Location: 1050 S Flower St, Los Angeles, CA 90015. 213.749.1460
Date: September 26, 2011
Cuisine: Neuvo Latino
Rating: Kicking out the hits for decades
When I first came to California (in 1994) one of the earlier “fancy” restaurants I went too was Abiquiu in Santa Monica, by Chef John Sedlar. This place blew me away with its fusion take on southwest cuisine. Dishes like “flying lobster dude ranch sushi” and “chocolate chili releno” were ahead of their time — and delicious. So I was very sad when it closed down and was replaced by a series of increasingly boring joints. But a couple years ago chef Sedlar came back with a vengeance Downtown, with Rivera. Here he extends the work begun at some of his earlier restaurants into a full blown homage to all foods Latin.
The Playa bar. Like a sushi bar — but not.
And one of the other bars in this maze-like complex.
Even on normal nights, Rivera comes with a bewildering array of menus. Supposedly they are associated with each of its three rooms, but in practice you can order from any of the three in any of the rooms.
Above are the three normal menus.
For September of 2011 the restaurant is running a special 80s retrospective, and includes a complete menu (but only about 50% of the dishes, marked with the circular icon). These are faithful reconstructions of dishes served at Saint Estèphe (in South Bay) during that most glamourous of decades.
The cocktail menu. Rivera has really interesting molecular-style cocktails.
Like this “Barbacoa. Tequila, chipoltle, bell pepper, ginger, hickory smoked jerky!”
Parker 94. “The 2007 Laurel, a blend of 65% Garnacha and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, is deep purple-colored with a bouquet of wet stone, Asian spices, black cherry compote, and incense. Dense and sweet on the palate with tons of spice, it is super-concentrated, rich, and smooth-textured. Give this lengthy effort 2-3 years of additional cellaring and drink it from 2013 to 2027.”
“gazpacho blanco. PRE-COLUMBIAN WHITE GAZPACHO, BLACK GARLIC, GARLIC FLOWERS, MUSCATEL GRAPES.” While not really pre-columbian, this is tasty. It has a strong garlic tang and is quite sharp.
“GÂTEAU D’AVOCAT AU TOMATE ET MAĬS, SERVI AVEC DES FLÈCHES DE MAĬS JAUNE 9.00 Cake of Avocado Mousse with Tomato and Corn, served with Gold Corn Arrows.” From the 80s menu. Ahead of it’s time, and with a little heat, this is a really fine guac!
“ecuadorian crudo. HIROMASA, KUMQUATS, FRESNO CHILIES, CHIVES.” Hiromasa is just yellowtail, which always makes a nice carpaccio.
“piquillos rellenos. STUFFED SPANISH PEPPERS, CHORIZO, GOLDEN RAISINS, GRUYERE.” A variant on the spanish classic.
“tortillas florales. HOUSEMADE NIXTAMAL TORTILLAS, INDIAN BUTTER.”
The “indian butter” is more or less, guacamole. A simple dish, but good.
Tandori-type Seabass with quinoa I think.
“ensalada semana santa. SEVILLA-STYLE SALAD OF BEETS, BLOOD ORANGE, GARBANZOS, MOORISH SPICES, PISTACHIO DUST.”
A special empanada, with mushrooms on top. Tasty.
“chile guero relleno. TEMPURA CHILE STUFFED WITH CRAB, CORN, SOY, GINGER, SCALLION.” Heavy but good.
“flan de elote. CORN CUSTARD, BLACK QUINOA, SQUASH BLOSSOM SAUCE.” Wonderful light and flavorful stuff. Perfect fluffy texture and the sweet taste of corn.
“CHILE RELLENO, FARCI AVEC UNE DUXELLE ET SERVI AVEC UNE SAUCE DE CHÈVRE ET D’AIL 11.00 Chimayo Chile Relleno stuffed with Mushroom Duxelle and served with a Garlic Chevre Sauce.” From the 80s menu.
“TAMALE DE MOUSSE DE SAUMON, CUIT Á LA VAPEUR DANS UNE GOUSSE DE MAĬS, NIXTAMAL, BEURRE AU CILANTRO. Tamale of Salmon Mousse steamed in a Corn Husk with Ground Nixtamal with Cilantro Crème Sauce.” From the 80s menu. This has a texture like a tamle! But tastes pleasantly of sweet salmon.
Parker 94. “The Clos Martinet, is a brilliant offering from this increasingly fashionable appellation. Fatter, fleshier, and lower in acidity than the 1999, the 2000 Clos Martinet does not have the same precision, but it does reveal a more voluminous mouthfeel with gobs of fruit, oodles of glycerin, and a long, concentrated finish. Give it several more years to evolve and reveal additional nuances. Enjoy it over the following 12-15 years.”
“choros al vapor. MUSSELS, CHORIZO, AJI AMARILLO PISCO BROTH.”
Seasame coated chicken skewers.
“RAVIOLÍS AU STYLE DU NOUVEAU MEXIQUE, SAUCE CRÈME DE CHÈVRE ET D’AIL. New Mexican Style Raviolis stuffed with Carne Adobada (Red Chile Ragout) served with a Cream Garlic Chevre Sauce.” From the 80s menu. Pretty yummy. It’s hard to go wrong with good ravioli.
“Frejoles negros.” Takes your basic beans up a notch.
Parker 89. “A super value, this deep ruby/purple-colored St.-Emilion offers aromas and flavors not too dissimilar from a top vintage of the famed L’Evangile. Sweet blackberry and wild mountain berry fruit is interwoven with hints of raisins, plums, and white flowers. Medium-bodied and fleshy, with excellent purity and sweet fruit, this is undoubtedly a sleeper of the vintage. As the wine sits in the glass, more black raspberries seem to emerge. Anticipated maturity: 2006-2015.”
“yucatecan puerco pibil. BANANA LEAF-WRAPPED PORK SHOULDER, BRAISED SOUS-VIDE.” Soft and flavorful.
“venezuelan arepas. TRADITIONAL FRIED CORN CAKES WITH SOFTSHELL CRAB IN THE STYLE OF CARTAGENA, COLOMBI.” Also good, but we each only got a tiny bite!
“duck enfrijolada. BLUE CORN TORTILLAS, BLACK BEAN PUREE, CHEVRE, RED WINE CHILE SAUCE.” My (and several others) favorite dish. Just rich in flavor.
“puerto rican mofongo. WHITE SEA BASS FILLET WITH PLATANOS REFRITOS, GARLIC, LARDO IBÉRICO.”
A trio of various south western classics. Corn, quinoa, black beans.
“patates xips. CAVIAR, CHIPOTLE-LIME CREMA, KENNEBEC POTATO CHIPS.”
“gitano. RIB-EYE, PIMENTÓN, JEREZ VINEGAR, PATATAS BRAVAS.”
“mil hojas. 70 PERCENT COLUMBIAN CHOCOLATE LEAVES, RIPE BANANA, CABRALES QUESO AZUL, SPANISH RED WINE REDUCTION.” Sweet and salty!
“estudio en flan. THREE MODERN VARIATIONS ON THE CLASSIC DESSERT, THREE COMPLEMENTARY SAUCES.” Some very good flans.
“torta xocolata. CHOCOLATE TORTE, PINEAPPLE BORRACHO, CARAMEL.”
Rivera is full of bold flavors. The multiple menus can be a little confusing, but it’s hard to go wrong as nearly everything is delicious. I highly recommend.
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In case you need an audience before you conquer the lamp below.
Looks amazing! Really makes me wish I was living in LA. The empanada picture really did it for me. It’s a shame I wasn’t in on some of those meals.