Thursday, February 12, 2009

Day 7: WANTED: Carnivores

Southern California has several chain restaurants that cater to the southwestern palette. One of them is Stonefire Grill. Most people come here for the meat, and with good reason. Try the the lemon garlic chicken, mesquite grilled ribs or pepper garlic tri tips, all of which are tender and perfectly marinated with herbs and spices that make your tongue sing (if it could). Stonefire Grill also offers a variety of fresh salads, soft breadsticks and thick, cheesy slices of pizza.

Carnage (there was more on the plate when it was first served).

After a winsome day at Venice Beach, we drove around La Cienega Blvd in the dusk, hoping to spot an Indian restaurant. In the end, we came across Versailles Cuban. Now, I've had my share of Jamaican, Dominican and Puerto Rican food, but I've never tried Cuban before. Parking was hard to come by, but the clink and clatter of dishes and the chatty patrons hungrily devouring their meaty entrees drew my eye in from the get-go. I knew this was going to be worth the wait. The friendly host, a dark-haired Cuban in his mid-late 20s with two gold fillings and a ponytail, winked at me and showed us to our table.

Above, one of the few vegetarian combos: Aaron, frijoles negros y platanos (rice, black beans and fried sweet plantains) - $8.95

My dish: Famoso pollo Versailles (Versailles Famous Garlic Chicken) - $10.95. The menu's description reads: "Juicy roasted half chicken marinated in our delicious garlic sauce garnished with sliced white onions," which pretty much sums up its actual taste. I was far from disappointed. And I've never seen such a large portion of chicken in my life! It was so big that I had to take home the entire breast. My head was reeling with fantasies of squawking chickens being chased by the butcher, then plunged, head-less, into a vat of simmering garlic and butter (although I tried not to think of this scene when I was eating the chicken).

Here's my moro, or white rice with black beans cooked together. I was first introduced to moro in the Dominican Republic last March when my family took a vacation there during spring break. Versailles makes it differently from the Mom & Pop restaurant in Luperon Bay, D.R. Nevertheless, it's a hearty and texture-rich dish -- if a bit on the crispy side.

One thing's for sure: California does not lack in the meat department. My carnivore friends, I urge you to take a trip out to LA and see (taste and smell) for yourself that I am speaking the truth.

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