Saturday in Downtown Hollywood: Chocolates, Cusqueña, and Cancha

Categories: Cheap Eats, Food

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After catching a midday play in Hollywood, my girlfriend and I spent Saturday afternoon in downtown, lounging on the sidewalk, eating, and drinking beers. Not a bad life, eh?

So have you been to Downtown Hollywood? For some reason, this place has a bit of a mar on it. Maybe it's the large portion of storefronts that are empty, maybe it's all the mess (unpaid grants, etc) credited by many to former Mayor Mara Giulianti. But Downtown along Hollywood Blvd. (and Harrison, too) is actually a pretty cool place to spend a Saturday. It's got interesting shops, places where you can buy vintage close or life crystals, and lots of cute, European style eateries where you can sit along the Boulevard.

We had wanted to eat at Lola's, actually, but we got to Downtown a little before 5 p.m., and Lola's doesn't open until 6. (I thought this was strange at the time to open so late on a Saturday, but at 5 downtown was pretty much dead, so makes sense for sure.) So we decided we'd pass the time until Lola's opened by drinking beers at a quaint Peruvian restaurant along the Boulevard called Delicias Peruanas.

It was really hot out Saturday, but the beer was cold and the cancha salty. Here's a tease:

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Hit the jump for more descriptions and money shots...

Nothing refreshes you on a hot day like a cold, crisp, beer, and Cusqueña fits that bill perfectly. It's a light Peruvian lager brewed in Cusco, very similar to other sharp Latin American lagers like Club Colombia and Cristal. It's perfect with cancha, the salted, toasted kernels of large Peruvian corn that get served with any meal as something to nibble on.

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Cancha basically tastes like those unpopped kernels of pop corn that sit at the bottom of the bag, only way less likely to chip your teeth (or stick in them). It has a crunchy exterior covered in kosher salt that gives way easily to the soft, mealy meat inside the kernel. When you bite into one your mouth gets very dry and very salty, which in turn leads you to more beer. So it does it's job. They're also pretty addictive.

We also ordered a plate of yuca a la huancaina (seen in the top picture) - fried yuca (the menu said steamed, but this was definitely fried) served with a bowl of the classic Peruvian cheese sauce to dip in. Delicias' huancaina was extremely smooth and mild, probably because it had very little aji amarillo (the traditional Peruvian pepper) mixed in. Even though I like my huancaina a little spicier, the mild nature wasn't a problem since it was served with a little bowl of pureed spicy peppers that you can douse everything with. A dab of pepper sauce, a smear of huanc, a bite of cancha, a sip of beer to wash it down... it's this kind of simple food that's hard to beat.

All told, 3 beers, huancaina, cancha, and a lovely hour on the Boulevard: $25 after tax and tip. Not too shabby.

I won't say much about Lola's other than it was a very solid meal. There's been a lot of people coming out and bashing the place lately, saying the food is overspiced or overdone, and I can't say I agree with that. But it's also not mindblowing. I will say the portions are very generous for what you pay - my girlfriend and I each saved half of our meals and had a sizable dinner the next night.

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For dessert we hit up Chocolada. Just look at the picture... this place is great. It's a little bakery and cafe (with fab lunch specials, I might add) that makes all its own confections. Everything in their display cases, from the towers of mouse and fudge to the adorable chocolate penguins, looks amazing - like edible toys.

I mean, look at these penguins! How can you not want to bite one of those deliciously cute heads off?

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We ended up with a triple layer stack of vanilla mousse, chocolate cake, and lemon mousse (Dantela, if I remember) and another with chopped nuts, chocolate mousse, and chocolate cake (Richard, I think). Chocolada's mousse is great stuff - fluffy yet holds its shape, extremely rich, perfectly smooth. $6 exactly, another great deal.

A play, some beers, some great food, and chocolate to boot. Maybe downtown Hollywood isn't so bad after all. What do you think about dining down there?

-- John Linn


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