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Some Like It Hot, Part 2

October 19, 1986| Compiled by Jane Greenstein

Now that fall's upon us, our attention will focus less on how to refresh and more on how to warm up. These recently reviewed restaurants serve plenty of hot, spicy food, with temperatures that may remind you of the scorching days of summer. All prices exclude drinks (second of two parts). ABKAR (17049 Ventura Blvd., Encino (818) 905-5129). Abkar and its brother, the original Abkar in Marina del Rey, serve what is probably the best and most varied Indian cuisine in California. The specialty at Abkar is what co-owner Kapal Dev Kapoor calls "Moghlai cuisine"--cooking based on the culinary traditions of India's Mogul Empire. The heart of the Abkar menus is a large selection of meat, fish and chicken dishes and a variety of flatbreads plain and fancy. Some of the spicier dishes (though you can order everything spicy) include lamb vindaloo (highly spiced lamb in a sharp and tangy sauce), chicken jalfrezi (chicken cooked with bell pepper and tomato) and rara beef (beef cubes cooked with freshly ground spices). There are two dining rooms on two levels; upstairs has a patio for outdoor dining. Dinner, daily; lunch, Mon.-Sat. Major credit cards. Dinner for two: $25-$30.

BAHIA CAPORALES (4430 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles (213) 665-9228). This Mexican-style Mexican restaurant, an offspring of its namesake on Atlantic Boulevard, recently underwent remodeling; now the only seating is in booths, which are propped up against white stucco walls housed in Spanish colonial architecture. The restaurant offers an interesting menu that includes excellent shrimp dishes, great meaty tacos, wonderful beans--and more. For those who insist, a conventional platter of taco, enchilada, chile relleno, beans and rice is available. The restaurant's specialty is seafood: For an appetizer, try the little tostadas topped with ceviche ; for an entree try parrillada de mariscos , a mixed seafood grill that includes lobster, shrimp, fish, scallops, squid and crab. Lunch and dinner daily. MC, V. Dinner for two: $10-$18.

CASA INDIA (348 S. Broadway, Los Angeles (213) 625-0947). To the casual stroller, Casa India would appear to blend into its neighborhood, the heavy Latino shopping district along Broadway. The key to the difference is the maker of the salsa-- Raksha Patel, the sari-clad woman who runs this restaurant with her husband, Arvind. The "India" in the restaurant title indicates lands of curries and chappatis, pillaos and sweet, spiced teas. The two cuisines create a culinary "odd couple" that gets along very well. Indian eggs look like huevos a la Mexicana and are served with pale orange rice (basmati), shredded cheese, tomato slices and Indian bread. The ground-beef curry looks a lot like chili. Patel makes delicious kulfi, an Indian-style ice cream that she flavors with pistachio nuts and cardamom. Open daily from 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Cash only. Park in neighborhood lots. Dinner for two: $4-$8.

CHINESE EXPRESSION (706 S. Detroit St., Los Angeles (213) 932-0518). Recent renovation of this restaurant, previously known as Chinese Express, is a sign of new prosperity. Dressing up the room are smart-looking, French-designed black plastic chairs, subtle gray linens, mirrors and illuminated Chinese opera masks. The menu emphasizes Hunan, Sichuan and Mandarin food. The garlic shrimp and shrimp with orange peels are sensational. The hot dishes here guarantee tears and sniffles. Hunan chicken with spicy black-bean sauce or the "hot spicy" cabbage which is full of charred red chiles are a couple of examples. The best part is that Chinese Expression cooks without MSG and adheres to American Heart Assn. guidelines in producing dishes low in sodium and cholesterol. Lunch and dinner daily. MC, V. Free parking in lot next to restaurant. Dinner for two: $18.

ROYAL THAI ORCHID (1315 B N. Tustin Ave., Orange (714) 633-6560). The Royal Thai Orchid may be difficult to find (the place is located in a little tidepool off the Ralphs' parking lot at Katella and Tustin avenues), but it's worth the effort--it's one of Orange County's relatively few Thai restaurants. It's a personal little place, perhaps as personal as cinder block and acoustic tile are liable to get. The plah gung shrimp come with the usual range of chiles, onions, lemon grass and mint leaves with salad vegetables to accompany. The soup (a generous amount of chicken in it) is distinctly peppery. An unusual item is nuea nam tok , which consists of charbroiled strips of beef with red pepper and lime juice, a nice odd variation of Thai beef salad. Lunch and dinner, Mon.-Sat. MC, V. Dinner for two: $7.50-$14.

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