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Restaurant Reviews and Commentary from Karen Salkin


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LA BODEGUITA DE PICO

Now I know how Peter Jackson must feel--I’m writing the third part of my trilogy on restaurants in the PicFair Village area of L.A. (He produced and directed the “Lord Of The Rings” trilogy, for you non-film buffs.) I don’t know how many other restaurant critics can say that!

First came breakfast at Bloom Cafe, then lunch at Sky’s Gourmet Tacos, and now, dinner at La Bodeguita de Pico. I can only hope that someone opens an afternoon tea place around there. But I’m not holding my breath for that one.

I actually met the owners of La Bodeguita when I reviewed Bloom, and they seemed nice and very supportive of that area, so I finally got around to having dinner there last week. It’s a Cuban restaurant, with authentic personnel, but the funny thing was that none of the males knew anything about baseball, a topic I think you all know I’m obsessed with by now.

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The Guerra Family Trio

How could they be Cuban and not know of El Duque? (That’s Orlando Hernandez, pitcher extraordinaire of the Mets, formerly with the Yankees, for the rest of you who aren’t baseball savvy, either.) And I was hoping to get his real age out of them. (His birth certificate got lost during his defection, or some story like that. Just like mine did when I came over from Brooklyn.)

I was disappointed by their lack of knowledge at first, but then the live music started, so I wouldn’t have chatted during it anyway. I usually don’t like loud music playing while I’m dining, but in this case, it added to the mood. Between the Guerra Family trio and the interior design, we actually felt like we were in Havana.

Or Club Babalu. I was expecting Ricky Ricardo to show up any minute and tell me that I had some ’splainin’ to do! (I actually played a Lucy impressionist on a sitcom a few years ago, with Danny Gans playing my Ricky. We could have shot it in La Bodeguita.)

[Note: the entertainment is there on Friday and Saturday nights only. So, remember that, if you have a date you don’t want to talk to.]

Some good food news, to me and all dieters, is that the bread isn’t special, so we didn’t fill up on it, and got to enjoy the real meal. That was actually a relief.

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We started out with the Gran Plato del Chef, which is a sampler of five traditional Cuban appetizers. My favorite among them was the fried breaded potato ball that was stuffed with ground beef. I’ve been craving it ever since. Eadie’s pick was the big chunks of fried pork. Bobbi just scarfed it all.

They moved on to the Ensalada de Danay, which is named for the female owner (who just began a job I’m jealous of--appearing on “Prison Break” this season!) and has a ton of ingredients, including warm black beans, topped off with a mango vinaigrette.

For entrees, we tried the roasted chicken, which is cooked in a “Secret Special Sauce.” I love that description! Not just special, nor solely secret, but both of them! It was pretty tender, moist, and flavorful, so it must have worked. They serve a hearty portion of it, too.

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The other two had the sautéed halibut topped with a mint mojito sauce. This is the dish that proves looks can be deceiving because it wasn’t very visually attractive, smothered in that lime green sauce, but Eadie said that the fusion was groovin’! She commented that the flavors blended well, and was fascinated by the use of mint with fish, instead of the usual lamb. She went for it in a big way, and Bobbi concurred.

I was into the side dishes. We had sweet potato fries, which I love finding on a menu, and sweet plantains, which were perfect. (I guess I like my food to be like me--sweet.) Surprisingly, the side I liked the most was jasmine rice with peas. It’s not on the menu, so you have to remember to ask for it.

I’m never a fan of Latin-type desserts, so the ladies ordered the flan. Bobbi said it’s the best one she ever had, and even got one to go. Miguel, our handsome waiter, told me that usually they have a light sponge cake with chocolate topping, but they were out of it on my visit. Perhaps Mr. X called ahead to tell him to say that because I just happily lost some weight, and we don’t want it coming back.

The menu featured some interesting items, such as five different types of coffee and four authentic Cuban sodas. Eadie loved both the pineapple-flavored Jupina and the Ironbeer, which was invented in 1917 and is now considered to be the National Beverage of Cuba. (That’s what the story on the can said, anyway.) It tasted like a strong vanilla cola, with “just a hint of island spices,” (quoting the can again.)

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We ate the appetizers and sides so fast that all we could salvage for this picture was some plantain chips and sweet

There seemed to be a lot of kids around that night, and I always wonder how big families can afford to eat at non-chain restaurants. La Bodeguita solves that problem with a great children’s menu.

A few other thoughts on this place: it seems like a great party venue because of the dance floor and general set-up, the upbeat atmosphere would make it fun for groups, and it’s a good destination for seniors because it’s kind-of warm in there. (Okay, that last comment is strange, even to me, but my mother’s always cold, so I guess that I think all seniors are.)

I have to add one modifier to my review: on La Bodeguita’s website (which is below), I noticed that they’re planning on starting a cigar night in the future. I, personally, would never go to an establishment that has ever had cigar smoke because it seems that the odor and horrible taste never go away. If you feel like I do, please remember to call first, to make sure that they haven’t started it yet.

If, on the other hand, you’re a guy who loves cigars, this might be an attraction for you. So, whether you go before or after it begins, dance the night away and enjoy!

La Bodeguita de Pico 5047 W. Pico Blvd. 323- 937-2822 www.LaBodeguitaDePico.com

 
 
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