Cocina Condesa Enhances their Food & Drink menu

z_signWhile there are so many restaurants in LA, I’m personally motivated to return to a place when I know the chef really cares about serving the best that he or she can offer. I get that feeling each time I visit Cocina Condesa.

Visiting Cocina Condesa is a transformative experience. As long as it isn’t windy, the roll-up doors are up allowing diners to enjoy fresh air dining. Vibrant primary colors are used for the chairs and walls and figurative Mexican folk art is displayed throughout the restaurant. It is a fiesta for the eyes.

Executive Chef Eddie Garcia continues to refine his menu based on a simple goal: use fresh quality ingredients and incorporate bold flavors. It’s evident that he also takes notice in the dining trends of LA’s better restaurants like using Mexican Gulf Shrimp from sustainable fisheries and chicken from Mary’s Organic Chicken.

I was hesitant about ordering something ordinary like guacamole, but my wife wanted to try the Guacamole Fuego. After seeing it, I was delighted at the colorful presentation with the chopped orange habanero chiles topping the guacamole. The sweetness of the golden raisins helped offset the heat of the chiles and I was pleasantly surprised.

Rajas and Cheese Tamales stuffed with Oaxaca cheese

Rajas and Cheese Tamales stuffed with Oaxaca cheese

A special item that day was their Rajas and Cheese Tamales. It was stuffed with Oaxaca cheese and topped with toasted pumpkin seeds and a flavorful pipian mole. This classic Mexican pumpkin seed sauce was tangy, herbal and spicy all at the same time and paired nicely with the mild Oaxaca cheese and the tamale.

Lamb tacos are braised in beer and topped with cabbage slaw and watermelon salsa.

Lamb tacos are braised in beer and topped with cabbage slaw and watermelon salsa.

Lamb tacos is another new item on their impressive taco line-up. It’s so new, it hasn’t made it to their menu. The lamb is braised in beer and topped with cabbage slaw and watermelon salsa. The combination of braised lamb with the natural sweetness of the watermelon salsa was a delight to my taste buds.

Cerveza Battered Camaron or beer battered shrimp was topped with papaya jicama slaw and avocado crema and served as tacos. The slices of jicama gave it a slight crunchy texture and the avocado crema paired nicely with the flavorful beer battered shrimp.  

Even non-vegetarians will enjoy their roasted cauliflower tacos. The slightly caramelized taste of the cauliflower with kale and caper aioli was both sweet and salty. Combined with the housemade corn tortillas, I would be happy just eating those for a meal.

Carb watchers will appreciate that Cocina Condesa can provide their tacos ‘paleo style’ using Boston butter lettuce,

Carne con Queso - Braised Brisket with roasted fingerling potatoes and manchego cheese

Carne con Queso – Braised Brisket with roasted fingerling potatoes and manchego cheese

What resembled brisket hash was named Carne con Queso. Braised brisket was shredded and combined with roasted fingerling potatoes, pico de gallo, pickled fresno chiles and topped with shredded manchego cheese. The roasted fingerling potatoes was an interesting way to pair potatoes with this dish.

Agua Chile with papaya lime water, red onions, and cucumber chips

Agua Chile with papaya lime water, red onions, and cucumber chips

I was pleased to see Chef Garcia choose Mexican gulf shrimp in their Agua Chile dish. In addition, they add papaya lime water, red onion and cucumber chips. The papaya lime juice was refreshing and unlike traditional Sinaloan agua chile, the shrimp wasn’t overpowered by the lime juice.

Not to be outdone by Chef Garcia, Beverage Director David Rubin has introduced a few new cocktails. Consistent with the style of the food that is served, Rubin offers a modern take on Mexican craft cocktails.

One of their latest is ‘El Chapo’. Rye whiskey, maple syrup, black walnut bitters and orange bitters are combined together and topped with an orange peel. The drink was extremely smooth and the maple syrup nicely complimented the bitters.

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Of course when I ordered ‘El Chapo’, my wife had to order the ‘Bonita Chica’. This is another new drink. This features ultra premium Ciroc Vodka as a base. It includes Veev Acai Liqueur, pomegranate juice, club soda, orange zest and fresh lime juice. Salt is applied along the rim. This drink was crisp, fruity and very easy to drink.

I was very surprised to see a top flight ultra premium Rock Sake as the base of a craft cocktail here. Called the Suavecito, it included cucumber, Squirt, Berliner elderflower liqueur and fresh lime juice. This cocktail was loaded with citrus flavors and was quite refreshing. It was one of my favorite drinks that evening.

Cocina Condesa runs an in-house Mezcaleria. This is a one stop shop for sampling many different types of quality mezcals. If you are interested in learning more about mezcal and the differences between them, they are more than happy to help you learn about this fine beverage.

Mezcal is used as a base for many of the craft cocktails; one of them I tried, The Maestro. Mezcal Espadin is combined with fresh lemon juice and Fresno chile infused honey, and a ginger orange peel is added for garnish. The outside of the glass was partially coated with chapulines spiced salt.

Another new cocktail is La Primavera. Kappa Pisco is poured as the base; it is combined with white peach puree, fresh lemon juice, fresh peach, cinnamon and simple syrup. This drink was both sweet, fruity and refreshing.

The Bronco is one of their most popular craft cocktails. It is their version of the Moscow Mule. It consists of whisky, fresh ginger, soda, fresh watermelon juice and fresh lemon juice. Both my wife and I enjoyed this drink. Unlike some establishments that veer too much towards ginger beer, the use of fresh ginger allows the flavors of the fresh fruit to come forward.

Horchata Pana cotta

Horchata Pana cotta

Horchata Panna cotta is based on the dessert that is trending in LA. Instead of milk, Garcia substitutes horchata. A layer of caramel was on top. The panna cotta is topped with slices of fresh kiwi. The result is a slightly lighter version of this custard-like dessert. Individuals that like horchata will love this dessert.

Mini Churros with fresh fruit and a warm caramel sauce

Mini Churros with fresh fruit and a warm caramel sauce

Mini churros is one of Cocina Condesa’s signature desserts. Looking at it, you think you can eat just one mini churro and call it an evening – wrong!  There is something about the taste of the churro, cinnamon, powdered sugar and warm caramel sauce that is extremely addictive. It’s impossible to eat just one!

The next morning I pulled out the Carne con Queso left overs from the fridge, reheated it and topped it with a fried egg. This was the perfect weekend breakfast – I was in heaven!

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Follow Bryan on twitter for the latest and greatest in food trucks and street food. @btsunoda.

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