Considering the incredible culinary pedigree of Ensenada born chef Diego Hernandez,Angelenos seemed a bit surprised his food wasn’t more overtly Mexican when he and partners opened Verlaine earlier this year across from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The chef also runs Corazon de Tierra in Baja’s Valle de Guadalupe (#34 on Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017) and Murmur in Tulum. Sous chef Esteban Lluis Abarca holds down the kitchen when Hernandez travels between restaurants. The menu changes seasonally and features plenty of Mexican flourishes at the restaurant, which houses a dark patio with black and white tile floors, cushioned blue booths, and retractable roof that’s normally oven air.
“We’re basically using local, seasonal products with a Mexican soul,” Hernandez says. “Pipian is a sauce made with pumpkin seeds. During most of the summer and autumn months, they are very easy to get fresh, toast and grind. This is a very traditional sauce, but put together in a much more refined way with fresh California products.” During my recent dinner, the earthy, nutty sauce for the bed for a beautifully cooked pork chop ($33), smoky from a mesquite-burning grill. The juicy, rosy-fleshed pork and joined a raft of grilled zucchini, celery root puree, punchy pickled onions, spinach leaves, and a shower of toasted pumpkin seeds on the exquisitely composed plate.
Dose of Vitamin P spotlights my favorite pork dish from the previous week.