The high-low journeys of the LA Times food criticism pages continues this week, with a look at a laid-back Anaheim spot for machetes, the extended-length pseudo-quesadilla popular at Mexico City street stalls. On the other side of the fence is APL, chef Adam Perry Lang’s luxurious steakhouse and brasserie on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, where dry-aging is the key to success.
First up is Fonda Mixcoac in Orange County, not far from Disneyland “but a world away,” says critic Patricia Escárcega. The speciality of the house is the above-mentioned machete, a long (like, over two feet) stuffed and cheesy tortilla situation that not only looks good for Instagram, it works well on the plate. Here’s the intro description from Escárcega:
[Machetes are] roughly the length of a Louisville Slugger, a folded-over surfboard of masa stuffed with two or three meals’ worth of cheese-smothered meats and veggies.
Each comes stuffed with a different meat option, ranging from cecina (dried beef) to chicharrón and beyond, and is layered through with cooked vegetables and lots of melty Oaxaca cheese. They’re as decadent as it comes, both in size and fillings, but worth the mess. In one paragraph alone, Escárcega describes hot cheese “dribbling”, a “splintering” fried corn tortilla shell, “stretchy” ribbons of still more cheese, and bites big enough that one must “smash it into your mouth to avoid spillage.” Sounds like reason enough to bring a bib.
Fonda Mixcoac has other options on the menu as well, such as weekend lamb barbacoa, tacos, and dipped sandwiches known as pambazos. But the real star of the film, much like actor Danny Trejo, is the machete.
Meanwhile up in Hollywood, Bill Addison took a look at the subtle nuances and big flavors of Adam Perry Lang’s restaurant APL. It’s easy to spend big here, Addison says, and that may be precisely the point.
“Meat is the absolute standout feature at APL,” says the critic, noting its obviousness while commenting on how surprisingly hard the stuff can be to get just right. It seems natural here though, where the 218-day aged bone-in ribeye offers a “pearly gloss” and punchy flavor: “intense yet not at all musty, with only a whiff of the usual Roquefort twang.”
Addison is also a sucker for Perry Lang’s “irresistible” smoked beef short ribs and “textbook” steakhouse wedge with its thick slab of bacon, though chunks of the rest of the menu do fall flat, including:
a gloppy and disjointed Caesar salad, a crab cake that seemed meager, dull branzino in lemon brown butter looking lost on its enormous plate
But the real secret hit? The daytime takeout window.
Here are glimpses of the masterful whimsy with barbecue that sealed his reputation. His burnt-ends sandwich, filled with tumbling hunks of blackened brisket in a not-too-sweet sauce, does Kansas City traditions ample justice. I drift into a carnal trance downing the chili dog smothered in cheese and onions, and I’ve never been much of a hot dog guy.
Addison wraps up with a soliloquy on the $50 Serious Sandwich, laced with shaved short rib and horseradish. It’s “ridiculous” at that price point, he knows, but, well, it’s amazing.
Every bite is a rapture of crisp bread, melting meat, smoke, acid and more beef.
Sounds like a ringing endorsement if ever there was one.
Fonda Mixcoac. 10660 Magnolia Ave., Anaheim, CA.
APL. 1680 Vine St., Los Angeles, CA.