I used to be one of those people who thought 'there are certain things that shouldn't be fucked with' and Mexican food was one of them. I rejected the idea that the flavors of my childhood could find a home in the world of fine dining. My personal perception of food has changed, mostly thanks to Chef Edward Lee. The global perception of what fine dining is has also changed in a really wonderful way, where the access to quality ingredients prepared with skill and refinement is seemingly everywhere.
Native Los Angeleno Chef Ray Garcia and his team create a bold menu of authentic flavors that truly caters to everyone. We got there just after opening, before the dinner rush, so we could appreciate the space. The dining room was very warm with lots of sunlight and neutral colors. It felt like a elevted version of my mother's family home in Mexico. The cement blocks caught the light in such a satisfying way, and the delicate details that lined the walls gave the restaurant a sense of calmness. Mexican culture is normally associated with loud parties and bright colors so it was really nice to see this type of aesthetic, rustic and homey but still refined.
We started our meal with a bowl of Papas. German butterball potatoes deep fried with perfectly crispy exteriors and warm fluffy centers, coated in apple cider vinegar, avocado salsa and cotija cheese. A burst of acidity cuts through the richness of the potatoes, while the heat of the salsa, the saltiness of the cheese and the freshness of the herbs helps balance it all out. I couldn't eat them fast enough.
For my main dish I ordered the lamb shank, conft in lard over a bed carrot puree with onion marmalade, chimichurri, cotija and micro cilantro. There was a lot of sweetness in this dish to counter the big, gamey flavor of the lamb. I love lamb, and was worried the sweetness would take away from the lamb but I was wrong. Plus the chimichurri, cheese and cilantro brought a lot to the party. I ate most of this dish on its own, but did make a few tacos with their house-made blue heirloom corn tortillas.
One of the most interesting desserts I have ever had was the Isla Flotante comprised of a masa harina meringue torched on one side and topped with dill, a rhubarb and mezcal sorbet over fresh strawberries, and avocado crema pearls and creme anglaise. Not overly sweet and insanely complex, it almost didn't feel like dessert. The meringue was out of this world, really reminiscent of the raw tamale masa I snack on when I help my mom make tamales, but sweeter of course. The mezcal balanced out the sweetness in the dish and the pearls added a much needed, and very interesting texture.
The meal not only left me feeling satisfied but it left me feeling hopeful for the future of food. How ingredients and techniques from different eras and different time zones can come together under one roof and create something extraordinary. I am looking forward to another meal here one day. To read more of my food adventures click here.
stoneyxochi. 28 year old California native. proud pothead, Mexicana and woman.