Showing posts with label mole. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mole. Show all posts

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Amor Y Tacos: High End Mexican Food in Cerritos

I never thought I would be eating anything in Cerritos, a name I had only associated with car dealerships before. Now, the group from Ortega 120 down in Redondo Beach has opened Amor Y Tacos - in a strip mall, of course. The interior is fun and spacious. 
IMG_2222

As soon as you walk in, you see them making fresh tortillas. Good sign!
IMG_2223

A popular appetizer is the Mole Tots ($7.50): crispy tater tots, 21-ingredient housemade mole, queso fresco, cilantro, red onion, sour cream
Mole Tots
People put many things on tots, I wonder why no one had thought of mole sooner. I just wish they had put MORE mole sauce on this dish!


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

El Balcon: Alta Cocina in San Felipe (Baja, Mexico)

Unlike the more metropolitan Tijuana, there aren't too many high end dining options in San Felipe, a sleepy town during the off-season. Still, there is at least one, and a very good one at that.
El Balcon
El Balcon Cocina Artesanal opened in Jaunary this year by Chef Julio Cesar Gonzalez Zetina who had previous worked at the Ritz Carlton in Cancun and researched Mayan culinary traditions for the university there. Now he also teaches the subject at the local university after a recent move from Ensenada.

El Balcon wasn't a fancy restaurant, just a few cute tables outside on the second floor of La Plazita, and an outdoor kitchen. Thick tortilla chips are accompanied by a bold housemade salsa.

IMG_9370
Our lunch tasting began with an Aguachile de Cazon (dogfish marinated in burnt chili sauce and green sauce, smoked tuna, sea asparagus and "Huaxes" (toasted seeds), grasshopper, verdolaga
IMG_9371
We have had plenty of bounty from the Sea of Cortez, but this was the first time in San Felipe that we had it raw. The fresh dogfish carpaccio reminded me of kanpachi and both of the chile were so good that despite not being able to eat that spicy, I had to finish the entire plate (while downing plenty of water).

Sunday, February 5, 2012

FRIDA Restaurant Group Brings Casa Azul Cantina to Westwood

With all the new restaurants popping up in the past year, Westwood is looking to be a pretty good place to dine. One of the newest addition is Casa Azul Cantina from the FRIDA Restaurant Group. Frida in Beverly Hills has been a popular destination since it opened in 2002, introducing westsiders to more than tacos and burritos. UCLA students and staff alike can now be grateful for a Mexican place within walking distance that's not Acapulco (even if they all have to admit they've enjoyed the $1 margaritas there ..).

Casa Azul takes its name (and decor) from Frida Kahlo's blue house Coyoacán, and many of the items from Frida make their appearance here as well.

Tamarind Margarita
Speaking of margaritas, I was happy to find tamarind margarita on the menu, even if it's frozen blended! ($9)

Prefer them shaken? Try the Matador Special ($10) made with fresh muddled cucumber, agave, tequila, triple sec, fresh lime juice. If you like it spicy, the jalapenos in the "El Diablo" will give you the kick you want.

Matador Special
The aren't martini-sized drinks either, the glasses they used were actually really big (and heavy).

Shrimp appetizers abound; I prefer the Gambas al Ajillo (fresh shrimp prepared with olive oil, garlic, guajillo chile, and lime juice) to the Camarones Aguachile. I've only had camarones aguachile with raw shrimp before, and even though the sauce was good here I thought the shrimp was overcooked. In contrast, they were tender in the gambas al ajillo dish.
Garlic Shrimp

Aguachile

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

La Casita Mexicana: Authentic Mexican Food 102

La Casita Mexicana was an eye opener. Thanks to Teenage Glutster, I was included in the dinner that the two chefs of La Casita, Jaime and Ramiro, had planned for a number of bloggers. We were joined by Pepsi Monster, Food Marathon, Food GPS, Pleasure Palate and other members of her dining group, Oishii Eats, Eat Drink & Be Merry, Professor Salt and Will from FoodDigger.

Jaime and Ramiro's mission is to educate Americans about Mexican food. Authentic Mexican food. And no, it's not just tacos and burritos and quesadillas. This city has at least seen some mole, but there are so much that we have not really been exposed to, as this meal will attest to!

Jaime and Ramiro set up a table filled with the various ingredients they will be using that night, including numerous varieties of beans and chiles!

The night started with some refreshing drinks: Aguas Frescas of Alfalfa and lemonade with chia seeds
I really loved the alfalfa agua fresca. I thought that it might be too herby at first, but after tasting it, it really wasn't and it was nicely refreshing. The Mexican alfalfa sprouts are different than the ones we normally see here as the leaves are bigger and the stems green. Not sure how it would taste if I try to make it with regular alfalfa ...

White fish soup with hoja santa.
It's been a while since I've encountered hoja santa in the US. Nicely spiced soup (some said it is reminiscent of tom yum soup) and the fish is moist and tender.

Chile Relleno (Pickled jalapenos with tuna filling)
Although I've had stuffed peppers before I've never had one filled with tuna.

Queso Azteca: a blend of 4 cheeses, mushrooms and cactus strips.
Definitely my favorite, and perhaps also most interesting dish, of the night. Full of flavors, especially with the mushrooms and slightly spicy cactus strips, and had a very interesting texture.

Enchiladas in 3 moles(a la bandera)in the colors of the Mexican (the menu said chicken but I was pretty sure they were filled with tuna ... anyway, not the point. The point is the mole sauce!)
The 3 different mole sauces: poblano, pepiano verde, and pepiano rojo. My favorite: The pepiano verde. I think. Hmm. They were all so good.

Tamalitos de huitlacoche (Corn Fungus Tamales)
Corn fungus eh? As Michael Pollan pointed out, we Americans loove our corn (too much even!). And apparently corn fungus is a delicacy and quite expensive in Mexico. This gave the tamales a nice earthy flavor.

Cotija cheese enchiladas from Michoacan in the recipe of Ramiro’s grandmother
This simple dish was delightfully delicious. Apparently they lightly dip the tortillas in hot oil and then chile. The chile flavor was perfect for the dry, crumbly Cotija cheese. Be careful, this is like one of those addicting snacks ... If 15 or so more courses weren't on the way and I wasn't sharing with 4 other people, might've kept eating this.

Cochinita pibil with cebollas escabeche(Pork roasted in plantain leaves with pickled onions)
I tried the seemingly harmless "pickled onions" and man these onions are packed with heat!!! I downed my agua fresca + FoodMarathon's glass of water + another glass of water and was still dying! (I have looow tolerance to spicy foods)

Pollo en mole blanco: white mole sauce with dried fruits and white chocolate over chicken
The first time I've had white mole! I didn't know they use white chocolate also.

Pork almendrado (Pork in almond sauce)

Cecina with chile japonese : thinly sliced beef cookd with a very hot chile.
Reminiscent of a beef jerky, this is full of flavor and slightly spicy.

Bacalao with tamarind sauce


Puerco adobado(pork in a spicy red sauce)


Chile en Nogada (Chiles in Walnut sauce) - a specialty of Puebla.
According to Cecilia Fabulich, this dish is apparently typically served around Christmas time(?). The colors are again those of the Mexican flag, but also rather Christmas-y, aren't they? An interesting and almost dessert-y dish due to the creamy walnut sauce.


Churros with sweet cajeta (caramel) filling
Nice crunchy churros, and the caramel filling was not overly sweet. This blows any of those Disneyland churros out of the water.

Mexican chocolate paste with crystallized grapefruit.
Chunky, rich, and slightly spiced mexican chocolate paste. Perfect with the candied grapefruits.

Flan de castilla
To end the night was this giant sheet of flan, too much for 20 people, especially at the end of the 17/18- course meal! Apparently they also had the zucchini flan floating around. I guess I was too full to catch and grab it.

Thank you Teenage Glutster for including me in this amazing meal, and especially to chefs Jaime and Ramiro who had put so much care into everything. The best Mexican meal I've had, by far.

La Casita Mexicana
4030 Gage Ave
Bell, CA 90201
(323) 773-1898
www.casitamex.com/home.html

Read OishiiEats' review here and Teenage Glutster's here.

La Casita Mexicana on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 6, 2009

Rivera: Spicing Up Downtown

Being at the right place at the right time really does get you places! Since I happened to be out with Carolineoncrack, LA&OC Foodie and Rumdood when they were making plans to hit Rivera in downtown, I got extended an invitation also, which I of course, took! So one Wednesday night I made my way there. Rivera apparently has valet parking about two doors down, but I didn't know about it and it was hard to notice so I ended parking a block away at a $5 lot (being right by Staples makes parking hard and pricey).

When I got there, everyone else was already sitting at the bar trying out the cocktails.
As a disclaimer, most of our meal ended up being comped by the restaurant (we paid for drinks), although I wasn't aware of this in the beginning. Thanks to the fame of Carolineoncrack and LA&OC Foodie!

Besides a cocktail menu featuring cocktails with awesome names like Blood Sugar Sex Machine (rye whiskey, red pepper, agave nectar basil), Rivera also features flights of infused tequila. LA&OC Foodie got a flight of three tequilas ($10). From right to left: vanilla, passionfruit (IIRC) and anise.
I enjoyed the anise the most flavor-wise, although it did have a distinct and weird smell. All these infused tequilas were pretty sweet and smooth - very drinkable. I definitely want to get one of these next time.

Throughout the meal between the four of us we've tried a majority of their cocktail list and then a couple of "bespoke cocktail"-- basically "bartender's choice."
My favorite cocktail on the menu ended up being the Rivera's cup - think Pimm's cup but with tequila. Sounds simple but very well done.

Since we wanted to a lot of stuff on the menu we ended up sharing a whole bunch of appetizers:
patates xips (caviar, chipotle-lime crema, kennebec potato chips) - $6
The potato chips are light and crispy and they're pretty delicious with the lime-chipotle dip and the caviar. Our only complaint is just that there were so few potato chips. Like 10 chips? Divided by 4? We had leftover dip, which luckily came in handy for this next dish.

tortillas florales (housemade nixtamal tortillas w/ 'indian butter' -- just guacamole actually). 4 tortillas, $6.
Since it's more impressive to show you the individual tortillas rather than all wrapped in cloth, I'll do just that:
These tortillas are wonderful. Lightly crispy and had a great flavor. I would definitely recommend people try an order. Unfortunately the 'Indian butter' was not as exciting as it sounds - but these tortillas actually go great with the lime-chipotle crema from the previous dish (patates xips).

The highlight of the night for me was the jamon iberico de bellota pata negra - $36.
This particular ham comes the black footed Iberian pig (hence the iberico) that only eats acorns (bellota=acorns).
It's the world's best ham, what more do I need to say? Sure different restaurants may carry different qualities of even the world's best ham and prepare differently, but this is the first time I've had the bellota, so I can't say. I can only say I still drool over it. Even now. Writing this. *wipe* Excuse me.

The next dish was a surprise to all of us. We didn't order it and actually it wasn't even on the menu. But anyway, they brought over a plate of foie gras pate with fruit compote. Not complaining.
Pretty good pate - it's pretty smooth and I like the cranberry (I think it was cranberry) compote that goes with it.

bacalao negro fresco (black cod, seared. With serrano ham crisps) - $14
The way they write/draw things on the plate with some sort of dusting is cute. Although ... why a radioactive sign? Right next to my food?
Well, radioactive or not the black cod was good. Moist and not overcooked. The serrano ham crisp added a kick both flavor and texture-wise.

LA&OC Foodie got the trucha (tasmanian sea trout, saffron quinoa, yellow gazpacho sauce) - $23.
I tried a bite of this. Good, but pretty standard. It's a safe bet but there's nothing special.

I went with the mole (kurobuta pork chop, mole, black carrots) - $21
The pork chop is not as tender as I expected, but still good, and the mole sauce is great.
My favorite out of all the entrees (Carolineoncrack got the rib eye and rumdood went with the maya puerco pibil). If the pork chop was just a bit more tender ...

The appetizers here are definitely more varied, more interesting, and better than the entrees.

Rivera offers four desserts on their menu ($7 each). Perfect. Caroline, LA&OC Foodie, and I all wanted different desserts and while Rumdood was in the bathroom we decided that he must want the other one ...

torta xocolata (chocolate tort, drunken pineapples)
I love the writing they did with the chocolate powder! How fun, I love playing with my food :P
Pretty rich and dense chocolate torte, me likey.

I went with the crepas mojito (mint, lime, white rum) because I love my mojito and because I get everything that says "mint" on it
Crepes were a bit on the dry side until you douse it with the syrup that came in the graduated cylinder (oh I'm sorry, am I bringing back bad memories from Chem lab?). The white foam you see is the lime and it's extremely sour - use sparingly.
I like this dessert but you do have to concoct each bite carefully yourself so it doesn't become too sour or too sweet.

Rumdood was made to get the baba cachaca (citrus, dulce de leche)
A slight spin off the baba au rhum, this one is soaked in Cachaca. The bottom pastry is moist but the top is a bit dry. Plus this dessert is rather small. Nothing special.

LA&OC Foodie got the crema catalana (almonds, xerez creme)
Creme brulee, basically? I just had a bite so can't tell much more than that but LA&OC Foodie liked it.
The safest desserts seem to the boring but good ones, and those that sound more interesting weren't as great.

Rivera's another good and welcome addition to the revitalization of downtown LA, especially so close to the Staples center. With great cocktails and pretty solid food (I'd get the appetizers over the entrees, hands down), if I ever find myself in/near Staples, I at least know I don't have to eat at that sports bar there ...
I want to go back to try the tequila flights, anyhow :P

Read Caroline's take on it.

Rivera
1050 S Flower St #102
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 749-1460
www.riverarestaurant.com

Rivera on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mole and Margaritas: Loteria Grill

I finally tried the somewhat-new Loteria! Grill in Hollywood about a week ago. A completely different ambiance than its predecessor at the Farmer's Market, this Hollywood outpost has high ceilings and a nice looking bar.

The salsa and tortilla chips at Loteria are amazing, but as some have noticed, they're pretty stingy about it. A small portion for the 4 of us, we chowed it down in 5 minutes. We flagged down 4 waiters to ask for more, but their 'yes' never materialized into more chips and salsa. Finally we managed to flag down a busboy who graciously actually brought us more!

Tacos aren't cheap at $3.50 a piece if you want meat. I ordered two cochinita pibil tacos (slow roasted pork)
cochinita taco
No rice or beans were given - just two tacos at $3.50 each. The tacos were great, thought. The cochinita pibil was very flavorful, with a light spiciness. The meat was very tender.

For drinks I ordered a mango margarita (I believe this was $11).
mango margarita
A delicious margarita although the mango flavor was not that prominent. The only problem - bcs I ordered this the server didn't bother bringing me water ...
Loteria definitely has service issues :(

One friend ordered the chicken mole enchilada ($12).
mole enchilada
I tried a bite of this and absolutely, absolutely loved the mole sauce! The enchilada is also a better deal with more food, and rice and beans. Next time I will get this instead of tacos..

As I said, I absolutely loved the sweet and smooth mole that I ordered another taco - this time chicken mole (I just wanted more of that mole sauce!)
mole taco
The mole taco was great, and did the job of satisfying my craving.

A couple friends ordered the Michelada for a drink ($9), which is basically a bloody mary mix with cerveza.
michelada

We all really liked the food at Loteria, and I will definitely come back another time, if only for that mole. Again, though, service can be much improved ...

Loteria! Grill
6627 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 465-2500
http://www.loteriagrill.com/loteriahollywood

Loteria Grill on Urbanspoon

Gourmet Pigs   © 2008. Template Recipes by Emporium Digital

TOP