Imagine the delight of finally eating at a Puerto Rican restaurant in Los Angeles County.
But imagine the disappointment of finding out that the first time may have been the last, at least for a long while.
When Mofongos closed about three months ago, I thought for sure that Los Angeles just wasn't meant to have a Puerto Rican restaurant. Ever. Fortunately, Chef/Owner AC knew that his customers weren't going to take no for an answer and kept us updated via a Facebook fan page. "Mofongos will be back..." he wrote, asking his 600+ fans for prayers over the span of the last couple of months as he hunted down a new location for his restaurant. Then one day in October I read the following post: "Wild change of fate! We'll be back at the old cafe but this time it's gonna say Mofongos en frente!" Wow, who would've thought...Facebook can be useful!
AC's mami greeted us with a loud and warm "¡Bienvenidos!" as we walked into the former La Espiga Cafe space which had since been revamped into a space that's much more characteristic of Boricua pride. The walls had been repainted a vibrant peach color that's reminiscent of the bright sherbety pastels literally seen all over La Isla Del Encanto itself. More specifically, she described it as the color of quenepas, a lychee-like fruit with peach-colored flesh that's common in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rican mementos such as a pilón de madera, the wooden mortar and pestle traditionally used to make mofongo, and an old box of dominoes bearing the Puerto Rican flag are proudly showcased in a glass case in the corner. A menuboard carrying, chefs whites wearing ceramic pig sits atop the counter and is perhaps a bit cliché but its message "Mi Casa Es Su Casa" says everything about the homey, friendly vibe of this newly reopened restaurant.
The food, more importantly, was just as delicious as before. Mofongo con carne guisada satisfied my craving for garlicky, chicharrony (is that even a word?) goodness.
Pollo guisado was a hearty stew of chicken and sofrito was good by itself, but was even better with a side of arroz con habichuelas (rice with stewed pink beans) and tostones (fried green plantains) that I personally used to sop up extra sauce on my plate.
But the star of our meal was the restaurant's pernil, roasted pork shoulder, whose low-and-slow-cooked fork tender meat and perfectly browned garlicky crust were gobbled up before anyone could say "más."
A good sized hunk of budin (Puerto Rican bread pudding), subtley sweetened with evaporated milk and cinnamon and dotted with raisins, ended our meal.
Continuous streams of customers came through Mofongos during our lunch on the restaurant's grand reopening day. It was a sign that all things Puerto Rican--whether it be the food, the smiles, the music, the atmosphere, or anything else one may have at one point experienced on La Isla Del Encanto--were missed in LA, even if only for three months. Welcome back, Mofongos!
5757 Lankershim Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91601
Now open from 10am-10pm daily!
**Please be sure to read my first post about Mofongos when it was still operating out of La Espiga Cafe!**