Lotería Grill – Santa Monica – Carnitas en Salsa Morita

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I was disappointed some time ago when the Gaucho Grill closed on the Santa Monica Promenade, but I instantly forgave them when it was replaced by Lotería Grill. I used to go to their original location when I lived near the Farmers Market on Third Street, but this is a much more inviting restaurant, and the food is every bit a good as it always was.

A long-time favorite has been the carnitas burrito with salsa morita, but this was the first time I had the entire “platillo.” Morita chiles are smoked, red-ripe jalapeño peppers, like chipotle peppers, except they are smoked for a shorter time. Interestingly, Lotería’s salsa packs more of a punch than I would have expected from a jalapeño. The rich, almost fruity flavor goes beautifully with the perfectly cooked pork, and the sides of rice and black beans provide a nice balance.

Here’s the website: http://loteriagrill.com/about-us

Moles La Tía – East Los Angeles – Portabello al Mole

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Here’s something you don’t see on any other menus. Portabella mushroom with grilled eggplant and zucchini slices, served on a bed of spinach salad… with a pistachio mole! Every bite was perfectly orchestrated, but of course, the mole was the highlight. Toasty and nutty, it also had an almost fruity undertone, balanced with the pleasant sting of serrano chiles. A brilliant vegetarian dish.

Here’s the website: http://www.moleslatia.com/

Moles La Tía is one of the participating restaurants in the East LA Meets Napa event on July 19. Here’s the website for the event:

http://www.altamed.org/eastlameetsnapa