In July 2005, through a series of meals, it became clear that La Casita Mexicana co-owners Jaime Martin del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu were producing some of the finest food, at some of the best value, of any restaurant in the city. In order to re-confirm the eight-year-old establishment’s relevance, and to celebrate my birthday, I met my friend Adam for lunch.
As soon as we sat down, we received a basket of airy corn tortilla chips drizzled with three uniquely flavorful moles: burgundy-hued mole Poblano, pepian verde made with Serrano chiles and burnt-orange pepian rojo, all sprinkled with sesame seeds. There was even a dish of spicy red salsa.
Queso Azteco ($8.99) featured plantain leaves filled with four different Mexican cheeses, Poblano chile slices, cactus strips, mushrooms and Mexican herbs. A natural for filling tacos, the queso was served with warm red (guajillo chile), green (cactus paddle) and white corn tortillas, representing the colors of the Mexican flag.
In the past, La Casita Mexicana only offered fish during Lent. Thankfully Jaime and Ramiro added sealife to the regular menu. The white board special, adobo spiced sea bass fillet ($10.95), was cooked with nopales (cactus strips) in corn husks.
Tres Moles ($10.95) allowed us to top either puerco (pork) or pollo (chicken) with the delicious triptych of mole poblano, green and red pepian. In this case, three rows of sesame-sprinkled sauce blanketed tender boneless pork.
We drank Agua de Limon Con Semillas de Chia ($1.99) – semi-sweet lemonade with chia seeds. Yes, those are the same chia seeds that sprout on Chia Pets, the Chia Alarm Clock and now Chia Scooby-Doo. Ch-ch-ch-Chia.
Envueltos de Arroz Con Leche Y Crema de Nuez ($3.99) was a fried tortilla purse filled with rice pudding, smothered with pecan cream sauce. The innovative take on a classic dessert was cinnamon-dusted and topped with mint.
Driving home from Bell, I called my brother and proclaimed La Casita Mexicana “the best Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles.” He said, “That’s a bold statement.” I said, “Not if you’ve eaten there.” There’s no doubt that La Casita Mexicana is still serving L.A.’s most exciting Mexican food.