It’s been over three months since my last visit here during its soft opening, and Chef Frank De Loach has had some time to settle in (not that he needs it). I am eager to see how things are going. It is a hot and humid evening. Even the air is warm. I request we sit where it is cool, but am torn between good lighting and AC.
If you want to read about my initial visit, you can find it here — many of the dishes are no longer available making way for new items which I’m going to talk about here.
It is my dining companion’s first visit so I am trying not to take over the ordering process, leaving some decisions up to him. However, before we even get to it, Chef Frank is at our table with a plate of tacos in hand. He drops it on the table and utters Sweetbread Tacos (off menu) and walks away. We look at each other and both our eyes light up. Sweetbread tacos? I remember years ago when my son eats Frank’s food for the first time back at Early Bird. A plate of sweetbread show up and unbeknownst to me, he eats it, then asks me what it is. Mind you, he is only 12 at the time, but he doesn’t seem to care what it is, just that it tastes really good. In true Frank style, these are delicious, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside — spot on seasoning. I can hear my friend ooo-ing and ahh-ing under his breath with every bite he takes.
I suggest two items I am familiar with. The first is Street Corn ($9) with charred corn, lime butter, queso fresco, paprika, radish and cilantro. It is so tasty I remember we order two portions on the last visit. I relish it with pleasure.
The second is Charred Carrots ($9), a plate of roasted heirloom carrots with a dusting of Abuelita chocolate powder, and a drizzle of citrus oil. My friend is concerned it might be overly sweet, but is impressed by the balance of flavors in this application. It might also be a way to get your kids to eat their vegetables!
My friend orders Queso ($12), a blend of four cheeses including cheddar and cotija. I love how the blend of great tasting cheeses mimics the look of Velveeta. It is gooey and sinful, and I can’t stop eating. The tortilla chips aren’t enough to pick up every bit of the queso, and I ask our server for more. The pickled onions, cilantro and olives are interesting with the queso, adding texture and acidity to the mix.
LOMO ($16) is a dish I remember from last time. I also remember the fries being too thick, but am happy to see that’s been switched out for thinner ones. The wok-charred steak is on par with the fries in size which makes for a very satisfying eating experience. The aji amarillo is generously drizzled over the entire bowl. My friend is in heaven!
Both of us are eyeing the Porto Rice ($16) and it is a MUST order! The menu says Portuguese rice, but since I’m not familiar with that, I can only go by how it tastes — I am not able to tell you if it is authentic or traditional. The dish arrives looking like a condensed version of paella. There is chorizo, clams and prawns, but what is the most surprising, and defining ingredient of the dish is — orange. It lends brightness and freshness, but without the intensity of lemon or lime. If lemon or lime had been provided, I would not have thought any differently, since it is a popular item chefs use to add acidity to a dish. However, the use of orange is genious! This is my favorite of the night!
If you didn’t already know, I have a soft spot for Chef Frank’s cuisine. There are certain chefs in southern California who’s palates are in sync with mine. Frank is one of them. He’s always been a bit of an anomaly due to the fact that his use of Asian ingredients and flavors are often, better than chefs who are Asian. I have referred to him as a wunderkind and until he becomes too old for that moniker to remain appropriate, I will continue to use it.
I hear some new menu items will be appearing on the menu soon. Give me a few months and I’ll be back to report on those!
525 E Broadway
Long Beach, CA 90802