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Disappointment at Rivera Last Night

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estone888 Sep 7, 2009 09:29 AM

I'd been very much looking forward to this. I've liked, even loved John Sedlar's food in the past, and I'd heard good things about Rivera, his new restaurant in downtown.

I was disappointed. Badly. As the girlfriend put it, everything was either too bland or too busy.

Our drinks took quite some time to come. Her regular margarita was excellent, one of the best we've had. My house special - donaji MEZCAL, FRESH CITRUS, POMEGRANATE, AGAVE NECTAR, CHAPULIN SALT, was also excellent and I don't usually like mixed drinks.

Tortillas Florales - HOUSEMADE NIXTAMAL TORTILLAS, “INDIAN BUTTER” - The tortillas were fresh enough, and quite beautiful with the flower sunk into them, but somewhat greasy and strangely flavorless - almost any handmade tortilla I have had from a taco truck, and especially those from Los Cinco Puntos on Cesar Chavez & Lorena, kick the butt of these. The "Indian Butter," whatever it was, had almost no flavor at all.

Xnipek YUCATAN STYLE CHARRED-HABANERO “DOG’S SNOUT” SALSA, MINI CHIPS - As our waiter put it when we asked why the habanero-based salsa wasn't very spicy, "it's the PG version of a salsa." I would have thought more the G version, it lacked any sort of sparkle or kick, the sort of things one would hope for in a starter to wake up your mouth.

ensalada espanola FRISEE, IDIAZÁBAL CHEESE, MARCONA ALMONDS, XEREZ VINEGAR - The salad would have been pretty good, we were both set to like it after our first bite, until we each got a massive mouthful of salt on our second bites. As if the salt in the kitchen had got wet and no one had bothered to break up the clumps and just dropped a couple of them like little landmines into the salad. Good thing they were good about pouring water.

bacalao negro fresco SEARED BLACK COD, SERRANO HAM CRISP - when it first came to the table, we couldn't even cut it with our knives to share (we were sharing everything.) It was sashimi once you got past the thin cooked veneer on the surface. And from the look of it, and description we'd got, it was clear it wasn't supposed to be sashimi. Our waiter took one look and agreed. So back it went to the kitchen. When it returned, we were unimpressed. It had almost no flavor at all, one of the blandest dishes either of us have eaten in a long time. And it was on a bed of something that we think might have been a watery guacamole mush of some sort, but was also so tasteless that we couldn't readily identify what it was supposed to be. The serrano ham crisps were crisp, but they could have been crisp anything.

cordero vasco BASQUE LAMB CHOPS, CHORIZO, PIQUILLOS, OLIVES, CAPERS - This was the only dish we liked. The lamb was flavorful and perfectly cooked, the chorizo, piquillos, olives and capers were tasty, but a little fussy and neither all that interesting as a blend of flavors, nor could you discern them all that well individually.

tamale BRAISED PORK SHORT RIB, HEDGEHOG MUSHROOMS, GUAJILLO SAUCE - The mushrooms were pretty nice, the pork was okay but nothing special, the guajillo sauce could have been pretty much any sauce of that color and the masa was dry, crumbly and tasteless.

pescado del día TODAY’S FRESH SEAFOOD SELECTION, PINEAPPLE, CILANTRO SALAD - The seafood was three diver scallops and they were fresh and nicely cooked. The cilantro salad seems to have been just a few small leaves placed between the scallops and the pineapple, and when you took a bite with all three ingredients at once, almost the only thing you could taste was the pineapple - which was too cold with the scallops. I understand the idea of trying for the contrast in temperatures, but they got it wrong.

So, we finished off our meal with two more drinks, as they were the highlight. We paid the $163 including tip (the service was good) and went home disappointed.

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