Last week I spent a few days at my mother's in Redondo Beach. Thursday morning the glorious beach sunshine streaming into my room woke me up at 6am. I had to wait until 7 for my mom to get up so we could go out for breakfast.
Sadly, two of my home-town favorites, The Second Street Cafe and the Backburner Cafe have closed their doors. So we went to Joe's, like "Eat at Joe's". It is a cozy place frequented by "locals". The front section is individual tables, and the back room has large communal tables. They have a creative menu that borders on the whimsical. For example, you can get a "Mad Dog", which is your choice of any of the day's specials from the board served on an omelette. We ordered and I went outside to take a picture of the facade. I have done this dozens of times...my timing is flawless. But by the time I got back inside, my food was already cold and my mom was half-way finished with her pancakes. Their service is superfast. And my timing is not so flawless. I ordered the "John Wayne", which is basically huevos rancheros with home fries and sausages. It was excellent, if a little cold due to my gallavanting around.
Our waitress was friendly and perfect. My mom naturally knew someone there. As we left, he called after us, "See you in church!" and I started laughing. My mother gave me a funny look, and I said, "Maybe I am going to hell, but that is the first time anyone has ever said that to me who wasn't kidding."
We went to the farmer's market, which is right on the ocean by the pier. The produce was beautiful, and the sun was shining brightly on the water. We picked up vegetables and cheese for dinner.
Later that afternoon, I went with my friend Lori to the Ocean Diner. They have expanded since the last time I visited around 10 years ago. I had a tuna salad sandwich, which oddly contained grated carrot - welcome to L.A.!
They have fantastic baked goods there, but we were behaving ourselves. Then we went to Stats, which is a local craft store. The aisle where the Halloween decorations met the Christmas decorations had gotten mixed up, which made for some unusual tableaus, such as this one of the 3 wise men being menaced my skeletal ghouls
Friday my friend Regina and I drove into Artesia so I could pick up some Indian jewelry for my Halloween costume. We stopped in at Ambala Sweets and Snacks for my favorite treat: a samosa covered with channa masala. I like the little bits of condiments they sprinkle over it, so you get a little sweet taste, a taste of raita, or cilantro chutney in each bite.
After shopping, I dropped her off and picked up a late lunch at El Pollo Inka, a Peruvian place with spit-roasted chicken that melts in your mouth.
I have two favorite dishes there - one of them is Saltado de Camarones ("...mildly seasoned shrimp sauteed with fresh onions, ripe tomatoes and french fries..." yes, the french fries are mixed into the dish). This time I ordered Aji de Gallina ("shredded, juicy chicken in spices with bread and milk. Served with boiled potatoes and rice"). It is not the prettiest dish, but I love the strangeness of the bread sauce. I also love their green hot sauce - aji, which I eat on their bread instead of butter.
For dinner, we went to my mom's favorite restaurant - a Malaysian restaurant called Belacan Grill, "The best of Malay, Indian, and Chinese cuisine!". We started off with Roti Canai ("Malaysian all-time favorite crispy pancake dipped in chicken curry") and Curry Puffs, which are similar to Samosas.
We ordered deep-fried crab, Beef Rendang ("Malay spicy coconut beef - very aromatic"). When the server set this dish down the first time we ordered it, he said, "Spicy hot - wow" so I call it "Spicy Hot Wow Beef", as well as some rice noodles and some String Beans. I noticed a commotion in a tank that I had not noticed earlier, and saw that giant crabs were freaking out. I suddenly felt bad for the crabs and regretted my order. I said, "Do you think they deep-fry them while they're still alive? Oh...I bet they kill them first by hammering a spike into their brain." My mom said, "I don't want to think like that." Of course once the crab arrived, I ate most of it. It's its own fault for tasting so good. Everything I have eaten at this place is beyond fantastic. I am curious about a few things on the menu we have yet to try, like Belacan Kangkong ("Stir-fried water convolvus with toasted shrimp paste"). What is a convolvus??? We went to bed that night full and happy, excited about the next day's trip...
Eat at Joe's 400 N. Pacific Coast Highway Redondo Beach 90277 (310) 376-9570
Ocean Diner 959 Aviation Blvd. Hermosa Beach 90254 Tel: (310)372-3739
Ambala Sweets 18433 Pioneer Blvd., Artesia 90701 (562) 402-0006
El Pollo Inka 1100 Pacific Coast Highway Hermosa Beach (310) 372-1433
Belacan Grill 2701 190th Street Redondo Beach (310) 370-1831