Showing posts with label Jimmy Shaw. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jimmy Shaw. Show all posts

Monday, June 11, 2012

Loteria Grill Opens on the Santa Monica Promenade

Westside fans of the Loteria Grill at the Farmers Market who lamented the long drive into LA can now enjoy Loteria's freshly made Mexican food right here in Santa Monica in the old Gaucho Grill space.

Loteria Grill Santa Monica (1251 3rd Street Promenade, 310/393-2700) opened just after Mother's Day. The restaurant and full bar are open 7 days a week, Sunday-Thursday 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM and Friday-Saturday 11:00 AM to Midnight.
A great way to experience the restaurant is during Happy Hour, 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM, 7 days a week, with an extra hour until 7:00 PM at the bar.

Happy Hour means 1/2 off appetizers and beverages (except for the specialty tequilas).

Making a Difference with Design 
When Jimmy Shaw, owner/chef, was setting up his first restaurant at the Farmers Market, Loteria could have been nothing more than another fast food restaurant in the maze of stalls. But Shaw's graphic design in that confined space stamped Loteria Grill as smart, hip and stylish.

In the new space on the Promenade, Shaw was confronted by the realities of a difficult space.

Gaucho Grill had its fans but the restaurant on the Third Street Promenade was famously dark and claustrophobic. Shaw's solution to that limitation was to knock down the front and back walls.

Feeling very much like cantinas I remember from visits to Mexico, the entrance of Loteria Grill is open to the Promenade. With the bar filled and diners soaking up the sun as they eat and drink, the open-air room is as welcoming as any restaurant could be.
Leaving the bar area on your way to the main dining room, you walk down a long hallway illuminated by a beautiful wall of three-dimensional loteria friezes.

Tall double glass doors protect the dining room from the commotion of the bar area. The high-ceiled room has a light, airy feeling. The space on the left is defined by the open kitchen and the busy activity of cooks and servers. On the right, the high wall is painted a dramatic, blood red.
The old, claustrophobic back wall has been replaced by a window with a view of what appears to be a carefully manicured  park that is actually an alleyway.
A Well-Constructed Menu
From what we tasted that day, I would recommend the Quesadillitas de Plaza, three fried masa turnovers stuffed with a delicious filling made with seasonal ingredients. This visit, the filling choices were squash blossom, roasted poblano peppers and cheese and, my choice, huitlacoche corn fungus or "truffle."
The quesadillitas had a mix of flavors and textures from the crisp masa, earthy-sweet huitlacoche filling, the salsa's mild heat and the creamy guacamole and crema Mexicana.

Whenever I am in Mexico, the one dish I always have is a shrimp cocktail. Unlike the American version, what you get in Mexico is a generous amount of freshly steamed shrimp in a chilled tomato juice "soup" seasoned with chili powder, lime, raw onions, peeled cucumber, cilantro and avocado.

You can eat the shrimp one by one with a spicy soup chaser or by placing a shrimp on a Saltine cracker with a piece of avocado and a chunk of onion.
At Loteria, the cocktail (Coctel de Camaron) is served in a large goblet, filled to the brim with shrimp, avocados, cucumber and that delicious tomato soup. Saltines are fanned across the plate like a winning poker hand.

To go with the shrimp, I had a shooter of chef Shaw's special tequila, the Loteria Double Barrel Herradura Reposado (no Happy Hour 1/2 off discount for this item). The smokiness of the Heradura Reposado paired well with the sweet shrimp.
For anyone new to Loteria, I would recommend the Probaditas Sampler. A dozen mini tacos are topped with a tasting of the restaurant's best fillings and sauces. My favorite sauce is the mole poblano, with its subtle heat and deeply rich flavor.
To go with our margarita de jalapeño and tequila martini with mango, we had the Ceviche Uno, Dos, Tres (available Friday, Saturday and Sunday). Perched on top of crispy corn tortillas, the ceviches ranged from red snapper with fresh tomato, tilapia and cilantro and shrimp with sweet mango and fiery chile habanero.

Restaurant reviews are appropriately criticized for inflated or over-enthusiastic language, but I can honestly say, the cocktails and ceviches were a riot of delicious and satisfying textures and flavors.
For a main course, you can't go wrong with enchiladas, especially when topped with the mole sauce. Although it isn't a main course, the sope with chicken or pork is also delicious.

If you're a hungry meat eater, the flank steak is very good. Carne Arrachera a La Parrilla comes nicely charred. A heavy steak knife accompanies the large piece of meat.

The dish also comes with sides that include refried beans, spicy escabeche (pickled onions, carrots and yellow peppers), potatoes with poblano peppers, zucchini & roasted corn and a generous amount of caramelized onions resting underneath the steak and soaking up all its fragrant juices.

My favorite way to eat the steak is to tear off a piece of freshly made tortilla, smear on some refried beans, add a thin slice of steak, a few strands of caramelized onion and a bit of escabeche. I slide the flavorful packet into my mouth, chew, enjoy and do it again. It's a little time consuming, but this way I savor all those wonderful flavors in each and every bite.

Last and Delicious
For dessert there are daily specials, mostly of the rib-sticking kind (flourless chocolate, caramel or tres leches cakes). I am told the tequila ice cream is good. That wasn't available so we had the Mexican sweet cheese ice cream (Helado Chongos), a thicker version of vanilla and very good.




Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Loteria! Grill Hollywood

Growing up in LA, you eat a lot of Mexican food. For the most part the standard fare of tacos, enchiladas, burritos, tostadas, toquitos, and quesadillas are enjoyable but not always memorable.

Once in awhile there's a standout. When I first ate at the Loteria! Grill, the mole was a revelation.

Just about everyone we know has eaten at the original Loteria! Grill at the Farmers Market. Located in the geographic center of the Market, there is always a line waiting to order. The lunch time crowd tends to be tourists and people who work in the area. At night families have dinner before they go to the multiplex at the Grove.

For Jimmy Shaw, the chef-owner, Loteria! Grill is a passion project. Born into a family of cooks, trained by his mother in their Mexico City home, Jimmy opened the Grill because so many of his friends missed the taste of authentic Mexican food. An instant success, the Farmers' Market Loteria! Grill was the talk of LA.

Looking to the east Jimmy has opened Loteria! Grill Hollywood, a restaurant-bar in the heart of Hollywood (6627 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood 90028, 323/465-2500) next door to Geisha House.

With an open space and high ceiling, the interior has the feeling of a modern cantina. Jimmy held onto the favorites from the Farmers' Market menu: his incomparable mole sauce, the comforting tortilla soup, the perfectly seasoned black beans...

There are so many great dishes, a first-timer can get an overview by circumnavigating the menu with the Probaditas Sampler and its dozen mini tacos on hand-made tortillas. Sit at the bar, order an ice cold margarita, and you'll be happy for the rest of the evening.

We were part of a lucky group invited to a preview dinner. Served practically every dish on the menu, our favorites were the Mole Poblano con Pollo (of course), the Sopa de Tortilla (ditto), the Champinones con Epazote (mushrooms with Eeazote), the Albondigas En Chipotle (meatballs in a tomato and chipolte Sauce), the Enchiladas de Mole (with chicken), the Summer Salad, the Guacamole y Chips, the Aguas Frescas (watermelon, lemonade, horchata)... I'm probably giving away the fact that we enjoyed every dish.

Jimmy was so generous in letting us sample the menu that we found ourselves with food to spare. Not one to waste food I braved the embarrassment of carrying out to-go containers and took home some of the Carnitas en salsa Morita (pork in a spicy sauce), the black beans, and rice. The next day I was happy to have such terrific ingredients and made a delicious soup. Our friends Ron and Annette came over for our weekly Sunday dinner and we served the soup as the main course. We raised our glasses to toast Jimmy Shaw, to thank his mother for teaching him how to cook, and to our returning to Loteria! Grill Hollywood.

Black Beans, Farmers' Market Vegetables, and Spicy Pork Soup

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup cooked black beans
1 cup cooked pork
1 small onion, washed, peeled, finely chopped
1 slice of bacon, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 ear of corn, washed, kernels cut off the cob
1 carrot, washed, peeled, finely chopped
1/2 cup Italian parsley, washed, leaves only, finely chopped
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 cup cooked rice
Olive oil
Pepper

Method

In a large sauce pan sauté the onions, garlic, bacon, corn, carrots, and parsley in the olive oil until lightly browned. Shred the meat and add to the sauté. If you are using pork, chicken, or beef that is already seasoned, then you may not need to add any heat. Taste and add Tabasco or taco sauce as needed.

Add the black beans and chicken stock. Simmer for 30 minutes. Just before serving reheat the rice in a microwave oven. Put 1/4 cup of rice in the bottom of each soup bowl, then ladle in the hot soup.

Variations

For a vegetarian version, don't use the meat, bacon, or chicken stock (use 4 cups water + 1 tablespoon butter instead).

Use cilantro instead of Italian parsley

Substitute cooked chicken or beef for the pork

Add 3 cups of spinach leaves (washed, stems removed, roughly chopped) to the sauté

Add 1 cup chopped raw shrimp (washed, deveined) to the sauté

Add 1 cup grilled sausage rounds

Top with homemade croutons and shredded cheddar cheese when serving

Brighten Up a Summer Corn Salad with Mexican Elote Spices

With an abundance of corn this summer, I've been grilling and salt-boiling corn on the cob. Seasoned with sea salt and black pepper...