Wednesday, June 22, 2011
As a fan of Ricardo Diaz's Cook's Torta restaurant in Monterey Park, I was really looking forward to when he'd open his new venture called Guisados. For those of you who don't know, a guisado is a type of taco where the filling is stewed or braised and simmered until done, whether it's a filling made with meat or just vegetables.
But before I talk about the food I tried, I want to share photos first of the quirky wall art at Guisados like the ones below. Chef Diaz does have a sense of humor. :)
By the way, when it comes to Mexican restaurants, a big plus for me is when they make their own agua frescas. For our lunch that day, you had your choice between lime, horchata and jamaica.
Other than the quirky wall art, an interesting thing about Guisados is that they offer a Sampler Plate. On the sampler plate, you get six tortilla chips topped with six different taco fillings. It's Chef's Choice, but what a great way to get 6 small tastes without having to commit to a regular size taco just yet.
My first taste was the Calabacitas which was a filling of zucchini, corn, tomatoes and pepper. It's always good to have a vegetarian option, but I found the flavor to be too bland for me.
Next was the Tinga de Pollo or Tinga Chicken. The chicken was stewed with a chorizo based sauce with onions and cabbage and topped with a fresh avocado. I liked how the mildness and coolness of the avocado paired with the slight sweetness and spice of the meat.
Third was the Steak Picado which were skirt steak sauteed with peppers and onion. I didn't find the Steak Picado very memorable, so I don't have anything to say about it. I'm sure if it was bad, I'd remember it.
My fourth taste was the Chicaron (Pork Skin). My feelings are actually quite divided regarding the Chicaron. On the one hand, I like the flavor of the salsa verde that the skin was cooked in, but on the other hand, I just couldn't get into the soft texture. Chicaron for me is better eaten crispy and dipped in spicy vinegar.
Next was the Chuleta de Puerco with diced pork, black beans, tomatoes and guacamole. I lved that the pork meat was tender and the earthiness of the beans went well with the sweetness of the guacamole and the juicy bite of the tomatoes.
My favorite of all six was the Cochinita Pibil, which is a slow roasted pork in a spicy sauce topped with pickled red onions. If you're looking for heat and a punch of flavor, this is the Guisado to get.
In between bites from my sampler plate, my dining partners and I also shared a Red Snapper Ceviche with tortilla chips and a habenero-based salsa. I wasn't really feeling the ceviche. It needed more citrusy notes or more acidity or something to pop it more.
The sampler plate and ceviche was actually quite filling, but I also wanted to sample actual sized tacos like the Camaron which is a grilled shrimp taco with onions, guacamole and red peppers. Simply prepared, but tasty.
Another favorite was the Chicken Mole taco topped with pumpkin seed and other nuts. The mole had nice layers of flavor between bitter, sweet, nutty and smoky.
Our final taco of the meal was their Pescado Taco. I wasn't a big fan of the fish itself. It was blackened and although the fish was tender, it also seemed a bit bland even with the addition of the cabbage and chili sauce.
As a sweet ending to our meal, we tried some Mexican sweet breads from the market next door, which Chef Diaz has a family connection to. Those sweet breads were awesome. They were actually fluffy and light and not as dense as I've had in the past.
While talking to the manager, he offered to give us a tour of the market next door, so we happily went along. First, we checked out the area where all the masa is made for the corn tortillas and tamales.
Then we went towards the back of the market where a hard working baker was making bread.
Overall, I enjoyed most of the tacos I had at Guisados, but I can definitely say with certainty that for me, chicken and pork were king when it came to my favorite tacos that day.
2100 E Cesar Chavez Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90033