Tag Archives: long beach

Leftovers: Little La Lune

A new wave of Cambodian cooking for the L.A. Times:


PHOTO by GARY FRIEDMAN / L.A. TIMES

In Long Beach’s Cambodia Town, restaurants are measured not only by the heat of their ground pork curries or the tartness of their sour catfish soups but also by the brilliance of their chandeliers and the strength of their karaoke-capable sound systems. For years, La Lune was such a place, a restaurant where birthday parties were celebrated, anniversaries were commemorated and mayoral campaigns were launched.

But in April, a fire wiped out La Lune. Losing the restaurant tore open a void in the Khmer community, one that the Saing family worked quickly to fill. Now La Lune has been refined and reborn as Little La Lune, a small-scale spinoff in a quiet strip mall with ambitions beyond its downsized dining room. Little La Lune isn’t simply leveraging its legacy; the restaurant represents a new wave, a contemporary Cambodian cafe designed for a new generation.

Little La Lune is a picture of Modernism. A bouquet of pendant lamps casts columns of light onto wine-red walls. Radiant white booths glow with a halo of backlighting. It’s a stark contrast to Cambodia Town’s biggest banquet halls, where decades-old dining rooms remain unchanged, as if being preserved for historical study. Little La Lune’s menu too has been recalibrated. Gone are the hallmarks of the banquet kitchen: no hulking lobster tails, no caldrons of Cantonese-style soup, no oversize platters of dessert. The menu instead has been pared down to the most approachable essentials.

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Leftovers: El Pollo Imperial

Drive-through Peruvian in North Long Beach for the L.A. Times:


PHOTO by GARY FRIEDMAN / L.A. TIMES

A voice crackles from the tinny speaker in the kitchen, and the staff at El Pollo Imperial listens closely to someone in a minivan at the drive-through window placing an order — not for pallid hamburgers stacked two patties high or limp fish encased in sheaths of greasy batter, but for stunningly fresh ceviche and impeccable lomo saltado, the Peruvian dish of stir-fried beef and French fries.

El Pollo Imperial inherited its fast-food trappings. Six months ago, partners Oscar Ramirez and Carlos and Alicia Cortez repurposed a shuttered KFC in North Long Beach, adapting even the drive-through to the restaurant’s new Peruvian flavors. It’s a significant transformation for this stretch of Atlantic Avenue, a neighborhood where ship supply companies occupy former Chinese restaurants and a striking Art Deco theater awaits demolition.

There are playful nods to El Pollo Imperial’s Kentucky Fried past: its avian name, its feathered mascot outfitted like Incan royalty. But the restaurant isn’t a mere paean to poultry. Though you certainly will order pollo a la brasa on your initial visit — juicy, well-seasoned rotisserie chicken that demands to be eaten with your hands — the impressive breadth of the restaurant’s menu will compel you to try any of the dozens of other dishes.

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Going Dutch: Save Room for Mitsuwa’s Gourmet Food Fair and the Holland Festival

Little needs to be said of Mitsuwa’s Gourmet Food Fair other than that chefs and specialists are being flown in from Japan to the Torrance and Costa Mesa stores for a four-day celebration of ramen, takoyaki and, um, apple pie.

But Memorial Day weekend is big enough for two feasts, so Long Beach eaters listen up: Sunday is the annual Holland Festival at Police Officers Association Park behind Long Beach Towne Center. There’s Heineken and herring, but more importantly is that the Holland Festival is a second home to vendors from Duarte’s Pondok Kaki Lima. All the jackfruit curries, pork sate and durian drinks you’ve come to love will pack up and head south for the day. There’s no reason you shouldn’t do the same. Find the flyer below.

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Land of Plenty: Long Beach’s Food Philanthropists

Long Beach sprouted out of an agrarian dream, a pastoral fantasy of bean fields and beaches that sustained entire generations before the onset of the city’s industrial complex. But as happens with the immutable laws of progress, those plots all eventually disappeared, family farms and cultural traditions wiped out by time. With that came not just a divorce from the land, but a fundamental shift in thinking that has left many of our friends and neighbors without access to or understanding of good, fresh food. Long Beach, however, is blessed now with a whole community of food philanthropists: gardeners, cooks, activists and organizations all using their green thumbs for good. They’re reconnecting with the soil, and with Long Beach itself—feeding us, teaching us and reminding us of the simple pleasures (and power) of food. It’s not a new vision, but an eternal one, a return to the time when local, seasonal produce dictated diets and compassion compelled those more fortunate to extend a helping hand.

Read the stories of Jimmy Ng, Adriana Martinez, Cindy Goss and Paul Buchanan in the District.

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Leftovers: Fuego at the Maya

The makings of Long Beach’s own Mayan Riviera for the District:


PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES

Fuego looks out onto the Long Beach of everyone’s oceanfront dream, a seaside theater where pelicans dive with hungry, graceful precision and pleasure-seekers boat by on the last winds of summer. It’s a scene so idyllic it’s nearly unbelievable, almost as if it were constructed and choreographed by a television crew trying again to approximate Miami. For Fuego, the newest tenant of the equally new Hotel Maya, it’s fitting, a perfect backdrop for the restaurant’s high-end exploration of coastal Mexican cooking.

But that sublime setting doesn’t diminish the difficulties of upscaling a cuisine so common in Southern California that even less-than-serious eaters possess a passable understanding of its regional distinctions. As a result, successful Mexican fine dining must undeniably out-cook our taquería favorites and also compete directly with modern masters like La Casita Mexicana in Bell and Moles La Tia in East LA. Chef Jesse Perez is, by and large, up to the task.

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Leftovers: Bake N Broil

Simpler times at Bake N Broil for the District:


PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES

Jongewaard’s Bake N Broil is a habit for some and a ritual for most, a Long Beach tradition so lovingly passed down through generations that it seems almost hereditary. The unfortunate few who are somehow born without this innate affection eventually develop it—Bake N Broil’s time-warped simplicity is too charming to deny.

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Leftovers: Mustard’s

Downing dogs for the District:


PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES

It’s the first taste of tubed meat that’s often the best—the snap of charred skin, the unearthing of a dozen dead memories. The hot dog isn’t just a signal of summer, but of an American childhood spent at the beach, or the fair, or the ballpark. And although the Southland isn’t without its own famous dog dealers—Pink’s, Tail o’ the Pup, the surreptitious street chefs grilling bacon-wrapped Sonora dogs—it’s common knowledge that this is the taco truck’s domain. Mustard’s knows this and has always known this. That’s why the restaurant smartly subscribes to the Chicago school of hot dogs.

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