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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Guelaguetza Restaurante - Los Angeles

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Shortly after the devastating 7.0 earthquake in Haiti, Gourmet Pigs organized an online auction of gift certificates to Los Angeles-area restaurants with all the proceeds going to charity. I scored a gift certificate from Guelaguetza Restaurante of dinner for two that included two appetizers, two entrees, two desserts, and two drinks. She bought the other gift certificate.

So in March, we decided to try Oaxacan Mexican cuisine and invited L.A. and O.C. Foodventures and WeezerMonkey to join us.

While we were looking over the menu, the waiter brought us tortilla chips topped with mole and queso fresco.

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I ordered Chilacayota en temporada (Mexican sweet drink made from a special squash, cinnamon, and dark brown sugar), $2.50. A quick search for chilacayota revealed that it is a green squash similar to a pumpkin. I don't remember the drink being particularly pumpkin-like, just incredibly sweet.

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For appetizers, we couldn't bypass Chapulines a la Mexicana (Mexican grasshoppers) cooked with tomatoes, onions, chilies, and cheese, $12. We squeezed some lemon juice and sprinkled them on top of tortillas. They were spicy, tangy, and what you'd imagine grasshoppers would taste like -- crunchy on the outside and squishy on the inside. :P

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A close-up of the grasshoppers.

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Really. In case you had any doubt.

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One of the others ordered Atole Blanco (Mexican hot drink made from corn dough), $2. It tasted like a thick horchata.

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The rest of the appetizers and entrees were eaten family-style and shared amongst the four of us.

Especial de Carnes (Mexican special meat plate) with two kinds of meats and chorizo, served with rice, black beans, and green salad, $12.50. The meats were cured and dried, similar to jerky.

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Costilla de Puerco Enchilado, Frito y Asado (Mexican chile-marinated and fried pork ribs served with rice, black beans, and green salad), $12.50. The ribs were flavorful, but a bit dry. Actually, I found the meats in general to be a lot drier, less juicy, than I prefer.

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The Festival de Moles platter included: black, red, Coloradito and estofado mole served with a handmade crispy plain clayuda (fried tortilla), rice, and shredded chicken breast, $12.

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The plain clayuda is the big crispy tortilla in the center.

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But wait! We're still not done. We also ordered Tamal Oaxaqueno de Mole con Pollo (Mexican tamales with chicken), $7. The tamale was wrapped in banana leaves, stuffed with chicken, and topped with black mole, served with rice and black beans. I love tamales so this was more to my taste than the meat dishes.

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Camarones Enchipotlados (Mexican Shrimp in chipotle sauce), $12.50, served with rice, black beans, and green salad. Sauce! I think the dishes with sauce were definitely better than the ones without.

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Botana de Chalupas (Mexican fried small thick corn tortillas topped with seasoned vegetables), $6, served with a side of Guacamole).

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Botana de Molotes (Mexican fried corn dough rolls filled with potatoes and chorizo), $6.50, served with small side of guacamole.

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While we were eating, Fernando Lopez, one of the owners (the restaurants are run by a brother-sister team) stopped in to check up on us. He's friends with Gourmet Pigs so he insisted we also try the Horchata con Tuna y Nuez (Mexican sweet rice drink, chopped nuts, and cactus fruit puree), $2. The nuts getting softened in the drink was a little odd to me, but otherwise, it was quite refreshing.

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Since we only had the atole blanco, he also insisted we try the Champurrado (Mexican drink made from atole blanco and Oaxacan chocolate), $2. This was like a super thick hot chocolate. Would be great on a chilly day.

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For dessert, we went with Platanos Fritos (Mexican fried plantains) topped with sour cream and walnuts, $4.50.

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Nicuatole (Mexican gelatin-like dessert made from corn flour, cinnamon, and sugar), $3.50. The woody piece was part of a cinnamon stick. Think of flan-like consistency, but more corny in taste with a touch of spice.

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Arroz con Leche (Mexican rice pudding), $2.50, with cinnamon and raisins.

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And you can't go wrong with flan, $2.

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But, since Fernando was there, he also insisted we try the house special, a Chocoflan (Mexican chocolate cake with a layer of flan).

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And he also insisted we needed to try all the moles, so he added red and green sauces of which I've long since forgotten the names.

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If you've been stuck in the tacos and burritos Mexican food rut, I would recommend giving Guelaguetza Restaurante to try out Oaxacan-style Mexican food. While I liked the dishes with sauces more than the meats, which I found too dry, it definitely expanded my knowledge of Mexican cuisine.

Other Mexican restaurants:
Cabo Taco Baja Grill - La Mirada
Carnitas Michoacan - Los Angeles (Lincoln Heights)
Chichen Itza Restaurant - Los Angeles
Cook's Tortas - Monterey Park
El Ranchero Restaurant - Alhambra 
Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen - Orange
King Taco Restaurants #11 - El Monte (Garvey Ave.)
Los Cinco Puntos - Los Angeles
Old Town Mexican Cafe and Cantina - San Diego
Senor Fish - Alhambra
Tacos Baja Ensenada - (East) Los Angeles
Taqueria Chihuahua - Los Angeles (Mar Vista)

We dined at the 8th street location, which is now closed, but the address of the next closest location is below.

Guelaguetza Restaurante
3014 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90006
Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Saturday 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Sunday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

1 year ago today, STK - Los Angeles (West Hollywood).
2 years ago today, the first pomegranate blossoms on my tree and cataloging garden updates.
3 years ago today, Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen - Orange.


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