Lunch at Mexicano LA!
What comes to mind when you think of Mexican food? If you’re like me, it might be chain restaurants and drive thru’s offering 99 cent tacos made in a nacho chip tortilla. While Mexican is easily my favorite kind of cuisine, I was introduced to it in the most authentic way possible this past weekend on behalf of a luncheon at Mexicano arranged by The International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA).
Located in the heart of Los Angeles at The Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw Plaza, Owners/Chefs, Jaime and Ramiro expand their repertoire for a new audience and continue to redefine what many people think constitutes Mexican cuisine; “When we create a dish, it is always rooted in our history,” Jaime says. “Perhaps it’s inspired by the tamales my grandmother used to cook every Sunday, or the way Ramiro’s mother would keep tortillas warm in a wicker basket when bringing them down to the river to her husband after he was done fishing.”
After years of cooking bold and traditional Mexican food together at La Casita Mexicana restaurant in Bell, California, Jaime Martin Del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu are affectionately known jointly as Jaime and Ramiro. Among some of the biggest stars in the Mexican cooking world, this wonderful duo has brought the authentic flavors and heirloom family recipes of their signature Los Angeles-area restaurant to Baldwin Hills.
Walking into Mexicano, I felt transformed to a beautiful and inviting cantina and fine diner, with the walls adorned with gorgeous, vibrant colors and paintings to ponder over as their friendly bar staff pour you on of their signature cocktails.
Starting out, I began with a Placero, which boasts lime, cactus syrup, chicharron, pork rinds(!) and for the alcohol of choice, Mezcal. I will admit, the pork rinds threw me! While I removed them right out, I do feel they, along with the chicharron, made the savory flavors this drink has. Upon first smell, it had a very strong leather-like scent yet it turned out to be quite satisfying. When I decided to try out a Anticuado, with Tequila, orange bitters agave, orange and lime zest, I was expecting a very Mary drink; citrus infused with a subtle taste of the tequila….folks? This drink will blow your socks off! The strong tequila along with the orange bitters make for a very intense drink.
As we moved on to a heavenly first course of appetizers Queso Fundido , Guacamole Al Tequila and Ceviche, I had to give in and find myself a chorizo free zone on the topped queso! I managed and it was absolute perfection; 3 traditional, Mexican queso cheese melted fondue style. It was very creamy, but not overly heavy.
Ceviche I had awhile back, and this dish made me wonder why I have not had it more often. With jalapeño peppers, carrots, onions, tomato and cilantro soaking in this bowl of raw white fish, this is the perfect lighter option to consider. And, as far as the guacamole…I must say…Jaime and Rimero are GENIUS to be so generous with the tequila! It added an extra “pop” to a well-balanced favorite, & made it go even further on the “Must have” list.
For lunch, I got to try their Shrimp Enchiladas, wrapped in fresh corn tortillas and covered in salsa verde. The salsa verde tasted fresh, and the tortillas warm and soft. Next up, they brought out their Valentina Shrimp. Prepared with an aromatic tomato sauce, it was a hard decision to try to decide if Valentina or the Al Mexcal Shrimp won my heart more. Cooked with sweet and sour orange, chile de árbol and agave, I felt this was slightly more compatible on my palette after the drinks & enchiladas I’d enjoyed.
And, what’s an authentic Mexican lunch without dessert?! Following all the countless plates of home-made goodness, we were treated to coffee with cinnamon, churros, 3 cheese flan and Grandma’s Rice Pudding. The rice pudding was flavored with caramel and cinnamon, making me awfully tempted to pour some in my coffee, or the other way around.
As a huge lover of flan, this was definitely one of the best I’ve ever had; loaded with creamy, full flavored cheeses and covered in sauce, it melted in my mouth with subtle notes of vanilla.
I’m already planning a return visit to Mexicano. They’re located at 3650 West Martin Luther King Blvd, their web-site can be found HERE. xo
(*Disclosure: I am a proud member of The IFWTWA, who arranged this luncheon on behalf of a feature. All opinions are my own.)