Saturday, April 4, 2009

Friday Night at Rivera: A Full Meal

1050 S Flower St #102
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 749-1460

Our entire experience Friday night at Rivera was wonderful. We had just finished viewing a good photography show in Abbot Kinney and wanted grub & grog close to home. Since our first stop in at Rivera we keep talking about going back, so back we went.

We sat at the smallish bar and got great service from the two bartenders working. We got to watch them construct all those beautiful fresh and fruity cocktails that you won't see at any other bar. It was like being at Ye Olde Towne Apothecary, where they made all things medicinal from powders and ointments and an array of mysterious ingredients, including the above beakers hopefully not pinched from the local high school science lab.

The bar has a good TV. Good because it is big enough to watch the game, but against the wall on the side so rather than being glued to the game you can glance at it now and again. Perfect placement for a TV in a nice restaurant in Lakers territory.

D started with the mussels. These are made with chorizo in a garlic pisco broth, not really served in a broth per se, and the chorizo came in thin strips king of laid across the top. These were good, not great. The broth was a little creamy and the chiles were extremely hot for D. The mussels were a little on the small side, and I prefer mine a touch more tender.

From the snacks part of the menu, I wanted to sample the patates xips, or potato chips with chipotle-lime crema and caviar. These were a hit. The crema was more like a mousse, with a beautiful flavor. Not too spicy and not too citrusy, a really nice balance. And I could eat caviar on anything. However, they could put more potato chips in the plate. Seriously, I should not have been able to count 10 chips.

Through the glass of the cooler behind the bar you can see several non-standard soda type bottles. One row was Bubble-Up, a soda that D remembers from the 1970's. I don't really remember it but both D and the bar back agree that Bubble Up is lighter in carbonation than 7-Up, and tastes less sweet. It is nice. And it comes in its own glass!

Based on listening to our conversation about margaritas, the mixmaster behind the bar made something special for D to sip at. It had tequila, cucumber, lime and something sweet but not sugary, agave nectar or maybe honey. It was seriously delicious, although a little too sweet for D. We added another shot of tequila and I ended up drinking it for him anyway. Rivera serves their cocktails with these huge, beautiful, glacieresque ice cubes. With less surface area than you would get from a glass full of ice chips or cubes, this cube melts a lot more slowly and your drink retains its structural integrity longer. Not that I ever leave a drink sitting full for long. I need cube trays like this for my own freezer. Anyone seen any of these about?

For dinner, D had cow on the brain. Not mad cow, just a little prime beef steak. Carne churrasco with onion foam, core of a purple potato, sweet potato and radishes. For some reason, the bartender told us the foam was cheese, but it does not say cheese on the menu nor did it taste cheesy. It was super light.

The beef was on the small side, compared to a steak house, which is not a bad thing. Maybe 8 oz. Beautiful little piece of flesh.

The purple potato.

Sweet potato, green onion and grilled radish.

I ordered the Tasmanian sea trout, served with saffron quinoa and a corn husk of corn and zucchini. I did not taste saffron in the quinoa mixture, however the quinoa was also mixed with spinach and it was fantastic. The Tasmanian sea trout tastes and looks suspiciously like salmon, so I did some research. Quel surprise.

An article on The World Wide Gourmet discusses the fish,

"Tasmanian Ocean Trout has a distinctive rosy pink/orange flesh and high omega 6 content which makes them an ideal eating fish. The flavour is more subtle and less salty than Atlantic or farmed salmon, and according to many chefs, much better tasting.

But why fish from Tasmanian waters?
The environment is key. The ocean trout are raised in a wild area, a pen in a protected spot in Macquarie Harbour on Tasmania's west coast, renowned for the purity of its water, which is brackish (half saltwater, half fresh water). When the fish come to feed, the fresh water cleans their gills naturally. What's more, the current is very powerful so as the trout "exercise," they get stronger. And since this is not a mass production operation, the pen isn't overpopulated. These are just of few of the reasons why I favour this delicious and versatile fish"!

The veggies in the corn husk, the veggies on D's plate and the spinach and quinoa mixture were fantastically delicious. John Sedlar really has a way with veggies, which is something I highly prize in a chef. Almost anyone can throw a good piece of quality protein on a grill, but attention to making the vegetables an equally quality part of the meal is meaningful and will bring me in for return visits.

I was disappointed with the frijoles negroes. They were wonderful, slightly spicy and sitting in a red sauce that seemed made from chipotle and eggplant, actually, this assessment somewhat based on texture. However, there were hardly any frijoles negroes in the sauce. I mean, there were more than ten, but not many more. In my opinion, the frijoles were accenting the sauce not the other way around. The flavor was great but there should have been more beans in that dish. And that dish was small.

Not a thing crossed my palate Friday that wasn't delicious. Every single morsel was just so worthy of re-eating. This is going to become high on my list of suggested spots in Los Angeles when people ask me where to dine. I think many people are skeptical of high end Mexican, being that there are so many amazing and amazingly cheap Mexican and Central American options in Los Angeles. However, Rivera could turn the skeptics.


Kristine G. said...

*begins the hunt for giant ice cube trays* :)

H. C. said...

Love your thoughtful sidenotes on this experience, the ice cubes, tasmanian sea trout, etc. And I do love me some cocktails with large ice so I can take my time sipping without worrying about the dilution to much.

Looks like we're on par with Rivera, based on my experience there, I too found the sea trout too bland, the chips with crema tasty but could've used more chips, and the drinks delicious!

I'll definitely be back (if only for a drinkie) but looking forward to checking out that mussel dish too!

Food, she thought. said...

K: Thank you, let's keep our eyes peeled.

H.C.: I didn't find the trout too bland, I thought it was wonderful. I thought the mussels were disappointing. I cannot wait to check out your review! Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

the frijoles are pureed, they just add the whole beans in them for presentation and texture

Anonymous said...

the frijoles are pureed, they just add the whole beans in them for texture and presentation

Food, she thought. said...


that was NOT pureed beans. not a chance. there was nothing starchy in that red mixture.