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.
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.
El Rincon Criollo's expansive menu presents Cuban flavors in dishes starring seafood, pork, and chicken. Grilled salmon wears a blanket of garlic sauce ($12.95), breaded top sirloin steak ($11.95) combines a starchy texture with a meaty tenderness, and pollo asado instills roasted chicken with an aura of garlic ($11.95 for a half chicken). El Rincon Criollo penchant for the classics is apparent with the Cuban-style roast pork, which unites sweet grilled onions with shredded, roasted pork and garlicky goodness ($10.95).
El Criollo creolizes a menu of classic, authentic Cuban cuisine with a contemporary cast of flavorful influences. Test out the waters with a tamal cubano appetizer, a homemade yellow corn pork tamale delicately decorated with minced garlic and olive oil ($3.95). Exquisite Cuban entrees include the lengua guisada, beef tongue stewed in a fusion of fresh herbs and spices ($11.95), and the slow-roasted lecbón asado, a marinated pork leg cloaked in caramelized onions ($13.95). Diners can dive into the pescado sudado, boneless white fish steamed in a tomato-creole purée ($14.95), or the pollo en salsa de ajo, stewed chicken smoldered in a medley of garlic, white wine, olive oil, onion, and cilantro ($11.95). Wash down lingering spices with a glass of the house sangria ($6), or share a pitcher of beer ($16-$18) with a group of friends, Romans, and countrymen.
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.