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Entries in Mexican (27)

Friday
Jun172011

Senor Fish

*Post by Angela.

Fish tacos are a regional favorite here in Southern California, and are something I crave on the regular. We'd heard a friend sing the praises of Senor Fish from the moment we arrived, so when I saw the Groupon deal for the popular area chain, I snagged two and dragged Mark over to the Eagle Rock location for some seafood and tortillas. This wasn't too difficult after a promise to visit the Eagle Rock Brewery after dinner.

 

 

I don't know if it is the typical Senor Fish layout, but the Eagle Rock location featured a relatively small inside dining area. Which didn't matter, because on that particular evening, the weather was beautiful and after ordering and grabbing a couple of Stone IPAs, we chose to scarf outside on the sprawling deck encircling the colorful building.  

 

 

Mark contented himself with an asada (beef) quesadilla (below), which was a pretty average offering. The meat was tasty, but a little on the stringy side.

 

 

I, on the other hand, was there strictly for the seafood. I started out with one each of the fish and shrimp tacos (below). These were very messy but pretty nice - the seafood bits were fried just enough to cook them through, and the batter was light and crunchy. However, nothing really jumped out at me about the flavors - I've had better and worse. I would have loved something...well, more, a lacking that wasn't rectified by the addition of Senor Fish's array of salsas. I enjoyed these, but I'm pretty confident I could make equally good versions at home.

 

 

By far the best thing out of the kitchen? The scallop burrito, huge and hearty (below). While there was a whole lot going on inside that tortilla, the rest of the fillings didn't overwhelm the flavor of the scallops - partially because the burrito was absolutely stuffed with the plump and delicate seafood.

 

 

The verdict? Not bad for an affordable chain, especially with the online deal. While I know I can find better fish tacos in the area, I'm happy to have another Senor Fish Groupon to use sometime this summer.

Señor Fish on Urbanspoon

Tuesday
Apr192011

Gardens of Taxco

*Post by Angela.

Mark and I go out to eat for any number of reasons. Sometimes, we get excited about the hype surrounding a place and have to experience it for ourselves. Other times, we have a special occasion for which we want to dress up and celebrate out. We often make plans out to meet up with friends, or to show out-of-town guests around the town. And sometimes, we (I) just don't feel like cooking. I had purchased a coupon for The Gardens of Taxco Mexican Restaurant without any prior knowledge of the establishment, other than its proximity to our house. One evening a couple of weeks ago, with no plans and no desire to spend time in the kitchen, we decided to stroll down Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood and take advantage of our deal.

 

 

We arrived relatively early in the evening, and waited to be seated in the lush dark interior, with its moody lighting, while the first dinner rush finished up. After about 20 minutes, we were led to a corner table and people-watched - the crowd was made up of mostly families and festive groups of friends. And understandably so - it seems as though the foremost priority of the restaurant is to make you feel like you're visiting the home of friends. More than once throughout the night, we observed the servers jubilantly serenading a table with both the American and Mexican versions of Happy Birthday. And as we listened to the sonorous voice of our server as the meal selections rolled off his tongue, we grinned at each other.

 

 

At Taxco, every diner gets basically the same treatment - a five-course meal for $25. With the exception of your entree, the courses are fixed. And, if five courses aren't enough, the meal begins with a round of chips and salsa and a huge bowl of pickled vegetables. We each ordered margaritas and received a giant carafe to go along with our meals. Word to the wise, if you have allergies or aversions, let them know up front, because once you've ordered the food starts coming to your table, fast and furious. 

The first course, a simple cheese quesadilla topped with guacamole (below), was a decent start. Could you make this at home? Sure, and easily, too. But it was still pretty tasty.

 

 

The second course was the albondigas, or Mexican meatball soup (below). The soup tasted exactly like the kind of soup your mom made for you when you were sick as a child - nothing special, but homey and comforting just the same. My only complaint? I would have liked more meatballs.

 

 

We got two separate dishes for our third course of the evening. My hearty chicken enchilada was smothered in a creamy sauce and topped with an olive (below). Again, the dish landed in the decent range - while the chicken was underseasoned and a little bland, it was tender and juicy, and I did really like the creamy sauce.

 

 

Mark's crispy beef tacquito (below) was less successful, tiny, on the dry side and not very flavorful. No matter - we split our dishes (as we often do), so he was contented with his half of the enchilada. 

 

 

Finally, we got our selected dishes. I opted for shrimp in salsa de Ajo Picante (below). The mildly spicy red garlic sauce was really nice, as were the perfectly plump shrimp.

 

 

Mark decided on the chicken in mole poblano sauce (below). The restaurant really hangs their hat on this dish- the 'best mole in the city' we were told. It may not have been the best executed mole we've ever had - the complexity of flavor you get with the best versions of the dish was missing here - but was definitely far from the worst.

 

 

The final dish was the bananas & cream, Rio Frio style - slices of banana, covered in a pudding (below). The dessert was light and inoffensive. The food is comparable to other mediocre West Hollywood Mexican restaurants (Spanish Kitchen and El Compadre come to mind), but Taxco woos with it's unique value, cozy atmosphere and one-of-a-kind service. 

 

 

Taxco certainly did the trick on that particular evening - we were full and I didn't have to lift a finger. But just a tip? If you do decide go, hit the website and print the coupon for the early bird discount (offered from 4:30 to 7:00) - you can get the 5-course experience for just $14.95. You might also want to tell your server about any coupons ahead of time as ours became quickly unpleasant with us when we presented ours at the end of the meal. 

 

Gardens of Taxco on Urbanspoon

Thursday
Jan202011

A Belated Blogiversary Best of 2010

*Post by Mark & Angela.

One whole year. A year since we started this little experiment of a blog, a year since we took our food game to the next level. Loyal followers of the blog have stuck with us since our ugly layout over at blogspot, and may have noticed a slight evolution in picture-taking (we're still figuring out how this thing works). With this post, we'll have put up 100 recipe posts and a 150 restaurant posts. Not too shabby for our first year.

In that year, we've switched coasts, moving from DC to LA. We've also made a lot of really good friends through blogging, and had a handful of mind-blowing meals, some great ones, some good ones... and a few duds.

But today, as we look back on 2010 - our first year of blogging - let's focus on what was great (like this seared foie gras from Proof in DC, below). Ready?

 

 

Best Unblogged Meals

Not every meal lends itself to being blogged. Sometimes toting a camera is inappropriate. Sometimes, you - err... forget said camera at home. 

The former was the case when Angela toured through Chef Keller's 9-course menu at Per Se, and the latter was true when we found ourselves at DC's classy cafe Palena, sans camera. The fried marrow at Per Se blew Angela's mind and the Roast Chicken (crappy iPhone picture below) at Palena was arguably the best Mark had ever tasted.

 

 

Everyone knows the old adage, "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" Well, if you're a food-blogger and you don't take a picture of it... did you even eat it at all? When it's become your hobby to obsessively take pictures of everything you eat, the answer is sadly not as obvious as you might think.

Best Pizza

Ah... a subject very dear to our hearts. Let's start with the runner-ups - our two favorite DC-area pizzerias: Taking the DC crown by a thin slice of pepperoni is 2 Amys (also unblogged) whose Neapolitan pies are almost perfect. Pizzeria Orso wasn't that far off, (Orso's meat-heavy Giamette below) with their volcanic brick-oven churning out pizzas almost identical to 2 Amys. 

 

 

A New York trip enabled us to check out the pies (and super long lines) at Grimaldi's, but the real winner in 2010 comes from the birthplace of 'Apizza': New Haven, CT. At Pepe's we were treated to some of the finest, most perfect pizza we'd ever tasted. It wasn't just the best pizza we'd eaten in 2010, it was probably the best pizza we've ever eaten.

Best Cheesesteak

This section exists only because we were lucky enough to make a few summer trips to sunny Philadelphia in 2010. Mark posted not one but two extensive reviews of the best cheesesteaks in town. The winner turned out to be John's Roast Pork (below), whose steak sandwich is even better then the pork it built its namesake on.

 

 

Earning points for creativity is Jose Andres with Minibar's "Philly cheesesteak" (below), which has a clever and delicious spin on the Philly classic (the 'whiz' is in the middle!).

 

Hottest Food

You can't have a 'hottest' section without a hat tip to the Thais. At Pa-Ord, Angela found out the hard way just how much spice can go into dish. The boat noodles at Pa-Ord were an easy choice for runner-up. More on them in a minute.

The winner was a concoction of our own, in which we loaded a curry with Ghost Pepper. The best part was that video-taped our friend eating an entire plate of the hot-as-lava curry:

 

 

Best Burger

While we have to give a nostalgic mention to our favorite DC burger franchise, Ray's Hell Burger, the winner was an easy choice. Oaks Gourmet's burger (below) comes stacked with black forest bacon, taleggio cheese, red onion, arugula and a jalapeno-pineapple compote. Burger chains, take note - this is how a burger should be done.

 

 

Best Sandwich

Our Los Angeles adventures have already made us huge fans of the sandwich shop around the corner, All About the Bread and its fresh baked, crispy-on-the-outside bread. But, aside from all the delicious burgers and cheesesteaks we've eaten this year, the best thing we ate between two slices of bread were the amazing Italian sandwiches (below) at Di Pasquales in Baltimore.

 

 

Best Cheap Eats

Nothing beats a great meal that doesn't break the bank. Any short list would have to include Vietnamese sandwich at the DC-area Bánh Mì DC Sandwich, the mouth-numbing mapo tofu at DC's Great Wall, the aforementioned sandwiches from Charm City's Di Pasquales, Ethiopian delicacies from Lalibela, a Luchador-themed taco shop in San Diego and delicious new-wave tacos from Los Angeles' very own Tinga Buena (below)... which, truth be told, aren't even that cheap compared to most taquerias. But this is our list, so be quiet.

 

 

Once again, a little Thai hole-in-the-wall just outside of Hollywood has stolen our hearts and left us our wallets. Not only did those spicy boat noodles (below) at Pa-Ord make an impression on us heat-wise, but entrees at this authentic Thai eatery are mostly $6 or $7. 

 

 

Best Dessert

A few desserts stand out above the rest. Osteria Mozza's trio of gelatos, the Tre Gelati Misti nearly stole the show from an already amazing dinner. The 'Kit Kat Bar' (below, left) was a memorable meal-ender at Michel Richard's Central in DC. And that's olive oil ice cream melting over the Chocolate Cream dessert (below, right) at DC's Equinox, but it's the chocolate and coffee granules that made it a textural treat...

 

 

But the big winner was a subtle dessert that achieved the impossible. This one got Angela, a notorious dessert-skipper with no sweet tooth, to fall in love with dessert. The bacon-seared pound cake at Eola combines an artful presentation with subtle savory flavors. Served over a delicious bacon anglaise, the pound cake is topped with berries, herbs and a cucumber-basil ice cream.

  

Best Meal At Home 

We love to cook, too. And by 'we,' we mean 'Angela.' Mark has been on the receiving end of more home-cooked food then he deserves. They can't all be winners, but some meals have stuck in our minds longer then others. Take for instance Angela's Chicken Adobo (below), or that one time that the gnocchi turned out the way it was supposed to. 

 

 

Angela's Beer Can Chicken (below) combined two things we're passionate about (poultry and beer) to great effect. And we may be trying to forget the finale of the show 'Lost,' but we won't soon forget the dorky-as-all-get-out 'Lost'-Themed Dinner we prepared for the final season's premiere.

 

 

But the most memorable meal may have to be our first foray into homemade pasta making, when Angela magically turned hours of frustrating labor into some of the best pasta we've ever had. Angela's Butternut Squash Ravioli with Butter and Sage (below) melted in our mouths. Sure, things tend to taste better when you've slaved over them yourself, but this is a dish I'd be happy ordering anywhere.

 

 

Favorite Restaurant Experience

Because it's not just about the food, sometimes service and atmosphere can contribute as much or more to the overall experience. It was pretty awe-inspiring just to be in the house that Ripert built at Le Bernardin and to experience seamless three-Michelin star service. At Baltimore's Woodberry Kitchen (below) we discovered just how far a concept and environment could take an already great meal. 

 

 

We left San Diego unable to talk about anything besides the fantastic food, service and experience we'd had at Whisknladdle, and had memorable experiences at Chef Byron Brown's Artisa Kitchen in DC and Thursday night Big Fat Greek Supper at LA's Papa Cristos.

But the ultimate dining experience this year was our trip to Jose Andres' Minibar in DC - a six-seat bar where a team of chefs concoct a series of dishes before your eyes with mind-blowing molecular technique. We enjoyed thirty courses in all, like the maki-style, rolled 'Guacamole' (below, left) or the 'Tzatziki' (below, right) created by dropping greek yogurt in liquid nitrogen.

 

 

Best Food

Experience-wise nothing tops Minibar, whose food was still amongst some of the best we've tasted over the course of 2010. We also can't leave out Le Bernardin or Per Se. Other close-to-perfect meals, like our memorable trip to DC's Eola, just seemed to have the food-ordering gods looking out for us. We can't leave out our new favorite LA restaurant, Fraiche (Chef Ben Bailly's veal tartare below) after an incredible Christmas evening dinner with family.

 

 

But the big grand prize winner of the year goes to Komi, DC's top-rated restaurant for very good reason. Weeks of busy signals finally yielded a reservation, and our treat was a 20-course Greek-inspired menu, crafted by the masterful hands of Chef Johnny Monis. Komi doesn't allow pictures, but we still vividly recall every dish that - arranged in a journey that culminated with homemade pastas and a feast of slow-roasted goat shoulder - is still something we dream about. 

Thank you all for sticking with us this year! We're looking forward to another year of eating great food and meeting wonderful people. 2011 is sure to be even better then 2010.

Tuesday
Dec212010

Malo

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*Post by Mark.

We're sort of starting to fall in love with Silverlake (below, left). On a recent warm weekend, we found ourselves just a few short blocks away from the Silverlake Farmer's Market with a big appetite and a few hours to kill. That's where Malo (below, right) comes in - a lazy Sunday late morning during a rare December heat-wave made the Mexican restaurant's shady patio an ideal place to brunch.

 

 

Offering $1 Tacos on Monday nights and 'Margartia Night' Tuesdays, Malo is full of good deals.  And more to our purpose, Malo also serves up brunch (below) all-weekend long starting at 9 AM. We arrived pretty early with our friend Christina to get first crack at the Cantina Suavecita's brunch offerings.

 

 

We were among the first guests to hit the patio (below, left) when we arrived, but we weren't discouraged by the early hour, or the rather ecclectic nature of the decor. 

 

 

The first menu we perused was the cocktail menu. Sure, they make a mean horchata, but you're doing yourself a disservice if you let the morning hours divert you from the cocktail menu. These drinks are good enough to be consumed at any hour of the day, even if said hour implicates that you're a raging alcoholic. It's always time to drink at Malo.

Malo serves some staggeringly good cocktails. Angela went with the La Paloma Fizz, a blend of Jimador Reposado, fresh grapefruit juice, lime juice and grapefruit bitters. I couldn't resist the Spicy Cucumber Margarita (below). Made with Casa Nobles Silver Tequila, their take on the classic margarita was livened up with Agave Nectar and a Tapatio Hot Sauce. The fiery kick of the legitimately hot libation was cut with the cool, fresh taste of cucumber. This is, without question, one of my favorite takes on the margarita ever.  Malo also has an impressive list of tequilas.

 

 

But we didn't come for the drinks. Malo offers a pretty decent selection of eats as well. Before we even get to main dishes, we need to talk about their chips. Malo doesn't offer the pre-meal snackers complimentary. It seems like an easy point of contention, too, that Malo charges for their chips and salsa. Yet, you wont hear me complaining about the cost any time soon. This was the best part. For $4 you can order one of their salsas, or for $12 you can order a flight of salsas. "A flight of salsas." I like the sound of that.

Just one sufficed for our party of three, and we chose the restaurant's most popular offering: the Burnt Habanero & Creme (below). Much like my spicy and fresh cocktail, the spicy salsa left a delightful burning sensation in our mouths that could only be cooled down with another refreshing dose of the creme...and habanero. This made for an addicting cycle, proving the salsa more than worth its cost.  Oh, but I haven't even gotten to the best part --

The "chuey" chips.

I've never seen these before, but it's easily my new favorite gimmick. Malo also offers regular, crispy chips, but their signature made-to-order chips are... well, in a word... chewy. I don't know how they make them this way, but when you pick up the double-thick chips they feel surprisingly pliable. It's like some sort of genius cross between grilled tortilla and an undercooked chip. Coupled with the salsa, I would've been perfectly content at this point in the meal to cancel our entree orders and gum through a couple more orders of these chips. 

 

 

As if we weren't already full from all those chips, we munched on an order of Beef & Pickle Tacos (below). The shells were fried and crispy and the interesting combo of ground beef and and tangy pickle slices was topped with a healthy portion of shredded cheese. 

 

 

We were slowing down quick by the time our entrees arrived. Angela's Pozole and Poached Eggs (below) arrived steaming, with perfectly runny eggs stewing in a hot chile tomato broth along with hominy, chicken, cheese and tortillas. The shrinking amount of available real estate in our stomachs appreciated the savory stew of comfort food. After our cocktails, chips and salsa, we could've been served a plate full of dirt and walked out happy. Our entrees may have been relegated to afterthought status, but they were all worthy samples from the kitchen.  

 

 

 

I ordered the Burrito Ahogado (below) and when it arrived my stomach put up the white flag. It was gi-normous, stuffed with carne asada, refried beans, rice, pico de gallo, guacamole and monterey jack cheese. Had this come at the beginning of the meal, I would have likely devoured it in its entirety. But to avoid an uncomfortable afternoon (and potentially rupturing my stomach) I took a few polite bites and packaged the rest for a later date. What I did eat made me wish I had a second stomach. The thin cuts of beef were really flavorful (if a little tough), and well-complemented by the freshness of the other ingredients.

 

 

The service was friendly, but felt stretched a little thin as the patio started filling up, but if you're looking for a Mexican joint with a drink selection to match its menu, Malo is your rare exception. Start out with a Spicy Cucumber Margarita or a Bloody Maria. Begin your eating adventure with some guacamole and burnt habanero creme salsa to dip your chewy chips into. Trust me. I really can't think of a better beginning to a Sunday afternoon. 

Malo on Urbanspoon

Malo in Los Angeles on Fooddigger

Tuesday
Dec072010

Lotería Grill Hollywood

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*Post by Angela.

After years of living with mediocre Mexican cuisine on the east coast, we've been excited by the prospect of more authentic cuisine, now that we're closer to our south-of-the-border neighbors. The other night after catching a movie at the Arclight, we tackled Lotería Grill Hollywood on Hollywood Boulevard, which was just named Number 5 on LA Mag's list of Top 10 Mexican Restaurants. Lotería Grill began as a booth at Farmers Market in West Hollywood, and expanded with two locations, one in Hollywood and one in Studio City.

 

 

We made our way past the lines of people waiting to get into the club next door and headed through the bright yellow exterior door into the restaurant. I immediately warmed to the space, with its bright decor, high ceilings, and open kitchen, and felt equally good about the friendly and attentive service. Lotería Grill also boasts a substantial bar area along the back wall, with rows of colorful liquors adding to the festive atmosphere.

 

 

We started off with the Chicharron de Queso (below), a large sheet of cheese griddled to a golden crisp. I've never had anything like this before, and was taken aback when the mountainous appetizer appeared at our table. Hm, how to describe it? ...It's like when you make nachos in the oven and cheese melts and hardens on your baking sheet, times 1,000.

 

 

The cheese was served with a very solid guacamole, delicious salsa verde, and warmed corn tortillas, so we broke off pieces of the cheese to make little tacos (below). I really enjoyed the dish, but after a while, the saltiness and greasiness of the cheese got to be a little overwhelming. I think just maybe this may be a case where less is more. Nevertheless, the novelty of the dish and its presentation made it memorable. 

 

 

We then got down to the business of entrees. Normally I would be overwhelmed by the number of options offered at Lotería Grill, but once I saw the special plates menu, my decision was made. I went with the Lengua de Res en Salsa Verde (below), a platter of beef tongue with tomatillo sauce. The thick slices of tongue were just as tender as I was hoping, and the slight underseasoning of the meat was well compensated for by the thick, bright tomatillo sauce. The accompanying beans were a far cry from the canned-tasting sides I've had at the bulk of Mexican restaurants I've visited in the past - these had a complexity and depth of flavor that left me wanting more. And the rice was equally impressive, flavorful and perfectly cooked.

 

 

Mark opted for a trio of tacos, choosing the Pollo en Pipian Rojo (chicken in a spicy pumpkin-seed and peanut sauce served with chopped onion), the Mole Poblano con Pollo (chicken in mole poblano with sesame seeds, chopped onion, and queso fresco), and the Conchinita Pibil (pork, slow roasted in a banana leaf, with citrus-pickled red onion and habanero) (all three pictured below, from back to front). He enjoyed all three, but didn't find any of them to be as memorable as he had hoped.

 

 

I was stuffed at this point, but as always, Mark was ready for dessert. He ordered the Tres Leches cake (below), a traditional Mexican dessert made with sponge cake soaked in evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream. The light cake, paired with a strawberry filling, was a nice, if not outstanding, way to end the meal.

 

 

I was sort of expecting to be blown away by the meal, and was just the tiniest bit disappointed to feel simply pleasantly satiated. That's just a matter of managing expectations, though. Lotería Grill serves up really great food - excellent, really, when you think about the restaurant's humble beginnings and purpose. And it was a nice way to end a wonderful date night!

 

Loteria Grill on Urbanspoon