Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Taste test: El Cochinto

Ever since the revolution or thereabouts, Silver Lake has had a major concentration of Cuban settlers. I'm not sure if the old men still sit around puffing cigars at Cafe Tropical like they did when I first moved to Silver Lake, but it practically felt like Little Havana around here back then. You can still get a taste of Cuba at El Cochinito on Sunset. Since I last ate there 16 or so years ago, the room has been freshened up. It's still simple inside, but with fresh paint and new tables, the small space is pleasant and clean. It's such a neighborly place that there's an autographed headshot of our old neighbor, Dominican actor Juan Fernandez, on the wall.
The server helpfully explains all the specials, which include red snapper, swordfish, halibut and grilled shrimp. I get the shrimp with an ultra-garlicky sauce, which is rather salty but balances out a bit after mixing it with some rice and black beans. Matt has a healthy-sized portion of ropa vieja and we're both happy, snacking on some fried tostones as well.
Although we set off looking for Mexican food, we're both glad we tried something different, and we'll be returning soon for the breaded steak and some more fish or chicken dishes. The service is super friendly, and all the dishes are around $10-$12 including rice and beans. They even have beer.
Verdict: I like the food at Alegria, but after several bad experiences with the service I just don't have the energy for it anymore. Save the stress and the wait and go next door to El Cochinito instead for a down-home Cuban feast. Get there before 8:30 though, as they close up pretty early.
El Cochinito
3508 W. Sunset Blvd.
(thanks to Cuban Food USA for the picture of the tostones!)


allison said...

i've been meaning to try this place for a while now. i've been craving some congri and tostones ever since i studied abroad in cuba. have you tried other cuban restaurants in town?

Anonymous said...

the Little Pig is one of my wife's and my favorite restaurants in the area! we usually do takeout but it's all good.

you must try their Friday night paella special (get the order for 2, it's a better bargain, size-wise). it's really tasty, filled with yellow rice, sausage, ham, chicken, scallops, shrimp, crab, fish, and plantains.

their lechon asado (roasted pork), by which all Cuban restaurants should be measured as a litmus test, ranges from spectacular to just very good, depending on who knows what. it varies week to week.

also try their fruit shakes!

Anonymous said...

we actually stumbled into el cochinito after trying to get into alegria. frankly i don't see what all the hoo-ha's about at alegria. when we tried it, it seemed like gringofied mexican food to me. anyway, el cochinito rocks and while the lechon asado varies in quality from tender, moist and oh-so-good-oh-so-bad-for-you to dry, porky jerky depending on the night, i still get it almost every time we go there.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous is right - El Cochinito has been really uneven. Their lechon sometimes comes out so salty as to be life threatening. I used to get the Pollo al Jerez, which used to be brilliant, but gave up on that a long while ago. They're still the only place that has anything like a clue about milenesa, though I can say for certainty that's still the case.

Hey Pat, congrats on the ledger review.
Martin Booe

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