L.A Rose Cafe’
By Joel Bander
In which our peripatetic senior columnist discovers the delights of Pinoy cuisine at a cozy, homey, East Hollywood cafe’ that, surprisingly, turns out to be a rewarding experience.
I was recently invited to dine at L.A. Rose Café on Fountain Avenue at New Hampshire in East Hollywood, and was quite pleasantly surprised. I did not know it was a Filipino restaurant by its name and location. The area is dominated by Kaiser Hospital’s sprawling facility, along with the nearby Children’s Hospital and Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, but it is off on a quieter part of Fountain, a bit off the beaten track, at least by Hollywood standards.
Stepping inside, I suddenly found myself in a very elegant little café, but with the residential feel of neighborhood restaurants in San Francisco. In fact, parts of the building are clearly from a former residence. The décor was most comfortable without being ostentatious.
The menu has a wide enough selection of both continental fare and Filipino cuisine. The menu presentation did not lean to one style or the other. I could tell that this was a restaurant that sought to place its own panache on its entrees, and from looking at some other patron’s plates I knew it was going to be good. The dinner menu includes an appetizer along with soup and dessert. I had the chicken empanadas, which had Malaysian style curry flavoring along with a sweet mustard sauce. I do not usually like mustard, but that sauce was interesting, seemingly sweeter than sharp, and a nice complement to the curry flavor of the empanada.
After the soup I had Tinapang Bangus, (smoked milkfish) that came along with grilled vegetables, some salsa and rice (pictured).
Now, I am assuming that rice is not written about much in restaurant reviews, but at L.A. Rose Café, having its own panache, this time California style, rice is part of the story. They offered brown rice, which is much more dietetic than
white rice. But more interesting, the menu offered garlic white rice, but not garlic brown rice. It seems that Filipino food in America has not quite evolved to putting garlic in the brown rice yet. I asked if that could be done, and it was obviously no problem. It was good, and I started to wonder is this another
possible step in the evolution of Filipino food, garlic brown rice on the menus?
The bangus was particularly noteworthy, as sometimes the fish can be smaller and less satisfying, but L.A. Rose Café clearly takes the time to make sure it buys the right products. And then the music started.
That’s right. Wednesdays are jazz music night. The Christmas tunes were humming with first class piano and saxophone.
After a totally scrumptious meal we were asked about dessert. “Oh no, we are full.” “It’s included,” the server asserts. Well if it’s included … I had the Tiramisu, which was first rate, and I regretted that I was disciplined enough to only eat
one-half of it.
Another fine feature of this restaurant is that although it is elegant, has jazz music and a unique cuisine, it still retains the Filipino family style atmosphere and comfort of people going from table to table with friends. Just as if it is in someone’s home, or out in the province.
L.A. Rose Café also serves breakfast, American style but with Longanisa and garlic fried rice on the menu. But you can have ‘lunch’, staring at 8 a.m., that also included Tocino, Tapa and Daing Na Bangus, chicken and pork Adobo, with a mixed American and Filipino menu for ‘lunch’ starting at 10 a.m. Sometimes you pay $30 for a meal and feel like it was a waste, why am I spending this kind of money? But at L.A. Rose Café you are happy to give them your money for the meal, entertainment and atmosphere.
The only down side is the location, which is a bit gritty at night; but if that does not bother you, and you like good food, all is ok once you are inside.
LA Rose Cafe’ 4749 Fountain Avenue, LA, CA (323) 662-4024