PART FOUR – KICKIN’ IT NEW SCHOOL
Hangin’ around a real downtown is our idea of relaxation. After a night at Drago Centro, it was time for a couple of old reliables. First a hipster breakfast at the 24/7 Restaurant at The Standard Hotel……then over to Santa Monica for a stroll along The Promenade before heading to Father’s Office……for one of their famous fat burgers and an artisanal brew or two.
Of course all that eating makes ELV hungry, so when we chanced upon this little store….…. a block off The Promenade, we had to stop in for a xooro — something someone hopes to be the next rage in deep-fried doughiness. The Spanish pronounce them “Sure-ohs,” and they were tasty enough — coming as they do in too many varieties and flavors and coatings to count — but what mainly struck us was how rude and unhappy the staff were. Give ELV a good old, Mexican, cinnamon-coated churros, served by a smiling senorita, any day.
By now you must be thinking to yourself: “Surely, after all that, you must’ve had enough and decided to hightail it back to the High Mojave, yes?” Well, the answer is no…and don’t call me Shirley.
We couldn’t depart LaLa Land without another stop downtown to (yet another) brand new hot spot, where, within a stone’s throw of the Staples Center, uber-chef John Sedlar has opened Rivera…….a sunken, street-friendly, small plates Spanish restaurant that had the good sense to hire two more of our favorite Vegas food guys — Lucas Riemens (formerly of DJT) and Jordan Ogron (as sommelier).
Ogron looks barely old enough to vote, but he dazzled us with sherry and madeira pairings for a cross-section of the menu that had us marveling at his wise-beyond-his-years expertise. Tortillas florales — house made nixtamal tortillas with “Indian butter” — are striking both for the edible flowers pressed into the dough, but also for the smooth as silk avocado puree that you can’t stop spreading on them. Yucatan-style “dog snout” salsa is likewise compelling, even if Ogron isn’t pouring you a sip of Lustau PX San Emilio PX with it.
He favored us with the last sips of a 1987 D’Oliveira madeira, that had a finish longer that Don Quixote, and made the jamon iberico de pata negra taste even better that we thought this nutty, haunting, supple piece of porcine perfection was capable of.
In most places, such ethereal delights would be the highlights of the meal, but at Rivera, there was still the crudo of scallops with horseradish pearls, buttery seared black cod that had us scratching our heads over its lusciousness, and a duck confit with a rioja reduction — that tasted richly of duck, but with a red-wine sauce given a subtle kick by cascabel chiles that did nothing to interfere with its red wine friendliness. We didn’t get to any individuales selections, because there was no room after all those tasty small plates (and the hamburger and the xooros and the omelet, etc. etc.).
Rivera is a perfect template for the post-post-modern restaurant. It’s sleek, open, modest in size, has the right, au courant food (small plates Spanish), multiple seating options (tequila tasting chairs!), and a menu and wine list that can be massaged up or down depending upon your tastes and pocketbook. Whether a prince or a pauper, you can dine and drink well here, and you’ll feel like you’re in the center of something very hip and with-it while you’re doing so…because you are.
As with Drago Centro, everything here is priced to sell. Snacks are under $6, starters beneath $15 (except the other-worldly ham), and larger plates, less than $30. Our grazing meal for two with multiple sherries, madeiras, and a Malmsey, came to $155.
1050 South Flower St. #102
Los Angeles, CA 90015
In the Standard Downtown Hotel
555 South Flower at Sixth Street
Los Angeles, CA 90071
1018 Montana Ave.
Santa Monica, CA 90403