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RESTAURANTS

A niche with kitsch

March 29, 2007|Leslee Komaiko

Most restaurant facades give nothing away. Could be an Italian trattoria; could just as easily be modern fusion. But these joints leave no doubt what they're about.

Cha Cha Chicken

This colorful shack mere steps from the sand screams island cuisine. Palm trees and brightly painted drum planters surround the place, and patios are shaded by hatched umbrellas. The menu features both Jamaican and Cuban greatest hits as well as some fusion items. We're partial to the mulato Cubano sandwich, a riff on the classic Cubano made with moist shredded chicken.

* Mulato Cubano, $7.95. 1906 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica. (310) 581-1684.

Twin Dragon

New York expats swear by the pork wontons, hot and sour soup, lo mein and other Chinese classics at this kitschy, circa 1961 L.A. landmark -- the one with the dragons outside. It's also one of the few spots to get your fix of egg foo yung (one of those dishes that seems on the verge of extinction) and flaming cocktails.

* Lo mein, $7.50. 8597 W. Pico Blvd., L.A. (310) 657-7355.

The Restaurant at House of Blues

Housed in a building sheathed in shingles imported from a Mississippi barn, this eatery (formerly the Porch) specializes in Southern comfort food, sometimes with an L.A. bent. The chicken fried chicken, for example, is made with boneless, skinless chicken breast. Dine here preshow and enjoy "pass the line" privileges -- meaning you're the first to enter the concert hall.

* Chicken, $14.95. 8430 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. (323) 848-5100.

Clearman's North Woods Inn

When dining in a log cabin with a faux snow-topped roof, what one inevitably craves is meat and maybe a stiff drink, both of which are in ample supply here. The large lumberjack steak is a whopping 13-ounce cut of top sirloin. Like all of the dinners, it comes with a slew of sides including the signature, impossibly good (and, no doubt, very bad for you) cheese bread.

* Steak, $25.95. 7247 N. Rosemead Blvd., San Gabriel. (626) 286-8284.

Yamashiro

Sushi, steak and seafood star at this replica of a Kyoto palace perched in the hills. We're guessing the original palace didn't feature Darth Vader rolls, a combination of spicy tuna, cucumber, avocado and black rice.

* Darth Vader, $14. 1999 N. Sycamore Ave. (323) 466-5125.

-- Leslee Komaiko

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