The Boiling Point
Boiled fish, boiled-milk ice cream, boiled sea cucumbers? Whatever gets your water rolling . . .
Ambala Dhaba. On a stretch of Westwood Boulevard thick with student coffeehouses and Iranian hair salons, Ambala Dhaba is an outpost of the Punjab, a branch of a restaurant noted on Artesia’s Little India strip for its fiery goat curries and the boiled-milk ice cream called kulfi. It’s probably the only thing resembling traditional Indian food on the Westside. Ambala Dhaba exemplifies the time-honored side of meaty northern Indian cooking: Basic, direct food almost Islamic in attitude, Pakistani in intensity of flavor, but wholly Indian in its attention to fresh vegetables, crunchy snacks, and breads. 1781 Westwood Blvd., Westwood, (310) 966-1772. Open daily noon–10:30 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. Takeout. Food for two, $12–$20. MC, V. Indian. JG $[
Capital Seafood. Capital makes a specialty of dessert. The moss-green jellies, the hot tofu with syrup, the mango pudding and the coconut gelatin studded with black beans are superb. But the real tour de force is probably the crock of hot, sweet almond milk baked underneath golden domes of pastry, like the creation of a demented Sinophilic French chef. Boiled sea cucumber will never have universal appeal, but almond milk en croute may come pretty close. 755 W. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park, (626) 282-3318. Open daily 9 a.m.–10 p.m.; dim sum 9 a.m.–3 p.m. daily. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. MC, V. JG $
Caribbean Treehouse. Caribbean Treehouse is perhaps the only local restaurant that currently dishes up the spicy food of Trinidad and Tobago. Service is casual to the extreme — if you want another bottle of pop, you walk over to the cooler and take one out yourself. Roti, sort of a Trinidadian burrito made of chicken-potato stew or a handful of curried beef wrapped up in a grilled Trinidadian flatbread, can come pumped up with the restaurant’s fiery homemade sauce. On Saturdays, there’s the “sparrow special,” an enormous plate of food that involves jerkylike strips of salt cod, boiled cassava, sautéed onion, tomato and a certain quantity of dense, chewy dumplings. 1226 Centinela Ave., Inglewood, (310) 330-1170. Lunch and dinner Tues.–Sun. 11 a.m.–8 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $8–$18. Caribbean. JG ¢
El Colmao. Start with the avocado salad — cool, ripe chunks garnished with thin slices of raw onion and dressed with splashes of vinegar and torrents of good Spanish olive oil; then a heaping plateful of thin, pounded circles of unripe plantains, fried crisp as potato chips and dusted with salt. Next, boiled yucca; a big plateful of moros y cristianos (Moors and Christians), a tasty miscegenation of black beans and rice fried with garlic and gobbets of fat pork; piles of fried fresh ham, pierna de puerco, crisp and brown on the outside and meltingly tender within, topped with an immoderate portion of caramelized onions. 2328 W. Pico Blvd., (213) 386-6131. Lunch and dinner 10 a.m.–8:30 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. Food for two, $9–$28. MC, V. Cuban. JG ¢
99 Empress Pavilion. I can’t think of a better way to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday than meeting friends here for dim sum. Our favorite is a boiled “water dog,” a bird’s-nest-soup dumpling the size of a small bowl; break into it with your spoon, and you’ll find a broth so concentrated it tastes as if 10 chickens have been boiled down to get one cupful of soup. But dinners are pretty fine too: If you’re lucky, the Dungeness crab steamed with noodles and about half a ton of fresh garlic will be on the menu. Bamboo Plaza, 988 N. Hill St., Chinatown, (213) 617-9898. Lunch and dinner Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–10 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 8 a.m.–10 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. Validated parking. AE, DC, MC, V. $1.85–$4.80 per plate, $12–$15 per person. Chinese. JG $$[
Kim Chuy. The basic deal at this noodle shop is, of course, the noodles: Slippery rice noodles or firmer, square-cut egg noodles, submerged in broth, garnished with things like boiled duck legs and sliced pork. At Kim Chuy, the special noodles include duck and shrimp, squid and cuttlefish, and four kinds of fish cake; also floppy, herb-spiked won ton. The Chiu Chow beef-stew noodles come with melting shanks of tendon and hunks of long-simmered chuck. Chiu Chow spiced beef noodles come in a gritty, spicy demicurry, almost crunchy with ground nuts (another missing link between Chiu Chow cooking and Thai). 727 N. Broadway, No. 103, Chinatown; (213) 687-7215. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily 8 a.m.–8 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. Food for two, $8–$10. Cash or AE, MC, V. JG ¢
99 Musso & Frank Grill. Before Musso & Frank Grill became a martini-fueled Hollywood clubhouse, the place where Faulkner blew out his liver and generations of character actors learned to show up on Wednesday for the chicken pot pie, the restaurant was practically a showcase for what was then considered California cuisine: Avocado cocktails smeared with sweet, pink dressing and frigid bowls of chilled consommé; great, naked planks of boiled finnan haddie and dainty plates of crab Louie; creamy Welsh rabbit served over crustless triangles of toast and kidneys Turbigo. This is what the cosmopolitan life was like, before cosmopolitans. 6667 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 467-7788. Open Tues.–Sat. 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Full bar. Validated parking in rear. AE, DC, MC, V. Entrées $15–$40. American. JG $
Oriental Pearl. After a meal of wonton in chile broth, Chinese bacon with leeks, and water-boiled fish, by which the Sichuanese mean fish boiled in almost pure chile oil, you will probably be very happy. 727 E. Valley Blvd., No. 128C, San Gabriel, (626) 281-1898. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Takeout. AE, MC, V. JG $b
Paseo Chapin. Paseo Chapin’s pepian is a forceful version of this Mayan stew: ground, spiced squash seeds, fortified with burnt bread and toasted chiles and thinned out with broth, overwhelming the boiled chicken that floats in it, but also giving the rather ordinary bird substance. And once in your life, you should try a real Guatemalan mole de platano, tart slices of fried plantain in a thick, dangerous sauce of the bitterest chocolate, flavored with cinnamon and dusted with seeds, intricate as a Guatemalan weaving. 2220 W. Seventh St., Los Angeles, (213) 385-7420. Open daily 10 a.m.- 9 p.m. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $12–$19. Beer and wine. Validated lot parking. Cash only. Guatemalan. JG ¢
99 The Hungry Cat. The Hungry Cat is the restaurant a lot of us in Los Angeles have been waiting for, a local answer to Swan Oyster Depot in San Francisco or New York’s Pearl Oyster Bar, a place to drop into for a dozen oysters or a bowl of shrimp, a boiled crab or a bowl of chowder. The wine list is tiny, but includes a ton of obscure seafood-friendly wines — Picpoul de Pinet, anyone? — and everything is available by the glass. 1535 N. Vine St., Hollywood, (323) 462-2155, www.thehungrycat.com. Mon.–Fri. 5:30 p.m.–mid., Sat. 3 p.m.–mid., Sun. 5:30–11 p.m. Beer and wine. Validated parking. AE, MC, V. Small plates $8–$22. Seafood. JG $$Â
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