What to even say about this first week of 2021? My colleagues LZ Granderson and Gustavo Arellano express it clearly. Read (or reread) Michelle Obama’s words.
As I vacillate between scrolling through apps and staring at the laptop and TV to process what’s happening in America, I’m still thinking about restaurants. January is the slowest month of the year for the businesses that feed us. Like many of us, during the post-holidays in a typical year I too would have been considering all the ways to dial back on calories and consumption.
This isn’t the moment for a break from restaurant food.
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Those of us living in Los Angeles are blessed with a forecast that calls for highs in the 70s and 80s most days this month. I’ll push myself to exercise more outside in isolation. But I’m not letting up on takeout. Here are some dishes made by places from which I’ve already ordered or plan to order soon; take it as specific inspiration or as a general reminder to keep bolstering your favorite restaurants any way you can right now. They need you, and we need them to stick around.
Ndole from Mama D’s African Kitchen. The first phenomenal restaurant dish I’ve eaten in 2021. I learned about it via Eat the World LA, which first reported on the new Cameroonian restaurant in Boyle Heights opened by Dorothy Wanki and her daughter, Claudia. Ndole, or ndoleh, is a plant that grows throughout West Africa and is known by many names. In English it is sometimes called bitter leaf. Choose shrimp to pair with the ndole; the puree of greens has a soft crunch from ground peanuts and zigzags with umami. It comes with soft plantains on the side that bring in contrasting sweetness. I’m telling myself this is the first sit-down restaurant I’ll fully review when the world opens back up. mamadsfood.com
Shrimp, shishito and egg over rice at the Quiet Dumpling. You definitely want dumplings (variations include beef and broccoli, mapo tufo or chicken scented with yuzu) from this East Hollywood pop-up, but this harmonious quartet of ingredients quietly stole the dinner. Heads up to preheat the oven: The dish came back to life gently rewarmed. thequietdumpling.square.site
Seasonal bento box from Morihiro. As my colleague Garrett Snyder reported, L.A. sushi legend Morihiro Onodera had been planning a $300-per-person omakase restaurant in Atwater Village before 2020 … 2020’d. He opened regardless, and his takeout meals are considerably less expensive; for a moment late last year there was such a rush for Onodera’s cuisine that daily reservations for dinner carryout were selling out mid-afternoon or earlier. Things seemed to have calmed, at least on weekdays. The bento box veers through sashimi, grilled fish, pickles and other changing items, though Onodera also included a mountain peach ambered in a cube of agar that I remembered from his last gig at Inn Ann in Hollywood. It tasted — then and now — in the most endearing way of canned fruit cocktail. morionodera.com
Sand dab tacos from Bar Amá. I’m always scanning the takeout menus for Josef Centeno’s restaurants to see what he’s freshly concocted. Pacific sand dabs are a sustainable fish we should see more of; Centeno serves the fried filets on flour tortillas with tartare sauce, pickled vegetables and (not pictured above because I forgot to put it on the plated tacos) a heap of red cabbage. bar-ama.com
Egusi with goat meat from Aduke’s African Cuisine. Late in 2019 Aduke Oluwafunmilayo Oyetibo moved her Nigerian restaurant from Mid-City to Inglewood. Her creamy egusi — a golden stew built on ground melon seed and flavored with tomato, garlic, ginger and iru (fermented locust beans) — is still my favorite dish. instagram.com/adukecuisine
Garlic ramen with vegan egg at Ramen Hood. I’ve been challenged by some readers to report more on the city’s vegan landscape. (I have zero problem with meatless cooking; as with any cuisine, I hope for the deliciousness to match the principles behind it.) High on the list is Ilan Hall’s vegan ramen — a sunflower-based broth adrift with oyster mushrooms, bok choy and other vegetables — from his stand at Grand Central Market. The realism of the optional “boiled egg” is reason enough alone to investigate. eatramenhood.com
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Nasi uduk complit from Medan Kitchen. At this newly opened Indonesian restaurant in Rosemead, a to-go tray holds beef rendang, a boiled egg dyed scarlet with chile, sambal belacan, a piece of fried chicken, tempeh with chiles, turmeric rice, spiced potatoes with anchovy and peanut. facebook.com/medankitchen
Tallarin a la Huancaina con Lomo from Aymara Peruvian Kitchen. This is Serious Peruvian comfort food: beef sautéed with onions, tomato, red wine sauce and cilantro over spaghetti that’s tossed in crema a la huancaina (spicy cheese sauce) and finished with parmesan. exploretock.com/aymaraperuviankitchen
Duck dinner from Ms. Chi Cafe. The multi-course meal from Shirley Chung’s Culver City restaurant includes some mix and match options. Here’s my order: pork and shrimp wontons in chile oil, salt and pepper shrimp with garlic aioli, tea-smoked duck with steamed lotus leaf buns … and an add-on of cheeseburger dumplings with bacon jam for later if I exercise restraint. exploretock.com/mschicafe
Creole shrimp over parmesan grits from My Two Cents. Alisa Reynolds makes a masterful version of the Southern classic, in which the brothy gravy slowly seeps into the grits and the shrimp still have pop even straight from the to-go box. A side of greens isn’t a bad idea. Mytwocentsla.com
The Real Deal pizza with double pepperoni from Dough Daddy. Granted, deciphering the order form from this downtown pop-up can feel like following a scavenger hunt, but the prize is some of the finest Detroit-style pizza (rectangular, properly charred edges, not too doughy despite the name) being made in Los Angeles. Cocktails are also available; I vouch for the punchy Mai Thais. instagram.com/doughdaddyla
Mixed plate of kalbi short ribs and kālua pig at Aunty Maile’s Hawaiian Food. It seems like three lifetimes ago when Eater colleagues and I traveled to Hawaii in 2017 to meet local food writers and compile a guide to the state’s culinary marvels. I am hungering for a plate lunch. A pairing of marinated grilled kalbi and kālua pig with steamed cabbage, joined by sides of rice and macaroni salad, from Aunty Maile’s in Torrance sounds like the antidote. Hat tip to Foodmento for the recommendation. facebook.com/auntymailes/
Pork hash at Poppy & Rose. My first cooking job was at a bed and breakfast in Boston during college. For too long I’ve eaten breakfast for work or otherwise skipped it; only in the last year, sheltering in place, have I embraced the grounding pleasure of making a morning meal. When I can’t bring myself to cook, I frequently order the standout dish on Michael Reed and Kwini Reed’s daytime menu: a literal brick of potato hash giving way underneath pulled pork, softly scrambled eggs and a few arugula leaves. Let the day begin. poppyandrosela.com
Join the L.A. Times dinner series on Jan. 16
This is a benefit for meal delivery nonprofit Project Angel Food. Tickets are $95 per person, with a minimum of two tickets per household.
Times television critic Lorraine Ali is hosting this month’s Times dinner series — a three-course takeout menu from Steve Samson of Rossoblu that includes a virtual live conversation with actors Henry Winkler, J.B. Smoove, Yvette Nicole Brown, Mark Duplass and Katie Aselton. The menu includes lasagna with celery root, mushrooms and taleggio; grilled beef loin; and citrus maritozzo, a riff on an Italian sweet with lemon curd and toasted meringue.
— For our “What We’re Into” video series, Jenn Harris glories in the tarte tatin at Perle in Pasadena. Right now you can try the dessert as an add-on to the restaurant’s Paris-inspired takeout menu.
— “Recipes are like language, full of implicit meanings that are foreign to the uninitiated, first-time cook,” Ben Mims writes. He has an enlightening piece on his evolving process for writing recipes.
— Sonoko Sakai, a local author of the wonderful 2019 cookbook “Japanese Home Cooking,” has a beautiful story about pursuing the practice of soba.
— Garrett Snyder tells the story of East Hollywood native Ronnie Muñoz, a fine dining chef who is turning his attention to a fried chicken food truck that launches this month.
— Finally, Julie Giuffrida shows us some ways to brighten our meals with Southern California’s bounty of winter citrus.
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