updated 9/1/02 - 8/29/02 - Zita’a Grill, "Filipino cuisine & BBQ," 13551 Roscoe Bl., Panorama City, CA, 91402, phone 818-780-1311. Located in a strip mall at the northeast corner of Roscoe and Ventura Canyon Bl. Parking in front and maybe on the side streets. Hours: Mon-Sat 7a-10p and Sun. 7a-2 or 3p. Breakfast buffet 7-10a for $3.99. Lunch and dinner buffet $4.99. Ask about take out, catering, and delivery. One menu says, “BBQ Grilling in front of the restaurant, Monday-Friday 5-9p, Saturday and Sunday all day.” P.S. - The lady kept trying to give me too much food; I had to keep reminding her that I wanted to start with just a taste of everything.
Background: This section of Roscoe Blvd. from Van Nuys Blvd. east to Ventura Canyon Blvd. has a few Filipino restaurants and at least two Filipino supermarkets. From Ventura Canyon Blvd. east to about Coldwater Canyon are a few Thai restaurants and markets, and they extending south to Sherman Way. 9/3/02 - There's also a Thai temple on Coldwater just south of Roscoe with food booths on some? Sundays, but I don't have any details.
General:They have six table and 20 chairs. The men’s/woman’s/storage room is through the kitchen, way in the back. The front room looks ok, but the rest room is cluttered. Free water and several condiments are available to the right. A sign says you only get one plate and one bowl, and they don’t want food wasted.
Buffet. The buffet comes with steamed rice, you point at whatever else you want, and they fill your plate. Not quite your usual buffet format. Today the buffet included 13 items. Seafood: side of marinaded milkfish - very tasty, small/whole fish, breaded calamari bits, crab? omelet – all fried. The first two were full of bones, but they taste better that way. Vegetables: fried eggplant - good, a mixed unknown veg dish, and a green beans and quail eggs dish. Beef: chunks and potatoes? in a tasty sweetish sauce - their best dish. Pork: adobo, red sweetish bits, and a black-colored dish of pork chunks in pork blood. This last dish is tasty, but I seldom eat it. Adobo is usually good most places. Chicken: adobo and fried garlic chicken. Soup: vegetable. I just ask for the broth and drink it from the bowl. Sticks of sweet banana and yam chunks are on the buffet for dessert but are about $1 extra.
Summary: Nothing fancy, but the only Filipino buffet I’ve seen in the valley. Everything today was ok, some dished were better than others. Dishes change daily, so you might want to call first. PS - The typical Filipino breakfast could be steamed garlic rice, runny fried eggs, and a meat or fish. I don't care for the Filipino sausage, starting with the letter 'L', especially the sweet kind.
9/7/02 - I returned on 9/6/02, a Friday, before 6p to check their seafood. You'd expect Filipinos to eat lots of fish on friday, and in fact the supermarkets are full of fish shoppers. However, the food here was well past it's prime, and most of the moist stuff was dried out. But, I tried it anyway, partically cause they reduced the buffet price to $3.99 for this month. Two seafood items were fried and dried but ok-ish. The two poached fish dishes were in rather large chunks, so I didn't ask for any. A few pork dishes were the best. For the beef in peanut-sauce dish, this sauce never tasted much like peanuts to me, and this was the same. The soup was ok. A sub-standard buffet today at 6p - it's best to return another day if the food is not fresh.
1. D.J. Bibingkahan, 14417 Roscoe Bl, Panorama City, CA, phone 818-894-6378. Another smaller location at Roscoe and Woodman, southwest corner, and other locations. Daily about 9:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The Daily News also reviewed them at u.dailynews.com/dining/articles/0502/17/dine02.asp.
New customers may have a problem since the dishes are not labeled or priced, but there's not usually a language problem. Grab a tray, point to what you want (or ask for it by name), and pay about $2.99. Correction - as of 7/02 these 2-item combos are about $3.50, but ask first. Actually in the RP, these are called 'point-point' restaurants. That price includes steamed rice, two dishes (items), and a small soup. Ice water is included. Most 'items' (dishes), like pork, eggs, vegetables, etc, were included in the price. Fish was always extra. But, about mid-June the price went up; now beef and goat items could be 25¢ extra.
What to get? Everything looks brown, but much of it tastes ok or even rather good. I normally get beef caldereta (or kaldereta) or beef mechado and pork adobo. These are long-cooked stews without vegetables, with usually good-tasting, tender meat. Beef steak, actually sliced beef, is a safe, tasty option which I seldom order. (P.S. - I understand beef steak only sounds like the Filipino name.) I have eaten here a few times, usually for dinner, and the food I tried, above, was good. My one lunch experience seemed like the meat needed more time in the pot. Expect usually tender meat with fat and waste but usually no bone. I usually pass on the vegetables, overcooked, but banana blossoms can be tasty. Enter from the back only; large parking lot. P.S. - Say something like: cal-da-RET-a, ma-chot-doe, and a-doe-bow. And, if you don't specify the meat you could get goat or whatever. About 3/02?-06/02.
7/18/02 - Went back for the two-item combo with steamed rice and a small bowl of nondescript, but ok, mostly vegetable soup. Price now seems to be $3.25 but a beef dish adds 25¢. Fish and other items are even more. Ask first; there's no price list. I had the beef caldereta with red pepper pods for color. For the first time it had just a hint of kick. The other item was pork adobo. Both were better than usual, and even excluding the fat and stuff it could feed two.
9/7/02 - Their store at the southwest corner of at Roscoe and Woodman has a sign about a $2.99 combo special, but I haven't been in. This usually includes steamed rice, a small nondescript soup, and two meat items. But, do ask first about what is includes and if fish, beef, or goat are extra.
2. Benny's Lechon, 14441 Roscoe Bl., Panorama City, CA, phone 818-892-0310.
Lechon is dry-roasted pork skin/meat/fat or whatever; very popular in the RP. This place is a smaller version of D.J. Bibingkahan (above) but with less selection and class. A two-item special with a small soda is $3.25. I only ate here about once, the food was rather bland, then I found D.J. Bibingkahan, almost next door, with usually better food. Enter from the front or back; next to large parking lot in back. I don't recall a rest room. About 3/02?