Restaurant Review #186: Friedel Caribbean Cuisine, Studio City

Mango beef

In the mood for a lazy dinner, but something different from the usual pizza or Chinese delivery, I ordered Freidel Caribbean Cuisine through a food delivery service called LA Bite (formerly Freeway Food). Using this service, you can place your order online and get food from restaurants that otherwise wouldn't deliver to your neighborhood; however, you'll pay a steep delivery fee (call the restaurant first and ask if they'll deliver directly to you!) and encounter higher than average minimum orders (for Friedel, the minimum order is $30). The food arrived as scheduled, but the scheduled delivery time was an extraordinary hour and twenty minutes on a Sunday night at 7:00. When the delivery doesn't come straight from the restaurant, it will naturally take longer, but not fifty minutes longer.

Festival bread

Unfamiliar with Caribbean food, we ordered more food than we needed to get a better feel for the cuisine. An appetizer of deep fried festival bread had a similar sweet corn flavor to a hush puppy, but with a smooth, chewy consistency.

Jerk chicken

Authentic jerk chicken is coated in a rich spice mixture, not drowning in sweet sauce, while mango beef (lead photo) doesn't contain anything that tastes like mango, but is still a pleasantly sweet dish with flavorful meat.

Curry chicken

Curry chicken wasn't memorable for much other than having fatty chunks of meat.

Entrees are reasonably priced at $9 - $16 each for a generous, filling portion of entree plus sides of rice, plantains, and cabbage. The restaurant offers a real variety of vegan and vegetarian dishes, most of which use a soy meat substitute (a few are veg only, while only one contains tofu). If I were to eat from Freidel again, I would go to the actual restaurant instead of ordering online, and I'd probably try some new dishes, though all but the curry chicken would be worth repeating.

Freidel Caribbean Cuisine
11320 Ventura Blvd.
Studio City, CA 91602

Friedel Caribbean Cuisine on Urbanspoon


Restaurant Review #185: Meditrina Cafe, Venice

Meditrina sandwich

Recently, I was invited by the owners to try Meditrina, a new, family-owned cafe at the somewhat neglected end of trendy Abbot Kinney near Main Street in Venice. Unlike the furniture stores that line both sides of the street, Meditrina is very affordable. They serve breakfast and lunch and offer take out and local delivery.

Meditrina offers such a wide variety of dishes that anyone in your party is likely to find an appealing option on the menu. Most of the breakfast choices are egg-based (omelets and scrambles), but they also serve Belgian waffles, granola, oatmeal, fruit, and a hearty Cuban breakfast of sausage, eggs, plantains, rice, beans, and peppers. For lunch, choose from eight salads, a variety of sandwiches and wraps (all but one meat-based), or a succulent Kobe-style beef burger.

Outdoor patio

On a Saturday at lunchtime, the indoor part of the cafe is bustling and noisy with kitchen sounds. The sunny, well-decorated outdoor patio with a view of the adjacent nursery is a much more tranquil choice.

Kobe-style burger

You might find yourself groaning inwardly when you reach the Kobe-style burger section of the menu: "Not another restaurant pretending to serve the world's most famous beef!" but the Kobe-style burger with carmelized onions and Fontina cheese is one of the most rich, flavorful, and juicy burgers I have ever had the delight of eating.

The restaurant's signature spicy club sandwich with pan roasted chicken, applewood smoked bacon, roasted red peppers, avocado, jack cheese, and spicy aioli was tasty but messy. The chicken was far more moist and flavorful than any I have eaten in recent memory, but all the ingredients made the sandwich so slippery that I resigned myself to eating it with my fork before I wished I had a bib. Chopping the roasted peppers would have helped, as would leaving the toothpick in while eating the sandwich.

The side salad that accompanied both the burger and the sandwich was less appetizing. The greens were slightly soggy and the overall flavor was unpleasantly bitter. Based on that experience, I wouldn't want to order a salad as a main course.

Stracciatella gelato

Gelato almost as good as what you'd consume in Italy is the most interesting dessert option and comes in about fifteen different flavors, including the less commonly seen cinnamon and bacio tartufo (milk chocolate and hazelnut). Gelato is so much heavier and richer than regular ice cream that the generously portioned medium cup for $3.25 will more than fulfill your sweet tooth. It's also made from real ingredients--no green food coloring in the pistachio gelato, but plenty of tiny bits of nuts.

Service-wise, Meditrina still has a few kinks to work out (they can be slow), but they are still pretty new so there's plenty of room for things (like the salad) to improve. In the meantime, the Kobe style burgers and gelato won't let you down.


1029 Abbot Kinney Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291
Meditrina Website
Meditrina Map

Tip: When viewing the online menu at Meditrina's website, choose the "print cafe menu" option to more easily view the menu in PDF form.

Meditrina Cafe on Urbanspoon


Restaurant Review #184: Las Fuentes, Reseda


Las Fuentes gets a lot of raves, plus it's located in the Valley, so I went in with high hopes for some tasty Mexican food.

I was expecting table service, so ordering at the counter was a little disorienting, as was reading the huge menu off of the wall in the cramped, crowded doorway. While the menu was extensive and had many different options, I was jonesing for some cheese enchiladas, so once I zeroed in on those I was ready to order.

Ordering was probably my favorite part of the meal. The staff, while very bilingual, actually addressed me in Spanish (though they have no reason to by my looks) which meant that I got to use my mad Spanish skillz. They were fast, friendly, and efficient in taking our order and explaining the slightly confusing food pickup system. Order at the cash register, get a receipt with your number, get another receipt with your chip and drink order. Hand over the chip and drink receipt at the chip and drink counter, then sit down and wait for your order number to be called (in both English and Spanish--most of the clientele seem to be Spanish-speaking, though).

Their homemade horchata is some of the best I've had. Chips and salsa are an extra $1.00 for a generous basket of tasty fried chips and your choice of several self-serve salsas from the messy salsa bar. Unlike most restaurants, Las Fuentes actually means it when they say their salsas are hot. The smokey, deep red salsa's flavor fell a little flat, while the standard spicy red was more flavorful but too spicy for me. My favorite was the green salsa, which had actual bits of fresh avocado and real flavor and kick. Most green salsas I try taste like almost nothing and really only serve to moisten my chips or tacos.

The rest of the meal didn't fare as well. Despite moist, tasty, albeit greasy shredded beef, I didn't think the wet burrito was anything to rave about, and the sauce was a little bland. The enchilada plate came with sickly looking (but perfectly edible) guacamole; pale, runny refried beans (less edible); average, greasy rice and two smallish enchiladas (cheese, at my option). I really like my enchiladas in red sauce but the sauce at Las Fuentes is mysteriously orange and doesn't taste like much.

Platillo de enchiladas rancheras

Las Fuentes is as brightly and boisterously decorated as it is noisy and family-friendly (read: lots of small kids). It's a place you can easily be in and out of in thirty minutes, and if you linger at your table you'll be causing problems because, though the restaurant looks large enough, there seem to be a lot more customers than tables. Food spills are waiting to happen at every crowded turn through the restaurant since it's average folks who are only half paying attention, not skilled waiters, carrying food to the tables. Two people can eat here and get full, if not have leftovers, for about $20. Overall, I'd say the experience was just okay and I wouldn't go back.

Las Fuentes
18401 Vanowen Street
Reseda, California 91335

Las Fuentes Mexican Food on Urbanspoon