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.

1050 S Flower St #102
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 749-1460

Rivera on Urbanspoon



Wow, great post! I always thought Rivera would only have regular bar food but all the appetizers sound great! I love going with a group of people and ordering only appetizers for our meal. the sexy machine drink sounds awesome!


sounds delicious, especially the black footed acorn eater. must check out rivera soon.

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