Best sushi bar dish with the worst name



The Moorpark Roll at Take Sushi

313 W. Los Angeles Avenue


Take Sushi is one of those impossible to find eateries, invisible from the street and sited behind a 99 Cent Store and a gas station. But once there, you enter a classy atmosphere often packed with local patrons. On the weekend, try to arrive before 7 p.m.

Whatever else you order, be sure to try the Moorpark Roll. Don’t let the un-Japanese name deter you. The Moorpark Roll is a complicated blend of so many diverse tastes that you know it was created in a moment of divine inspiration.

Served on a large plate, it begins with a mound of crispy tempura flakes. Tiny scallops are mixed into a creamy sauce and baked until the top bubbles golden. The warm scallop mixture is placed on the flakes and topped by a dollop of orange smelt eggs. The actual roll has a crab mixture, cucumber strips and avocado on the inside, tuna slices on the outside. The cut roll is arranged around the scallops and the whole deal is striped with sweet eel sauce. Finally, one drop of hot sauce decorates each slice.

But you still need to know how to eat this masterpiece. You mix the creamy scallops with the crunchy tempura flakes. Then you scoop up a mouthful and place it on top of a slice of the roll. You eat it all in one, blissful bite of the most perfect combination of flavor and texture your tongue will ever know. It is OK to stuff your mouth and roll your eyes in ecstasy. Then you go for the next bite. You have been transformed.

Moorpark is no longer just a town somewhere near all the farms. It is now the name of your newest and most intense craving.

— Joan Trossman Bien


Best trropita, melitzanosalata, and avgolemono even if you can’t pronounce them

Greek House Café

2375 Sycamore Dr.
Simi Valley
(805) 955-9899


Hidden from view, sandwiched into a mini-mall alongside the Chabad House and Dominos Pizza, and just off an alley which is mere steps from the intersection of Sycamore and Cochran in Simi Valley is the best Greek food in the county. But you might not know it from the outside.

The Greek House Café is a family-run storefront with a handful of tables which you bus yourself. The interior has travel posters of Greece which have a decidedly retro appearance. The lighting is fluorescent, and you can watch as they cook your order on a grill. You can also eye the pre-cooked dishes which are arranged cafeteria-style in metal warming plates behind glass.

The Greek House is not open on Mondays after lunch or at all on Sundays. They only accept cash.

Yet, despite these less-than-beckoning aspects, the food is truly marvelous. For those not comfortable with the long Greek names, tyropita is a cheese pie. Subtly flavored and substantial feta cheese wrapped in paper-thin filo dough and baked to a golden brown. It is addiction in action.

Melitzanosalata is a creamy, garlicky eggplant dip served with warm, grilled, chewy pita bread. Even if you are not crazy about eggplant, this is what may change your mind. Then there is the soup, Avgolemono, the orzo-packed, lemony, thick chicken soup which will certainly cure whatever ails you. It is the definitive comfort food. When you feel the first sniffles or dry throat of a cold coming on, head for Greek House and load up on a supply of soup. You will thank me.

And if you ever go to Greece, you’ll know what to eat.

— Joan Trossman Bien


Best goat burrito in Ventura County



La Terraza

1000 E. Main St.,
Santa Paula


La Terraza in Santa Paula has been dishing out Mexican food on paper plates at the same location for about as long as anyone can remember, and if you ask the proprietor, he\’ll say nothing has changed in 20 years. Although the menu is the same, and the prices remain astoundingly low (just $4.25 for a burrito), the look has improved considerably and popularity is up. New umbrellas and tables make eating on the patio surprisingly pleasant, especially in the early evening. Pictures on the wall make it easy to understand what you\’re ordering. Waitresses bring out free salsa and chips with eager smiles, good Mexican beer is available, and pigeons lurk, waiting to peck up chips left behind.

La Terraza is a workingman\’s restaurant. For thick-necked farmers in gimme caps and chapped forearms, to Hispanic families with star-struck little kids, to young couples on dates, to Harley guys in leather headed up Highway 150, to punks looking for a hefty plate of carnitas to fuel a night of drinking, La Terraza puts on no airs. Instead, it serves hearty authentic Mexican food, including a seven seas soup with a complete little squid guaranteed to freak out any teen Midwesterner. Perhaps their best item is a plate of la birria, or goat, which is Mexico\’s version of pot roast — tender, spicy, served with chopped onions, parsley and tortillas. Some of us like it even better as a burrito. Nothing on the menu costs more than $9.99, and everything will leave you fully satisfied, ready for another day in southern California — or, if you start driving now, northern Mexico.

— Kit Stoltz


Best example of optimistic hold-out against Starbucks



Full of Beans

11534 N. Ventura Ave.,


Last year I named Stir Crazy as “Best Alternative to the Frapuccino.” And now Stir Crazy is gone.

How many summer evenings and live performances did I spend there? How many of my friends cycled through that roadside coffee house as employees? It was the establishment that introduced free WiFi to the Ojai Valley, and it broke up that awkward stretch between Java 33 and Ojai Coffee Roasting Company with yet another option for caffeination.

But it’s gone now, and the 33-side parking lot has been empty for what seems like months, a lone Coldwell Banker sign the only goodbye most Ojai residents ever got. Who can say if the well-attended Starbucks a mere two blocks away (which hosts — and I’m going to out a few people here — a few former Stir Crazy regulars) has anything to do with its downfall?

Interestingly, the new kid moving into the house is Full of Beans, a Ventura transport. Although it flies in the face of conventional wisdom to replace a squeezed business with the exact same kind of squeezed business, it also shows moxie. And with Full of Beans hyping its bakery, well, the pumpkin empanada may just get a run for its money.

— Saundra Sorenson