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Good Ethnic Eats in LA

I'm a NY chowhound coming to LA for the first time in over in 10 years. Good fancy food I've always found easy to find, but would love to hear some recommendations for the hidden gems you have that are not to miss destination for the weekend I'm in town. Ethnic cuisine is preferred especially things we maynot have here in NY, and it surely doesn't have to be fancy, clean, etc,just amazing eats.

I'm staying in Brentwood but will have a car and always willing to travel for a great meal.


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  1. Near Brentwood is one of my favorite Oaxacan places, Monte Alban (and next in the same mini-mall, a pretty decent taco spot whose name escapes me at the moment). You're also close to Sawtelle with some nice Japanese places like Orris and Kiriko.

    If you head a little east, you'll run into Little Ethiopia. Heading further east is Koreatown. From there you can head north into Thai Town.

    Tell us, what cuisines in New York do you prefer? Are there any types of cuisines here in LA that you may have heard that intrigues you? The options are really wide open at the moment, so any kind of specifics would be helpful.

    Beyond that, my suggestions would be Monte Alban for Oaxacan and then Beverly Soon Tofu for Korean. And the restaurants that is captivating me personally at the moment is Jitlada for Southern Thai.

    3 Replies
    1. re: SauceSupreme

      L.A. pretty much kicks New York's butt in anything Asian or Latin American. We've just got far bigger, and more recently arrived, populations of people from those regions. So stick to that.

      Since you'll be here for the weekend, you might want to go out to Wat Thai on Coldwater Canyon Blvd. at Roscoe in North Hollywood - Saturday or Sunday 11-5 for great, truly great, Thai food in a fun atmosphere.

      Since you've got a car, you might also want to cruise Cesar Chavez, Whittier or Olympic Boulevards east of downtown at night looking for taco carts. What you really want is a pushcart with a big round of al pastor turning in front of a real wood flame - there aren't many of them because they're illegal - but they are great and unlike anything you'll find in NYC.

      During the day on the weekend, it is also fun to go to the Alameda Swapmeet at 45th and Alameda (south of downtown) for a big variety of Mexican food and a great scene.

      Chichen Itza on 6th near MacArthur Park is a wonderful Yucatecan restaurant. Serenata di Garabaldi on 1st St. in Boyle Heights, east of downtown, is excellent for somewhat upscale Mexican seafood. For the best upscale Mexican food in town - Babita, on San Gabriel Blvd. just north of the 10 Fwy in San Gabriel.

      Koreatown is a lot of fun and very interesting. You might just show up at Chapman Market on 6th and wander around drinking and snacking at the different bars. There are so many places in Koreatown it's impossible to recommend just one without knowing specifically what you're looking for. There must be several threads on this board that can steer you toward what you want.

      The San Gabriel Valley, along Valley Blvd. has pretty much any sort of Chinese you would want. Also worth looking up some threads on this board. My current faves are J&J Shanghai (Valley Blvd. just west of Del Mar), Lu Din Gee (Valley Blvd. just east of San Gabriel Blvd), Dong Ting Spring Hunan, in the huge shopping mall with the Ranch 99 market at the corner of Del Mar and Valley; Kang Kang Food Court, 27 E. Valley in Alhambra, north side of street, just east of Garfield; actually, there's just too many, I could keep going on. My favorite dim sum with carts is 888 Seafood on Valley three blocks east of San Gabriel - get there by 10:30 on the weekend or be prepared to wait a while.

      If you want Cambodian, I recommend New Paradise on Anaheim St. in Long Beach (the biggest Cambodian community in the world, outside of Cambodia.) If you can get in on a Friday or Saturday night - they are often booked up with private parties - the food is good (not fantastic, but plenty good and interesting) and there is a very good, fun band and singers playing Cambodian pop music - which is a wonderful thing.

      Anyhow, there's a start for you. Good luck. Enjoy.

      1. re: estone888

        Wat Thai is a great recommendation. Even if you don't eat anything (in which case you've got the willpower of a brick wall) it's still a fantastic scene.


        While we're talking about street scene, there's also the Hollywood farmer's market on Sunday, where there are a handful of ethnic food stands. (I enjoy the pupuseria and the taco stand there on Selma, and I've always been intrigued by the Korean food stand.)

        1. re: estone888

          All good recs, Wat Thai L.A. is so good, unique and fun. For one of the best Fish Tacos anywhere try Tacos Baja Ensenada. There is so much good Chinese available in the San Gabriel Valley, I don't know where to begin. The op would have to specify a regional cuisine of interest or search posts by Jerome and others. I like Chung King in San Gabriel a lot but ipse dixit doesn't!

          For Thai I like Sri Siam and Krua Thai in North Hollywood as well as Yai in Hollywood.


          Tacos Baja Ensenada
          5385 Whittier Blvd
          Los Angeles, CA 90022
          (323) 887-1980





      2. There was NYCer who asked for L.A. recs back in Feburary. After he visited he posted back that his best (I believe) dining experience was at Babita where he said something like "If you live within a 100 miles of this place and you haven't been, shame on you". I cannot find the link to his report, but I did a search and found a link that referred to it. The bad news - from Brentwood it could be over an hour depending on traffic and weekend or weekday:


        Type Babita in the search function and you'll find lots of entries nearly 100% enthusiastically positive.

        1 Reply
        1. re: JBC

          Agreed. If your willing to drive, get in your car and head to Babita. You won't be sorry.

        2. Soot Bull Jeep
          Little Armenia is on Hollywood Blvd around Western and eastward
          Cafe Brazil
          Rahel, Meals by Genet, and Messob on Fairfax as suggested for Ethiopian
          Los Balcones de Peru
          Carnival or Alcazar in the Valley
          Magic Carpet
          Nata's Pastries
          Porto's Bakery

          1. and -- Terried Sake House and the one more that is next door - both Japanese Izakaya on Santa Monica Blvd. between Federal and Barry? something like that

            1. Sabor a Mexico for as real a deal Mexico City-style food in the Westside...


              1. don't know how much time you have, so....

                1. check out "el tepeyac" on evergreen in east la. been there for about 60 years, same owner (he's now in his 80's). always busy, mostly with locals, but we've spied celebrities. i've been going since the mid 60's;

                2. "lu din gee" on valley in san gabriel. best peking duck in OR OUT of china. mostly chinese clientele. i had a chinese gentleman who had just returned from beijing tell me that he came straight from the airport because he had been gone a few months and couldn't find anything comparable in china!!!

                3. you should check out the la institutions: tommy's, pinks, in 'n out. it is the stuff that many of us crave when we are away.

                hope that you enjoy your visit and will report on your finds!

                1. I had mami (Filipino noodle soup) for lunch today at Asian Noodles on Spring St. near Chinatown. While some hounders found the broth bland or unexciting, I have to vote the other way. The soup itself was flavored just right--not too salty, with just the right amount of chicken flavor to it (I had the chicken mami). I also had the kalamansi juice (kind of like a limeade, but without the edgy acidity and cloying sugary aftertaste). Refreshing on such a hot day!

                  Anyway, I think this place qualifies as ethnic, especially since over 90% of the customers I saw there today were Tagalog-speaking Filipinos. I guess it's not just me: the food really is good.

                  Some favorites...
                  Crispy pata -- deep fried pork leg, which tastes better than it sounds

                  Beefsteak with fries -- NOT like steak frites, but pretty good if you like soy sauce

                  Siomai and chicken mami -- chicken, wide noodles, and dumplings (like Chinese siu mai)

                  Shanghai lumpia -- thin, crispy egg rolls filled with minced pork, shrimp, ginger, water chestnuts. These are NOT Chinese egg rolls!

                  Chicken adobo -- chicken stew with a vinegar-soy based sauce, hints of bay leaf, black pepper, garlic

                  Garlic rice -- just trust me

                  Inihaw na baboy -- pork chops that you MUST eat with the sauce

                  Fried bananas -- with ice cream: try the ube (not-too-sweet purple yam), which complements the sweet banana nicely, topped with rice puffs

                  No matter what you do, DO NOT go to the Asian Noodles in Glendale. I hear nothing but bad comments from friends who live in that area.

                  Speaking of that area, though, try Alejandro's in Eagle Rock. It's not pretty, but the food there keeps me coming back. Crispy pata, garlic rice, pancit sotanghon (stir-fried thin glass noodles with veggies and chicken), and a smoothie or cooler. And leche flan! Take some back with you to where you're staying and nosh on that all night--it's a Filipino version of Spanish flan, usually a little smoother and with a bit more egg in it (that's the Chinese influence). Alejandro's has a wonderful, burnt caramel sauce.

                  Asian Noodles
                  643 Spring Street
                  LA 90012

                  4126 Verdugo Rd
                  Eagle Rock (but I think it's officially LA)
                  LA 90065

                  Happy eating!

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: riceflour

                    If Asian Noodles is the place upstairs in the "teen" section of the Glendale Galleria, yeah, that's a big Must Avoid. They pretend to heights of pan-Asian cuisine and do none of the cuisines well.

                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                      The one downtown also has good siopao which is obviously a Chinese dish but Filipinos co-opted anyway.

                      1. re: SauceSupreme

                        I like to think of it as "adapted," truthfully. After all, the char siu bao I've had in HK does not have the round, domelike appearance of the slightly larger and variously-filled siopao common in Manila and Baguio.

                        But when you come right down to it, Filipino food is influenced by many cuisines from around the world--from siopao and mami to arroz caldo to pancit to Filipino spaghetti to leche flan. It's the original Fusion food.

                        Anyway, another tasty ethnic restaurant would be Tahoe Galbi on Wilshire and Wilton. It's a laid-back, super-crowded Korean BBQ place with a $15 All-You-Can-Eat special, which is great for groups. The banchan vary, but my Korean friends report most of them are fairly authentic to basic, homestyle banchan in Seoul. There are tons of other Korean BBQ places all over KTown, but Tahoe Galbi is the one I bring my out-of-town friends and family to when they visit. It's always a good time, even with my picky rocker boys.

                    2. re: riceflour

                      The only real flaw of Asian Noodles is that they might not have what you want to order available...it happens EVERY TIME. When you read the menu, also pick a second choice, chances are, one of the items will not be available.
                      Then again if any of you have ever been to a restaurant in the Philippines, that's a common occurrence, so that would probably up Asian Noodles' authenticity a notch or two :)

                      1. re: Normal Garciaparra

                        Sounds like Russia, where menus are fantasies that are less about what's actually available and more about what they would serve if they could.

                        1. re: Normal Garciaparra

                          Nothing says authentic ethnic eats like "Sorry, ma'am, we're out of the siumai...and the wontons...and the kalamansi juice." Yup, it's just like being in the Philippines!

                          Anything beats the McRice Burger McD's was pushing all over Manila, though...even mami without siopao.

                          1. re: riceflour

                            McRice Burger? Please tell us what is in this. :-)

                            1. re: katkoupai

                              It's a QP-type burger. Except the bun is replaced by compressed cooked rice discs, slightly crisped and hypothetically seasoned. If I make it back to Manila before these are pulled off the market (as many trend items are), I'll give it a try.

                              Anyone in the Philippines want to try these and report back? If they rock, maybe we can get some here in LA and call McD's a place for good ethnic eats ;-)

                                  1. re: Emme

                                    Thanks for the link, Emme! I'm going to email my cousin in Ateneo and make him try one. Gotta use my Ate status to pull rank sometimes...

                        2. Well, this isn't really a hidden gem but I can't get enough of this place. Mr. Chow's in Beverly Hills is just my favorite food on earth. Just don't trip over the paparazzies.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Wenx

                            Ugh. The $40-for-some-noodles-that-would-cost-$8-anywhere-else place, with the snotty attitude and the waiter who tells you what you want.

                            I'm glad it's your favourite food on earth -- you may have it to yourself.

                          2. Spend a day in the San Gabriel Valley.

                            Dim Sum at 888 in Rosemead (get there by 1030 or 1100).
                            Visit Huntington Library and Gardens in afternoon
                            Eat dinner at Elite or Empress Harbor in Monterey Park.
                            Go for cream puffs at Beard Papa (many locations) and ice cream at Fosselmann's (Alhambra).

                            Here are some of my reviews for Chinese restaurants: http://www.geocities.com/raytamsgv/ch...

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: raytamsgv

                              <i> Spend a day in the San Gabriel Valley.<i>

                              Great rec! I second that itinerary.


                              1. re: raytamsgv

                                i live just outside the area and agree. many, many diamonds in the rough, and, without many of the snooty attitudes that one sees today.

                              2. hey aaron,

                                if you are up for some really good ramen:
                                it is hakata ramen in gardena.
                                soooo good, i suggest the A set (fantastic gyoza) order the ramen prepared hard and order the spicy miso add in.
                                sure to keep you coming back to paradise.

                                1. one more, for the best peking duck:

                                  Lu Din Gee Restaurant
                                  1039 E. Valley Blvd, B102
                                  San Gabriel, CA 91776
                                  Tel: (626) 288-0588

                                  1. I concur with a lot of the suggestions here, and want to second some of them, particularly Orris on Sawtelle and the Oaxacan places in West LA, all of which are convenient to Brentwood. In addition to Monte Alban, which is great, there is Juquila and Gueleguzeta (I can never spell it!).

                                    Tacos Por Favor on Olympic in Santa Monica is not too far from where your staying.

                                    Also, I agree that it will be well worth your trip to go out to the SGV to Babita's.

                                    I'm not a true afficianado of Thai food, but I am well aware that LA outshines NY for Thai food. The suggestions of others in this post are great.

                                    If you want to travel further afield, go down to Little Saigon in Orange County, and check recent Chowhounds posts for the glove-box list of places to go.

                                    The one hidden gem I haven't seen mentioned yet is the Attari Sandwich Shop in Westwood. There is a lot of Persian food in LA, all of which is worth checking out, but Attari is unique among these. Inexpensive sandwiches on baquettes - think banh mi for a comparison - with fillings like kuku - a kind of supercharged green herbal omelette; chicken salad, cutlets, etc. You can also get the most wonderful soup, a thick, golden, herby pottage of lentils and beans, served with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of crispy fried onions. It's just off Westwood Blvd., on the side street south of the Borders bookstore, inside a courtyard.

                                    You won't regret it! Have a wonderful trip