"Anejo at Wilson" Culver City (Wilson re-imagined)
[I was reluctant to post this, since it's kind of like seeing your old friend with the big house and the nice car a year later and he's now living in his car, but here goes...]
Around the 5th of May, Wilson changed its entire menu, hung a neon "Pacifica" sign in the window, and transformed itself into a cantina. I realized this only after we'd sat down at what I thought was Wilson and were brought a straw basket of chips and some salsa. This was around the same time I also noticed the appetizers were priced in the single-digits.
I was actually pretty excited, since I like both surprises and Mexican food. The server explained about the change-up, and mentioned that a couple dishes were kept (charred octopusa app., carnitas in avocado leaf), but that the prices were "slashed" (insert obligatory "it's the economy" comment here). We ordered some drinks (fresh cherry margarita, mojito) and listened to the specials, which included a squash blossom quesadilla, a New Zealand snapper (whatever that was going to be) and "fried clam tacos, Baja style" (again, whatever that would be - spent a lot of time in Baja w/o ever seeing a fried clam). The menu itself was pretty straight up cantina chow - tacos, burritos, mole, enchiladas, with maybe a couple tweaks here and there. I had the lamb barbacoa and my wife, who wasn't expecting Mexican food, stuck with the burger.
The drinks were sweet and unoffensive, and I had a second mojito w/o feeling much effect of alcohol whatsoever. The burger was served with pepper-jack cheese, thick-sliced bacon, and sort of a chipotle aoli, which to me was just tang overkill, and a large pile of fries. Wife ate about half before throwing in the towel. Not a bad a burger, just not notable in any way.
The lamb was more of a Persian-style braised dish, but seemed to be spiced principally with salt (not over-salted, just zero kick to it) although it appeared to be served in a red chili sauce. Served with what tasted like red beans and some nicely fluffy rice, it was all just too much on the plate - about 180 degrees from the tiny portions of "old" Wilson - and though I really wanted to thoroughly enjoy it, it didn't give me much to go on.
One high point - the tortillas were handmade, and I'm sure the tacos are all on the same delicious tortillas. Also, we finished up with a decaf, which was served as an Americano/espresso, a welcome touch at a Mexican place!
What can I say - we were ready to be charmed. We're pulling for this place because it's relatively close by, and the owner/chef was obviously trying something new and different in what can only be described as a challenging location (Washington Blvd. industrial strip next to a Salvadoranean nightclub). The glass-walled space is still attractive, and I wouldn't hesitate to come back with some friends for drinks and tacos some night, or to meet up after work.