This week, Besha Rodell returns to LA Weekly to give her take on Salazar, Esdras Ochoa’s ode to Sonoran cooking. The critic has largely positive things to say about LA’s hippest new restaurant in her lengthy review. Here are the highlights.
Yup, this restaurant is cool as hell
"Walking through the gates [...] is like stepping through a portal of some sort into a desert fantasy. It's not too slick — the muted pastel chairs look as though they were pulled from a 1980s high school cafeteria, the sandy dirt underfoot gives everything a slightly dusty vibe — but it is beautifully laid out and designed."
Ochoa’s cooking at Mexicali convinced Besha to move to LA
"When I came to California for the job interview that landed me in this position, Mexicali was the site of my very first L.A. taco. Its vampiros and salsas are part of what convinced me that living in this city would be a rewarding way to exist."
An interesting explanation for the dearth of Sonoran cuisine in the City of Angels
"The comparative lack of Sonoran Mexican food in L.A. — as well as its prevalence in Arizona — is thanks to that transnational connection and the immigration patterns it engendered. Where we are tied geographically and culturally to Baja, the same is true of Sonora and the Southwest."
Like in Jonathan Gold’s review of the restaurant, B. Rod also mentions inconsistent tortillas
"The tacos come on freshly grilled, slightly stretchy flour tortillas that have improved greatly in the three months since the restaurant's opening, though they still vary slightly in consistency from night to night. I'm going to say the variations are weather-conditional, because I love the romance of climate science as it relates to baking and other flour-based skills, but I actually have no idea. It could be different cooks; it could be Mercury's astrological status."
Besha just wants to day drink
"This place reminds me in some ways of a great beer garden, of somewhere you'd spend a long Sunday afternoon getting tipsy and debating the meaning of life."
The large format dishes are pretty good
"There are better places in town to spend $54 on a rib-eye — though the dish is perfectly satisfying, the cooking isn't quite precise enough to be worthy of the expense — but the simply grilled pork and flatiron steak are as good as the best backyard meal, and the fish is significantly superior to what most home cooks could achieve over a live flame."
Frogtown is on its way to "the ‘g’ word"
"There's now a sandwich shop that names its sandwiches after NPR personalities, for chrissakes, and the proximity to the river plus the abundance of industrial buildings is like catnip for — what shall we call them? — the artistic class."
And is full of "wealthy yuppies"
"The clientele of Salazar could be actors on a set of a parody comedy show about Silver Lake, especially early in the evening, when throngs of impossibly beautiful women call after frisky toddlers with names like Sage and Beatrix."
Salazar is so very now
"Every now and then, a restaurant can rise above the sum of its parts and be perfectly suited for its exact moment in time. Right now, in Los Angeles, Salazar is that restaurant."
Salazar earns three stars.