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Tinga on La Brea. Some of the best Mexican food I've ever had.

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fooddude37 Aug 1, 2010 05:22 PM

I normally don't speak in hyperbole like that. Some disclaimers first: 1) I'm aware there's a thread about Tinga but I felt there was too much discussion about LSR in Santa Barbara and I want this review to just cover this restaurant. 2) This born-and-raised in Southern California guy has never been to Mexico. 3) That said, I've been to many of the often-praised Mexican restaurants in L.A., including La Parrilla, Loteria (not a fan), Monte Alban, Carnitas Michoacan, Mariscos Chente, etc.

I've gone twice in the past two days, as it's right up the street from me and there's a huge lack of good food in this area. I've had:

Cochinita Pibil tacos. Ridiculously good. The seasoning and textures is just excellent. It always bothers me when I get a guisado or something that's long cooked and there's just no texture to it, as if it were rillette or something. The flavor has a deep complexity and I noted some char on it, it reminded me of real barbecue from Lockhart, Texas (just not as smoky).

Shortrib tacos. Ridiculously good. Again, the texture of the meat. They call it deshebrada but instead of shredded, it's a nice hunk of cooked shortrib that is juicy and bursting with meaty flavor. The mashed potato and salsa verde just rounds it out to be a truly excellent taco.

Tinga Tostadas. Excellent. Chipotle flavor in the chicken is perfect. Again, perfectly seasoned, beautifully crisp tostada.

Side of beans were a little bland. Creamy rice is really good, but I would probably stick to the tacos. The side of grilled corn is fantastic, with a dollop of salsa verde and crema...I could eat a giant bowl of this.

Both their horchata and jamaica are two of the finest I've ever had.

Today they gave me a free coconut macaroon. Moist interior, crispy edges, dipped in chocolate. Awesome. There was also a special of chicken and waffles, with the chicken being battered in Horchata. Both days I've gone they've given me a little freebie. I wouldn't expect it in the future and I assume it's because this is their first week. They didn't need to sell me any more. If they can maintain their consistency then I will be a loyal regular, freebies or no.

I don't know how authentic it is. I spoke to the chef and some staff, apparently he's a catering chef and this is his first outlet. In cases like these I could care less about authenticity. The food tastes really damn good here and you can tell this is a work of love.

It's not cheap. They sell the tacos "a la carte", which is actually two tacos (or two tostadas in the case of the tinga). The pibil and shortrib tacos were something like 8.50 for two. But they are delicious, and substantial. Drinks are 3.75 but it's a large cup and both times I've been offered free refills.

I think many people will start comparing Tinga to Loteria or Red O, that realm of "high end" Mexican that attracts mostly gringos. I've been to Loteria many times and Red O twice, and my two experiences at Tinga were far more enjoyable than either.

I will be back often.

P.S. oh, and speaking of La Super Rica, I grew up in Ventura and used to go to LSR quite often. Tinga takes the cake on them too...

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Monte Alban
11927 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

Mariscos Chente
4532 S Centinela Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90066

Red O
8155 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046

Tinga
142 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

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  1. hnsbmg RE: fooddude37 Aug 1, 2010 06:11 PM

    You say that you don't normally speak in hyperbole, fooddude, but your profile claims you'd like to go skydiving on acid. So, what acid did you mean -- balsamic vinegar?

    But you bring me around with your very apt complaint about getting "guisado or something that's long cooked and there's just no texture to it, as if it were rillette or something." As much as I like Babita, for example, I can't stand their meats cooked guisado-style for exactly that reason. By the way, what -- I assume, beef -- BBQ did you get in Lockhart that reminded you of the Yucat√°n seasonings and pulled-pork texture of a good cochinita pibil? Certainly not Kreuz's headbanger brisket! Also: if I understand your taste, you should really like the $3.50 cochinita pibil burrito at Yuca's on Hillhurst.

    Did that juicy "hunk of cooked shortrib" have much fat, a common complaint when shortrib meat isn't carefully pulled away from bone, gristle, and fat? I hope the answer is "yes" (but hold the gristle) for the sake of succulence.

    Hey, fooddude, you've really provoked my interest in this new place, despite the weird-sounding waffles with chicken "battered in Horchata" and other dishes that don't seem anything like their claimed spiritual ancestor, La Super-Rica. Based on your enthusiastic recommendation, I'll try it and report back.

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      bsquared2 RE: fooddude37 Aug 1, 2010 08:41 PM

      I went there yesterday and I have to say, I was underwhelmed. It was fine. A great place if I lived in the neighborhood. But to say you aren't a fan of Loteria, but loved Tinga? I thought Tinga was a lot more Loteria, rather than La Super Rica influenced. The tacos were fine, but the portions were a bit skimpy. Two small tacos and about 7 tortilla chips for $8.50 was a little much to me.

      I had the Conchita Pibil which was fine. Not amazing, not bad. It was not like any BBQ I've had in Lockhart (or anywhere else in TX). I expect a few Texans to chime in on that comment.

      Grilled corn was very good. But to go to a restaurant for the corn? It wasn't that good.

      Horchata was a bit run of the mill. Good , but not great.

      The place wasn't bad. But I didn't find anything outstanding (except the corn). I don't know if there is a reason to go back. Since there are many other choices.

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      Tinga
      142 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

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        bad nono RE: fooddude37 Aug 1, 2010 08:49 PM

        call me dense, but I don't see the point when you have two excellent (and cheap) taco trucks down the La Brea (at Olympic & Venice, respectively) and regarding chicken and waffles, there's Roscoe's nearby too.

        As a side note, I had a very good cochinita pibil taco at Mexicatessen a couple of weeks ago.

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        Mexicatessen
        830 S Atlantic Blvd, Monterey Park, CA 91754

        3 Replies
        1. re: bad nono
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          fooddude37 RE: bad nono Aug 1, 2010 09:05 PM

          I was going to make a comment about El Chato and Leo's in the review but it was getting longwinded as is. Totally different animal. I love both of em, and the al pastor at Leo's is currently one of the great loves of my life at the moment (with some of that red sauce...good lord is that good). It's not exactly comparing apples to apples here, but if I had to choose, I would probably take the cochinita at Tinga over the pastor at Leo's, as much of a heretic that makes me, I'm sure. (This is without factoring the dollar price tag at Leo's and the fact it's open until 3 a.m.)

          Regarding the Texas BBQ comment, there is a certain texture that meat gets when it's properly cooked slow and low. A certain density, I don't know how else to describe it. There was a portion of my pibil that was black, that indeed reminded me of a good brisket, that black, very very well caramelized meat flavor.

          Different strokes for different folks bsquared2. I don't care for Loteria because some of the flavorings are odd or imbalanced to me, and I'm not a fan of food that's been cooking forever in steam pans.

          I like Yuca's on Hillhurst when I'm in the area. It's not a destination spot for me, whereas based on the food I've had at Tinga the last two days, it would be. The pibil at Yuca's is tasty and juicy, it has a certain juiciness about it that suggests some moisture is added to the meat via some sauce, whereas the pibil I had at Tinga was....denser, meatier.

          I'm really looking forward to hearing others' comments on this place...

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          Yuca's
          2056 Hillhurst Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027

          Tinga
          142 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

          1. re: bad nono
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            fooddude37 RE: bad nono Aug 1, 2010 09:10 PM

            Oh, and I fail to see any hyperbole in a desire to go skydiving on acid ;) No balsamic for me unless it's extra vecchio...

            1. re: bad nono
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              bsquared2 RE: bad nono Aug 2, 2010 07:43 AM

              At $4.25 per (small) taco, I think that is a little much. Maybe if they invited some of the doormen from Red O and invited Lindsey Lohan over?

              The place was good, but not great IMHO. I still don't get the TX BBQ comment because there was no carmelization on the meat when I had them. I did notice the staff was totally overwhelmed. They were nice enough, but the place is really dinky.

              I think it is fair to say that this was their opening weekend, so I will probably give them another shot. Did think the price to food ratio was a little high for basically a taco joint.

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              Red O
              8155 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046

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              rezpeni RE: fooddude37 Aug 4, 2010 01:42 PM

              Just stopped by for lunch, it's a total cluster f- at the moment, mixed up orders, long waits and CASH ONLY. Managed to try the steak taco, pibil, and corn. Intense flavors, nice ingredients, they aren't playing with the heat in the habanero salsa. Definitely a little more refined and fresher than Loteria. My favorite was probably the steak taco. I will be going back but not soon, I'll give them some time to get it together.

              1 Reply
              1. re: rezpeni
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                fooddude37 RE: rezpeni Aug 4, 2010 02:59 PM

                Yeah, I should have mentioned in my posts that both times I went it was like 3-4 in the afternoon and there were only a couple other people eating so my food was prompt. Bummer, I hope their service issues don't affect them too much.

              2. b
                bigelectriccat RE: fooddude37 Aug 16, 2010 02:04 PM

                I just returned from eating at Tinga. It's fantastic and worth the time it took me to get there from the Westside.

                Located next to American Rag just south of 1st Street.

                It's small, communal, friendly and delicious.

                I tried a whole lot of things and won't go into the details of my entire meal beyond saying go and try for yourself. It's solid.

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                Tinga
                142 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

                1. c
                  coffeebrownies RE: fooddude37 Jan 27, 2011 06:53 PM

                  Yumm. Just had a wonderful quick, low key dinner at Tinga. Quiet night, so no evidence of any kinks in service. We had just 3 things--but they were amazing: Long Braised Short Rib Tacos, which alone were more than I could eat, the Grilled Cumin and Garlic Rubbed Pork Loin Tacos and the Elote Especial. The elote, grilled smoky corn with a heavy lime flavoring, was particularly terrific in terms of both flavor and texture. We came away ($23.00 later) more than satisfied. Everything was intensely flavorful, and while more expensive than 2 Loteria tacos, this was a lot more food. The folks next to us brought wine--I hadn't thought of Tinga as BYOB, but apparently they are open to that.

                  And, yeah, there are cheaper tacos at a food truck, but that's not really the point of dinner out.

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                  Tinga
                  142 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

                  1. liu RE: fooddude37 Jan 27, 2011 09:24 PM

                    Take the address with you when you go. When we were there a month or so ago, they did not have a sign out.

                    We had lunch there just when they opened and our service was quite good...as was the food! They seem to be doing something a little different with their food and I would like to return to experience more of their flavors.

                    1. r
                      rplatkin RE: fooddude37 Dec 30, 2011 10:45 PM

                      Just ate at Tinga for first time. Service and food was great at lunch time. Would absolutely return and recommend to others. If you know Pocito Mas, it has similar modernized Mexican food, but with more attention, flavor, and atmosphere.

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