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Dining Out:

Try La Bamba for zesty fare al fresco

January 02, 2010|By Phillip Hain

On a corner of a mixed residential and commercial section in north Burbank sits a nondescript Cuban restaurant named La Bamba. It might be the ultimate “don’t judge a book by its cover” establishment, but stop if you’re in the neighborhood or make it a destination because the outward appearance is deceiving.

Although the eating area is covered, the feeling is more open air. The only barrier separating you from the outside is the plastic “shower curtains” (endearingly described by Corky, our delightful server) that are very casual, and on a busy day the street traffic could be distracting. We ate on a mildly cool night but Corky turned on a heat lamp and all was well.

As we scanned the menu, which is fairly extensive without being overwhelming, Corky brought us the obligatory basket of tortilla chips, which were crisp and not greasy, and some pico de gallo, which was a good balance between mild and hot. We decided to try some guacamole ($5.25), whose texture was nice combination of a thick, smooth paste with small chunks of avocado. The chopped onion gave it a boost but I would have preferred it with more of a kick because I like mine on the spicy side.

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The signature sunshine salad ($8.75) contains a mixture of Romaine and Iceberg lettuce, plus orange sections, raisins, chopped pecans, apple bits and chicken. The steam wafting from the deliciously moist chicken was confirmation it had been freshly grilled. The salad is lightly bathed in a tangy dressing that’s an excellent blend of citrus with a hint of banana flavoring.

The ranchero burrito ($8.75) was generously stuffed with nicely marinated carne asada with black beans, and came with pico de gallo and guacamole on the side. We asked for ours with the rice inside and it was a good move, particularly with the zippy red sauce on top. While not a major factor, I was impressed with how the chef took a moment to artfully drizzle the sour cream across the length of the burrito. Sometimes a presentation detail adds a special touch.

The Cuban sandwich ($7.25) is a featured specialty and contains shredded, oven-roast pork layered with sliced ham, guacamole, cheese and pickles. I usually pull the pickle out of my burger and eat it separately, but it was a nice surprise where the tart pickle and sweet pork worked together well. It’s served between two grilled slices of Cuban bread — very similar in texture and taste to a panino.

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