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BOLIVIAN HEAT WON'T BURN YOUR POCKETBOOK.

Byline: Larry Lipson Restaurant Critic

NOT A PEANUT, nor any semblance of peanut flavor could be found in the ``peanut soup'' ($3.25 or $5.25) at the little hidden Bolivian restaurant La Kantuta in North Hollywood.

But there was a scattering of green peas in the less-expensive but well- portioned bowl of a creamy warming liquid made with quinoa, according to our waiter.

Evidently, on the restaurant's English-language menu, of which there was only one left, the translation for the pea soup from its Spanish name had somehow become peanut soup.

Even when using the English menu, there are names of some dishes in Spanish without explanation.

One, ``chorrellana'' ($6.50), turned out to be very much like the house ``lomo saltado'' ($6.75) of beef with a tasty mix of onions and tomatoes with potatoes and rice.

The main difference between the two was that one plate presented the meat as an extra-thin, flat steak with the fried potatoes as oval slices. On the other, the beef was cut into small pieces, and the potatoes were the usual shape of french fries.

La Kantuta, a hard-to-notice storefront cafe on the inside corner of a Magnolia Boulevard mini-mall, reveals a cutesy blue-and-white-themed interior with a giant rendition of the Bolivian coat of arms on one wall.

Near the entrance sit microphone holders and some sound equipment, indicating live entertainment. Evidently, Sunday afternoon and evening are when the performances take place and the house fills up with expatriate Bolivians.

But on a weekday at lunchtime, the place is usually deserted, although an occasional customer comes in and picks up a bag of food to go.

Ask for a particular dish at this restaurant and it's a tossup if you'll get it.

On one occasion, only one of four listed soups ($3.25, $4 or $5.25 each) was available, that being a fairly good, nicely spicy chicken and vegetable recipe called ``chairo'' ($4).

Another time there was none of the inviting ``homemade'' chorizo (sausage, $6.25) ready.

``Sorry,'' said the waiter, shaking his head.

La Kantuta operates with an all-day menu. This means that all of the menu items that the kitchen has the ability to make can be ordered all day, thus a lunch plate conceivably looks just the same as the dinner version and vice versa.

Incidentally, while you're mulling over the menu after being seated, the waiter will bring out a nicely warmed roll, almost sliced through, making it easy to pull apart, and a saucer of Bolivia's famous fiery Andean chile salsa called ``aji.''

Remember, this is pretty hot stuff, so it's wise to try a tiny bit first on the warm bread before popping a dollop of it into your probably sensitive mouth.

Yep, this salsa can burn.

The generous plates of food are unquestionably of good value at La Kantuta. Juicy, seasoned pork chops with a portion of salad, rice and fried potatoes is a mere $7. And an even bigger platter called ``picante mixto'' ($7.50) comes forth piled with moist chicken, tender beef tongue, rice and potatoes.

On this fulfilling dish, macaroni may be substituted for the white rice.

La Kantuta can be quite an adventure, especially if you don't speak Spanish. But at these prices, there's not much to lose.

However, if you have a sweet tooth, don't expect a dessert ending other than a soft drink or coffee.

Another shake of the head.

No flan. No palascintas.

And definitely no peanuts.

Just a cheery nod of thanks and a smile as you leave.

Larry Lipson, (818) 713-3668

larry.lipson(at)dailynews.com

LA KANTUTA

Food: Two and one half stars. Service: Three stars. Value: Three stars.

Where: 10863 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood.

Hours: Open for lunch, dinner and snacks from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Recommended items: Soups (pea, pork and chicken), lomo saltado, pork chops, chicken and beef tongue plate, chorrellana steak.

How much: Everything under $10. No alcohol license. Cash only. Live music from 2 to 7 p.m. Sunday.

Reservations: Helpful. Needed Saturdays and Sundays.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Claudia Flamenco serves some of the low-priced Bolivian fare available at La Kantuta in North Hollywood. The restaurant offers live entertainment on Sundays.

John McCoy/Staff Photographer
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Review; U
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 6, 2003
Words:712
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