Sometimes you run across a business in a location that makes you doubt the sanity of the person who established it. La Bamba doesn’t quite rise to that level — it’s not down an alley or in a basement — but it’s in an unlikely spot, an odd triangular corner in an otherwise residential neighborhood. The sign out front calls it a Cuban restaurant, which is only partly true; half of the menu is Mexican, and there is a scattering of Jamaican, Venezuelan and other dishes.
There is nothing between the pleasant brick patio and the traffic on Glenoaks but a plastic curtain, but it’s an inviting atmosphere, more than we expected from the unpromising exterior. We ordered a Cuban sandwich with a side of fried plantains ($10.40), a taco combination plate ($7.95), and tilapia in a lemon, garlic and wine sauce ($10.95), along with soft drinks.
Cuban pressed sandwiches are composed of a mixture of ham, cheese, roasted pork and pickles, and they are a test of the kitchen. Grill them too long and the thin white roll shatters to bits; too short and you don’t get the crisp texture that is part of the fun. La Bamba’s version has guacamole instead of mustard, an innovation that would annoy purists (and some people do get exercised on the subject). It was properly grilled but not very flavorful — that shot of mustard makes a difference, and the bland guac didn’t replace it. Help was at hand, since the plantains were served with a delicious, mildly spicy sauce, and a dip of that perked up the sandwich. Since the plantains were delicious even without it, the sauce was repurposed.