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Provecho Restaurant: Disappointment, Waste of $$

I was excited to come here because I've heard about their opening for months now and the location is just two blocks from my office. I figure the Mid-Downtown location would be a prime spot for some delicious Nuevo-Mexicano cuisine. The chef's bio reads well and the concept seems strong enough.

Decor is well thought-out, open and clean with nice modern chandeliers and dark brown leather banquettes. A bar-counter overlooking the cook's work and a monstrous waterfall is available for solo-diners. The main bar also looks inviting with TVs and a slew of interesting tequilas to please any connoisseur.

But the food left something to be desired. "Bread" service was a bland, from-the-market tortilla barely heated and some cheese "croissants" or empanadas cutely wrapped with banana leaf and served with a spicy, limey sauce.

Ahi tuna with margarita gelee and poblano was run-of-the-mill. Tuna was mealy and bland (again), with the spicy-sweet-sour gelee really there to mask the deficiencies of the fish. Sorry, but you can't find lack of flavor.

I order the shredded chicken torta since it was the cheapest entree on the menu. A healthy selection of hard and soft tacos, sopes and tamales grace the menu but I wasn't really set on ordering them since they seemed like they wouldn't fill me up. My server recommended I come back rather than trying to eat both the torta and duck confit sopes in one sitting. Hm, does he know I can eat a lot?

Anyways, the torta took an inordinate amount of time to come before the maitre'd apologized and blamed some computer error for the delay. The torta finally came and it was pretty small. I knew it wouldn't fill me up but I tried it anyway. It came sided with a three-frijoles salad, decently seasoned, cloying cold and filled with an oddly chewy bit that I couldn't identify. But there was a large chewy bit in the torta when I bit into it - a fat piece of chicken cartilage. I lodged it out of my mouth and kept eating at the paltry sandwich.

The meat to bread ratio was about 1 to 4 (1 being the meat), and the chicken was dry and relatively flavorless.

I also had a standard-issue pineapple juice since I don't usually like drinking just water with my meals. Tequila was out of the question since it was lunchtime and I had to head back to the office after.

Maybe I ordered the wrong dishes. I saw that other orders of the torta were better portioned. The tacos look pretty tasty, but they're just two an order and cost $9. That's pretty steep in my opinion.

The rest of the entrees cost over $20. Do they not realize that they're catering to a lunch crowd and that they shouldn't go too much beyond $10-12 to serve that crowd? For dinner I can understand if they go over $20 - there's gotta be a way to pay for the 3 dozen employees rushing back and forth all over the dining room. But lunch shouldn't cost $38 for one person, unless it's a business lunch. If I wanted to get a decent business lunch around the area, there are plenty of other options - Roy's, Daily Grill, maybe even the upcoming Chaya Brasserie and Drago Centro. Shoot, even Ciudad is just a few blocks away and they have a near identical concept with MUCH better execution.

So what's left for Provecho? Well easy, even if something isn't that exciting on the menu make sure it's tasty. And reorient the lunch menu so that it caters to the Downtown lunch crowd. Ordinary people will give you much more brisk business than the expense accounters, who will head to Chaya, Drago, Roy's or Ciudad over this place.

If you're a downtown loft denizen you might want to check out Provecho and judge for yourself; see how it compares to Ciudad. If you're going to make the trek out here for lunch, you're better off going to Mendocino or even Wolfgang Puck Bistro. I've been to both of those establishments and they serve much better lunch fare for a fraction of the cost.

Provecho Restaurant
800 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 489-1406

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  1. You got excited about the wrong restaurant it seems.......luckily there like 10 more neuvo latino spots opening soon, including Casa and Riviera.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Adsvino

      Yeah, I'm looking forward to Casa, it's also nearby my workplace.

      1. re: risottoman

        I tried both Casa and Rivera on Tuesday night and both were very good. The highlight of the food at Casa was their take on chili rellenos, which is stuffed with chorizo and ground dates, but I also very much enjoyed their take on carnitas, a bone in pork shortrib with a deliciously crispy exterior. also tried the queso flamado, the pumpkin enchiladas and the lengua tacos and all were very good. I really enjoyed Kris Morningstar's cooking here much more than I had at Blue Velvet.

        Headed to Rivera next, which is still in the midst of training its staff. This place has absolutely delicious cocktails and I'll be back again for a drink since it's so close to my office. High points here were an amazingly fresh plate of scallop crudo and their deconstructed mole with lamb (which was slightly overcooked, but still had great flavor). Also had the quail with frijoles and loved the bird but found the beans a little too sweet for my taste. Also tried the relleno here which comes stuffed with crab. I love the idea, but it wasn't anything especially memorable. All the dishes had some sort of molecular gastronmy element, like a pomeganite foam with the mole and a pepper gelee with the quail.

        Both are billed as nuevo latino, but are so different that it really wouldn't be fair to compare the two.

        1. re: mollyomormon

          A moveable feast! It almost makes me miss working Downtown. Is Rivera offering any of Sedlar's famous tamales?

          1. re: New Trial

            I cannot believe I managed to eat that much, although the portions at Rivera are fairly delicate. Because it's still a soft opening, they were offering a very abbreviated menu and the tamales weren't on there. Per eaterla, they've been really secretive about their final menu so I'll be interested to see what's on there. I forgot to mention, I had an anejo honey sour to drink and then something with bourbon that was also great from their cocktail menu. They're using that specialty ice that you can also get at the Doheny and The Edison (http://www.neveice.com/index.html).

            1. re: mollyomormon

              But service of that ice only comes at a glacier's pace.

    2. This saddens me, but is consistent with my experience with Adoro, which has now been open more than a year, I think, and is notable mostly from the lack of any mention here
      whatsoever since my opening week inquiries..

      I admittedly even have a certain difficulty "getting" Ciudad; there's not enough stuff on the menu that's REALLY wonderful, and I'm too old and square to like their really noisy bar.

      Me, I'd rather go to Chichen Itza, but it's kind of a long walk for lunch...

      3 Replies
      1. re: silverlakebodhisattva

        seriously, what's up with the mediocre nuevo-mexican? why can't this city do mexican food well? (except maybe la casita mexicana)

        1. re: risottoman

          While technically not "this city", Babita does Mexican food really well, but alas it is in San Gabriel.
          In this city, chichen Itza and La Flor de Yucatan might be options worthy of your dinero, as might La Serenata di Garibaldi in Boyle Hts.

        2. Not to be a stickler, but you went practically the first day it was open, before the kitchen was even confident enough to open for dinner. I have no idea whether it is going to be any good - corporate Mexican concepts tend to suck especially hard - but there is often a conflict between wanting to be the first person through the door and wanting to eat really well.

          1 Reply
          1. re: condiment

            I went this Sat nite for dinner. Empty and horrible. All menu items we tried were terrible. Tried sopes with smoked chicken and the sopes were so hard you could not cut through them with a knife. Lotsa tortilla problems, even the soft tacos were bad. Fancy decor but the food is not there.

          2. Actually, just opened and still just doing lunch, and it seems after one visit you are being sorta harsh. I went with a friend on new Years Eve and had a very nice meal. We started with a watercress salad with citrus and cumin vinaigrette that was lovely, moved on to pork rillette toasta, that was only mexican via the corn tortilla discs, but pretty true to french service with good mustard and cornichons. Red snapper soft tacos very nice, and pork al pastor, which to me was the weakest link only because it was a bit tough. We both had a drink and our bill per was $38. I think you need to let them sort out the bugs and try it again. By the way, the space is beautiful, and to consider the solo diner is rare. They have a great space for singles in front of a spectacular water feature.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ajbinla

              Provecho? I had dinner there a few weeks ago (see above).

            2. I gave Provecho a try for the DineLA promotion for dinner last week. Portions were ultra-tiny, service was stretched, and flavors were very hit-or-miss.

              First course was a halibut sashimi with truffle which was not good. It looked pretty on the plate, but the fish did not taste particularly fresh yet somehow managed to be bland unless mixed with the accompanying marinated onions. Our table split an lobster stuffed chile relleno appetizer (not on DineLA menu) which was much better. The chile relleno was crisp and hot mand lobster filling savory and delicious

              Main course was snapper Veracruzano. About 2" x 2" of snapper that was sitting in a flavorful broth and cooked perfectly. This was the best dish of the night, despite the minuscule portion. Dessert course was a tiny, sub-cupcake sized piece of their spicy chocolate cake. I didn't taste much chocolate as the overall effect was more like brown gingerbread

              Service was clearly stretched to the limit and we had to flag down different busboys to bring us silverware. I'm in no rush to go back to Provecho