Rocío’s Mexican Kitchen

For some time. I’ve been a follower of Rocío Camacho, the Mexican chef known all over Southern California particularly for her excitingly creative mole sauces. She has worked at a number of Los Angeles area restaurants, bringing her distinctive style to each, but has never opened her own place… until now.

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Over the weekend, I was invited to AltaMed’s annual fundraiser, East LA Meets Napa, and was pleased to see that Rocío’s Moles de los Dióses was serving beautiful tacos featuring 3 of her signature moles. This is a restaurant in the Valley in which she is a partner. I love her Mole Poblano, Manchamanteles and Red Pipián, and went back several times before I had had enough.

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My surprising discovery at the East LA Meets Napa event was that Rocío Camacho was represented by another restaurant, Rocío’s Mexican Kitchen. When I tried her wild and daring combination of a classic Spanish Paella and a Mole Poblano, I knew I had to make a trip to Bell Gardens to see what she had on the menu.

The location was a surprise. It looks like an old-school burger stand, with a take-out window, and a small seating area. We forgot all about our surroundings when we saw the sophisticated Mexican menu, and made our difficult choices.

First up was a beautiful Aguachile, basically a ceviche dish, of fresh raw shrimps served with cucumber slices, avocado, pickled onion and a thick, earthy chile sauce. Spicy, oceany and refreshing. I ordered the pork ribs in a cheerfully sticky mango and habañero sauce. They were meaty ribs, and were served, another surprise, with Espagueti, a nicely cooked pasta in a green sauce.

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The star of the show was the Chile Relleno, normally a common comfort food, but brought vividly to life with a truly unique Mole Poblano. Of all the standard moles, it seems to me that Poblano can have the widest interpretation, and this was probably the most unusual one I’ve ever had. There was the expected smoky, earthy complexity of course, but there was a strong fruity component that made it truly special.

A lovely Flan for dessert, and a very pleasant staff made this an especially nice experience. I’ll be back soon.

Here’s the contact info. There doesn’t seem to be a website yet: Rocio’s Mexican Kitchen, 7891 Garfield Ave., Bell Gardens, 562-659-7800

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East LA Meets Napa 2015

AltaMed’s wonderful East LA Meets Napa fundraiser event celebrated its 10th anniversary on Friday evening, and once again, I was lucky enough to be invited.

Established over 40 years ago, AltaMed is Southern California’s leading non-profit health care system delivering integrated primary care services, senior care programs and health and human services for the entire family.

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The theme of the event is to showcase Southern California’s best Mexican restaurants, and the best Latino-owned wineries. It’s an inspired combination, and everyone put their best foot forward. Once again, the event sold out early, as I’m sure it will next year, judging by the happy faces of the attendees.

As in the past, the event was held at Union Station. When I first heard about it, I imagined we would be dodging commuters who were headed for the trains, but the airy courtyard of this historic building provides for a free flow of guests trying out the interesting foods and wines, as well as those who came to dance to the live salsa band.

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Each of the participating restaurants brought one or two of their signature dishes. Especially memorable was the Cochinita Pibil from Doña Rosa, served on one of the most perfect tortillas I’ve eaten this year (for the record, I’ve eaten a lot of great tortillas this year.) Rocio’s Mexican Kitchen offered something daring (and delicious) by combining a Paella (the classic Spanish dish) with her distinctive Mole Poblano. Chichén Itzá, served their Yucatan special Panuchos, King Taco served, yes, tacos, and El Cholo once again brought their spectacular green corn tamales. Casa Oaxaca had people laughing about their grasshopper salsa… until they tasted the delicious flavor.

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There were wonderful wines from Alex Sotelo Cellars, Delgadillo Cellars and Trujillo Wines. It was a temptation to visit LLamas Family Wines, San Antonio Winery, Ceja Vineyards and others, but I can only cover a certain amount of ground in one evening. I have those to look forward to in the future.

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Once again, the event was flawlessly organized, and it was a very enjoyable evening. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of it. My list of must-visit restaurants has grown (in fact, I’ve already visited one since Friday evening) and I’ll be sure to share my experiences in the coming months.

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Buffet Lunch – Rocio’s Moles de los Dióses. Sun Valley, North of Burbank. Los Angeles

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I have such fond memories of Rocio Camacho’s previous restaurant, Moles La Tía in East L.A. that I was delighted to finally try her new place.

We were presented with a choice between the regular menu, which features a remarkable selection of Rocio’s trademark moles, and a well-stocked buffet. Normally, I tend to stay away from buffets, but this one looked so fresh and varied that we went for the chance to try a wider range of dishes.

Moles were represented this week by chicken and pineapple slices in a rich, spicy mancha manteles, and pork chops in toasty-flavored red pipián (pictured above). There were also chilaquiles, fish in a creamy tequila sauce, menudo, nopal salad, a spicy treatment of Mexican style scrambled eggs and a tasty vegetable dish with zucchini, onions, nopal and portabella mushrooms (see photo). Everything was truly delicious, but for me, the highlight was the carne en su jugo (pictured above). Described by my friend as a spicy cross between soup and salsa, it featured tomatillos, steak, beans and serrano peppers.

After a dessert of rich, dense flan and rice pudding with rompope sauce, we walked away – slowly walked away – happy that we made the trip to the Valley.