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Exotic Eats

November 09, 1986|STEVE SMITH

Feel like eating something exotic? Los Angeles has food from almost everywhere, and whether you crave Quebecois cuisine, Ethiopian eats, a Mongolian munch or a Persian snack, we've got a restaurant for you. ADDIS ABABA (6263 Leland Way, Los Angeles, (213) 463-9788.) Unique Ethiopian cuisine mixes with retro-'60s styling in this two-story bungalow cafe. Inside the dark-wood cottage, posters, baskets and Ethiopian dresses hang in a rather funky setting. Forks are provided, but to be really traditional you'll eat with your hands. Combinations here are particularly good: the lamb, rich and deeply flavored, is tasty with both injera (the traditional bread) and bulgur. Beef tips are sweet and lean in an enthralling oniony mass. Dulet (ground meat, liver and tripe) in a "spicy country style" has an intriguing light and nubby taste. Such combination plates as "Super Exclusive" and "Vegetarian Exclusive" are a real feast--if simply too much to eat. Lunch and dinner, Mon.-Sun. Cash only. Beer and wine. Adjacent parking. Dinner for two, $11-$40.

AGUNG (3909 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 660-2113.) When a heat wave strikes, look for refreshment in a place like Agung, an Indonesian restaurant that serves wonderfully chilly drinks like es tape --a tall blend of ice, milk, young coconut strands and rose syrup; es teler , combining avocado, jackfruit and coconut; and es kelapa muda , strands of tender young coconut. The food is also interesting: A specialty here is sate Padang , made with tongue and served in lemon-grass sauce. Another exceptional dish is tahu telor , a tofu cooked with the eggs (telor) into a large, flat omelet topped with a sweet soy sauce mixed with chiles. Two can eat very well by ordering nasi rames lengkap , a miniature rijsttafel that includes 12 of Agung's specialties for $25. Lunch and dinner daily, except Tue. Visa and MasterCard. Street and lot parking. Dinner for two, $15-$35.

CAFE CASSE CROUTE (656 S. Brookhurst St., Albertson's shopping center, Anaheim, (714) 774-8013.) Cafe Casse Croute not only turns out good rib-sticking French-Canadian food but also immerses you in a charming, homey Quebecois atmosphere. The quickest way to try Quebecois cuisine is to order the plat quebequois , loaded with steak fries and vegetables that seem to have been browned in a pan, some meatballs in brown gravy ( ragout de boulettes ) and a wedge of tourtierre, which is the national dish of Quebec. For lighter fare you can get sauteed smelts ( eperlans ), sardine-sized fish cooked in butter with garlic and onions. The T-bone steak is a remarkable buy: probably not prime grade, but tender, full of steak flavor and delightful in a simple sauce of browned butter. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only. Beer and wine. Mall parking. Dinner for two, $15-$30.

MONGOLIAN BAR-B-Q (5401 Hollywood Blvd., (213) 464-6888.) The dining procedure at this unusual Chinese-Mongolian restaurant is simple once you've figured it out. There's a buffet from which you select a combination of vegetables and meats. Then your waiter or waitress will take the bowl and add dabs of sauces onto it from seven or eight different jars on the buffet. Now we move on to the barbecue wheel, where another attendant snatches the bowl filled with raw ingredients such as pork, lamb, beef or turkey plus onions, and drops them on the gas-heated wheel, which rotates as it cooks the food in one full round. Off the fire and back into the bowl it all goes, and you are escorted to your seat, where an egg roll and steamed rice await you. The food tastes great and fresh and there's not a speck of grease to be seen. Not dining , perhaps, but a lot of fun. Lunch, Tue.-Fri.; Dinner, Tue.-Sat. Cash only. Beer and wine. Street parking. Dinner for two, $12-$16. SHAMSHIRI (1916 Westwood Blvd., Westwood, (213) 474-1410.) Shamshiri is not an obvious Iranian restaurant: The room is a stark, neutral white, and there's only a hint of the Byzantine on the back wall. But after a whiff of beef and lamb and Persian spices, you know it's for real. The menu is small and satisfying, the main dishes large enough for two meals. First-timers are advised to begin with a kebab: one of the best is the lamb, marinated in a Persian mixture of coriander, garlic and other spices and served on a giant pile of saffron-garnished basmati rice. The more curious diner is advised to try one of the stews or daily specials, like the green bean rice--filled with steak and red from spices like cinnamon and clove. Another really Persian dish is fesenjon , chicken marinated in a walnut and pomegranate paste. The chicken is as tender as any chicken could be. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only. Parking in rear. Dinner for two, $15-$25.

TSUKUBA (2212 W. Artesia Blvd., Torrance, (213) 538-4828.) This tiny Japanese restaurant offers the chance to try fugu, the famous blowfish of Japan. There are seasonal rarities like suppon , a kind of turtle, and dishes using matsutake , the costliest and most delicate of Japanese woodland mushrooms. Seiro-meshi , rice and glorious accompaniments steamed together in a bamboo box, is served year round. Dobinmushi is a delightful dish of sweet shrimp, chicken and pieces of fresh matsutake floating in a light broth. The clientele is mostly Japanese-speaking, but you won't feel out of place. You may have to wait for a table, but it's well worth it. Lunch and dinner daily. All major credit cards. Beer and wine. Lot parking. Dinner for two, $25-$75.

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