Corazon y Miel

Corazon y Miel
6626 Atlantic Ave
Bell, CA 90201
(323) 560-1776
corazonymiel.com

A destination-worthy restaurant in Bell? Or more likely to be asked: where is Bell again?

For those of you who don’t venture outside of the central/west parts of LA (or SGV for the FOBs), Bell is a few minutes directly south of Downtown.  With regard to restaurants, the most (and for some, only) notable one would be La Casita Mexicana. But last year, Corazon y Miel (“heart & honey” in Spanish) opened in the area, to much critical acclaim. The restaurant labels itself as a Latin American gastropub of sorts, and Chef Eduardo Ruiz’s time at Animal gets brought up over and over again, but at the corazón of things Corazon y Miel is straight-up soulful Latino food that has been taken to the next level with refinement.

While Corazon y Miel has indeed received its share of acclaim and coverage from a critical/press perspective, I feel that the word still hasn’t truly reached the general public. Very few blogs have covered the restaurant, and mentioning its name to a casual Yelper usually elicits a “huh?” response (not sexy enough I suppose). In fact, the vast majority of patrons at the time of our dinner on a Friday night was local (later confirmed by the restaurant, who was surprised that we were from West LA and Fullerton, respectively – we actually chose the restaurant because it was kind of a midway point between us). But that just means that the rest of town is missing out…

First of all, the dishes are reasonably priced. Appetizers are all under $10, and entrees don’t go past low-$20s. Sure, some may scoff at paying $20-30/person for Latin American cuisine, but c’mon – if Corazon y Miel was located in Downtown or the westside, I can assure you that you’d be paying much more for the same food. Our party of three ate and drank plenty for a little over $30/person. And if that’s not enough food, bring a party of five and “fire the menu” – your party gets one of each dish on the menu for $175 (that’s $35/person, and you save 20+% off menu prices).

But how’s the actual food?

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Jalapeno y Tocino ($6) – bacon, jalapeno, chorizo, street corn salad

This appetizer essentially captures the essence of East LA street food. Here, a bacon-wrapped hot dog is replaced with a bacon-wrapped jalapeno that has been stuffed w/ chorizo. And an elote is a bed of mayo-y corn salad. A nice start.

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Ensalada de Cueritos ($8) – pig skin 2 ways, chili con limon, candied citrus zest, Ommegang Wit Taster

This was my favorite of the night. I haven’t had cueritos (pickled pigskin) many times, but I can say that I’ll be looking it more on menus from now on.  It had a very soft and gelatinous texture, reminiscent of a Korean acorn jelly, but retained a very porcine flavor. Marinated and served like a ceviche, the acidity countered the pigskin wonderfully. And the other way, the chicharron, was textbook execution. Too bad they ran out of their regular ceviche dish, because they certainly do this well.  Came w/ a beer taster BTW.

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Corazon Burger ($10) – beef, bacon, grilled panela, sweet jalapeno onion relish, fries, add fried egg ($1)

This was a very novel attempt at Latin-izing the gastropub burger, but there was just a little too much going on. The patty was meaty and well-seasoned, but combining that with the bacon, the panela cheese, and the aggressive sweet jalapeno onion relish, and everything is kind of fighting against one another for attention. Plus, wasn’t a fan of the cemita-esque bun, but again, I totally get the concept.

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Pan con Chompipe ($18) – 2-pound Salvadoran turkey leg sandwich

This thing was HUGE – imagine one of those mutant legs you eat at Disneyland in sandwich form. Definitely a knife-and-fork sandwich. Came with a turkey gravy on the side, but it was barely used, as the turkey leg was plenty flavorful and juicy (latter surprising for turkey). Plus, fried capers? Genius.

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Borrego ($20) – lamb chops en barbacoa, goat cheese gnocchi, pickled chayote

While the lamb chops were finished on the grill, it didn’t really embody a true barbacoa-style meat. A rather straight-forward dish, but the chops were cooked to a nice medium-rare, and the goat cheese gnocchi were tasty as well.

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Boca Negra ($6) – chocolate cake, chipotle custard, ancho whip

Not necessarily spicy, but definitely smoky. This was very good.

I really liked my dinner at Corazon y Miel. Great interpretation of Latin American cuisine at reasonable prices, executed with the precision and refinement you’d expect from a more modern/progressive restaurant. Yes, it’s in Bell (where again?), but that’s arguably closer for most people than say, the SGV, and there’s a lot of parking. Also, the bar program is pretty damn impressive (shoutout to Darwin). You can make reservations for their fairly long bar, where it’s happy hour 5-7pm & 9-closing (full menu served as well), and you get to interact and sample stuff, etc. If you live on the westside, and your friend lives in the OC/SGV, Corazon y Miel is a great midway point to meet up. If not…still go.

Cuisine City/Neighborhood Price Grade
Latin American Bell $$ A-

Corazon y Miel on Urbanspoon

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Empanada’s Place

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Empanada’s Place is a solid neighborhood restaurant in Culver City that specializes in Argentinian empanadas. Alex seems to really like this place, and he chose it for our dinner a few weeks ago. Each empanada is $3, or a dozen for $30. The selection available is quite extensive, with almost 20 varieties. While I enjoyed the empanadas, there’s really not that much variety between the various ones (although each variety is in an unique shape, for identifying purposes). Also, they’re deep-fried, and after eating a couple of them, the heaviness of the food set in my stomach. Just imagine these as gourmet hot pockets. Note: cash only.

Chris Hei grade: B-

Empanada’s Place
3811 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90066
(310) 391-0888

Empanada's Place on Urbanspoon

Pollo a la Brasa

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I woke up Sunday morning a few weeks ago, eager to watch March Madness – I think it was the round of 32. Went to the fridge to see if there was anything for me to grub on while watching the games, but it was empty (Linh-Nam and I are pretty useless without Eugenia, as you all know). What to do? Order pizza at 10am? No delivery service is open at that time, and the options all suck anyways. So I went to my trusty Excel spreadsheet of restaurants to try, and saw that Pollo a la Brasa opens at 10:30am on Sunday. Normally it wouldn’t be an option, since it’s not the closest (in Koreatown), but for some reason I was craving legit roasted chicken. Maybe it’s because I always talk shit about chicken served in restaurants, and wanted to be proved wrong. Or maybe “Pollo a la Brasa” just sounded sexy that gloomy Sunday morning. Anyways, I hopped into the Hei hooptie and jet.

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Pollo a la Brasa is true to the hole-in-the-wall definition: tiny booths with faux wood tables straight outta’ a run-down diner, a light-up menu board with manually-arranged letters, and peeling walls of faded yellow. They apparently take credit cards, but it looked like the terminal was covered with dust – so pay in cash if you can (not that I don’t trust the restaurant, but rather I’m afraid that it’ll just confuse them). The first time I came a few months ago, also on a whim of sorts, the place was PACKED – the tables all filled up and with twenty-plus more waiting for to-go orders. They’re not the most organized of people in dealing with the orders, but the Spanish-speaking Japanese staff seems to handle the crowd fairly well (although I ended up not ordering since I was on my way elsewhere).

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However, Sunday mornings are a different story. Only a couple of other customers waiting for their chicken, and I was in and out in a few minutes (I highly suggest going around this time if possible). Being a fatty, I ordered a whole chicken (which lasted me a couple of meals). The whole chicken comes with two sides. From what I saw while waiting for the food, the sides are very unspectacular. A generic garden salad being packed ahead of time, and rice and beans that look like they could’ve been made by Uncle Ben. So I ended up with a double side order of fries. Not that great either, so I ended up drenching them in the aji sauce that accompanied chicken – and proceeded to cough for a minute.

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So far everything I’ve said sounds depressing, no? Shitty looking place, boring fries – a train wreck waiting to happen. But all of that went away once I had a taste of the chicken. The smokiness from the wood fire stings the nostrils right before the bite, then the nice seasoning from the skin masticates on the tongue upon the bite. As I bit through, the juices from the dark meat came bursting out. White meat was a little dry, but I find white meat EVERYWHERE dry, and it wasn’t that bad here. Skin wasn’t really rotisserie-crisp, but man, the seasoning was tasty. If I had to describe it to a normal person, I would compare this chicken to ones found a El Pollo Loco/Koo Koo Roo, if their chicken was fed with anabolic steroids, HGH, or whatever performance-enhancements there are. Or rather, if their chicken took ALL the drugs.

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Bottom line: come early (parking is much easier then too), pay cash, take it to-go. While it won’t change my perception of ordering chicken when I dine out, I really enjoyed it here (although everything else is meh). Arguably the best roasted chicken in LA, no joke. And from a whole-in-the wall joint, no less. A whole chicken can provided at least two happy meals for less than $20. Now if they only served it with a side of chicken…

Chris Hei grade: B+

Pollo a la Brasa Western
764 S Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90005
(213) 387-1531

Pollo a la Brasa- Peruvian Wood Rotisserie Chicken on Urbanspoon

Gloria’s

Oh Gloria’s… what more can I say about what has become my second home since I moved to my current apartment almost two years ago? Although I haven’t gone “home” much these last few months (due to my efforts to dine out less to aid in my diet/exercise), there is always a place in my heart for homey food that reminds me of my childhood (Mexican/Latin American food was second to Chinese food in terms of frequency when I was young). Too bad I didn’t get to see Gloria herself or her sons that help her run the restaurant, because they’re always so nice to me (and even know my name by now).

I went with my friends Ben, Daniel and Alex. I got the carne adobada (so predictable, Chris), which is carnitas served in Gloria’s special sauce. It’s arguably their most popular dish, and my go-to item most of the time. Ben got the chicken tortilla soup, an awesome choice as well. Daniel got the carna asada plate, and Alex got the chicken house special burrito. We all shared a couple of orders of revuelta (pork and cheese) and loroco (cheese and herb) papusas. Everything was solid, as usual. The adobada is always a satisfying choice, although I have to admit that it is on the saltier side at times (and I’m a person that loves my bold seasoning). That wasn’t the case this time. This meal made me realize how much I miss Gloria’s, and even though the food itself isn’t what I consider the best of its kind (although that probably wasn’t the case over a year ago), the close proximity of the restaurant and the “just like home” feeling I get every time I’m here will make me go back again and again. Oh, and the food is great too.

Chris Hei grade: B+


Gloria’s Cafe

10227 Venice Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90034
(310) 838-0963