Archive for the ‘Calif.’ Tag

Holy Mole’   Leave a comment


Friendly servers can make a meal fun and relaxing; yet, super-outgoing ones run the risk of casting a shadow. This happened at La Casita Mexicana, a vibrant exciting restaurant known for its mole. Our server’s problem was his affability with everyone. He took photos of birthday celebrations, he bantered with a couple waiting for their bill, he visited with busboys, and all the while orders weren’t taken and food wasn’t served.

Eventually we got bowls of soup, which we would have gladly foregone. The menu did indicate that meals came with the house soup, but no further details were provided. We learned it was rice soup, but the faux salmon color was reminiscent of canned tomato soup and the flavor wasn’t much better.


Three types of mole are available: poblano, verde and pepian. It’s best to sample all. According to the menu, the poblano is a family recipe with 46 ingredients. Its dark red color and range of flavors includes its namesake chile and pumpkin seeds. The verde combines green chile, tomatillos, cilantro – along with an array of herbs and spices. Ground pistachios and chile are the base for the pepian.

I ordered the pork with tres moles. The meat was tender and moist; a perfect vehicle for the sauces.


Our server gave all appearances of being busy — probably because he moved with such enthusiasm to see who he could socialize with next. Fortunately, once the entrees finally arrived, we forgot the gregarious guy and could focus on the mole.

La Casita Mexicana
Three-and-a-half Plates Three Plates
4030 E. Gage Ave.
Bell, Calif.

No Tipping, No Kidding   Leave a comment


There’s nothing unusual about a restaurant banning credit cards, but the opposite is true at Brand 158: no cash. Even more unfamiliar is the concept of no tipping. That’s right, no tips, Zilch. Nada. While these atypical policies are hard to embrace; the real news is the quality and creativity of the food augmented by attentive servers.

Brand 158’s menu emphasizes ingenuity. Pastas, pizzas, salads, sandwiches (mostly, but not exclusively, wraps) and entrees including salmon, beef tenderloin and lamb are among the offerings at lunch and dinner.


More than a dozen variations of pizza are offered, and 158’s are imaginative departures from popular standards. Arugula is no longer necessarily a noteworthy topping, but it assumes some of its lost grandeur when blanketing caramelized pears, Italian Coppa salami, and pistachios on a white cheese sauce. The abundant toppings make it a difficult to eat this pizza with your hands, although the wheat crust could certainly have met the challenge of not folding under pressure. The pears, by the way, are pure genius.


Lobster Brioche featured what the menu described as “homemade mini brioche.” The light, yeast rolls were actually “branded” with B158, and with chunks of fresh lobster, lemon and dill provided the equivalent of lobster salad sliders. This came with a side of potato chips, which I usually ignore. These placed equal weight on their namesake – and were difficult to disregard.

Serving portions are large and it’s tempting to want to clean one’s plate. However, leftovers were a treat later.

Brand 158
Four Plates
158 S. Brand Blvd.
Glendale, Calif.