Monthly Archives: March 2011

Leftovers: Habuya

Okinawan cuisine’s entry into Orange County for the L.A. Times:


PHOTO by GLENN KOENIG / L.A. TIMES

A skein of flat, linguine-like noodles and shards of ginger are so fine they all but dissolve in the broth. There are pork ribs, with brawny slabs of meat thick as a Little Leaguer’s baseball bat. But the soki soba is all about the bones, marrow-filled ribs stewed until they can be eaten.

If there’s one thing Mayumi Vargas wants everyone to know about her native Okinawa, it’s the island chain’s affinity for pork. And at Habuya, Vargas’ new Okinawan restaurant in a hidden corner of a Tustin mini-mall, pork is a uniting force.

Okinawa is a Japanese prefecture apart. Although the subtropical islands have been absorbed nominally into Japan’s national identity, they remain culturally individualistic. Habuya reflects that in its humble cooking, which is less like that of a refined seaside restaurant and more like that of a salt-licked coastal pub.

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Leftovers: Guisados

The wonderful stews and braises of Guisados for the L.A. Times:


PHOTO by ANNE CUSACK / L.A. TIMES

Ricardo Diaz is on his way to building a culinary empire with Mexican restaurants that innately reflect the attitudes and fluctuations of the Angeleno appetite.

Three years ago, Diaz and his in-laws opened Cook’s Tortas in Monterey Park. There, sturdy, rustic rolls are baked on-site, everyone sips pineapple-celery and watermelon-mint aguas frescas and dessert brings soft corn cakes and biscuits smeared with loquat marmalade. For every diner who longs for thetorta of grilled chicken, salsa, avocado and fried sage, another loves grilled skirt steak, dry-aged chorizo, nopales and guacamole. The restaurant is the all-inclusive ideal of what a modern Mexican cafe should be in Los Angeles.

Guisados, Diaz and business partner Armando De La Torre’s new Boyle Heights taquería, shares a similar universality. Here, guisados achieve ascendancy; these are humble stews and braises that you’d otherwise most likely find simmering atop a home stove.

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