This week, Jonathan Gold does a double-header review of both Long Beach’s Playa Amor and Cerritos’ Amor y Tacos, two of the restaurants from Thomas Ortega (who also helms Redondo Beach’s longstanding Ortega 120). The review becomes slightly confusing as the similarly named restaurants begin to jumble in the copy, but both prove Ortega is worthy of being included in the canon of “Chicano Cuisine” chefs that are “redefining what Mexican food might look like in California.” The Goldster describes the restaurants as such:
As informed by his Cerritos upbringing as they are by chefs like Suzanne Goin or Michael Cimarusti, using organic produce and grass-fed meat, unafraid to introduce unfamiliar flavors and ingredients to customers who may have dropped in looking for an enchilada plate.
The Times critic thinks of the two eateries as showing “two sides of Ortega’s personality, or more to the point as the tiny devil and angel sitting on his shoulders:”
At Playa Amor, there is a careful take on the Sinaloan slow-grilled fish dish pescado zarandeado, made with sea bass instead of snook. At Amor y Tacos, there are melting slabs of pork belly glazed with Mexican Coke. Playa Amor features a lovely plate of spaghetti sauced with puréed roasted Hatch chiles enriched with garlic, pecorino and cream. Amor y Tacos is famous for Ortega’s interpretation of Dodger Stadium’s infamous Doyer Dog, a full pound of crisp-skinned hot dog on an oversized bun wetted with short-rib chile, mayonnaise and mustard. [LAT]
While the restaurants share many dishes, J. Gold calls attention to the Doritos chilaquiles “in which the chips dissolve into the chile, adding a high note of the toasted-corn funkiness you smell every time you open a bag” at Amor y Tacos, and the “juicy and delicious” Puerto Nuevo-style lobster at Playa Amor.” Both restaurants seem to walk away with the J. Gold seal of approval.