If I had to make a list of places in L.A. where I felt least likely to find a delicious lunch, a food court on Venice Beach would probably be top 5. Unless, of course, you like shitty pizza, old hot dogs, or sun chips covered in melted cheese masquerading as nachos. Even the “branch” of Chicago’s famed Mr. Beef was a dud, closing almost as quickly as it opened. So when I read on Grub Street that a new Peruvian spot had opened up in one such food court (on Westminster and the Ocean Front Walk) I got mildly excited. Poke Poke is my goto lunch when I find myself down on Venice Beach, but it’s always good to have a back up. Especially if that backup is lomo saltado and a decent ceviche.
Archive for 'Peruvian'
If you work Downtown and saw the L.A. Times write up of Chimu last week (the new Peruvian place in the Grand Central Market) you must have run right out and tried it. I know I did. Twice. Despite being a take out window just outside the Grand Central Marketplace, the menu of modern Peruvian cuisine is a bit out of my price range (“entrees” are $10-13) but I couldn’t help but splurge. The chef’s pedigree is top notch- he used to work Lazy Ox, another acceptable Midtown Lunch splurge, and Mo Chica, the Peruvian restaurant that was clearly used as a model for Chimu’s concept and menu style. But the dishes themselves are mostly unique and changing every day.
If cities had official birds (do cities have official birds?) is there any doubt that Los Angeles’s would be the chicken. The people in this city looooove chicken, or maybe they just hate pigs and cows? Or… maybe they love pigs and cows, and want to spare them. Not likely. I suspect the real reason people in L.A. prefer chicken so much is because pigs and cows don’t have boneless white meat breasts, that can be grilled and served in sandwich or salad form inevitably topped with avocado. Sometimes it makes me angry. But there are benefits to this city’s obsession with chicken, namely the obscene amount of amazing rotisserie (and rotisserie’ish) chicken options at our disposable. There’s the garlic sauce goodness of Zankou, Al Wazir, RoRo’s and Gaby’s. The red chicken juice topped french fries you get at Dino’s. And of course there’s the smokey wood fired Peruvian rotisserie chicken. I found a pretty great version at El Dorado (on Vine just north of Melrose), but everybody knows that the industry standard is Polla ala Brasa, a 20+ year old shack on Western & 8th.
A year ago Squid Ink reported that Pollo ala Brasa would be moving into a larger space, and it looks like they’re getting real close to being finished. Clearly it was time to go say goodbye to the original…
Oh Peruvian food I love you so much. You are one of my favorite things about Los Angeles, but finding a Midtown Lunch version of you has been very difficult. I got a number of good recommendations in the comments of this post, but sadly none of them really qualify. Lomo Arigato makes a decent lomo saltado, but the portion is small and sometimes you don’t want to chase after a food truck. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Mo Chica is easily the most interesting, and expertly made Peruvian food in L.A., and their food court location allows for it to be a huge bargain. But as cheap as it for what you get- you will not find a better ceviche in this city for the price- it’s not really a Midtown Lunch (everything is over $10). And their lomo saltado, as delicious as it is, is a bit fancified for me (I like the french fries sauteed in with the meat, tomatoes and onions.) For the Chinese influenced, soy sauce laced saltado, Mario’s Peruvian has always been my go-to choice. But their version of the dish is over $10 as well! And it seems as if most Peruvian places have followed suit. Inti Peruvian on Melrose, Natalie Peruvian in Thai Town, Los Balcones on Vine… all charge $10 or more for their lomo saltado.
So you can imagine how excited I was to discover a $7 (!?!) lomo saltado lunch special at El Dorado, a fast food Peruvian restaurant just north of Mario’s on Vine.
Anybody who has ever lived on the West coast will tell you that there is no good Mexican food in New York City, but I have to say… while I did find a decent taco or two during my 5 years in Midtown, I *never* found any good Peruvian food. I had an ok plate of lomo saltado in Brooklyn once, and a Peruvian owned Cuban chain in Midtown served aji (the Peruvian “green sauce”) with everything. But it was nothing like what you can get here, and I have to say I really missed it.
So a few days after I moved in I started getting the itch for some saltado de mariscos.