Monthly Archives: May 2012

Cuban Pastry Crisis

Porto’s Bakery and Cafe is a loud and lively LA institution selling pastries and awesome Cuban comfort food to Angelenos for decades. All three of its locations (Glendale, Burbank and Downey) have counter service only and the lines are usually long, but move fast. With so many delicious offerings, the only real crisis at Porto’s is deciding what to order. Here are my seven favorites:

Potato Ball

1. Potato Balls. Also known as Papas Rellenas, these are balls of mashed potatoes which have been filled with seasoned ground beef and deep fried; kind of a spherical mini Shepherd’s Pie. This is my favorite thing at Porto’s and an absolute must-have.


2. Rellenitos. These are small pieces of sweet plantains filled with black beans and coated with sugar. I love plantains and these little concoctions are not too sweet and perfect for an appetizer.

Chorizo Pie

3. Chorizo Pies. Another favorite of mine are these Spanish-style empanadas with a flaky, buttery pastry dough crust and stuffed with spicy ground pork sausage. What’s not to love?

Medianoche (Midnight Sandwich)

4. Hot-Pressed Sandwiches. There are fifteen sandwich choices, but my favorites are the hot-pressed Cubano (Cuban Sandwich) with slow roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, butter, mayo/mustard and pickles on Cuban Bread, and the Medianoche (Midnight Sandwich) which is the same as the Cubano except on a sweet roll.

Mariquitas (Plantain Chips)

5. Mariquitas (Plantain Chips). Crispy, salty and slightly sweet, these are perhaps the best chips ever. They come with all of the sandwiches or you can get a separate order with a side of Cuban garlic sauce.

Individual Tres Leches Cake

6. Tres Leches Cake. I’m actually not a huge fan of the kind of creamy, fancy pastries sold at Porto’s, although most people love these desserts. I do however love Porto’s traditional Tres Leches Cake. Soaked in three kinds of milk and topped with meringue, this yellow sponge cake is moist and delicious.


7. Malta Soda. Malta is an acquired taste. Sometimes known as “Children’s Beer,” it’s a carbonated non-alcoholic malt soda which is essentially unfermented dark beer. It’s sweet and tastes like molasses. Other beverages at Porto’s include horchata, mango smoothies, mamey shakes and coffee drinks such as cafe con leche and dulce de leche latte.

Always a line, but worth the wait

Porto’s Bakery & Cafe is located at 3614 W. Magnolia Blvd in Burbank, 315 N. Brand Blvd in Glendale and 8233 Firestone Blvd in Downey.

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Porto's Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon
Porto's Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon
Porto's Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon


Filed under Burbank, Downey, Glendale

Killer Views, Disappointing Chews

I was a fan of Wolfgang Puck and his restaurants, Spago and Chinois on Main, in the ’80s when they were at the forefront of innovate upscale cuisine. However, with everything that is going on food-wise these days, I think of Puck’s cuisine as dated and not particularly interesting or exciting. Nevertheless, I was curious and hopeful about WP24, Puck’s fancy modern Chinese restaurant that opened last year on the 24th floor of the Ritz Carlton in LA Live, and decided to take my wife there for our anniversary. The views at night from WP24, which are of the illuminated skyscrapers of Downtown, are perhaps the best of any restaurant in the city. But while I loved the spectacular views, I cannot say the same of the restaurant as a whole. WP24 unfortunately reminded me of many of the upscale restaurants I’ve eaten at in Las Vegas hotels — incredibly overpriced, conservative and food that is generally OK, but nothing to write home about.

While WP24 formerly offered both an a la carte menu, as well as 6 and 9 course tasting menus (which I would have preferred), the menu now consists of only a 3 or 4 course prix fixe dinner with several choices for each course and some optional side dishes. With drinks (cocktails are a pricey $16 a pop), you’re looking at a cost of around $150-$225 per person, a lot for Chinese food! Most of the appetizers are dim sum and we ordered an assortment of 5 different dumplings plus an additional order of Steamed Scallop and Shrimp Sui Mai. The Dim Sum was all very delicious except for the Sui Mai which tasted fishy and not fresh at all. As an entree, my wife got the Maine Black Cod Broiled with Chinese Ginseng Honey with Roasted Black Sesame Vinaigrette and Chili-Orange Noodles. The noodles were way too sweet but otherwise the dish was OK. I ordered WP24’s signature dish, the “Angry Lobster,” with Spicy Szechuan Chilies, Fried Garlic, Scallions and Black Dust. I love spicy, but found the sauce way too overpowering for something as delicious as lobster and it upset my usually iron-clad stomach later that night.

The desserts by pastry chef Sally Camacho (who was a finalist on Top Chef Just Desserts last season) were the most creative part of the meal, but, in terms of taste, did not blow me away. At the end of the dinner, I felt as if I should be taking the elevator down to the casino to play blackjack and craps. If I was actually in Vegas maybe I could have won a little money to offset the price of dinner.

WP24 is located at 900 W. Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles (Downtown). If you enjoy Consuming LA, please subscribe, like me on facebook and/or follow me on twitter at the top right of this page. And please forward to your friends!

Amuse Bouche: Curried Seafood Turnover

Tasting of Dim Sum

Steamed Scallop-Shrimp Sui Mai with Blue Crab Ginger Sauce and Chives

"Angry" Two-Pound Maine Lobster

Maine Black Cod Broiled with Chinese Ginseng Honey, Roasted Black Sesame Vinaigrette and Chili-Orange Noodle Salad

Apple Umai (Roasted Market Apple, Star Anise Donuts, Caramel Hojicha Ice Cream)

Rhubarb Yuzu (Mango, Yuzu Ice, Red Rock Dust and Rhubarb Compote)

Killer Views

WP24 Restaurant & Lounge (The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles) on Urbanspoon


Filed under Downtown

Magnificent Mediterranean

I love small plates and I love sharing. This is no doubt due to my desire to always hedge my bets, diversify my portfolio and not miss out on trying anything interesting-sounding or potentially good. My wife, on the other hand, does not like to share; she prefers to order only one thing and eat it all by herself. It’s for this reason that I haven’t taken her with me to Mezze, a restaurant whose name is the Arabic term for a selection of small plates which are meant to be shared. The cuisine at Mezze can best be described as Contemporary Mediterranean or Middle Eastern Fusion, somewhat upscale and incredibly delicious. The decor at Mezze, which occupies the old Sona space on La Cienega, perfectly matches the food; warm and exotic yet modern and chic. It’s a great place to go for a special occasion or just a nice evening out with friends.

The best way to start your meal at Mezze is with a libation. Specialty cocktails include the Abdullah Palmer (gin, cachaca, black lime and Moroccan mint tea) and the George Dickel Pickle (whiskey, mustard seed, lemon, celery and serrano pepper), and there is a good wine list including wines from Israel, Lebanon and Morocco. While you’re enjoying your drink, you can select which flatbreads to order as appetizers. I recommend the Zatar with Olive Oil and the Marquez Sausage with Tomato Jam and Aleppo Pepper (it’s like a Middle Eastern pizza). In terms of small (and large) plates, Braised Moroccan Chicken Wings with Picholine Olives and Golden Raisins are excellent, as is the Lamb Shoulder with Smoked Oats and Dukkah Spice (pictured above). The Brussels Sprouts with Soft Boiled Egg and Soujouk are an absolute must-have. For dessert, make sure to get the Lebne Cheesecake with Persimmons, Ginger & Hazelnuts.

Mezze is located at 401 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles (Mid-City).

UPDATE: Mezze is now closed, but hopefully just temporarily. The massive construction next door has hurt their business significantly. They say they are looking to relocate soon.

Zatar with Olive Oil

Flatbread with Merguez Sausage, Tomato Jam & Aleppo Pepper

Braised Moroccan Chicken Wings with Picholine Olives and Golden Raisins

Brussels Sprouts with Soft Boiled Egg and Soujouk

Lebne Cheesecake with Persimmons, Ginger & Hazelnuts

You can view the kitchen through a giant window

Mezze on Urbanspoon


Filed under Mid-City, West Hollywood

Cheesesteak Challenge

Although I grew up in California, I was born in Philadelphia. Other things that originated in Philadelphia include the Declaration of Independence, the Post Office, the Stock Exchange and Hall & Oates. But Philadelphia’s greatest contribution may just be the cheesesteak. Seasoned and thinly sliced beef, cheese (Provolone, American or Whiz), onions and occasionally peppers or mushrooms, all grilled to perfection and served on a warm soft roll… Who doesn’t like a good cheesesteak?

While the best are found in Philly, there are some very tasty cheesesteaks here in LA and I’ve been on a mission for the past couple months to find the best ones this city has to offer. Although I evaluated bread, meat and cheese, there was another essential element that was key to making the grade here. Philadelphia is the City of Brotherly Love and any great cheesesteak establishment must make you feel at home and provide super friendly and warm service; it’s the Philadelphia way. Of the twenty or so cheesesteak eateries that I visited on my quest, here are my top five favorites:

Figueroa Philly Cheese Steak

1. Figueroa Philly Cheese Steak (3844 S. Figueroa in Downtown) This newcomer has the best service and awesome cheesesteaks. The Amoroso rolls and marinated rib eye are imported from Philadelphia. Their one non-traditional, California-esque twist is that one of your cheese options is nacho jalapeno. I loved it!

The Shack in Santa Monica

2. The Shack (2518 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica) Only the Santa Monica location, which is owned by a Philadelphian, of this venerable LA burger joint serves cheesesteaks. The meat is perfectly seasoned and served on Amoroso rolls. They are really, really good.

Philly West Bar & Grill

3. Philly West Bar & Grill (1870 Westwood Blvd in Westwood) These are Allentown-style cheesesteaks and are made with a bit of marinara sauce. The bread is incredibly delicious. Instead of Amoroso rolls shipped frozen from Philadelphia, they use fresh baked French rolls from a local bakery. A great place to watch Phillies or Eagles games.

Philly's Best

4. Philly’s Best (17200 Ventura Blvd. in Encino, 1421 W. Olive St. in Burbank and other locations) This successful chain knows what they’re doing. They use Amoroso rolls from Philly and are one of the few places that offer Cheese Whiz. They also have Philadelphia-style Hoagies, Wise potato chips and Tastykakes.

Soda Pop's

5. Soda Pop’s (349 N. La Cienega in Mid-City) The owner is from Boston and refers to his cheesesteaks as “Steak Bombs,” but don’t hold that against him. These are really good cheesesteaks served with housemade potato chips. Plus 100 different specialty sodas like Blueberry Birch Beer and Pumpkin Pie Soda.

Molecular Gastronomy Cheesesteak at The Bazaar

Special Mention: Philly Cheesesteak at The Bazaar (465 La Cienega, Mid-City) It wouldn’t be fair to compare this molecular gastronomy version with the others, but it should be noted that this specialty of Jose Andres is insanely good. Crispy air-filled bread filled with aged Cheddar sauce and topped with Kobe beef.

I love Tastykakes!

Tastykakes! Several cheesesteak places sell Tastykakes, delicious snack cakes which are incredibly popular in Philadelphia. Philly’s Best has the largest variety. My favorites are Butterscotch Krimpets, Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes and Koffee Kake Cupcakes.

I will be discussing cheesesteaks on KABC Talk Radio 790 this Sunday night at 8:00 on Dining with Dills. If you enjoy Consuming LA, please subscribe, like me on Facebook and/or follow me on twitter at the top right of this page. And please forward to your friends!

Philly's Best on Urbanspoon
Philly West Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon
Figueroa Philly Cheese Steak on Urbanspoon
Philly's Best on Urbanspoon
Philly's Best on Urbanspoon


Filed under Burbank, Downtown, Encino, Mid-City, Santa Monica, Westwood