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Where to Eat Now 

Thursday, Aug 10 2006
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Page 6 of 6

Top’s. The drive-thru hamburger is generally a sorry proposition, a junkyard of unhappy Happy Meals, of unstellar Famous Stars, of charnel-house malteds and grisly lumps of gristle, of TV-slick cheesy things and other restaurants so terrifyingly off-brand that you fear for your intestinal fauna. And then there is Top’s, where the bacon-avocado cheeseburgers are grand, goopy things; the onion rings are pleasingly crunchy; and the shakes are as dense and sweet as a life well lived. 1792 E. Walnut St., Pasadena, (626) 584-0244. Lunch and dinner, Sun.– Thurs., 7 a.m.–11 p.m.; Fri. and Sat., 7 a.m. –12 a.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. ATM cards and cash only. American. JG ¢b

Monterey Park/San Gabriel ?and vicinity

 LA99  Babita. Shrimp Topolobampo may still be the single fieriest invention in the history of Los Angeles cuisine, a citrusy sauté of white wine, tomatoes and diced habanero peppers that takes over its victims’ bodies like an ebola infection — searing lips, closing throats, blasting tongues, and bringing forth great bursts of panic-induced sweat that subside only a few minutes after the last shrimp is safely swallowed. The sensation isn’t anguish, exactly — the endorphin rush tends to kick in before the pain receptors realize something has gone terribly, terribly wrong — as much as it is total, irrevocable loss of control. Chef Roberto Berrelleza, who spent decades as a maitre d’ before he ever picked up a pan, is a modern master of Mexican cuisine; and his fish-stuffed yellow chiles, his seared fish with huitlacoche vinaigrette, and his oozy, porky chiles en nogada are worth the drive across town. 1823 S. San Gabriel Blvd., San Gabriel, (626) 288-7265. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m. Dinner Sun. and Tues.–Thurs. 5:30–9 p.m.; Fri.–Sat. 5:30–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Street parking. AE, DC, D, MC, V. Mexican. $ JGb

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888 Seafood Restaurant. A good place to start is the Chiu Chow cold plate: symmetrically arranged slices of tender steamed geoduck clam, aspic-rimmed pork terrine, crunchy strands of jellyfish, cold halved shrimp in a sweet, citrus-based sauce. Or try a soup of whole perch gently poached in the heat of broth, sharp with the flavor of Chinese celery and herbs, made complexly tart with sour plum, or an astonishing dish of Chiu Chow–style braised goose. 8450 Valley Blvd., Rosemead, (626) 573-1888. Lunch and dinner seven days 9 a.m.–10 p.m. Full bar. Lot parking. MC, V. Chinese. JG $b

Little Malaysia. Little Malaysia seems to concentrate on the Nonya cooking of Pinang. But it’s when multiculturalism rears its head that things really start happening on the plate. The Hainanese chicken-rice dish is subtly fragrant with ginger. Curried fish head is delicately flavored and tartly sauced, although the job of digging out the fish’s cheeks, jowls and lips is hardly a dainty one. 3944 N. Peck Road, No. 8, El Monte, (626) 401-3188. Lunch and dinner. Tues.–Fri. 11 a.m.–2 p.m., 5:30 p.m.–9 p.m.; Sat.–Sun. 12 p.m.–9 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. Cash only. Malaysian. JG¢b

 

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