Monday, July 14, 2008

Croquer: Loteria Grill's Probaditas

What's the best part about my office's "summer hours" (translation: half-day fridays)? Besides making the post office during normal hours or getting an oil change in a true jiffy, it's getting lunch outside of Burbank - Especially places I dare not tread on the weekend.
So one recent Friday afternoon off I thought a stop at one of my favorite taco stands was in order, and Loteria Grill just happens to be smack-dab in the center of the bustling and touristy Farmer's Market at 3rd and Fairfax (ed. note: a new Loteria Grill location did just opened in Hollyood! Woo!).
After a dip into Barney's Co-op at the siamese Disney-designed shopping complex the Grove, my fellow cubicle-escapee and I saddled up at the bar surrounding the open kitchen at Loteria in the heart of the labyrinth that is the Farmer's Market. The options are surprisngly limitless for such a small place, and since we couldn't decide ordered one of each! The Probaditas that is - A taco sampler platter that contains all 12 varieties on mini hand-made tortillas.
Vegetarians take note: Loteria loves you. In fact, there are more veggie taco options than any other category. These are the tangy Nopalitos (fresh cactus salad), succulent Calabacitas (zucchini and roasted corn succotash), savory Champinones con Epazote (mushrooms and epazote), and satisfying Papa con Rajas (potatoes with roasted poblano peppers). My favorites of the meaty bunch were the flavorful Albondigas en Chipotle (meatballs in a tomato and chipotle sauce) and Carne Deshebrada (shredded beef with guacamole and salsa chipotle). Also the delicious Cochinita Pibil (pork, slowly roasted in banana leaf and served with citrus-pickled red onion and chili habanero), Pollo en Pipian Rojo (chicken in a spicy pumpkin-seed and peanut sauce) and Tinga de Pollo (chicken stewed with chipotle peppers and home-made chorizo). Two of my indicator menu items to test all new taco shops (as well as standby all-around favorite Mexican dishes) are Mole and Carnitas - and both the Mole Poblano con Pollo (chicken in mole poblano and sesame seeds) and Carnitas en Salsa Morita (carnitas in a spicy and smoky chile morita sauce with avocado) passed the test, balancing the sweet smoky spice that make these recipes so special. The only taco that left me slightly unsettled was the Chicharron en Salsa Verde, which I read after my bite was a pork rind in a spicy tomatillo sauce.. The sauce was actually quite delightful.. but the consistency of the cold, wet and thick pork skin might have set me back in my goal to conquer sushi (like a fatty low-quality piece of tuna sashimi). I'll probably skip the Chicarron next time, but the sample plate was such a pleasurable way to lunch - and kept the focus of the meal light, fun and adventurous - Just how I prefer my dining.

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