Monday, August 16, 2010

Rivera's New Menu Connects Miles and Millennias

John Sedlar had a vision when he first opened up Rivera in downtown Los Angeles. Now, he's finally putting his vision into practice. Chef Sedlar and the team of Rivera don't want to just cook food, they also want to delve into the question of why we eat what we eat today. That's why Rivera's new menu traces Latin food back 3000 years.

The menu at Rivera is divided into three menus, each specific to the different dining rooms/areas and connected together by a main menu called Conexiones. The Sangre room's menu focuses on the Iberian roots of Latin cuisine, and the Samba room follows with South American, Central American, and Caribbean influences. The Playa room offers a seafood-heavy cuisine of modern Mexican influences.
Including the dessert menu "Azucar", there are four menus.

To launch the new menus and 'Conexiones' menu that ties them together, the restaurant invited some friends and also some media for a full-on tasting. While waiting for our food, I had a cocktail, of course, since this is where one of the best bartenders in LA, Julian Cox, works.

The meal started with a bang. The cabeza de oro was literally served on a golden head and consisted of layers of your most coveted delicacies: foie gras, scallop, truffle, jamon iberico, and caviar (from the Playa Bar menu - not cheap, $50).
If you've never had it before, make sure you try the Argentine Mushroom Carpacchio (king oyster, bluefoot, and chanterelle mushrooms with chimichurri spices and combava lime) - Samba, $11
This was no doubt inspired by a meal at La Querencia on one of the trips Chef Sedlar took to Baja. It reminded me of the beet and squash carpaccios I had there and I'm glad he's taking that Baja Med concept across the border.

In the same spirit, the dish was followed by Equadorian Crudo (hiromasa, kumquats, fresno chiles, chives) - $14

As a weakling when it comes to spicy food, I loved the burrata here in the Chile Relleno (ahaheim chile with martian red corn salsa, burrata cheese, cherokee tomatoes)
Not only did it adds a nice creamy texture, it really cuts the heat while the corn adds a welcomed sweetness.

Within the Playa's more modern offerings, you can find some asian influences as well, like their
Chile Guero Relleno (tempura chile, crab, corn, soy, ginger, scallion) - Playa, $12

Every now on then, you'll encounted dishes garnished with spice dusting which forms a message of sorts, like the "Bravo Gustavo!" on the Venezuelan Arepas (traditional fried corn cakes) with softshell crab (in the style of Cartagena, Columbia) - Samba, $14

Corn is a central part of Mexican cuisine and the team at Rivera does wonders with it.
Clam Tamalli (pismo clam, poblano chiles, sweet corn, garlic, oregano leaf, blistered chile verde meuniere) - Playa bar, $10

Flan de Elote (corn custard, black quinoa, squash blossom sauce)
It may seem like such a simple dish but this was definitely one of my favorites: creamy yet delicate, I can eat this lightly sweet corn custard all day long.

On the entree side, everyone seemed to enjoy the Parilla (rib-eye fillet, habanero chimichurri, yucca chips)

The next dish was another of my favorite: Brazilian Feijoada with Lamb - Samba, $24
They have brilliantly captured the essence of feijoada and turned the rustic "peasant fare" into a refined dish that is accentuated even more by the tender lamb chop.

Desserts here aren't too be missed either. Try the aptly named "Hielo y Fuego" (Poblano sorbet, port reduction)
A spicy cold sorbet that cleanses and tantalizes your palate at the same time.

Pan de Santa Teresa with Spanish peanuts, cherimoya ice cream
Named after St Teresa of Avila, this seems to be a traditional Catholic dish in Spain and is similar to the French Toast.

Xochimilco (chocolate guajillo cake, avocado mousse with lime, sugared sunflower seeds)
The creamy avocado mousse rounds down the spiciness in the guajillo cake yet the lime kept it from being too heavy.

You can get the Conexiones menu anywhere in the restaurant (dishes aren't labeled by the menu origin above are from the Conexiones). You may have to visit Rivera multiple times though, as there are some "musts" in every menu. Do not miss the mushroom carpaccio, the flan de elote, and the feijoada.
Wonder how a particular dish fits in to the picture? In another spin to the dining experience, guests can now dial 310-464-6884 to hear Chef Sedlar himself explain the story behind a dish.

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

Disclosure: This was a gratis tasting hosted by Rivera.
I also have to thank Wandering Chopsticks for driving out of her way to lend me her camera since I stupidly left mine! :)


Wandering Chopsticks

I still have never been. Only had the flower tortillas at East LA Meets Napa.

Christina aka Hot Pink Manolos

I've had gift certificates for Rivera forever! I got them as a gratuity when I catered their holiday party. I've been waiting for the new menu to roll out since Sedlar mentioned to my friend who works at a restaurant he's been known to frequent that he was changing everything.

I guess now I can finally use that gift certificate!

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