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Entries in Cuban (2)

Monday
Feb062012

Sunny Spot Venice

*Post by Mark.

With the recent opening of Sunny Spot, LA's resident king of fusion, Roy Choi has added another sucessful concept to his budding empire. Much like A-Frame, the newest venture features bold bursts of Asian and Latin flavors. But where A-Frame errs heavier on the Asian influences, you might think of Sunny Spot as its reggae-jamming, sandal-wearing, Caribbean step-brother. We were looking forward to checking it out when we met up with new friend Howard of Consuming LA.

 

 

After looking at the Caribbean-influenced menu, we were half-expecting the bartender to address us with a 'Hey Mon'. Thankfully, he didn't - the Caribbean theme is never heavy-handed in either the service or the decor. 

 

 

One place the Caribbean theme does make its presence strongly felt is on the cocktail menu, where rums from Haiti and Jamaica, as well as aged rums from Nicaragua dominate the list (below). Also available is a small selection of wines and a predominately Caribbean selection of beers on tap or in the bottle. 

 

 

We set the tone for the evening by enjoying a couple of these tropical libations at the huge bar. The Dry Harbour (below, left) blended pot still rum, lime, absinthe, habanero pineapple shrub to hit a good balance of heat and sweet. The Chilcano Bay (below, right) mixed pisco, lime, ginger, lemongrass and fernet branca for a drink that was refreshing in its tanginess, but also had a wonderful underlying warmth and fullness. 

 

 

Once we hit the table, we decided to indulge in a couple of the smaller plates. For just $4, we enjoyed the simplicity of the pineapple lollipops (not pictured), peppered with chili salt to off-set the sweetness of the fresh, juicy strips of fruit. 

We managed to resist the allure of the sweet and salty fried plantains and yucca fries, also $4, and instead opted for the yellow salty rice (below) for the same price: yellow and salty as promised, but the sodium didn’t overwhelm.

 

 

There was no need to curse when the next starch hit the table. The Muh-F*K*N Mofongo (below), a soupy mush of overripe plantains, bacon, garlic and black pepper might throw off those with textural issues, but the savory, hearty dish won us over. It may seem out of place at a nice, sit-down establishment, but it’s the kind of down-home, tasty dish for which Roy Choi is known. Food of the people, by the people and for the people, and we don't mean the 1%. 

 

 

The similarly street-ready sugar cane fried pigs feet (below) were a favorite, crunchy, fatty and delicious. The combination of the slightly sweet exterior and chile vinegar sauce made us consider placing another order.

 

 

Time for more drinks. The bartender made us an off-menu Trinidad Sour (below) - an inverted cocktail developed by NYC-bartender Giuseppe Gonzalez that calls for a base of bitters instead of the usual dash, orgeat, and alas - just a dash of lemon juice and Rittenhouse Rye. Quite tastier than the bitter-bomb we were tasting. 

 

 

Back to the food. We were hoping for more heat with the brown sugar scotch bonnet short ribs (below), but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the hell out of the slightly chewy, perfectly seasoned meat, (grilled LA-county style, whatever that means).

 

 

The unctuous broiled hamachi collar dealt in more subtle flavors, despite the garlic thyme butter and lime and banana chili glaze - though getting at it was a little tricky to navigate, the focus stayed on the moist, flaky texture. Not a trace of fishiness, but it might be a dish more suited to those familiar with the cut.

 

 

The slow-roasted G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time) with lettuce wedges and pickled mango didn't quite live up to its name (that title stays with DC-favorite Komi's version for now), but it was very good, juicy, fork-tender and full of flavor.

 

 

We ordered the Cuban Torta (below) as an after-thought, but with the first bite, it skyrocketed to the top as one of the highlights of the night. The phenomenal combination of pork terrine, prosciutto, provolone, pickled jalapeno and mustard between two slices of crusty, delicious bread was an absolute winner.

 

 

After the explosion of flavor that was the torta, the housemade caramels with Maldon sea salt and toasted cashews, while fine, didn't set any fires.

 

 

We ended the meal on a good note with the We Be Yammin (below), a sweet potato tart with almond crust and toasted marshmallow ice cream. We liked the tart, which was a good balance of sweet, starchy, and nutty, and loved the accompanying ice cream, which brought memories of s'mores to mind. 

 

 

Given the company, the fantastically friendly and knowledgeable service and great food, it was a night warmly remembered and one we hope to recreate sometime soon. Sunny Spot is a very welcome addition, not just to Roy Choi's eccletic restaurant family, but to the Los Angeles food scene in general.

Sunny Spot on Urbanspoon

Wednesday
Jan122011

Porto's Bakery & Cafe

*Post by Angela.

Last month, before all the crazy holiday stuff really started up, Mark and I got to spend the day with V, one of my oldest friends (we've known each other since I was about three). V treated us to a wonderful holiday afternoon performance by the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles at the Alex Theatre in Glendale. We got there a couple of hours early to check out Porto's Bakery & Cafe, a staple of Los Angeles dining founded by the Cuban Porto family.

 

 

Despite the dreariness of the weather outside, the cafeteria-style bakery was absolutely slammed with people, and V mentioned that it is pretty much always like that.

 

 

As we waited in the chaos that was the "line," Mark's eyes were glued to the sweets on display. No wonder - Porto's originally took off on the strength of matriarch Rosa Porto's baking skills.

 

 

We were suddenly shoved unceremoniously to the front of the line, and, caught off guard, our ordering became a little frentic. In fact, I'm pretty sure our order got a bit mixed up with the person ordering next to us, because instead of the medianoche sandwich we ordered to split, the pan con lechon sandwich, with slow roasted pork, mojo garlic sauce, and grilled onions, on grilled Cuban bread and served with crispy plantain chips (below) arrived at our table. It looked really good, so we just tore into it. And it tasted as good as it looked. The flaky and crusty bread was a great vehicle for the wonderfully tender and flavorful pork.

 

 

We also ordered a number of the yummy meat pies, including the ground beef and pickle, the chicken pie...

 

 

and the chorizo pie. All were equally tasty, flaky little accompaniments to the sandwich's shining star, and I'm hard pressed to say I liked one more than the others, although the chorizo pie's slight spiciness may have given it an edge.

 

 

Another victim of our frenzied ordering was Mark's dessert. I'm not sure what this was, but it was not what Mark ordered. Nevertheless, it was pretty good, though a little rich for my liking. I'd like to come back and try some of the other endless pastry offerings displayed.

 

 

The food was pretty darned solid, and the best part? I'm pretty sure our check came in close to $10. I can absolutely see why the bakery was packed with families on a rainy Saturday afternoon, and has been successful enough to support two additional locations in Burbank and Downey - it's hard to pass up such cheap, filling, tasty food. While the line and service are a slight deterrent, next time I'm in Glendale, I may just stop in again, if only to try Porto's infamous potato balls.

 

Porto's Bakery (Glendale) on Urbanspoon Porto's Bakery & Cafe (Burbank) on Urbanspoon

Porto's Bakery in Los Angeles on Fooddigger