Downtown has become the epicenter of L.A.'s Latin culinary boom.
The Santa Monica Progressive Dinner went well on September 23, and I followed that up with an even more ambitious walking tour on September 24, with stops designed to spotlight four of downtown’s modern Latin restaurants: Ciudad, Provecho, Rosa Mexicano and Rivera. At each restaurant, the executive chef introduced a single course and discussed plans for dineLA Restaurant Week.
We started at Ciudad, a pan-Latin stalwart from Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger that preceded downtown’s new crop of modern Latin restaurants by a decade.
We dipped a flatbread duo in hummus and olive tapenade while waiting for our full crew to arrive.
Executive Chef Jeremy Tummel was inspired by his backyard Meyer lemon trees to create silky Yellowtail Crudo with red jalapeños, pitted lucques olives, seared garlic, a dusting of smoked paprika and, of course, Meyer lemon.
It was a short walk to Provecho, where chef-owner Gabe Morales surprised us with a margarita lesson from his Partida rep in the ceviche bar, a section of the spacious restaurant offering views of the bustling kitchen through a glass water wall.
Partida’s rep limited margarita ingredients to tequila, fresh lime, cucumber and agave nectar. Half of the glass hosted a fiery chile-salt rim.
To pair with our margaritas, Morales presented decorative spoonfuls of marinated mushroom “ceviche” with John Dory and slices of drunken Manchego.
Rosa Mexicano is the latest addition to L.A. Live, AEG’s experience-driven complex across from Staples Center.
We piled into Rosa Mexicano’s pink-walled back room, which they decorated with backlit folk art.
Chef John England is a New Mexico native who worked for Rosa Mexicano in New York and Miami before landing downtown. He presented Arrachera con Camarones, a chipotle-spiked roast tomato stew loaded with grilled skirt steak, jumbo shrimp and cubes of queso fresco.
Rivera chef-owner John Rivera Sedlar presented his MYSTERY DESSERT in the Samba Room.
Rivera was originally feted for contemporary its pan-Latin cooking that’s grounded in history. As the months have passed, bartender Julian Cox has elevated the bar experience to elite status.
Cox’s Mexican Firing Squad cocktail, a mix of tequila, lime, simple syrup, soda and Angostura bitters, was another surprise bonus on the walking tour.
We each received a single crisp-edged tortilla pressed with pansies and plated with creamy “Indian butter,” which Sedlar said Western settlers called guacamole before they knew what it was.
For dessert, we each received a Spanish-inspired square of olive oil cake plated with diced strawberries, a scoop of crème fraîche ice cream and a drizzle of Jerez vinegar caramel sauce.
The progressive dinner’s final plate also held a house-made chocolate flavored with passion fruit and stamped with Rivera’s logo.
Thanks to all of the participants and restaurants who helped to make the first two Food GPS progressive dinners successful. There may be another progressive dinner this fall, so if you have any requests for the next neighborhood, please let me know in the comments section.