession of waiters from their swords onto your plates. Assorted rabbit parts are mild and full of juice. A crunchy strip deftly carved off what looks like a tri-tip fulfills the common culinary fantasy of cutting off and eating the salty, fatty crust from a roast beef, and leaving the meat behind. 381 N. Azusa Ave., West Covina; (626) 966-2300. Open daily 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Rodizio for two, food only, $33.90; $19.90 at lunch. Full bar. Lot parking. AE, DC, MC, V.

El Pollo Inka

Location Info

El Pollo Inka is pretty much everything you want in a Peruvian restaurant, with live music on weekends, perfect roast chicken, and the green, creamy chile sauce called aji that is good enough to drink by the quart. There are cold bottles of malty Cuzquena beer, which is the best possible thing to drink with the grilled chunks of marinated animal called anticuchos, either the traditional beef-heart kebab or the more Westside-friendly version made of chicken. Here, though, the real ticket is aji de gallina, an oily, tan mash, vaguely scented with crushed walnuts, that has something of the texture of wet bread and the elusive spiciness of a TV-dinner enchilada. El Pollo Inka's aji may be one of those dishes some people push away after a bite or two, but later realize is close to the godhead, a salty softy-puffy thing as hard to stop shoveling down as, say, the horseradish mashed potatoes at Campanile. 11701 Wilshire Blvd., West L.A.; (310) 571-3334. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Dinner for two, food only, $12-$23. Full bar. Free valet parking. Takeout and delivery. Live music Fri.-Sun. AE, CB, Disc., DC, MC, V.

Pollo a la Brasa

The first thing you notice about Pollo a la Brasa, a Peruvian chicken joint on a traffic island in the a heart of Koreatown, is the wood smoke, great billows that perfume downwind noodle shops and coffee bars. Inside, there's an assembly line in the back, guys impaling chickens on thick steel skewers, jamming threaded chickens into a vast flame-licked apparatus, hacking chickens into parts with the dexterity of machete-wielding orthopedists and tossing them onto piles of French fries. And the chicken is remarkable, well garlicked, slightly spicy, marked with pungent smoke, the happy marriage of a chicken and a bunch of logs. The flesh is juicy, the herbal flavor clear, the skin caramelized and crisp. With the chicken comes a standard salad, also little plastic cups of aji, the smooth mint-green chile puree that is almost hot enough to sear the skin off your lips. 764 S. Western Ave.; (213) 382-4090. Also at 16527 S. Vermont Ave., Gardena; (310) 715-2494. Open for lunch and dinner Wed.-Mon. (Western) and Tues.-Sun. (Vermont). Dinner for two, food only, $5-$10. No alcohol. Takeout. Limited lot parking. Cash only.

Reddi-Chick

To most people in the exalted reaches north of Montana Avenue, the Brentwood Country Mart is synonymous with Reddi-Chick, whose roaring fire and golden-skinned roasting fowl exude an aroma almost powerful enough to smell at the beach. The basic item of currency here is the chicken basket, half a roast chicken buried beneath a high mound of fries. It is probably not the best chicken you've ever had - the breast meat could be somewhat less dry, and a little fresh garlic wouldn't hurt - but it's real good, like the best version of the chickens that spin in supermarkets, marinated, mildly seasoned, but crisp, with a sort of caramelized thing happening around the joints that causes bits of skin to stick to your teeth, and a mellow sweetness that will scent your hands for the rest of the day no matter how many Handi-Wipes you use. In the Brentwood Country Mart, 225 26th St., Brentwood; (310) 393-5238. Open Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.-7:00 p.m. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $8-$14. Takeout. Parking lot. Cash only.

Shiraz

Hey, man, it's a Shish Kebab Party, a big table surrounded by people and filled with carafes of yogurt drink and raw red wine, and big chunks of protein threaded onto skewers and grilled over hot charcoal, crusted from the fire and dripping hot juice into gargantuan hillocks of rice. The kebabs might include bits of chicken, chunks of lamb, whole lamb chops, lengths of flat sausage as wide as your arm, even the odd skewer of shrimp or mahi mahi. The kebabs have been marinated with various things - turmeric, lemon, onion juice - and are occasionally tougher than they should be, but they are pretty much delicious, and as uncomplicated as any food can be. And the polos, Persian pilafs, are both copious and terrific: sabzi polo, for example, a fragrant mountain of rice cooked with cilantro and dill, garnished with a half-dozen tasty cubes of grilled mahi mahi. 211 S. Glendale Ave., Glendale; (818) 500-4948. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Dinner for two, food only, $15-$25. Full bar. Lot parking. AE, CB, Disc., MC, V.

El Taurino

My particular favorite tacos come from the truck that spends its weekends parked behind El Taurino, an otherwise undistinguished taco stand on Hoover. A gleaming column of marinated pork al pastor rotates before a simulated shepherd's fire; nubbins of the outside layer of meat caramelize and drip juice. Somebody hacks off a few slivers, slivers you know are meant for your very taco, and rushes to anoint the pork with finely chopped onion, cilantro, and a stupendous, dusky hot sauce that perfectly accents the sweetness of the meat. There are also decent stewed tongue, carnitas and carne asada - about as beside the point as the hot dogs at Tommy's. Truck operates Fri.-Sun. behind 1104 S. Hoover St.; (213) 738-9197. Cash only.

Zankou Chicken

This is what you eat at Zankou: rotisserie-chicken sandwiches, excellent falafel, shawarma carved off the rotating spit and served warm with superbly caramelized edges, sweetly gamy as only properly overcooked beef can be. The hummus is fine and grainy, and the spit-roasted chickens are superb: golden, crisp-skinned and juicy, with developed chicken flavor, the kind of bird that makes you want to scour the carcass for stray bits of carbonized skin and delicious scraps of flesh. Such chicken really needs no embellishment, although a little bit of Zankou's Armenian garlic sauce - a fierce, blinding-white paste, the texture of pureed horseradish, which sears the back of your throat, and whose powerful aroma can stay in your head (also your car) for days - couldn't hurt. 5065 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood; (323) 665-7842; open daily 10 a.m.-mid. 1415 E. Colorado St., Glendale; (818) 244-2237; open daily 10 a.m.-11 p.m. (Other locations in Van Nuys, Pasadena and Anaheim.) Dinner for two, food only, $5-$9. No alcohol. Lot parking. Cash only.

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