Review: nokedli and paprika in the Valley

L.A. gets more rain now. We need Hungarian food.

Review: nokedli and paprika in the Valley
Beef stew. Photo: Shane Redsar

Posto 896 is, in a lot of ways, an archetypal Los Angeles hidden gem. It’s in the Valley, next to an eyelash extension store in a run-down strip mall with valet-only parking. The food is interesting and thoughtful, another standard feature of our understated restaurants. However, inside there’s a different reality occuring.

The restaurant presents itself as both Italian and Hungarian, with two different menus. In my perception, it’s a fully Hungarian establishment, and it happens to also sell Italian food. The staff swears that the Italian dishes are just as good as the Hungarian, but I choose to ignore the Italian side. It’s incongruous (obviously) and seems like the owners are hedging their bets. One server did make a compelling point about the dual menu: “The Italian menu gets people in, but then they might try their more adventurous friend’s Hungarian dish.” Still, I just don’t care to explore it. I’ve had Italian food. Hungarian is much more difficult to come by on the West Coast. 

So going forward we’re pretending Posto 896 is solely Hungarian. The interior design certainly points in a more eastern direction. There’s a high ceiling and a lot of marble and white paint, punctuated with art in thick primary colors, unframed but adorned with chains and the occasional Ken doll. A dining companion called it “Melania chic,” and, I’m sure you can tell I’m a filthy progressive so it seems like I’m being insulting by including that, but listen … I liked the Christmas decorations. They were not what I would have chosen but I felt like I could appreciate the idea: It was not a child’s Christmas and that’s okay. Anyway, Posto 896’s interior looks like the photo you’d see accompanying an article in a glossy magazine about Budapest’s coolest new boite.  

Hungary is in either Central or Eastern Europe, depending on who you ask. L.A. doesn’t have much restaurant representation from either area, and I suspect that most people here can only vaguely say that Hungarians are super into paprika. Which is true! This particular pepper came to Eastern Europe/Central Asia circa 1600, and it became a hallmark of Hungarian cooking in the late 1800s. In the 1930s, a chemist figured out a way to make paprika less spicy (and also that it’s high in vitamin C), and that’s when Hungarians went really wild for it. 

The most famous Hungarian dish might be chicken paprikash. It’s a great introduction to the cuisine, so saucy and flavorful and comforting, even if you’ve never had it before. Absolutely order it with nokedli, the classic Hungarian egg noodle. At Posto 896, I like the mushroom paprikash even more. It’s just a bit more flavorful. Maybe the paprika sticks to mushrooms better than chicken.

The chicken liver pâté is enormous. Photo: Shane Redsar

Wine is also a specialty of Hungary. Though it was cultivated in the area long before it was in Italy and France, those young upstarts eventually took over the market when Hungary fell victim to various trade issues and natural disasters, and then Soviet communism. Hungary’s wine industry is making a comeback, even outside of the oenophile world, led by its shining star from the 1800s, Tokaji. Servers at Posto take great care to highlight and explain the Hungarian wines on the list, offering tastings at the slightest hint a diner can’t make up their mind. It’s fun. And it led me to Kikelet’s Birtok Harslevelu which, I am told, is made with Hungarian grapes in a French style. I’m glad they could come together. 

Speaking of servers taking great care, they’re very involved in your dinner decisions. The sour cherry soup, an appetizer served hot or cold, is not to be ordered with certain entrees. I can imagine some customers might not appreciate the unwritten rules, but I think it’s kind of cute. The crew really wants all diners to have an excellent Hungarian experience, and they get a little anxious about the flavor combinations.

(The soup is served with a dollop of whipped cream that makes it hard not to experience it as a dessert. Next time I’m ordering it last.)

The roasted pork cubes come with bacon. The beef stew and the beef soup are both good and not at all the same thing. The stew is heavy on the paprika and served with nokedli, making it a rather filling dish — I’m gonna be here again constantly next winter. 

Tarragon soup. Photo: Shane Redsar

Sweet and sour are two big Hungarian flavor profiles. On this menu they’re especially apparent in the “hunter’s meal” and the tarragon soup. The beef filets in the hunter’s meal can be a touch overcooked, but the sauce is straight from heaven and very mustardy. I don’t know if the tarragon soup is a specialty of the chef, but it’s a real highlight. It’s full of chicken and vegetables and lemon and, you know what? It tastes a lot like tom kha gai. I guess for Angelenos in particular it’s the perfect introduction to Hungarian cuisine.

15615 Ventura Blvd., Encino, CA 91436. (424) 415-0611

Editor's note: I consider myself a journalist, not an influencer, so I do not accept free food and I do not tell restaurants who I am.

See the map of all How to Eat L.A. picks here.