Category: CHEFS AND RESTAURATEURS

Francisco “Paco” Perez | Aqui Es Texcoco

Lamb ribs barbacoa at Aqui es Texcoco
Lamb ribs barbacoa at Aqui es Texcoco

Lamb steamed in banana leaves is one of life’s simple pleasures, not to mention one of Mexican food’s greatest and most satisfying dishes. This five thousand-year-old (at least) cooking technique, that usually involves hours and hours of cooking under low heat, breaks down the lamb until it falls apart under the weight of your piece of tortilla—no forks or knives should ever be required if done properly. Just ask Francisco “Paco” Perez of Aquí Es Texcoco, who has dedicated seven years to perfecting the art of cooking barbecue. Paco designed, from scratch, stainless steel ovens for his restaurant that successfully resemble the traditional underground cooking method of Barbacoa.

Specifically, Aqui Es Texcoco specializes in barbacoa cooked in the style of Hidalgo, Mexico, the southern-central state neighboring Mexico DF that is notorious for the perfection of barbacoa. On a any given weekend morning, every singe seat in the unassuming restaurant located in the Southeast Los Angeles industrial neighborhood of Commerce is full with people that come from all around the city just for a few bites of Texcoco’s namesake dish. Some order by the plate (hint: always ask for ribs as they are among the most tender cuts of the animal), but the regulars order by the pound that, of course, comes with the works—red and green salsas and tortillas.

If you have the stomach space for it or one day find yourself miraculously not craving lamb, there are wonderful mixiotes de conejo, which is essentially rabbit steamed in parchment until you guessed it—it falls apart too. Or, grilled quail marinated with dark beer.

Need we say more? See you bright and early this Saturday morning, though, they are open everyday too.

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Octavio & Shannon Olivas | Ceviche Project

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On a warm evening at The Mondrian Hotel’s SkyBar, we joined Ceviche Project’s first summer tasting series. Led by Octavio and Shannon Olivas, the founders of CEVICHE PROJECT, a concept that they have been dreaming about and developing for several years. Octavio was born in Mexico City and his love for ceviche started when his dad used to take him fishing in Mexico and together they’d prepare a fresh and simple citrus-marinated-fish using the catch of the day.

We were lucky to join Ceviche Project’s first tasting series at The Mondrian Hotel, and we knew we were at the right place as guests were being welcomed with a neat shot of DeLeón Tequila and DJ Ganas vintage cumbia.

The tasting began with oysters on the half-shell with bespoke mignonette, paired with DeLeón Tequila Reposado, a highland Tequila with notes of vanilla, dried fruit, and a hint of spice on the finish. The hamachi crudo with mint, tomato-cucumber water and the most perfect brunoise of melon, fresno chile and jicama was generously finished with Calvisius caviar atop. It was as amazing and luxurious as you’re imagining it!

The big eye tuna & sea urchin ceviche tostada took us straight to México. Thick slices of tuna with creamy avocado, lime, heirloom tomato, pickled radish, toasted pepitas and the heat from the jalapeño paired perfectly with a play on a negroni/aperol cocktail with DeLeón Tequila.

The Tai snapper ceviche, with white ponzu, yuzu-kosho, togarashi, red onion, avocado, sesame seed and crispy spicy nori had us scraping our bowl as you do when you’re eating a bowl of ice cream, savoring the last drop of the ceviche’s juices. For desert, we enjoyed a creamy yuzu coconut sorbet with market strawberry basil jus and Sinaloan Chiltepín made by Octavio’s beautiful wife, Shannon Olivas.

It was a memorable night of our perfect trifecta: ceviches, tequila cocktails & cumbias.

Don’t miss Ceviche Project’s upcoming five pop-ups at the Mondrian Hotel’s Skybar, each tasting features new ceviches and cocktail pairings, and perhaps, you may or may not be spoon-fed caviar at the end of the dinner.

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María Lopez | Candela Taco Bar

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LA’s Mid-City Mexican food scene has really come a long way in the last couple of years. But there still is really only one place to get your fill on things like tamarind-flavored frosty micheladas, ceviches de camarón or better yet, ultra-garlicky tacos gobernadores (cheese and shrimp scampi Baja tacos).

Located just south of La Brea and Wilshire, Candela Taco Bar is the brainchild of María Lopez, the daughter of the esteemed Lopez family that has owned and operated Leonardo’s Night Club for over 38 years. Located adjacent to Leonardo’s, Candela Taco Bar is the type of place that you take shelter in when trying to avoid that annoying traffic on the way to The Grove, you may have driven by it at least a dozen times, so make sure to stop and enjoy the wonderful brick wall-lined interior, complete with a romantic charm achieved by their low-hanging chandeliers (hint: for your next date night!).

Other dishes that we love are Salmon al Mojo de Ajo and the elusive Mexican dish of Enchiladas Suizas, that will taste unlike any other enchilada you’ve had with their crema Mexicana-boosted tart green salsa. Feeling like having a salad? order their jicama, pineapple salad, dressed with lime juice, mint and tajín. It will remind you why you love

Oh, and there is a velvety sweet potato flan and caramel-drizzled golden brown churros for dessert. ¡Provecho!

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Jesse Angel Gómez & José Acevedo | Maradentro

Bringing the bright, rich flavors of Mexican seafood to Studio City, Maradentro joins Jesse Gomez’s and Executive Chef/Partner Jose Acevedo’s other stellar Los Angeles restaurants—Mercado (in three locations) and Yxta Cocina Mexicana. Maradentro means “the sea inside.”

Owner Jesse Gomez and Chef Jose Acevedo

Jesse Gomez and Jose Acevedo have reinvented the wheel at Maradentro. And by wheel, we mean guacamole, since he went ahead and added crispy bits of Nueske’s bacon and chunks of plump lobster—the tortilla chips are freshly fried, flaky and served warm too. Salivating yet? Well, how about with a tart tamarindo mezcal cocktail?

It’s possible that Maradentro is perhaps LA’s most underestimated at the moment, with their innovative-yet-still-traditional takes on Mexican coastal cuisine. Which includes options like a cioppino-like, Siete Mares-stuffed chile relleno and Oysters “Rajafellar” with chile poblano strips and queso añejo. For dessert, enjoy their Tres Leches Budino, a fluffy sponge cake topped with Oaxacan chocolate custard.

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Raúl Ortega | Mariscos Jalisco

Mariscos Jalisco truck is the quintessential street food of Los Angeles: a folded-over fried taco that is filled with a filling of veggies and chopped shrimp (think of a crispy potato taco but with shrimp) smothered in a zesty tomato salsa aromatic with oregano, and then a sliver of ripe avocado.

The man behind Mariscos Jalisco’s truck is no other than Raul Ortega, a native from San Juan de Los Lagos in Jalisco. Raul is not only an expert at Mariscos, he started his taco career selling tacos de cabeza in San Juan de los Lagos’ Plaza de Armas, he eventually moved to Boyle Heights in 1983, which led him to open Mariscos Jalisco in 2002.

Raul’s Tacos de Camarón are simple joy, but a joy that warrants many high-profile Los Angeles chefs and people from out of town to make the trek to Boyle Heights just to devour an entire plate of these tacos. The truck also does seafood cocktails overflowing with plump, freshly shucked oysters and tender sliced octopus in a chilled tomato-seafood broth. But don’t take the chefs’ word for just how good the stuff is, take the locals’ word, who frequent the place every minute, even at the 9 a.m. opening.

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Connie Cossio & Segio Peñuelas | Coni’Seafood

Pescado Sarandeado is freshly-caught, charred whole fish and it is the official dish of Mexican beaches. That is, until Connie Cosio, originally from Acaponeta, Nayarit, and Sergio Peñuelas, from Los Mochis, Sinaloa, opened Coni’Seafood in Los Angeles and brought the emblematic coastal Mexican dish to the city of Angels, and dare we say that it tastes just as good as enjoying it under a few palm trees on a hammock?

The secret is a simple one: their dedication to sourcing the absolute best quality seafood. For starters, their fish of choice for this preparation is snook fish, a medium-flake fish that retains its meatiness through the grilling process and doesn’t have as many pesky bones as other fish. To finish this seafood feast, there is a pile of umami-intensive caramelized onions that add an extra layer of unforgettable flavor to your DIY fish tacos.

If the sarandeado is that good, you can imagine how good their ceviche preparations are. Including a variation of a ceviche that they offer on their botana side of the menu, called tostaditos. Which, is essentially freshly fried flaky tostadas piled high with chopped raw shrimp, tender octopus and sea snails and a little creamy marlin pate to round out the richness.

Then, there is chef Peñuelas’s deftness with shrimp. Which, may or may not include a simple sauté of camarones borrachos, a simple dish properly cooked shrimp swimming in a tangy, tequila-heavy spicy sauce.

Conveniently located a few miles away from LAX, this restaurant and the friendly staff is the perfect welcoming experience for any family or friends coming from out of town, or, a good pit stop to let the uncontrollable Los Angeles traffic settle down while being a good friend and picking up your friend at the airport. Especially, with a couple of their micheladas in hand.

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Jimmy & Andy Shaw | Torta, Co

Jimmy & Andy Shaw

If you’re like us, then you have a soft spot for tortas. Whether is in the form of molletes for breakfast or a Cubana for a quick, late-night dinner.

Thanks to Jimmy Shaw—the man behind Lotería Grill—and his brother Andy, your dream of eating tortas all day, every day is now an easy reality. The Shaw brothers brought their torta inspiration from their native Mexico City to downtown Los Angeles with Torta Company, the sandwich sister of Lotería Grill.

Torta, Co. opened in January 2014 and its already established a cult following with the downtown crowd. There is a torta for everyone, from torta de milanesa de res (breaded beef cutlet), alambre (Sirloin Tips, Bacon, Poblano Peppers, Jack Cheese, Black Beans, Avocado, Jalapeño Sauce) and the famous La Cubana (Breaded Chicken Breast, Black Forest Ham, White Cheddar, Black Beans, Tomato, Avocado, Onion, Chipotle Mayo, Cilantro dressing).

If you feel like having breakfast at any point of the day, fret no more. Torta Company has you covered with their chilaquiles en salsa verde and chicken milanesa torta, with a spread of black Beans, crema Mexicana, queso Fresco, onion and cilantro. Combining tortillas with their crusty and freshly baked telera bread never tasted this good.

Join the torta cult following, visit Torta, Co!

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Ricardo Díaz | Colonia Pública

From the man that brought you Guisados, Cook’s Tortas, Bizarra Capital–and the family that brought you El 7 Mares family restaurants too–comes Colonia Publica, a customizable fideo, mulita and craft beer michelada oasis in the heart of Uptown Whittier. From the dark walls adorned with opaque paintings of hops, barley and even a mural of the last Mexican governor of Mexico, Pio Pico, to the deep-fried “Mexi-Dogs” (corn tortilla-wrapped hot dogs with mustard salsa), the restaurant is part ode to his Eastside hometown of Whittier and part reflection of himself as an artist that just really likes to feed people.

Thus, the menu is filled with foods that he likes to eat. Specifically, fideo and a ramen-like interpretation of it. Meaning, that you will receive a checklist menu where you can add everything from sliced avocado, Monterey Jack cubes, chicharrón, nopal and half a dozen other options for a couple of quarters extra. To quench your thirst, Diaz has developed creative variations of the classic michelada, with things like chamoy-candied bacon in one, aguachile-like green salsa to another, coconut-salt rim to yet another and even a IPA-version with grapefruit juice. If this still isn’t enough, there are mulitas, including a “Cuban” one with black forest ham and house-made pickles.

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