6627 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Last weekend found us at odd ends and hungry in Hollywood. I had never been to Loteria in the Farmer's Market. I usually hit Mr. Marcel or Tusquellas when I am sashaying through while shopping, or stopping for a beverage at E.B.'s. I was instantly very taken by Loteria's open floor and kitchen architecture. I love watching the kitchen work when I am eating, and I equally love an impressive and beautifully merchandised bar.
Loteria cards. Loves. I actually own very few Christmas tree decorations because I rarely have a tree. However, my favorites are a set of small jazzed up glass balls with loteria cards on them surrounded by glitter. I love their rustic drawings and the magic they suggest. Using them as decor is very folk art to me.
The entire space is well lit by several huge skylights. Discussing the space and poring over these photos the other night with Matt of MattBites.com, we agreed that this is one of the best spaces in LA for taking food pics. Matt was on an assignment for some food styling and photographing here, and when he walked in the room he says he nearly jumped for joy at the amazing light and space. I love the space so much I am planning Mother's Day brunch 2009 here for 15 people. We shall see if that comes to pass. More on that in a month.
Loteria also boasts a medium size patio. It's a kind of indoor-outdoor arrangement. Only a small part of it is entirely outdoors, but sitting on any part of it you get the, a'hem, fresh spring breeze from Hollywood Blvd and some fairly entertaining people watching. If you consider any breeze off Hollywood to be fresh and if you consider tourists to be people. I kid, I kid. Kinda.
Our service was incredibly friendly, however a little (a lot) on the slow side. I am not sure if this was the fault of the server for not firing entrees fast enough, or the fault of the kitchen. D was a little grumpy about it, probably because he wasn't drinking one of their fantastic margaritas. It was a good one! We did have the chipotle salsa to tide us over, and it was fantastic. I was eating it with a spoon. If they would bottle it and sell it, I would put it on everything. Salads, meats, cereal.
D started with the tortilla soup. Eater beware. This is the most filling tortilla soup ever created, served in a gigantic bowl. It tastes to me like the tortillas are pureed into the broth, making it very thick and hearty. With queso fresco, tortilla strips, generous avocado and sun dried tomato bits all floating on top, this is an incredibly flavorful soup. But it is a meal. D, the bottomless pit, could barely touch anything else we ordered and we took a long walk down Hollywood to settle his overly full tummy.
I ordered for both of us because, behaving somewhat princesslike that day, there were things I had to try. Had to. First, I wanted the taco sampler. All 12 of their tacos served on silver dollar sized tortillas. One bite for most people, two for me. How fun is this?
I will start with the vegetable tacos.
Fresh cactus salad with salsa verde and queso fresco. This was nice, but I would like to try a regular size one. I felt there was not enough nopale in to really get that slightly bitter flavor to pop.
The calabacitas taco, with zucchini, roasted corn, salsa verde and queso fresco. This was a nice fresh bite or two. Nice flavor with the corn succotash. I love roasted corn.
The champinones taco, with mushrooms and epazote, onions, cilantro and queso fesco. This was one of my favorites because I am a fungus whore. WHAT is epazote, I wondered. About.com (a website whose format I detest, therefore I rarely use it or any research, but I am kinda lazy this morning) says epazote is:
A Mexican herb that has a very strong taste and sometimes has a gasoline or perfumey type odor. It has been used in Mexican cuisine for thousands of years dating back to the Aztecs who used it for cooking as well as for medicinal purposes. Although epazote is poisonous in large quantities, it has been used in moderation to help relieve abdominal discomfort (gassiness) that can come from eating beans. It has become a distinct flavor in Mexican cuisine and is now used to season a variety of dishes including beans, soups, salads and quesadillas. The older leaves have a stronger flavor and should be used sparingly. Younger leaves have a milder, yet richer flavor.
I didn't taste anything except mushroom, onion and cheese in this taco. I imagine with epazote I just don't know what flavor my mouth is looking for. This issue certainly deserves further first person research.
This one I loved. Papa con rajas, supposedly potato with roasted poblano pepper, the queso and salsa. There was no potato on this. However, the wet velvety texture of the pepper was delicioso. I got two simple flavors here, the pepper and the cheese and it was good.
Going in order of the menu, I will address the chicken tacos next.
Three choices here, the first being chicken in mole poblano.
D ate this one and I am still pissed about it. I love mole. He doesn't. But since it is only one bite, there is no looking back or swapping plates. El sigh.
I got to eat this one. The tinga de pollo. Chicken stewed with chipotle peppers, a little chorizo and salsa roja de chipotle. The flavors of this one were immense. Definitely worth revisiting.
I am missing a taco in my pictures. I get distracted by chile rellenos, margaritas and shiny objects. I am missing the pollo en pipian, chicken with a spicy pumpkin seed sauce and finely chopped onions. If you look at the pic with all these tacos, I believe it is the taco at 2 o'clock. I didn't get to eat it either. I am also a little confused because it looks like there is something green on that taco, so maybe the kitchen mixed things up while constructing the plata.
Beef, good. Guacamole, good. Onion and cilantro, both good. In miniature taco, good.
Albondigas taco. D scooped this up before I could say "Boo!" to a ghost.
Tacos de puerco.
This had a really nice flavor as well. Cochinita pibil. It was really the pickled red onion that stood out and the habanero spiciness, all stood up nicely to the rich stewed porkiness.
I am also having issues with my chicharone taco in salsa verde. Maybe that is the taco at 2 o'clock. Looking back at my photos and comparing them to the menu, a couple of these tacos don't add up and there is definitely something missing from my photo collection. I don't think I ate that one either, anyway.
This one was really good, though. Carnitas in sauce morita, clearly with a huge slice of avocado. The silkiness of the avo with the spiciness of the smoked red jalapeno, a great combo.
Ever since we ate at Yxta when I did not order the chile rellenos in favor of ordering the cheese stuffed squash blossoms, I have been craving chile rellenos. These came in a dissimilar pairing. To the right of the photo is picadillo, with beef, raisins, tomatoes, peppers and whatever else they threw in. This could be its own dish. It was that tasty. I can see it with some rice, tortillas, crema fresca...one can dream.
First chile. An ancho chile filled with black beans, goat cheese and chorizo. The filling was amazing spicy starchiness. Not a lot of chorizo, which is fine by me because sometimes chorizo is a little intense, overpowering other flavors. This was nicely balanced. I took pics of the filling, but it just didn't look that nice. You will have to trust me that this tasted good. It was the better of the two, in my opinion, largely due to the smokiness of the ancho chile.
And the second was the chile poblano. This was ingeniously filled with something surprising, plantains and queso fresco. I might have paired the plantains with asadero, traditionally used for chile rellenos, which mimics slightly a simple jack cheese. It was good though, and I enjoyed the surprising flavors.
All in all, there were a lot of hits at Loteria, simply from this small sampling of their menu. There were not true misfires, aside from the pokeyness of the service. I cannot wait to go again and try some different things from the inspired menu. Hopefully the Mother's Day reservation will stand. We have a lot of palates to please and some of them are less adventurous. Coming right up!