Here are some San Fernando Valley restaurants, just over the hill and northwest of L.A. I'll post a few as time allows, and more details and updates may follow. So far I haven't found a Chinese, Indian, or especially Mexican restaurant that compares to those in the South Bay. But, the search continues. I tend to look for buffets and combo specials, especially at Chinese and Indian restaurants, where the price of an a la carte meal can get quite expensive. Always call first, and check for the newest details like days, hours, prices, parking, cards, to-go, delivery, catering, handicapped access, etc. Please put your suggestions and comments on my new message board - no email. These reviews includes the 7/10/02 updates.
7/12/02 - Dr. Hogly Wogly's Tyler Texas B-B-Q, 8136 Sepulveda Bl., Van Nuys, CA, phone 818-782-2480 or 818-780-6701. Open seven days, 11:30a to 10p with the same menu and prices, and they cater. About 14 booths inside and four tables outside, right in the sun. Old and worn building but clean. Casual service and dress. Ask for a token to use their clean, outside restrooms which I missed on the first try.
Sandwiches - They have four 'sandwiches' priced at $6.95 and spareribs, which I had, at $7.95. The others choices are two hot links or sliced beef, pork, or ham. I ask how many ribs and they said three, but I received four. The ribs come covered with and in a plate full of a thin, vinegar-based sweet and sour sauce. The ribs were about medium sized, not babybacks, with mostly tender, good tasting meat. The taste of the smoke wasn't strong enough for me to give up my preference for traditionally-cooked ribs -- with the red, sweet BBQ sauce which I usually prefer. They do provide two such BBQ sauces on the side, neither sweet, but one spicier. However, I ate the ribs the way they came. The ribs need to be finished with the traditional BBQ sauce, not just covered after they're cooked. This meal includes the choice of one of four rather small side dishes: baked beans, cole slaw, macaroni salad, or potato salad. I had the slaw which was bland and dry with raisins. Try something else. This also comes with what they call a '1/2 loaf of home baked bread' which is slightly better than two slices of bland white bread. Three sweet and sour pickle slices topped the ribs. At first I thought they just gave me one napkin and one wet wipe which would be silly with ribs. After I used the wipe I noticed there were more napkins in the basket. They offer three desserts of which I tried the pecan pie at $2.55. They keep it cold but offer to warm it which I tried, but it doesn't help the crust which tasted dry. They only put pecans on top, not all the way through, but it was ok.
Summary. It meal was ok, but it's not my style of BBQ. The cole slaw especially needs help. They also have - but I haven't tried - 1-meat dinners from $12.25 to $15.50, 2-meat combos from $14.25 to $17.25, and 3-meat combos from $17.25 to $20.50. These come with two sides. An extra plate to split food is $1.50 which might be a good idea. For these meals they also offer beef brisket, beef ribs, chicken, leg of pork (whatever), etc. Others have said the brisket was good, but I'm not a big fan. BBQ is also available by the half pound, half slab, etc. from $8.95 to $12.25.
7/9/02 - Taste of India, 13903 Ventura Bl., Sherman Oaks, CA, phone 818-501-5550. Also, another untried location at 21833 Ventura Bl., phone 818-999-0600. Lunch 11:30a to 3:00p. Dinner 5:30 to 10:00 or 10:30p. Champagne brunch, $9.95, noon to 3p: Saturday in Woodland Hills and Sunday at both locations; untried. Also, dinner specials from $10.95 to $14.95; untried.
They have four lunch specials, all at $5.99, named lamb curry, chicken curry, tandoori chicken, and vegetable plate. I had the tandoori chicken, a very small leg quarter with flavor and moisture above average. I was confused by the inaccurate menu, but the meal also includes rice, lentils, salad or yogurt, and one of three vegetables. I had the roasted eggplant which tasted good, was a larger than average serving, but it contained too many onion slices. Naan is not included with this special, and not knowing the meal also included lentils, I ordered chapati, whole-wheat bread which was just below average. Carrots pickles and mint and tamarind chutney were brought to the table. The rice, lentils, etc. were average. I order medium spicy, and the eggplant was.
Mostly clean place with a running-water display and a rug in the men's room, but my table cloth was soiled, and I noticed another. A worker with a head wrap make almost continuous out-going phone call during my entire meal - topics like computer repair, etc. After the meal I suggested he needed his own office and stop disturbing the customers. Better than average food, but why not go to a buffet, for about $1.00 or two more, elsewhere?
7/10/02 update. The meats - They start by serving cheap chicken and sausage to fill you up. As is my 'buffet' style', I asked for just a taste, explaining I didn't want to fill up or waste it. The waiter wouldn't do it. I almost left but went to get the manager who did give me just a taste of everything. Strange - I later found a sign on the table that states you'll be charged extra for wasting food. I tasted my way through these lunch items; all items were cooked very welldone so I won't even comment on that: tri tip - ok, sirloin - don't remember/dinner only?, skirt steak - poor/tasted like liver, turkey wrapped in bacon - salty/bacon uncooked, chicken thigh - ordinary, pork loin - salty/almost ok, sausage - salty, lamb - fair, shish-ka-bob - bland beef. Not on their 'menu' was garlic beef which was fair. Some 'menu' items are for dinner only such as beef ribs, tender loin, pork spare ribs, and chicken hearts. So, after I tasted all the lunch items, I asked if I could get the 'better' items cooked rare or medium rare. They 'tried' and warned me it might be undercooked, but the best they could do was about medium well. More soon; like they automatically add a 15% tip to your bill.
7/6/02 - Great India Cafe, 12321 Ventura Bl., Studio City, CA 91604, phone 818-761-8140. An ad says they're open seven days, lunch from 11:30a to 3p, and dinner till 10:30 or 11p with free delivery, take-out and catering. Call for details.
A rather large serving of ok food, but perhaps the worst Indian food I've had in the valley. They have nine lunch specials priced from $5.95 to $8.50 with most about $7.00. I had the Tandoori Lunch II at $7.50 which comes with chicken tikka, lamb boti, or seekh kabob and stuff. I had the chicken, three nice breast chunks, but dry with little flavor. That came with potato and pea curry in a redish sauce (below average), dal of the day (just ok), rice (ordinary), naan (ok), and salad (with very little tastless dressing). Not on the menu, there was also an 'appetizer' of a thin lentil waffer with a spicy dip and, on the plate, mint chutney. This sounds like a lot, but it's all comes in very small servings, and I ate it all. Again I ordered medium spicy and got about mild. No other condiments on the table, not even salt and pepper.
At another table, two people were served at once, but the third waited for several minutes. Also, the help, at several points up to four people, sat, ate, and/or hung out in the dinning room with nothing to do but watch the few customers; a max of six customers while I was there, just after noon. My service was ok, but they acted like beginners. You can eat on the sidewalk if that's your thing. They don't do a buffet. Clean. Based on this meal, they're at the bottom of my Indian-food list.
7/5/02 - India's Tandoori, 19006 Ventura Bl., Tarzana, CA 91356, phone 818-342-9100 or 1-800-INDIA-LA. (Both the L.A. Times and perhaps the phone book had the wrong phone numbers.) The sign for the strip mall still has an old name of India's Cuisine. Lunch Mon-Sat 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., dinner seven days: Sun-Thu 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Fri & Sat 5:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., and Sunday champagne brunch 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Always call first to check for the newest details. Nice looking, clean place, but feelings around for the light switch is a dark men's room takes a while. (Hint: the light switch is to your lower left as you look out the door.)
Three lunch specials, Mon-Sat?, 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., from $5.50 to $5.95; days not specified(?). (1) is chicken or lamb curry, naan, rice, lentil curry, and salad or raita (yogurt). (2) has one piece of tandoori chicken, cauliflower and potato curry, naan, lentil curry, rice, and salad or raita. I had the vegetarian lunch (3) at $5.50 with naan or whole wheat bread, choice of one of three vegetable dishes, rice, lentil curry, and salad or raita. I selected the roasted eggplant curry and whole wheat bread. I didn't notice the roasted eggplant taste as at the Clay Oven, below. Again, I ordered medium and got mild. Ok food, mild tastes, and, as at all the Valley Indian restaurants, not that much taste difference between the curry dishes -- a big no-no in Indian cooking. Spicy carrots, spicy mint sauce, and tamarind chutney were on the table.
Dinner specials, several, I didn't try, around or under $10. Details someday.
Sunday champagne brunch, 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., for $8.95. This I haven't tried but they said there would be, maybe, soup, salad, four vegetables dishes, two meat dishes (chicken and lamb), and probably other stuff. As always, call for the newest details.
1. D.J. Bibingkahan, 14417 Roscoe Bl, Panorama City, CA, phone 818-894-6378. Also at Roscoe and Woodman 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. Actually in the PI, 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 $2.99 price. Fish was always extra. But, about mid-June the price went up; now beef and goat items are 50¢ 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. 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.
2. Benny's Lechon, 14441 Rosco Bl., Panorama City, CA, phone 818-892-0310.
Lechon is dry-roasted pork skin/meat/fat or whatever; very popular in the PI. 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. About 3/02?
Taj Mahal, 17815 Ventura Bl. Ste 201, Encino, CA 91316, phone 818-345-2244. On the second floor with a minor view and an elevator. Web site at www.tajmahaldining.com/. Buffet and dinner coupons at www.tajmahaldining.com/coupons.html or in the Friday U section of the Daily News (buffet coupon only).
Sunday champagne brunch with over 20 items (actually about 21 items), 11a-3p, was $8.95. Mon-Sat brunch with, they say, over 15 items, 11a-2:30p is $6.95. $1.00 off with coupon in papers. Dinner also 5-10 or 10:30p, but call. Menu also, to-go, delivery.
Sunday buffet: mashed-potato pancakes, white rice, garbonzo bean curry, potato and pea curry, mixed vegetable curry, chicken-chunk curry (ordinary), spinach and lamb curry (very good), tandoori chicken (more flavor and moister than most), four salads (ordinary), mint (dry?) & tameran sauces, riata (yogurt sauce), hot sauce, salad dressing, rice pudding, naan, and champagne [should total 21 items, missed one?]. Good value, good stuff, ok champagne, mild flavors, clean, and clean bath rooms. Mint sauce tasted ok but looked dried. Haven't tried weekdays. 6/23/02.
6/30/02 - Returned for the Sunday brunch and found almost exactly the same 20 items, but they tasted almost even better. The only change was 'bread balls' instead of rice pudding. These are like fried donut holes soaked in a sweet sauce. Some places call them cheese balls, I believe they lack cheese, but those do have a better flavor.
7/7/02 - Why again? Cause they have about the best Indian food I've tried in the valley, and, with the $1.00-off coupon, it's hard to beat their Sunday brunch. The food continues to be good. The mixed-vegetable curry (average) was today replaced with what the sign sais was "vegetable karri, vegetable dumplings with onions, ginger and tomato sauce." I believe it was actually something else, in a bright, yellow sauce. Firsts and seconds were plate-licking good, but thirds were average. What happened to their recipe? Bread/milk balls for dessert. They in fact have had exactly 20 items, not 'over 20' as in the ads. Sometimes they add spicy carrot pickles someone said.
India Cafe, 4523 Sepulveda Bl, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403, phone 818-986-8555.
I had the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet for the new price of $6.95. The to-go menu still states the old price of $5.95. That's Mon-Sat, 11:30a-3p. Sunday is $8.95, they say, with 20 items and champagne. Today's meats were chicken-meatball curry, chunk-chicken curry, and tandoori chicken. Vegetable dishes were spinach (very good), garbanzo beans (slightly spicy), and lentils. There was long-grain white rice, a mixed salad, and a yogurt dressing (like riata?). This dressing can be put on anything for a cooling effect. There were two, good crackers on the buffet, and I'm working on their names. Just try them. Two cold sauces were also available on the buffet: a hot/spicy mint sauce and a tameran? sweet/sour sauce. They served plain naan bread at the table. A rice pudding in heavy cream? was the dessert.
Summary - All the food was good, but, except as mentioned, not spicy hot or spicy in flavor. In fact, I didn't much taste the seasonings with firsts and seconds, but noticed the flavors more with thirds. Items probably change daily, so call for the newest info. Looks like a good value, and the place looks ok. They have other specials, you can order from the menu, and they may deliver. 6/19/02.
Clay Oven, 14611 1/2 Ventrua Bl., Sherman Oaks, CA 91403, phone 818-995-1777.
Several lunch specials Mon-Fri from $5.95 to $8.95 and several more everyday from $6.50 to $10.50. On a Sunday I had the 'mixed grill thali' with chicken tikka and sheesh kabab (lamb sausage) and other stuff. Choice of vegetables: I got the roasted eggplant - very good. It was a whole meal except drink and desert. I thought I ordered it medium spiced, but it came out very mild. Details soon. No buffet, but the special combos look like a good value, and the place looks ok. Specials are served Mon-Fri 11:30a- 2:30p or 11a-3p, whatever. Sat and Sun specials are 11:30a to 4p, but always call first. 6/16/02.
Asia Buffet, 8220 Van Nuys Bl., Panorama City, CA 91402, phone 818-988-8979.
The food isn't real good, but there's a lot of it: "Over 97 items daily" they say. All-you-can-eat buffet with prices from $5.98 to 9.98, depending on time and day. Call for details. Mostly Oriental dishes -- OK sliced chicken dish, sometimes-good BBQ pork ribs, good whole-ish fish, ok pizza except bad crust, several desserts and fruit, free hot tea, and many, many more items. Mix meat from one dish with vegetables from another, whatever. I only go for lunch since I don't care for the more expensive dinner items. Also to-go. Soft drinks are $1.00 with free refills, cause they want you to fill up on drinks. 6/02.
Pizza Hut, 14455 Van Nuys Bl. (just north Ventura Bl.), Sherman Oaks, CA, phone 818-990-7600.
Several Pizza Huts do an all-you-can-eat pizza, salad bar, pasta, etc. lunch buffet for about $4.50. But here, their thin and crisp pizza crust is better than other Pizza Huts I've tried. Also, they almost use enough cheese and sauce, but still need more toppings. The salads, etc. are ordinary. Perhaps this is the best pizza Pizza Hut can offer, but I still probably wouldn't buy a whole pizza here. Necessary - for the buffet, if you don't keep yelling for more thin crust, you'll never get any. They'd rather fill you up with thick crust. 6/18/02.