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Tasty food, respectable atmosphere in West LA

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I like ethnic food (except Sushi). I am interested in going to a place on the West Side (West LA/Culver City/Santa Monica) where I'll pay at most $20, including tip but excluding drinks. The atmosphere and decor should be respectably, but not fancy, and it should be easy to have a conversation.

Any recommendations?

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  1. Monte Alban for Oaxacan food. On Santa Monica Blvd. just a block east of Bundy on the north side of the street.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Servorg

      I'd like to give this place a try. What would you recommend that someone going there for the first time order?

      1. re: dimsumgirl

        I have like any of their dishes featuring their red or black mole's. I am partial to tamales with mole sauce. One of the LA boards posters (Ozhead) has the following description up on another thread:

        "barbacoa de chiva -- a large portion of tender baby goat in a dense, complex red broth that is spicy but not hot, served with tortillas and a bowl of chopped stuff to stir into the broth...and PLEASE don't be put off by the word "goat"; it is sweet and tender, like the best spring lamb, and not even a tiny bit gamy." - Ozhead

        1. re: Servorg

          I eat at Monte Alban very often and recommend it on Chowhound often, so I'm glad I'm not alone in recommending it. If you like mole, then I would never steer anyone away from their mole. However, I think Monte Alban has other things that are outstanding.

          Their queso fundido is perfect -- it's not just melted monterey jack cheese, like they serve at most places. It's a mix of cheeses with oaxacan cheese being the majority of that mix. With an order of guacomole, my wife will sometimes just call that her meal.

          I think their tazajo -- dried, cooked beef -- is flavorful and has the perfect texture.

          Their molcajete with seafood and meats is enormous and fantastic. You could split this between two people pretty easily, especially if you had an appetizer or two.

          Their shrimp ceviche is very good, but very spicy, so be prepared.

          I love their taco de barbacoa. It's a huge goat taco that has none of the gaminess that is usually associated with goat. It's just sweet, juicy meat served in a perfectly warm tortilla.

          Their clayudas are all excellent. A clayuda is a big crispy pastry (like a tortilla, but crispier) that is covered in a black bean paste and then a bunch of other ingredients. They are fresh and wonderful.

          You cannot go wrong at Monte Alban...

          1. re: glutton

            Servorg and glutton: thanks for help with best dishes at Monte Alban. I was really hoping to try them tonight until I had to make an unexpected trip to Monterey Park (thanks to Exilekiss for eats there). I will save the MA recs for future trip in a couple of months. Glutton, thanks fo defining what some of these dishes are. Not familiare with these yummy sounding dishes. What is molcajete?

            1. re: dimsumgirl

              The Monte Alban menu actually does a nice job describing some of the different foods there, so you can count on that to help you out.

              The molcajete that I referred to is a big cauldron of meats and seafoods cooked together in a broth. It comes out steaming hot and is very flavorful.

    2. For Thai, my favorite on the westside is Thai Boom, on the north side of Venice Blvd. between Overland and Sepulveda at Midvale. Starters and some dishes are around $7 and everything but the most expensive seafood tops at $10. You could get a green mango salad to start, some pad see yu, the yellow curry chicken (order it spicy) and maybe a stirfry eggplant -- end up stuffed with leftovers and feed two for about $40 including tax and tip. Very clean, good service, simply furnished, bright with a mirrored wall and some patio seating in front.

      1. thai boom on venice and midvale (west of overland).

        1. agree with monte alban.

          also musha, shamshiri, sunnin lebanese, javan, nawab of india...

          3 Replies
          1. re: Emme

            dinners at musha and nawab of india normally cost more than Hroark is willing to spend. i suspect that the same may be true of javan.

            1. re: westsidegal

              It is not difficult to get a nice dinner at Javan in the $20 range, and it certainly meets the rest of the OP's criteria.Here's a link to their website, on which their menu is posted; though some of the entrees are close to $20, there are plenty in the $13 - $14 range. I have always thought Javan was a good bargain.

              http://www.javanrestaurant.com/home-s...

            2. re: Emme

              i'd dump sunnin as it does not meet the "respectable atmosphere" requirement. good food but hole in the wall atmosphere.

            3. How about the only dim sum on the westside, VIP Seafood on the second floor of the minimall on the N/W corner of Wilshire and Barrington? OK, ok, save your flames and your criticism that there are dozens of much better places in the SGV -- the poster specified the area desired. VIP is nicely carpeted, plushly decorated, and clean and convenient. The cart service dim sum is tasty, the fried items crisp, and the place fills up with a high percentage of Asian patrons on weekends. Definitely meets the price point -- you'd have to order an awful lot of the most expensive special items to surpass $20 per person.