Burn, Baby, Burn
If you have a taste for meaty northern Indian cooking, Pakistani cooking is probably everything you like and more so, spicier than Punjabi and meatier, more deeply inflected by the flavors of ginger, cardamom and wood smoke. First among Pakistani stews is haleem, beef braised with something like shredded wheat until it breaks down into a thick, meaty gravy with the flavor of well-browned roast-beef drippings. Nahri is a beef curry strongly flavored with fresh ginger; magaz nahri is a creamy, unctuous beef curry plumped out with ground nuts. There is even stuff for a vegetarian to eat: Navrattan korma, a mixture of cauliflower, green beans and carrots stir-fried with chile and plenty of spices, is like a wonderful Muslim ratatouille, the flavors of each vegetable fresh and distinct while contributing to the cumulative effect of the cumin-scented whole. 13619 Inglewood Ave., Hawthorne; (310) 644-6395. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $12$16. No alcohol. Takeout. Street parking. Cash only.
Gallo's Grill serves everybody's dream of a great Eastside meal: warm, thick corn tortillas (or paper-thin flour tortillas) patted to order, fresh salsas brought to the table perched on intricate wrought-iron stands, garlicky steaks served still sizzling, flanked by bushels of charred scallions on superheated platters. The beef is prepared in a specifically Mexican way, meat butterflied and re-butterflied and laid open like a scroll, a broad, thin filete abierto with something like an acre and a half of surface area and the maximal ratio of brown, crusty outside to red, squishy inside, although marinated enough to allow for a bit of juice. The grilled, air-dried beef called cecina -- Yecapixtla-style, the menu says, after a town in central Mexico's Morelos state -- is even thinner, pounded nearly to the transparency of parchment, and has something of the clean, milky tang of prosciutto, of meat transformed into something beyond meat. 4533 Cesar E. Chavez Ave.; (323) 980-8669. Open daily for lunch and dinner; weekend brunch. Dinner for two, food only, $13$20. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. Disc., MC, V.
The first thing you do at the Brazilian steak house Green Field is grab a plate and wander through the long buffet station, picking up pickled 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. Bacon-wrapped 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, $31.90; $19.90 at lunch. Full bar. Lot parking. AE, Disc., DC, MC, V.
Jeepney Grill specializes in grilled food with a distinctive Filipino twist, as easy to eat as burgers and fries. Barbecued pork and beef come sliced and skewered, crisped under a sweet coat of teriyaki-like sauce, and with a dip of mild vinegar. Chicken barbecue arrives daubed with a sweet banana mush. There are grilled squid the size of extra-large mittens, tender beneath their crackly coat of teriyaki char, really tasting of the sea. Best of all are the grilled pork chops, coated with a paste of vinegar, garlic and spices -- salty, pungent, wonderful. And wait -- no Filipino meal is complete without the dessert halo-halo, sweet parfait-glassfuls of mung beans and baby coconut and jackfruit and Jell-O cubes and milk and whatever, over ice. Jeepney tops it with little cubes of flan. 3470 W. Sixth St.; (213) 739-2971. Open daily 11 a.m.9 p.m. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $6$12. No alcohol. Lot parking. AE, Disc., MC, V.
At Kokekokko, you will inevitably start with something that tastes like the chicken equivalent of the seared albacore sashimi so popular at new-wave sushi bars: thick slabs of breast muscle that have the weight and texture of good tuna sashimi, grilled just until the center begins to get a haze over its pinkness, lemony, with a dab of wasabi on each of the three pieces on the skewer. Grilled chicken hearts, skewered and served with a smear of hot Chinese mustard, are tough in the way a good chuck steak can be tough, and intensely chicken-flavored, the way a skirt steak somehow tastes more like beef than any other cut. Tiny grilled hard-boiled eggs could be the unborn chicken eggs beloved of Yiddish-speaking grandmothers, though they are suspiciously similar to quail eggs. 360 E. Second St.; (213) 687-0690. Open for dinner Mon.Sat. Dinner for two, food only, $30$50. Beer and wine. Street parking. MC, V.
Musso & Frank
It's 3:30 p.m. at Musso & Frank. The warm scent of wood smoke spreads across the room. A red-jacketed waiter comes over and pours a clear, cold martini, Hollywood's best, from a pony into a tiny frosted glass, then carefully spoons Welsh rarebit -- rich and warm, if a little grainy -- from a metal salver onto crustless toast. Here in these worn wooden swivel chairs beneath the ancient hunt-scene wallpaper, this seems very much the perfect gentleman's lunch. The service is solicitous, but mostly leaves you to your own thoughts. You can order coffee and a bread pudding, and people-watch for hours during the pre-theater rush. (You can even eavesdrop.) Musso's, the oldest real restaurant in Los Angeles, is an easy place to be happy. 6667 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; (323) 467-7788. Open Tues.Sat. 11 a.m.11 p.m. Dinner for two, food only, $25$40. Full bar. Validated parking in rear. AE, DC, MC, V.
Sa Rit Gol
Sa Rit Gol is locally famous for its pork barbecue, thin loin strips marinated in a sauce of red chile and garlic that cook up brick-red on the tabletop grills. Dab the pork with a bit of fermented yellow-bean paste, fold it into a crisp leaf of romaine, and eat the package with your fingers. Or grill fat slices of belly pork -- or sweet marinated slices of flank steak, or snipped wedges of marinated short-rib meat -- until they are charred and crisp, then dip them into a little saucer of sesame oil and salt. There's also a delicious casserole of baby octopuses, braised shiitake mushrooms with spinach, eggy pancakes enclosing aromatic shredded vegetables, and giant bubbling casseroles of crab. Dessert will inevitably be a thin, chilled broth, garnished with pine nuts, tasting almost like a tea made from gingersnaps. 3189 W. Olympic Blvd.; (213) 387-0909. Open daily 11 a.m.11 p.m. Dinner for two, food only, $18$28. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. MC, V.
381 N. Azusa Ave.
West Covina, CA 91790
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