Saturday, August 30, 2014

Rivera Rolls On

Chef John Sedlar must have had some weird and wonderful dream about dim sum carts morphing into food trucks based on what's happening at his Rivera in downtown LA. Of course, he's always been one to invent and re-invent, none-too-modestly naming his first book Modern Southwest Cuisine. Heck, he's been the driving force behind Museum Tamal, that's how seriously he takes this food, but it seems being serious also means being playful--just check out the edible flowers pressed into the tortillas above. (And that's Indian Butter, not guacamole, because it will be the richest guac you'll ever taste.)

So this is how it works--you can order off the menu, or you can get tempted by the waiters pushing about carts that don't just carry about samples but the actual stuff you can eat, right away. And so you will be tempted and quickly fulfilled, and nothing will entice more than the butternut squash tamal, perfectly cooked and if you get a bite of the pork shoulder and squash and goat cheese all at once you will come close to ordering a second even with your mouth full, all the flavors ricocheting off of and ratcheting up the other flavors.

Of course, Rivera is the kind of restaurant that can give you quinoa and make you like it, with the regular menu flan de elote, a perfect creaminess, just firm enough and then the quinoa, black in this case so providing a fine contrast for the best-butter-yellow flan (every plate is an eyeful with Sedlar), and then also providing a bit of crunchy contrast too. Here's to more savory flans like this one.

Let's not forget that Julian Cox created cocktail list, either, with film- and music-inspired drinks like the Blood Sugar Sex Magic (rye, basil, lemon, red pepper, and not one tube sock) and the Vote for Pedro (rye, Pedro Ximinez sherry, Aperol, dandelion & burdock bitters, flamed orange).

The only thing missing might be a cart for them to roll you out on when you're done.

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