In honor of Valentine’s Day, it’s only fitting that we have heart. No, we’re not talking about artichoke hearts or hearts of palm, but this isn’t exactly that heart-in-hands scene from “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” either. Heart is the hardest working organ, regardless the animal, so the meat is relatively lean. After some careful trimming, the proper marinade and a good grilling, the meat really shines. Heart gets the most play on Asian, Latin American and Middle Eastern plates, and once you get past the mental barrier, heart makes for good eating. Chicken, lamb or cow are probably the three most popular choices. Learn about six of L.A.’s most flavorful heart dishes.
Corazon Y Miel
Considering the name of this restaurant from Eduardo Ruiz, Traffis Hoffacker and Robin Chopra translates from Spanish as “Heart and Honey,” it should surprise no one that a signature dish involves tender chicken heart nubbins dressed with honey vinaigrette, punchy pickled onion and parsley. This type of culinary playfulness has convinced diners to divert to the little known hamlet of Bell. The colorful art-lined restaurant also serves the best cocktails south of downtown. 6626 Atlantic Blvd., Bell; (323) 450-1776, corazonymiel.com
Jin Chun-Hua and husband champion the cuisine of Jilin, their home province in Korea, which rests just south of China and west of Vladivostok, Russia. The people of Jilin are apparently quite fond of mutton, older lamb that has a gamier flavor. At Feng Mao, a restaurant that plays Korean power ballads and displays an unlikely cartoon of the Manhattan skyline, all kinds of lamb cook on tabletop grills. Skewered cubes of lamb heart cook on a steel cage, and fat drips down into the charcoal, causing flames to kick. Dip the meat in a savory spice blend that includes cumin, sesame and caraway seeds. According to the menu, lamb’s health benefits are vast, including selenium (prevents asthma attacks), iron (red blood cells), and zinc (immunity), as if you need more convincing. 3901 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 935-1099
A desolate stretch of Artesia Boulevard that cuts through Torrance yields a surprisingly high number of food finds, including this strip mall yakitori specialist. The name translates to English as “lotus flower” and floral imagery resonates throughout the space. Char-grilled Japanese chicken skewers are the reason to seek Hasu, perhaps none better than Special Heart. A wooden stick supports chunks of heart “with pump” attached, which are brushed with a light teriyaki sauce and surprisingly supple. 2106 W. Artesia Blvd., Torrance; (310) 324-5435
Hummus Bar & Grill
The West Valley is a hotbed for Israeli cuisine, and Hummus Bar & Grill is a leading example. Chef Ziva Ovadia debuted this restaurant in 2006, and offerings have only become more advanced over the years. Complimentary laffa, a thick, pliable flatbread, is baked in-house and complements everything on the menu, including the signature chickpea dip, a sea of salads, or the Jerusalem Mix. Four chicken parts, including heart, liver, thigh and breast, are stir-fried with mushrooms, onions and “spices” and served on a sizzling platter. If you want to iso on heart, they’ll gladly grill you skewers. 18743 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana; (818) 344-6606, hummusbarandgrill.com
Famed Lima native Ricardo Zarate may be on the sidelines at the moment, but other Peruvian restaurants still deliver good anticuchos, including this neighborhood spot from Elart Coello and sister Sonia, which debuted in 2010. Slices of beef heart are marinated, skewered and seared over a grill. This tender heart comes with chunks of potato, hominy-like choclo-on-the-cob and a bed of lettuce. The play is to squeeze on progressively spicy, house-made pepper sauces, including rocoto, aji Amarillo and aji, which is crafted from green chile and huacatay (black mint). 6470 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys; (818) 781-8122, takatisperuvianchicken.com
Some of Yunnan province’s leading practitioners are David and Wendy Yin, who own branches of Yunnan Garden in San Gabriel and Hacienda Heights, with a sister establishment called Yun Chuan Garden in Monterey Park. At their San Gabriel restaurant, which debuted in 2008, you could completely ignore the 199-item menu and still eat well. Point-and-pick from a display case and fill your plate with cold “appetizers” like smoked duck necks, chicken gizzards and sliced pig hearts. They dress rosy heart with dried chiles, chile oil, sesame seeds and scallions. Thankfully, the flavorful combo isn’t as fierce as it looks, and won’t put your palate out of commission. 545 W. Las Tunas Dr., San Gabriel; (626) 308-1896
Joshua Lurie is the L.A. based founder of Food GPS. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.