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Feb 14, 2009 12:46 AM

RIVERA - John Sedlar's new restaurant downtown

I liked it a lot, looking forward to going back.

Upscale but casual, it reminds me of Palate, but of course (because of Sedlar) with a southwest spin. A comfortable place for foodies.

I had all starters - just skipped the main courses. This is more fun.

I sat at the lit-up bar near the kitchen, by the big jamon serrano - complete with hoof. (I had some - it's always delicate, smooth, kind of a prosciutto of the gods).

Started with the patates xips - homemade potato chips with lime chipotle creme fraich and caviar. Lovely, simple. Nicely seasoned - one can get carried away with southwestern spices, but he does it in a delicate way so it isn't overpowering. The balance of flavors was right. I will get this again.

Had the homemade tortillas with a touch of guacamole. The tortillas are made in an earthy, rustic style, with flower petals pressed it. You'll likely see this in upcoming reviews.

I had a Santa Barbara shrimp dish, but that was off the menu. The shrimp were perfectly cooked - tender, plump. Sous vide? I didn't ask, I struck up a conversation with someone. We'll see if it comes on the menu.

Then the cordoniz cuba - grilled quail, black beans. The black beans were mashed and spiced and you eat the quail like, well, it was a dip. Had a nice little (spice) heat on it too. Definitely very good and I'll get it again.

Then the "pato al vino" - duck confit in rioja reduction and cascabel (chile). Delicioso! Next time I'd order this with those tortillas to sop up more of the reduction . My favorite of the evening (thought I must admit I'm a sucker for duck confit, this was done right - tender and tasty). Again, the balance of flavors was smart and elegant. (these spices are too often done with a heavy hand - and become too dominant in the dish).

Service was excellent. I was a little smitten with my waitress.

Next time I'll come back with a friend or two or three, order more, get some wine and do this right. Many more things I'd like to sample. Fun food you can take seriously.

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  1. I was there for lunch Thursday and completely concur--can't wait to go back. Plus, the tequila flights are really interesting.
    The vanilla infused one is life changing. Or at least, it SEEMED that way.....

      1. re: Servorg

        My goodness, what a prime example of website excess: It opens with a white screen, then a poem is revealed line by line. Then the music kicks in. You click on the menu and it is offset to the right so you have to adjust the screen to read it. Now, I'll give props for detailed item descriptions including prices, but at least for me the overall effect of the website was a turnoff.

        1. re: nosh

          You can click "skip intro" and "music off," but I'm with you on this. Business Web sites should be attractive while getting right to the point with relevant information -- address, hours, and menu, e.g.

          1. re: nosh

            So true. There was a thread on the Food Media and News board about bad restaurant websites, and I posted about Rivera. Until just a few days ago, there was no menu online, which was amazing, since you could read about their philosophy and tequila chairs, but not their menu or prices.

        2. our group of Four Foodies grazed the dinner menu and also concur,
          great tastes/experience and we all want to return for more of Chef Sedlar's
          creative offerings.

          1. We ate there two weekends ago (I think it had been open for two weeks at that point). The space is very nice. We ate in the main dining space, and it is the normal very "live" space. I prefer to dine in a quieter environment, but it turns out there is a back room. I think it was called the blood room in Spanish because of this gorgeous red chandelier. Anyway, you have those options as well as a little bar area around the kitchen.

            Overall the food we had was outstanding, although one of the fish courses was on the raw side for our tables taste. I would definitely recommend this crazy cocktail they serve with Agave, Rye!, Basil and a whole Chile. It sounds very funky, but it was very tasty. The rest of the food dishes were interesting and fun. The pork which was slow cooked in a banana leaf (Yucatan style Pobli I think), was great, and the steak course was also exceptional. Unfortunately, I have a poor memory, and 10 days is like a lifetime, so that is all the detail I can call up.


            1. Nice review, foodiemahoodie. :) Can't wait to try it out soon.