Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hits & Misses at Yxta Cocina Mexicana

Yxta Cocina Mexicana
601 S Central Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90021
(213) 596-5579

Friday night we piled into C's Prius to head over to Yxta, the new Mexican place downtown that's takin' names and packin' a lunch. We met H, and T from SinoSoul, a spicy blog that echoes his personality to perfection. T suggested we start by ordering one of all the antojitos, but his awesome suggestion was met with some resistance due to lacto-ovo vegetarianism and food ownership issues. I, on the carnivore end of omnivorous continuum, loved the idea. Next time, T!

Our table was ready when we got there, but all parties had not yet arrived, so we waited at the bar. It was so pleasant there, and the bartender, Alex, was so awesome we stayed there for the duration.

The menu is pretty lengthy, with lots and lots of choices. There are many innovative sounding items on the menu and some classics.

The cocktails all sounded fantastic, with Latin flair.

Friday they were offering pineapple & jamaica agua frescas and horchata. They make a white Russian substituting horchata for leche, too sweet for my taste buds, but I would have loved to least taste it.

At the strong suggestion of Alex, I ordered the jamaica margarita. It was freaking delicious. Fresh but not at all too sweet with a nice tequila bite. The second one I ordered just a little stronger. That Alex knows how to work a cocktail. She was a little overwhelmed with hand making all the cocktails for a large party because they were down one bartender for a Friday night, but she handled her shit.

I wasn't fond of the chips and salsa. There was nothing wrong with the salsa per se, just nothing fantastic. And the chips were the thick overly crunchy kind. I am not sure if you know what I mean by that, but I tend to like my chips thinner and super fresh. These did not come out warm.

I was tempted by several mole dishes on the menu, however T talked me into ordering a little dish of mole for dipping. Great idea, we got to try Yxta's mole without committing to an entire dish. I would have enjoyed this more if I had enjoyed the chips more. The mole was just fine. Not too thick, nutty, chocolaty and savory.

I was thrilled with the stuffed squash blossoms. Flores de Calabazas Rellenos con Queso Oaxaca. Hands down the best thing I tasted. They were huge...

and with just the right balance of squash and squash blossom to cheese. You get three to a plata, we were all sharing and I still I ate two. If I go back again, this will be my main course and I will have salad to start. Delicioso.

The Tostadas de Atun did not thrill anyone. The tuna was fresco, pero the dish just did not come together. There were some avocado slices, a little crema and some fried onions on top. The elements sound nice together, but it just wasn't great.

Several people ordered the Albondigas de Pescado. The seafood balls were nice, but had some kind of breading or something to hold the meat together. They were quite delicate, and I assume they kept the balls separately from the broth to keep them from breaking up. However, two people said their seafood balls were lukewarm in the center of a very hot and delicious broth. The broth was perfection, clean tasting with lots of veggies and cilantro floating around.

According to one Chowhounder, the Camarones al Ajillo was the dish to try. It sounds wonderful, Mexican sweet shrimp mojo de ajo with cilantro lime rice, however it was rich. Really rich and buttery. Yes, the flavors were out of this world. The garlic, the shrimp, the strong cilantro and citrus flavors in the rice. But I have had less butter in an entire tasting menu at Melisse. Despite the fact that my mouth is simply watering at the thought of the flavors in this dish, I would not order it again. Just overwhelming for me. I would suggest you order this to share with someone or with an entire table as a side dish. It is definitely worthy.

The shrimp were cooked perfectly, firm but not chewy at all.

A major fail of the evening were the Chile Rellenos. I almost ordered these because I have been craving them recently. However, due to the similarity of the nature of the squash blossom dish and the firm rec for the sweet shrimp I passed. C, perhaps at my suggestive talk, fell under their spell. They were so overly cheesy they were uneatable. About a 5-1 cheese to chile ratio. You had to do major archaeology to get any chile at all in each bite. Disappointing. This went largely uneaten. I think C took it home.

I do have to comment, that despite the couple mis-hits, Yxta shows great promise. I think a few items on their menu could use some tweaking, but given time and attention this could be a place I frequent. I loved both the cilantro-lime rice and the Spanish rice. Both rices were light and fluffy, but also moist and flavorful. Really well done. I am impressed because I find rice at Mexican restaurants usually too dry. The drinks were top notch, as were the squash blossoms and the soup despite the temp of the balls. I am going back in a few weeks to give it another whirl, without a doubt.


T said...

next time indeed. sorry we had to grub n run!!!

streetgourmetla said...

Margaritas de jamaica are great, but my fave is a margarita de tamarindo.It's in your future!!