In a span of a month, an aggressive attack was mounted on JGold’s Essential 99. This time around, it was all about the Mexicans. After all, one shouldn’t suffer bad Mexican restaurants consecutively, especially if they’re expensive. So here goes “Chasing Gold”, round 2. (Round 1 to be found here).

Rivera
Won Esquire’s Chef of the Year; currently shilling Esquire’s award harder than I shilled Farmshop. Is that even possible? I mean, I spew infinite amount of verbal garbage just to eat at Farmshop over til the fat man stops singing. And so Rivera wins the most fucking annoying plating in ’11. Witness these fawn bombs:

Playa, being the cousin restaurant to Rivera, is also paying tribute to Chef Sedlar’s classic dishes covering the 80s to the 90s. From this menu one can pay $9 for few shrimp hard shell tacos (“taquitos”, per menu), prepared in a nouveax way only if this was 1990 instead of 2012. Or try slices of chicken ballotine, seen to the right above. The shrimp tacos were enpointe, in an Ortega kind of way. If you’re a new American trying Mexican food for the first time, these could be the tacos that induced jizz.

Oddly, here one could’ve tasted the best lick-worthy chocolate dessert in ’11. Let’s call this Playa rec a draw. Come for dessert, late, so you don’t have to deal with the atrocious valet-powered parking on Beverly, skip the food and the offensive product placement.

La Casita Mexicana
I really, REALLY wanted to like this food. TeamSoul has a lust-hate relationship with chilaquiles, especially the mole doused varieties. The thought of eating fried corn (ick) chips (double ick) at 10:30am is so damned disgusting, yet people make chilaquiles pilgrimages every weekend. And here is the residence of 1 the nicest freakin’ chef (I’ve only met one) EVER. Jaime is a bear. No, not THAT kind of bear. But.. like.. kitchen gangsta with a storied heart. Alas, La Casita demands to be visited during dinner. The mole was watery, the enchilada equal to that of carnicerias/super mercatos. Perhaps brunch is stuff only fit for church-going non-vampires. Opinion: undecided.

Guisado
I’ve long voiced, to those who would listen, my psychotic displeasure with Cook’s Torta’s delayed opening. The remodeling took so damned long that I moved away before they opened, before they garnered all the fanfare. This idiot is so driven by that rage that he’s not returned since, despite moving back to the neighborhood. But hey! Guisado didn’t do me wrong like that! More tacos [diatribe — dear Mexican chefs, how about you just give me the meat and vegetables. I don’t want masa; I don’t ever want to roll up another tortilla ever again. Once, I tried to order all the stews at Loteria, and asked ‘em to hold the tortilla. The waitress looked like me like I was a crazy gringo. In fact, that’s my resolution right there, no more tortillas in ’12. I don’t care if your dying grandma from Chochola is pressing them a mano in front of me. I don’t want them wet, shaped, or fried.] for everyone! But otherwise, this is really the highlight of what’s new and hot in Los Angeles’s Mexican food. Slow and low roasted meats, distinct variations on a theme, located in a highly Mexican/Latino/Hispanic strip of road. Prices are higher than the taqueria along the same street, but really no one else is paying that much attention to chuleta (en salsa verde), tinga (de pollo), and bistek (en salsa roja) as this joint. And yes, they do it up spicy. Don’t ask for extra habanero salsa, cuz it will make you sweat the mole casi poblano right out like the vapors.

Guisados
2100 E. Cesar E Chavez Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90033
Guisados on Urbanspoon

Ciros

What a pisser. Yes, Ciros been around since 1972. It’s almost laughable to not recognize their survival as the result of being located directly across El Tepeyac. 2011 was ending on a high grubbing note until this joint brought New Years crashing down. The torta de machaca was forcibly flushed out by the intestine over 2 days and it made the toilet beg for Draino. The tender shredded beef scrambled with eggs (machaca) was tad tasty when stuffed inside a torta. Can’t say the same for the rather pathetic chicken taquitos. How bad is this place? Every platilo is served with shredded lettuce. How is shredded iceberg relevant, or necessary in an authentic Mexican restaurant? What role does it play in being an “essential” ingredient inside an “essential” Los Angeles restaurant? Freakin’ foul.

Ciros
705 N Evergreen Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90033
Ciros on Urbanspoon

Total Tally: 1.5 out of 4, which is slightly lower than Tebow’s completion rate.

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  • http://twitter.com/CulinaryVixen Vickie McCorkendale

    Our favorite Mexican places serve all their meats with the tortillas on the side.  Most of the slow roasted chile meats are best over the Mexican rice… tortillas are just the scoop to get it to your mouth! But GEEZE, if you don’t like em, don’t eat em! Use a fork!

  • http://twitter.com/CulinaryVixen Vickie McCorkendale

    And so you say NO GO for Rivera AND Playa?  Some of the techie friends wanted me to organize a big dinner at Red O. I was trying to push them towards R or P instead… waste of money?

  • Anonymous

    Never been to Red O. But there’s no doubt in my mind Playa (prefer Playa over Rivera) over Red O. Prefer Guisados any day, though.

    Mexican food needs to reconstitute itself in this city. Chicago has haute Mexican down pat, LA? Needs the Bayless touch; I don’t give a shit what the street Mex blogger says.

  • http://twitter.com/CulinaryVixen Vickie McCorkendale

    But Red O IS Rick Bayless (who I don’t really care for, something about his dorky personality irritates me, even if he can cook) – so I suppose I should take them to Red O to see if the high end Mexican thing is possible here.
    The family will do the Olympic thing… may try to bring the sister in law who is from Mexico City – she can critique for us!


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