Monday, March 30, 2009

Special Foodventure #113: Rivera (Downtown)

The donaji cocktail is definitely chirp worthy!

If the thought of drinking tequila straight-up brings nasty flashbacks of shooters from days past that's better forgotten, Rivera's infused tequila collection will definitely convince you otherwise, as it did for me.

Smooth, sophisticated and suave (just like their sleek dining area) their ever-rotating collection of infusions include flavors like blood orange-cinnamon, tamarind and grapefruit-anise. My personal favorite so far is the pomegranate-ginger, literally a party in the mouth with a festive mix of tart, spicy and sweet. And while some of these tequilas may smell and taste almost syrupy, no sugar's been added - the sweetness is purely derived from the fruits and spices that's been steeping for a few days. And they are silky-smooth down the palate and throat with an ever-so-slight edge of roughness on the finish to remind you that these are tequila. But totally easy to sip (don't slam or chug these down) and no chasers needed. And not too shabby at $6 per flavor or $12 for a flight of three.
Blood Sugar Sex Magic
The cocktails ($10-15 range, with late-night specials of $8-9), crafted by mixologist Julian Cox, are fantastic as well, as fun to look at as they are to taste. On my most recent visit with friends and foodbloggers Christine and Matt, Julian made a variation of his Purple Rain cocktail (using gin instead of the listed vodka) that was gorgeously lined with pansies and bursting with a beautiful bouquet of floral and botanical notes from the rosewater, violet and Thai basil in the drink. Other worthwhile sips include the Blood Sugar Sex Magic (pictured above), a vermilion concoction with rye whiskey, red pepper, and basil, and the smoky Donaji with mezcal, pomegranate and chapulin salt. Or if the bartender's not too busy, go for the $14 Bespoke and let him or her take you to your customized cocktail lala-land.

And of course, save room for the food too. On a separate occasion shortly after its opening, their PR representative invited Caroline on Crack, Gourmet Pigs, Rumdood and yours truly to a blogger dinner for free, where we sampled quite a few dishes (and drinks). Just like the cocktails, the food's presentation is great and the taste, for the most part, impressive. Some of the highlights of that meal included:
patates xips ($6): Kennebec potato chips with chipotle-lime crema and caviar - a nicely balanced starter with the light, crisp chips contrasted against the rich crema that's just slightly sour, spicy and smoky, rounded out by the briny caviar. Wish there were more chips to go around for this dish, but we wound up saving the extra crema for some of the other items that night.
tortilla florales ($6): literally an edible leaf and flower press, these stone-ground tortillas (made in-house) are served with an avocado-based "Indian butter". I almost felt guilty tearing this beautiful circular discs of art, but the first bite quickly took away that regret. Nice coarse texture with an authentic 'corny' flavor, this tortilla held its own even when slathered with the "butter" or the crema from the previous dish.
Jamon Iberico de Bellotta Pata Negra
jamon iberico de bellota pata negra ($44): O. M. G. I could not believe that this was on the menu, and suddenly I was taken back to my wonderful jamon memories from my Bazaar dinner. This version, served with nicely-toasted bread, was totally on-par and did not disappoint: the marbled ham was velvety-smooth with a wonderful richness and a nice smidgen of nuttiness from the pig's all-acorn diet. It's so fatty I liken it to eating paper-thin slices of freshly-creamed pork-flavored butter. Totally worth trying at least once (or twice, in my case) should you ever encounter them on a menu or for sale at a meat purveyor.
Pork Chop
kurobota pork chop with mole and black carrots ($21): A superb entree featuring a tender, juicy slab of pork with a wonderfully complex dark molé, a sheerly delightful combination of earthy and spicy with distinct herbal and cocoa notes, I held every drop of the thick, flavorful paste on my tongue as long as possible to enjoy every element, and still can't quite figure out the mystery of what makes it work. But it does!
Baba Cachaca
the desserts here decent overall, the one that WOWed me the most is the baba cachaca ($7) a spin off the more familiar baba au rhum cake. Moist, eggy and just dense enough to satisfy without weighing down, it was nicely complemented with citrus segments, cream and some dulce de leche.

Overall, Rivera definitely get major kudos for their wonderful presentation, and both the bites and drinks are solid and edgy enough to keep me intrigued. I certainly can't wait to see what Chef John Rivera Sedlar will be bringing to the table next time around.

What Do Others Say?

- Gourmet Pigs considers it "another good and welcome addition" to the downtown dining scene
- Caroline on Crack also adores the cocktails and small bites and will "enjoy [them] . . . any day"
- LA Weekly's J Gold generally loved the food's presentation and taste as well
- even SF Chronicle's Michael Bauer gushes over this place as he relives "a culinary epiphany"
- FoodGPS is looking forward to further trying Sedlar's "arsenal" of dishes too and had some one-on-one time with the chef

Rivera Restaurant
1050 S Flower St
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 749-1460

Rivera on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

so jealous u got to go back tonight! matthew felt like he was coming down with the cold so stayed in :( were u able to try the orgasmic the duck enfrijolada??

H. C. said...

@choisauce, alas - I only had the flan trio there (interesting to try at least once, my favorite is the medium-bodied flan). So thankful they still had my pom-ginger tequila!

Exile Kiss said...

Hi H.C.,

Wow, Rivera sounds like a great place. Those cocktails really sound good, even better than the food I think. :) Thanks.

laborashirt said...

I'm hungry now !!

Maynard Garrahan said...

Wow! Thank you! I always wanted to write in my site something like that. Can I take part of your post to my blog?

Marianne Cardinali said...

found your site on today and really liked it.. i bookmarked it and will be back to check it out some more later ..


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