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Apr 5, 2009 03:21 PM

Rivera: Review with pics

1050 S Flower St #102
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 749-1460

D started with the mussels. These are made with chorizo in a garlic pisco broth, not really served in a broth per se, and the chorizo came in thin strips king of laid across the top. These were good, not great. The broth was a little creamy and the chiles were extremely hot for D. The mussels were a little on the small side, and I prefer mine a touch more tender.

From the snacks part of the menu, I wanted to sample the patates xips, or potato chips with chipotle-lime crema and caviar. These were a hit. The crema was more like a mousse, with a beautiful flavor. Not too spicy and not too citrusy, a really nice balance. And I could eat caviar on anything. However, they could put more potato chips in the plate. Seriously, I should not have been able to count 10 chips.

Through the glass of the cooler behind the bar you can see several non-standard soda type bottles. One row was Bubble-Up, a soda that D remembers from the 1970's. I don't really remember it but both D and the bar back agree that Bubble Up is lighter in carbonation than 7-Up, and tastes less sweet. It is nice. And it comes in its own glass!

Based on listening to our conversation about margaritas, the mixmaster behind the bar made something special for D to sip at. It had tequila, cucumber, lime and something sweet but not sugary, agave nectar or maybe honey. It was seriously delicious, although a little too sweet for D. We added another shot of tequila and I ended up drinking it for him anyway. Rivera serves their cocktails with these huge, beautiful, glacieresque ice cubes. With less surface area than you would get from a glass full of ice chips or cubes, this cube melts a lot more slowly and your drink retains its structural integrity longer. Not that I ever leave a drink sitting full for long. I need cube trays like this for my own freezer. Anyone seen any of these about?

For dinner, D had cow on the brain. Not mad cow, just a little prime beef steak. Carne churrasco with onion foam, core of a purple potato, sweet potato and radishes. For some reason, the bartender told us the foam was cheese, but it does not say cheese on the menu nor did it taste cheesy. It was super light. The beef was on the small side, compared to a steak house, which is not a bad thing. Maybe 8 oz. Beautiful little piece of flesh.

I ordered the Tasmanian sea trout, served with saffron quinoa and a corn husk of corn and zucchini. I did not taste saffron in the quinoa mixture, however the quinoa was also mixed with spinach and it was fantastic. The Tasmanian sea trout tastes and looks suspiciously like salmon, so I did some research. Quel surprise.

An article on The World Wide Gourmet discusses the fish,

"Tasmanian Ocean Trout has a distinctive rosy pink/orange flesh and high omega 6 content which makes them an ideal eating fish. The flavour is more subtle and less salty than Atlantic or farmed salmon, and according to many chefs, much better tasting.

But why fish from Tasmanian waters?
The environment is key. The ocean trout are raised in a wild area, a pen in a protected spot in Macquarie Harbour on Tasmania's west coast, renowned for the purity of its water, which is brackish (half saltwater, half fresh water). When the fish come to feed, the fresh water cleans their gills naturally. What's more, the current is very powerful so as the trout "exercise," they get stronger. And since this is not a mass production operation, the pen isn't overpopulated. These are just of few of the reasons why I favour this delicious and versatile fish"!

The veggies in the corn husk, the veggies on D's plate and the spinach and quinoa mixture were fantastically delicious. John Sedlar really has a way with veggies, which is something I highly prize in a chef. Almost anyone can throw a good piece of quality protein on a grill, but attention to making the vegetables an equally quality part of the meal is meaningful and will bring me in for return visits.

I was disappointed with the frijoles negroes. They were wonderful, slightly spicy and sitting in a red sauce that seemed made from chipotle and eggplant, actually, this assessment somewhat based on texture. However, there were hardly any frijoles negroes in the sauce. I mean, there were more than ten, but not many more. In my opinion, the frijoles were accenting the sauce not the other way around. The flavor was great but there should have been more beans in that dish. And that dish was small.

Not a thing crossed my palate Friday that wasn't delicious. Every single morsel was just so worthy of re-eating. This is going to become high on my list of suggested spots in Los Angeles when people ask me where to dine. I think many people are skeptical of high end Mexican, being that there are so many amazing and amazingly cheap Mexican and Central American options in Los Angeles. However, Rivera could turn the skeptics.

review with pics here:

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  1. A trout pen in "a wild area"? I wonder if the good folks at "World Wide Gourmet" would call the penal colony on Devil's Island a stronghold for communing with nature? Give me liberty or give me wildflowers! ;-)

    Getting back to that prime beef, which I also have on the brain at the moment, do you remember what cut it was? I assume, given your reaction, that it was both tasty and tender, but which characteristic was more prominent? Did the light onion/cheese foam contribute flavor, or was this a glorious taste of pure beef and nothing but the beef? Etc. and thanks.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Mel Gee

      My husband says the beef was delicious, on the lean side yet still tender. He didn't dip the meat in the foam, he dipped the veggies in it and says it was lovely.

      Yeah, I find the "pen" in a wlidlife area an interesting concept. I like the idea of the way this fish is harvested, and it was certainly delicious. The portion was huge.

      1. re: lotta_cox

        Tasmanian Ocean Trout almost sounds like it should be part of a "guy walks into a bar" joke.

    2. Nice review. Rivera is a wonderful restaurant that almost ruined my food trip to NY, because I knew I couldn't get this type of food anywhere else. Bobby Flay is not even close. You should try the duck/bean entree and the chile rellenos. Amazing. How was the texture of the fish. I was curious since I heard it was a bit overcooked there for LA standards. I like mine flaky very moist, barely cooked through.

      1 Reply
      1. re: peppermonkey

        I didn't find mine overcooked at all. It was soft pink and slightly translucent in the very center. Maybe your piece was not as thick as mine and they accidentally overcooked? Mine was perfection. I was super impressed with the whole experience. I cannot wait to go back and try some different items from the menu.

      2. A wonderful review as I've noticed all of yours are. Nice photos. I'm especially fond of the Bubble Up bottle photo. I can't believe it's still being made!

        One question, no dessert?

        2 Replies
        1. re: SilverlakeGirl

          thank you so much for your kind words, and even more for reading. the Bubble Up was a delight, I have never even seen it in a store. Nope, no dessert. We went to town with dessert Saturday night at The Bazaar.

          1. re: lotta_cox

            As with all things soda, you can find Bubble Up at Galco's

            Galco's Old World Grocery
            5702 York Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90042

        2. sat at the bar yesterday and had a great time letting Julian improvise my drinks. If you love cucumber and scotch get the scottish maid. The olive tasting was good. The ceviche was forgettable but the lamb chops were delicious. This was the second time my food was looking back at me, but this time it wasn't a live shrimp head frantically waving it's antenna, it was just some pepper stenciled into the form of a woman's eyes. The plating here is just fun.

          7 Replies
          1. re: peppermonkey

            "... If you love cucumber and scotch...". Who doesn't? ;-)

            1. re: silence9

              went to rivera on tuesday - big let down. good bar with a great selection of fresh ingredients, dinner was a different story. ordered several of the snacks and starters and was less than impressed (especially after the glowing review it got in LAT). ordered both pork dishes for dinner (the mole was decent but the braised pork wasn't braised at all and way too fatty to be served at such a trendy place)
              would go back for a drink but not the food

            2. re: peppermonkey

              i had the olive tasting the first time I went, we went just for snacks so I didn't do an entire write up. I wasn't thrilled with the olives. they were just OK. I do think the restaurant is great, though, and I will be back soon.

              1. re: lotta_cox

                I really like the downtown restaurants but I've never tried Rivera. What's their speciality?

                1. re: LadyintheKitchen

                  upscale mexican food. but really fantastically well done.

                  1. re: lotta_cox

                    i wouldn't say it's just mexican, more like pan latin, or southwest fusion....whatever it is, it's damn good!

            3. Thanks for the nice report. We were there yesterday; we liked the smoky dog snout salsa with tortilla strips. (I forget what the snout reference was about).

              The braised kurobuta pork short ribs were a big hit with our son, & my husband enjoyed the poblano chile relleno salad, smoked chicken, corn, pimentón aïoli.

              I had the poached artichoke stuffed with marinated slow roasted pork, a dish which sounds more like comfort food than it was, for me. The cold poached artichoke was filled with greens and topped with three slices of pork. A dipping sauce would have improved this dish, or a dressing for the greens which could have done double duty as a dipping sauce for the artichoke. It seems to me that the concept for this dish is incomplete.

              The chocolate torte with pineapple was pretty tasty, especially the deep chocolate flavored torte itself.

              It was a nice treat to have a genuine sopaipilla. I seem to remember the ones in New Mexico being bigger and puffier and served with honey, though. Rivera served a nice unsalted butter studded with pepper & orange zest with it.

              I am happy to have this chef offering his cuisine once again to us here in Los Angeles.

              5 Replies
              1. re: Babette

                This is exactly how I remember sopaipillas from when I lived in Texas as a kid. I wonder if there is somewhere in LA who serves one in that style?

                1. re: lotta_cox

                  I have not been back in about a year but Engine Co. No. 28 offered big, puffy sopaipillas with honey along with its bowl of chili.

                  Engine Co # 28
                  644 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90017

                  1. re: New Trial

                    I live very close to downtown. Thanks for the excellent info!

                  2. re: lotta_cox

                    I'll leave the phone calls up to you, but I spend a lotta time in both Houston and Austin and would love to have a place to go for sweet sopaipillas. According to a Web site I found, somebody declared the sopaipilla the Texas State Pastry, but I don't recall ever seeing it in a restaurant. The closest thing I know about is Navajo fry bread in the El Paso area.

                    1. re: Harry Nile

                      Fascinating! Surely two people would not lie about their experience with sopaipillas in Texas.

                      Here is a recipe for them:

                      Maybe you should try the Texas board yourself prior to your next visit?