For nearly 25 years, La Bamba Island Cuisine has been sending doners on flight-free Caribbean excursions through his dishes inspired by the kitchens of Cuba, Jamaica, and Mexico. Owner-chef Chris oven-roasts shredded pork for menu items as varied as Cuban sandwiches with ham and pickles to the popular St. Thomas burrito with guacamole and pico de gallo. A unique wine and a seasoning blend flavors the Panama shrimp with bell peppers dish, and the lobster tacos combined the grilled oceanic delicacy with pico de gallo and guacamole. Whether taking in the island cuisine from indoors or the al-fresco patio, a refreshing sangria, beer, or margarita pairs well with just about any dish, whether by the sip or by the funnel full.
When Executive Chef Jose Angel was growing up in Cuba, his parents wanted him to study international relations, but Jose had no interest in politics?he loved cooking. At first, he approached his true calling quietly, studying for his license in nutrition. But Jose couldn't keep his endeavor secret forever, and eventually started working as a chef in Spain.
The guests at El Rincon Cubano Restaurant are lucky that Jose's talent is no longer under wraps. Between colorful murals of dancers and lush Cuban scenes, his authentic Cuban cuisine dazzles taste buds. The menu also features Mediterranean and Spanish culinary influences; an example of this fusion is found in the popular ropa vieja, a beef dish whose tomato-based sauce incorporates spices from around the world. Cuban roast pork, empanadas, and the signature picadillo covered in fried egg can be paired with authentically muddled mojitos and fresh sangria.
Chefs at La Cocina pick fresh ingredients sourced from the surrounding area to build Mexican and Cuban plates as colorful as the eatery's bright orange walls or a firework-filled piñata. After rounds of fresh ceviche or ham croquetas, rustic wooden tabletops fill with made-to-order rice dishes such as the palomilla empanizada—thin-pounded top sirloin steak breaded and pan-fried—or stone mortars known as molcajete filled with chorizo or seafood and fresh cheese. For dessert, chefs hand-craft creamy flan or natural shakes made with mango or tropical mamey fruit. A tiled chair rail runs along the restaurant's tangerine walls, which are studded with Mexican-style art and framed photographs of famous burritos that have visited the restaurant.
After a decade spent living in Los Angeles with nary a morsel of Puerto Rican food, Mofongos Restaurant's owner and chef decided to change the city's culinary landscape with plantains, chicken stew, and seafood lauded by the Los Angeles Times. The eatery takes its name from its mofongos—smashed green plantains stuffed with garlic and savory meats such as steak, pork-shoulder roast, crab, and chicken—a dish deemed “glorious” and a “truly magical configuration” by the LA Times and “food!” by others. Mofongos also prides itself on being the county's sole purveyor of a full Puerto Rican menu.
Chef Javier Prado personifies the American dream. In 1972, he traded the familiarity of his Mexican hometown for the bright lights and chatty celebrity wax statues of Los Angeles. He was initially without money, family, or friends, but soon landed a job working in the Beverly Hills Club restaurant. It was there that he met Chef Jon Bernadoux who took Javier under his wing, teaching him his craft until 1989 when Javier swung open the doors to Prado Restaurant.
At Prado, Javier fuses the flavors of his mother's Mexican cooking with classic Caribbean and New Orleans cuisine. The aromas of spicy black pepper sauces and Jamaican spices stretch out onto the quaint sidewalks of Larchmont Village, teasing the palates of frequent visitors and curious passersby alike. Inside, Javier makes good on the promises of those aromas, completing a spicy fusion menu underneath 18th century-style pastel ceilings painted in celestial scenes. Diners pair selections from the ample wine list with appetizers of jamaican tamales, entrees such as pollo negro—a grilled chicken breast slathered in a spicy black-pepper sauce beneath fresh gems of pineapple—and combination feasts such as the latin sampler platter, which grants tastes of the Caribbean-tinged carioca chicken, mesquite-grilled steak argentina, and spicy shrimp negros.