Chef Esdras Ochoa is a staple of the Mexican food scene in Los Angeles, having for years worked an award-winning stand at 1st and Beaudry in Downtown Los Angeles. Eventually that got raided by the cops, prompting him and some partners to create Mexicali Taco, a full-fledged restaurant on the edge of Chinatown. He parlayed that into success as the opening chef/partner of Salazar in Frogtown — a GQ Best New Restaurant award winner as of today — but now has sights on something even bigger: Hong Kong.
Word got out not long ago that Ochoa might be cooking up something across the water, but now it’s been made official. The chef tells Eater that he’s partnering on a new project (as in, not a Salazar or a Mexicali) in Hong Kong’s Kennedy Town neighborhood, one with plans for a full bar, carne asada tacos, flour tortillas, and a whole lot more.
The space, says Ochoa, will be like a casual taqueria but at a livelier level. There will be pool tables, room for standing and drinking, and platters of tacos coming from the kitchen — something Hong Kong hasn’t seen much of, at least not at this level. The cuisine won’t be strictly in the style of Mexicali, Mexico or of Los Angeles, but rather the menu will rely on Ochoa’s background as well as the ingredients he’s able to pull in, and what he finds locally.
Reached for comment about the move, Salazar owner Billy Silverman sends along the following:
In May, Chef Jonathan Aviles will be moving into the lead role in the kitchen of Frogtown’s beloved Salazar. Executive Chef Esdras Ochoa will remain a partner in the restaurant as he steps out of the kitchen to pursue a new venture in Hong Kong. Aviles, who has manned Salazar’s grill as Chef de Cuisine since the restaurant's early days, worked closely with Ochoa in shaping the restaurant’s menu and will continue to spearhead its development. Favorite dishes will remain on the menu, in addition to a few newcomers in time for the summer menu.
Ochoa is slated to leave for Hong Kong in the next few weeks on a one-way ticket, so there’s no saying for sure as to when he’ll be back, or what his next move is. Obviously the chef has business interests here locally as well as with concepts like Califas Tacos and new projects elsewhere in the States, so it’s a fair bet to assume Los Angeles will be seeing the carne asada veteran around again sometime soon.