Update: As of March 2017, Lala’s Kitchen has closed down.
It can be quite wonderful to eat meals at home. You can munch on food while wearing your pajamas, watching TV, and even with your feet kicked up on the coffee table.
It’s not an experience one usually gets while eating at a restaurant, but Lala’s Kitchen, a Mediterranean/Filipino eatery in Northridge (a neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley that is technically Los Angeles) comes pretty close.
Okay, so you can’t actually eat there with your feet on a coffee table, but one of the owners, Elly, said she genuinely wouldn’t mind if someone feeling hungry at 9 or 10 p.m. walked into the restaurant wearing their pajamas. And you can actually watch TV while eating if you want. There’s a big flat-screen propped up on the wall that’s easily viewable for most customers, depending on where they sit.
All of this speaks for one of the biggest goals Lala’s Kitchen has: “We want everyone here to feel welcome as much as possible,” said Carl, Elly’s son, who also owns Lala’s, along with his wife Pam.
I came across Lala’s a few weeks ago when a friend had a birthday dinner there, and I was so satisfied with the food.
The menu at includes both Filipino food and Mediterranean food. The Filipino portion of the menu includes staples such as tapa, tocino and longanisa (all served with garlic rice and fried egg); and pork belly adobo braised in soy sauce & vinegar, and pinoy pork BBQ, a dish of marinated slices of perfectly grilled pork.
All the meat is cooked to perfection and rich in flavor.
The Mediterranean side includes three kabab bowl choices: beef koobideh (skewered ground beef broiled to perfection), chicken koobideh (same as the beef except chicken) and chicken breast (boneless, perfectly broiled breast chunks).
On the counter, customers will find a special menu that shows separate items: baked spaghetti, beef pares with yellow rice, Lala’s boneless chicken adobo, and a house special coffee that’s Vietnamese. (I found the coffee really addicting, and I don’t even drink coffee :/ )
Situated along busy Reseda Boulevard and Chase Street in Northridge, Lala’s opened up just two months ago and hasn’t even had a grand opening yet.
But since it’s a family-owned, local restaurant that makes customers feel at home, serves quality food you can taste, and shares Filipino cuisine with the Los Angeles community, it didn’t take long for me to classify myself as a fan of the place.
How Lala’s came to be
When Elly, Carl, and Pam first got the space where Lala’s is currently located, it was February 2015 and there was a lot of remodeling work that needed to be done. The place was formerly a barbecue restaurant (which has since moved to another place in the SF Valley). They weren’t fond of the tiles that were on the floor, so Pam and Carl themselves took on the task of removing them. They also modified the ceiling so it had standard yellow Christmas lights hanging, to facilitate an outdoorsy, backyard feel. The couple further painted the walls (with help from an individual contractor), with the goal of creating an environment where customers could feel at home.
Elly, his mom, adds on to that goal by saying that she wants their restaurant to feel like an extension of customers’ kitchens.
The vibe in the Los Angeles Filipino eatery is one with no pressure and resembles the characteristic hospitality of Filipinos. How? Well, for one the owners mingle with customers as if they’re long-time friends (I saw Elly actually sit with a group of customers who happened to come from West LA and chat with them for some time). They also always ask how customers like the food and take note of suggestions they have regarding the quality of the food and the serving size.
Two types of cuisines
One of the misconceptions I had about Lala’s was that it is a Filipino/Mediterranean fusion resto.
And it works out because if you go there in a group and some people want Filipino food while others want Mediterranean food, you can all eat in the same place 🙂
For those wondering why this place serves both cuisines, the owners say it’s because Carl has had experience working for a restaurant that served Mediterranean food. And he’s really good at it. It’s his specialty, so he’s the one who makes the kabob bowls. Elly, on the other hand, mostly prepares the Filipino food. In fact, the items on the menu are inspired by dishes she grew up with, and it’s something she’s always shared with her family. Through Lala’s she gets to share it with even more people.
I mentioned earlier that the quality of the food is one customers can easily taste, so I asked Elly how they’re able to price everything at less than $10. (The standard menu items are all $6.99.) She said that if the family is going to put effort into the business and invest money into it, “Why not make it with top notch ingredients?” The profit won’t be as high as other restos might see, but if people like what they eat, for Elly, that’s part of the profit.
Right now, with Lala’s in its early stages, there are only a little more than 10 items on the menu, including the special menu. (Honestly, that can work out pretty well because it makes it easier to choose something to eat!)
In the future, Elly, Carl, and Pam are looking to expand the menu to include some desserts, such as gulaman (cold Filipino jelly) and boba/bubble tea (which Elly wants to make by boiling loose tea leaves rather than with powder).
Seating: Lala’s provides both indoor and outdoor options. Inside, there are two two-seater couches near the entrance that enhance the comfortable atmosphere, as well as a few higher chairs at the counter.
Parking: There’s ample parking behind the restaurant. Just turn into Chase Street (right if you’re heading north on Reseda; left if you’re heading south) and look for high yellow sign with the word “sushi” in it, among other phrases. There is also free street parking; just read the signs for any street cleaning/time restrictions
Phone orders: Accepted at Lala’s 🙂
Wait time: Everything at the restaurant is made to order, so it takes a little longer before customers get their food. On average, a kabob bowl will take 20 minutes. But the family says they want everyone to eat fresh food. Elly doesn’t want people to eat anything less than fresh.
Portions: They’re decent, although not the usual generous portions at other restos. I was able to finish my order in one sitting. They’re smaller than usual
Food containers: Lala’s uses eco-friendly bowls (plus points) to serve its dishes and provides paper to-go bags.
More information: A website is in the works (I’ll update this once it’s live), but their hours and additional reviews can be found on Yelp.