Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Cielito Lindo

Dear Posh and Becks,

I have to say that I enjoyed my time in Spain very much, and like the two of you probably do, have fond memories of the country. Madrid was lovely and historical, Zaragoza was intriguing, San Sebastian was unique, and a lot of the little towns in the Castile region, where I spent most of the months I was in Spain, were warm and inviting.

I missed certain things about Los Angeles, though. In particular, I missed Mexican food.

Which is not to say that jamon serrano and gazpacho isn't great stuff, because it is. The flavor and spice of good Mexican cooking is addictive, though. I never realized how much until I was denied access to it.

Even with my love of the cuisine, I'd never heard of El Huarache Azteca until I read about it in Gold's 99.

Traveling down York to find the place, I tried to envision how Vicki and David would ever find themselves in that particular part of LA. Perhaps David would want to surprise Vicki by getting her carseats reupholstered in hot pink leather with the VBD logo? Half a dozen places on York St. can probably take care of that.

Besides not ever hearing of the restaurant, I have to admit, I'd never had a huarache, but generally, when a place names itself after a signature dish, it's a good one.

Sure enough, the huarache was delicious. It's shaped like a french-bread pizza, but the bread part is made of corn tortilla masa and fried to be sturdy enough to hold up against the topping of carne asada, beans, onion, spices and Mexican cheese. Fresh salsas of exotic varieties allow patrons to ladle on extra heat.

On a warm day, the best seats are actually outside, under the misters that stave off the LA heat wave currently parching our city.

There, one can scarf down a huarache and linger for a bit over the last few sips of one of the excellent fresh drinks the restaurant makes. Their horchata is tasty, with the perfect ratio of cinnamon, and their tamarindo is tart without being sour.

Final recommendation: Don't go. I say this not as a slight to the restaurant, because it's a great place, but besides the fact that it's so tiny that your entourage alone would fill the entire dining area, I honestly don't think you'd like it. European palates tend toward more bland food, in my experience. Of course, I'd imagine that you've had some quality Indian food influence your taste buds somewhat, but Mexican food is an entirely different element. It's more of a pure, direct heat. The food is less sauce and stew, and more seared and fried, with something freshly chopped adding contrast.

If you do develop a taste for Mexican food, though, you're a goner who will pine for it long after you've left LA. If anything establishes you as a true Angeleno, that will.

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