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Mar 28, 2014 09:34 PM

El Nido Restaurant: Worth A Try

El Nido Restaurant (Nicaraguan/Latin American)
2112 S La Brea Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90016
Phone number (323) 939-6506

El Nido Restaurant is a family-operated Nicaraguan Restaurant (that also has some dishes from El Salvador/Latin America) in the Mid Cities neighborhood. My wife and I have been twice and have enjoyed our selves immensely both time. This is not a fancy restaurant, rather it is a restaurant whose food has that unmistakable "home cooking" feel to it. Is it "authentic"? I can't say, I've never been to Nicaragua. I am able to tell you the food is fresh and delicious and very reasonably priced.

* * *

Whenever we head into Hollywood or Fairfax or similarly located neighborhoods, we hop on the 10 freeway, get off at La Brea and head north. And every time we did, we'd pass a strip mall on the east side of La Brea in between the freeway and Washington Boulevard and we'd see the sign for El Nido Restaurant, serving Nicaraguan food. After passing it eleventy-billion times, we decided to stop in a couple of weeks ago.

The interior is sparse, but clean and comfortable. Maybe it 40 people, something like that? There is a juke box in one corner featuring a variety of Spanish music that I am unfamiliar with along with some classic rock CDs. There are a couple of TVs on the walls; the first time we went they were watching Sabado Gigante and tonight they were watching a soccer match.

The same young lady served us both times, we asked her if it was her restaurant and she said it belonged to her mother. There is a young man who also waits tables and they appear to be brother and sister, this is a family-run restaurant.

Before dinner they bring you some admittedly ordinary chips and salsa. I had Nicaraguan beer both times, imported beers cost 3-4 dollars per bottle. I once went through a Latin American beer kick, so Tona was not new to me. It's fine with the food.

Not knowing what to order the first time we went, we chose Parrilladas 2 personas. From the description, it felt like a sampler plate -- as good a way as any to sample some of the food. The price of this platter is 28.00 dollars.

It's a huge amount of food. Huge.

The platter comes with carne asada, pollo (I'm pretty sure we had grilled legs and thighs), pork, short ribs, fried cheese, chorizo, plantains, sour cream and salad. On the side came a big bowl of that rice and beans mixture that I would call moro, though I don't know if that's what they call it at El Nido.

We didn't know where to begin and then just dug right in. All of the meats were tender and juicy. If you've eaten Cuban or Brazilian or other Latin American cuisines you have some idea of the flavors, though it's not exactly like other. The chorizo was so good I wanted to order is a dish unto itself. Everything was tender and juicy, the skin on the chicken crispy. The salad was more like cole slaw than what I think of as a salad.

We were not able to come close to finishing this platter and had at least one more solid meal for our son to feast on when he got home from work.

I don't recall the exact price, but it was something like 34 bucks plus tip.

The next day I bumped into some friends on the way to the Mar Vista Farmer's Market and told them about the place and hours later they texted me saying they'd checked out the spot. Since the "he" of "they" is on Chowhound, I'll let him chime in with his opinion if he chooses.

We went again tonight and decided to try two new dishes. We wanted to try a seafood dish so we picked Camarones Managua. I wanted to try Salpicon Nica because I'd heard about it as a good Nicaraguan dish so we tried that. My wife wanted a pupusa and we would put that more in the El Salvadorean food category than Nicaraguan but so what?

They have a variety of different pupusas including cheese and bean, pork and cheese and so on. We asked them to make pork and beans and that was fine with them as they are made to order.

The pupusa arrived hot on the plate, with some red sauce and cole slaw. The cole slaw -- to us -- was a bit different than the cabbage salad/slaw that I described above. It actually tasted like the cole slaw you get in a Japanese restaurant, tsukemono. It had that pickled taste.

It was a very good pupusa, the outside warm and chewy, the filling nicely spiced. We shared one, which was about seven inches across.

The salpicon nica is a shredded beef dish mixed with bell peppers and spices. This is going to sound weird, but it sort of had the soft consistency of tuna fish (though it tasted nothing like tuna, I'm just describing the consistency) It was room temperature, which took me by surprise, but sort of made sense because it's on the lunch menu, which is available for dinner.

I would say it's worth a try if it sounds good to you, but of the three dishes we had it was my least favorite. It was pretty good, not disappointing, but I'm not sure it would top my list on a return visit.

On the other hand, the camarones managua was really good. It's sauteed shrimp (and, btw, we ordered it without a description, we just gambled) with bell peppers in tomato sauce. It's lightly seasoned, but at the same time the sauce has a nice richness. Definitely would want it again.

But that's part of the problem. The menu is large and there were so many other interesting things to try. They don't have take out menus, so I am not able to list out what caught my eye, I will say they have dishes that seem very familiar from sampling other Latin American cuisines and also dishes that seemed pretty exotic, at least I never saw anything like them. They have breakfast as well and since we are "egg people" we'll try that some time soon.

Oh, both dishes came with rice and beans. The rice was (again) reminiscent of Japanese rice (but not quite) and red beans that came in a little cup that I promptly poured over the rice. Both dishes had plantains as well.

Again, a ton of food, but no leftovers this time. Price, with one beer, was 33 plus tip for two people.

Is El Nido Restaurant the best restaurant in L.A. Nah, it's not. Is it fancy? Definitely not, this would fall under the "hole in the wall" category, which I intend as high praise. They offer a variety of unfamiliar (and familiar) dishes, fresh, well-prepared and in large quantities for a very reasonable price. Your mileage may vary, but I'm very sure no matter what you will at least feel you had a reasonable meal for your money and at most you will really enjoy yourself and return to try other items on the menu.

(This post was not proofed to hard, please excuse any typos.)

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  1. They have a very tasty bull testicle soup. It's what I always order.

    1 Reply
    1. re: trojans

      I went back to give it a try.

      I'd never had it before, really liked it. The meat was reminiscent vaguely of liver, but not as strong. The broth was nicely seasoned, almost a chicken soup quality with some light cream added.

      Rich without being overwhelming.

      Thanks for the rec.

    2. Great find and appreciate the long review. I've driven by many times too and wondered. And Trojans, no thanks on that but enjoy!

      2 Replies
      1. This is a block or so from where my daughter lives. When she was moving in we got a bunch of stuff from El Nido to feed the folks helping her move. I don't remember what, exactly, but I'm sure it included a variety of pupusas. What I do remember is people exclaiming about how good the food was.

        1. I reviewed this place back in 2005, but haven't been back in a few years, so I am grateful for the reminder and glad to read that it's still doing well. According to Yelp ownership changed a few years ago. Back then they had a wide selection of unusual aguas frescas in flavors like cashew fruit and cacao; I hope they still do.

          My 2005 writeup:

          1 Reply
          1. re: PayOrPlay

            I had seen your write-up, but felt after nine years it was time for a new thread.

          2. I am the he of they, is that anything like six of nine?

            Anyway, I'm glad Paul mentioned this place to us. We were going to be in the general area and it worked out to try a new place.

            I got mixed grill plate which had some chorizo, fried pork ribs and beef. The pork ribs were a bit on the dry side, but still juicy enough. The chorizo spicing was mild. The beef had a good grill flavor overall, I was happy with the dish

            My wife got the indio vieso. A shredded beef dish mixed with some vegetables. It was more finely minced than expected. The texture was more like polenta.

            Both dishes came with fried cheese, plantains, side salad and pickled onions I really liked the onions. They cut the richness of the dish very well. The fried cheese was too dense and dry for my taste, but my wife liked it a lot.

            Overall we liked the place. I agree with Paul about the expectation levels and feel of the place. Along with the good bang for the buck.

            We do want to go back and try some of the other house specialities.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Jase

              Oh, photos of the food.