If you haven’t yet been, what are you waiting for?
Three restaurants in Northeast Los Angeles have made the L.A. Times list of best restaurants in L.A. in 2021: Chifa in Eagle Rock and Hippo and Joy in Highland Park.
Here’s what the Times restaurant critic, Bill Addison, had to say:
Eagle Rock, Chinese/Peruvian $$
“After a year of gazing into Chifa’s empty dining room like it’s an untouchable museum display, usually while picking up takeout or heading to a tented outdoor table behind the building, the restaurant is finally open for a meal inside. You need to be standing in the space to fully absorb its details. T-back velvet seats in deep emerald; zebra stripes racing over one wall, seafoam-speckled tables with scalloped edges on brass legs: It looks like an ’80s set piece from a futuristic “Dynasty” dream sequence. It’s the work of Humberto Leon, who co-founded the fashion brand Opening Ceremony, and his family.
“Food-wise, Chifa pays homage to his mother, Wendy Leon, who returns to the kitchen here, having run her own place in Lima, Peru, four decades ago. The menu is most strongly informed by the deep influence of Chinese immigrants on Peruvian cuisine: sticky spare ribs caramelized in soy sauce and Shaoxing wine, zongzi (steamed sticky rice with meats, vegetables and duck egg yolk bundled in a bamboo leaf, also available in a vegan version), excellent prawns crusted with black peppercorns that pop hot and gritty against your teeth. A sleeper favorite: Popo’s Wellness Soup, a delicious herbal broth that changes with the seasons but whose nutrients you can almost feel rippling through your bloodstream.”
“Hippo is the kind of place where you have pasta in mind when you make a reservation. Matt Molina is a Nancy Silverton protégé, after all, who won a James Beard Award a decade ago for his cooking at Osteria Mozza. And he delivers, especially with the ravioli variation called triangoli (filled with celery-root purée in a buttered shallot sauce) and the al dente fettuccine presented in a twirled snarl with pork ragù. But once you’re eating at the restaurant, perhaps on its much-expanded patio, your appetite is likely to stray into all sorts of other territories: hamachi crudo surrounded by sliced plum, lime and mint; shaved Brussels sprouts with almonds that amp the nuttiness of Parmigiano-Reggiano; and a fire-kissed pork rib often served with fennel sausage and herbed, half-melted cranberry beans. Hippo pulls the term “California-Mediterranean” into the most likable modern context. End the night sipping on an amaro — maybe a citrusy one from Campania made with arugula.”
Highland Park Taiwanese $
“Vivian Ku’s two restaurants, Pine & Crane in Silver Lake and Joy in Highland Park, have become neighborhood fixtures through their fast-casual airiness and the lightness of the Taiwanese dishes they serve. The subtle flavors and emphasis on vegetables have never been a play at oversimplifying the cuisine; those traits specifically channel the cooking style of Ku’s maternal grandmother, Fang Chiu Chen, a constant muse in her approach to food. Both places feature a changing array of cold salads (inky wood ear mushrooms, crunchy-soft braised peanuts) and serve lu rou fan, a classic comfort dish of nubbly, sweetly spiced pork over rice with tea egg and crisp pickled daikon. Joy’s menu is ingeniously concise: a few soups and bowls of noodles, a couple of other wonderful rice dishes, half a dozen riffs on sandwiches. I love the shallot-spiked chicken rice that’s popular in Chiayi, a city in southwestern Taiwan. Take a couple of bites to appreciate its purity, and then douse it with chile oil. A final notch for Joy: mochi rolled in crushed peanut and black sesame, a dessert that’s a Hakka specialty and a favorite of Ku’s father.”