Chichén Itzá – Los Angeles – Mesquite Grilled Shrimp

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Several years ago, when I learned that Chichén Itzá served Yucatán style venison tacos, I dropped everything and went to try them. They don’t seem to be on the menu any more, but they were absolutely delicious. Since then, I have been back many times to their South Grand Avenue restaurant, as well as to the short-lived MacArthur Park location. I’ve had perfectly executed red and green pipiáns, Yucatán specialty poc chuc and many other wonderful dishes. There’s always a feeling of anticipation while driving there, because, out of character for me, I haven’t settled on a single favorite dish.

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of meeting Gilberto and Gilberto (yes, two Gilbertos) at the East LA Meets Napa fund-raising event for AltaMed. Each of the participating restaurants presented a specialty dish for the sophisticated crowd of over 1,000 people, and Chichén Itzá’s mesquite grilled shrimp with a habanero cream sauce was a stand-out success. Served on a bed of julienne zucchini, the distinctive flavors of the shrimp and mesquite were beautifully balanced by a flavorful cream sauce with just enough habanero heat to add a whole new layer to the experience.

A consistently good restaurant, run by really nice people… what more can we ask for?

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

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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

El Parián – Birria – Los Angeles

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Walking into this Jalisco style restaurant, you would swear you were in Mexico. The smells, decorations, customers and staff all add to the image. The food is wonderful, and everyone is very friendly. My friend is a vegetarian, and they even brought him a beautiful bean and cheese burrito for $3.95… And it’s the best birria I’ve had anywhere. I’m now a regular customer, despite the slightly awkward location.