So… What did you eat in Mexico City?

My friends know I’m always on the lookout for great food, so one of their first questions when I return from a trip is “What did you eat?” Here are some highlights from my recent Mexico City trip.

Chiles en Nogada – Cafe Tacuba, Centro

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Hotcakes – Sobrinos, Colonia Roma

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Pozole – Casa de Toño, Zona Rosa

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Tacos al Pastor “Especial” – El Huequito, Centro

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Grilled Octopus – Los Danzantes, Coyoacán

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Fideo Seco – Bowie, Colonia Roma

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Barbacoa – El Hidalguense, Colomia Roma

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Birria Jalisqueña – Tacos Frontera, Colonia Roma

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Casa Oaxaca – Culver City – Barbacoa de Chivo

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There’s a serious new Mexican restaurant on the westside – Casa Oaxaca, the wonderful Santa Ana restaurant, has just opened a new location on Venice Boulevard in Culver City. It’s so new that the Grand Opening is later this week – on Friday, August 9.

I met Rogelio and his crew, and tasted their delicious food at the recent East LA Meets Napa fundraiser event, so I’ve been looking forward to this new opening ever since.

The menu is unusually interesting, filled with specialties from the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. The number of fish and shrimp dishes reflects the long coastline of Oaxaca, and of course, some of the most famous moles are represented. I felt I should choose one of those, but I was just in the mood for barbacoa de chivo, and ordered that. It’s a favorite dish I’ve had in many places, and it usually tastes pretty much the same… delicious but the same. Rogelio’s version, to my surprise, was different, with a rich red broth, boldly spiced, but it’s the spicing that sets it apart from the others. Beautifully presented with black beans, a pyramid of rice, lime wedges and chopped onion and cilantro, I couldn’t have been happier. Even the hand-made tortillas were different, lighter and flakier than usual, reminding me of another Oaxaca specialty, tlayudas (which are also on the menu).

I’m really happy to have such a serious restaurant on the westside, and I know I’ll be stopping by regularly.

Here’s the address: 9609 Venice Boulevard, Culver City, CA 90232

Here’s the website: http://casaoaxacarestaurant.com/

El Borrego de Oro – Tacos de Barbacoa

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There are a lot of great meat experiences in Los Angeles, ranging from Argentinian steaks to Shanghai style pork shanks, but I’ve just added a new favorite to my list.

El Borrego de Oro serves lamb barbacoa style, in which the whole lamb is steamed in an underground oven, covered with maguey cactus leaves. The result is a remarkably flavorful meat so soft that it falls off the bone. This is the style that has been perfected in the Mexican state of Hidalgo over many generations. They sell barbacoa by the pound, and will even cook an entire lamb for you by special order, but I went for the tacos… despite my good intentions, I can only eat so much.

The meat is cooked essentially without spices, to preserve the rich meaty flavor, so I was slightly surprised to receive two tortillas, each with a generously large, but unadorned piece of meat on top. Accompanied by cilantro, chopped onion and lime wedges, all I needed was a liberal splash of smoky, spicy chile sauce for a perfect experience.

With all 3 locations in East LA, I had to drive for this experience… I’m looking forward to doing it often in the future.

Here’s the website: http://borregodeoro.com/