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Where to Eat Now 

Wednesday, Aug 30 2006
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Page 5 of 5

Burbank/Glendale/Eagle Rock

Raffi’s Place. You go to Raffi’s for its enormous, affordable plates of Persian-­Armenian food, but you also get canaries singing in the trees, a heated brick patio, quick service and a location close to ­Glendale’s best movie theaters. Everyone comes for the grilled kebabs served with whole charred tomatoes and peppers, plus mountains of aromatic basmati rice — try the shishlique, or lamb chops. 211 E. Broadway, Glendale, (818) 240-7411. Daily 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Validated parking. AE, MC, V. Persian/Armenian. MH ¢b[

Pasadena and vicinity

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Din Tai Fung. It took Din Tai Fung to transform the soup dumpling — thin-walled spheroids filled with pork, seasonings and teaspoonfuls of jellied broth — into high-tech industry. The soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung are incontrovertibly engineered to be the state of the art, elastic, ultrathin wrappers bulging with the steamy weight of the soup within, served 10 to an order in bullet-shaped aluminum steamers that look like relics of the Taiwanese ’50s. Pick them up carefully, garnish simply with a shred or two of fresh ginger and a few sparing drops of black vinegar, and inhale. 1108 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia, (626) 574-7068. Lunch and dinner daily 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m. and 5–9:30 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. Takeout. MC, V. Chinese. JG ¢

 LA99  Firefly Bistro. Monique King’s Firefly Bistro — which she runs with husband and co-chef Paul Rosenbluh — is a comfortable restaurant, the kind of neighborhood place you drop into a couple of times a month because you like the idea of cornmeal-fried anchovies in your caesar salad, or of a paella that tastes more like an uptown version of jambalaya, or of a strawberry shortcake that just happens to be frosted with a superior lemon curd. Asian touches pop up now and again, and a few Mexican things, and quite a few folky flavors from Spain. (The tapas served to coincide with the Thursday-evening farmers market right outside the bistro’s doors have become a South Pasadena tradition.) But King’s culinary specialty is probably the food of the African-American diaspora, and the best dishes on the menu run toward things like crawfish jambalaya, and the pecan-crusted catfish fillets stacked up like poker chips. 1009 El Centro St., South Pasadena, (626) 441-2443. Dinner Tues.–Sun. 5:30–9:30 p.m. Lunch Tues.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Brunch Sat.–Sun. 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Beer and wine. Street parking. AE, D, MC, V. Modern 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 wo rth the drive across town. 1823 S. San Gabriel Blvd., San Gabriel, (626) 288-7265. Lunch Tues.–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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