Loteria Grill at the Farmers Market in Los Angeles has always been a place I love to eat Mexican food so when I heard they were opening one up in Westlake, I nearly crapped my Levi's.
I mean, the food is sensational at the Farmers Market location plus they make my personal favorite Mexican dish: Cochinita Pibil, which now I can enjoy in the culturally rich and diverse (not really) burrow of Westlake Village. Those bastards don't deserve this kind of culinary excellence but, whatever.
In any case, after parking my car and walking up to this brand new establishment, the first thing I notice is that there's no freaking sign stating that this is in fact Loteria Grill. Of course, its definitely the place and the building is still undergoing the finishing touches but I just wanted to fill up blog space by pointing out the obvious.
Okay, is it as good as I've built it up to be? well.......
Cochinita Pibil: So, if you don't know, Pibil is basically slow roasted pork in a citrus juice (like orange juice) usually wrapped in a banana leaf. I think its amazing and much to the unhappiness of my wife, this is my favorite "Mexican" dish. Anyway, it was what I expected; rich and complex in flavor and very tender. It wasn't as spicy as I would have liked, though. Maybe the management felt that Pibil needed to have some broad appeal in order to sell I suppose....so maybe they toned it down a bit for that reason? I'm just spitballing, I don't know what the hell I'm talking about.
Tinga de Pollo: So this is also one of my favorites (Stewed chicken in peppers) yet their version wasn't that good. I think that maybe because I make this at home all the time and usually do it up really spicy I expect the same from the restaurant version. But still, this was on the bland side, really.
Papa Con Rajas: Something that has become a popular taco item over the last few years has been the potato taco. This is something that I learned to make from my mom. I'm used to eating a potato taco in a corn tortilla that's been fried (dorado) and have always felt that having it in a "soft shell" never really tasted right. But in the case of this taco, Loteria really hit a home run. This potato taco has a very complex flavor profile due to all the goodies they threw on it. Pablano peppers with salsa verde and queso fresco certainly help but the mashed potato's themselves are what made this taco shine; great texture with a velvety mouth feel. Even though the tortilla was not fried in oil, it all seemed to all work out none the less. Well done.
Other than that, the tortillas here are hand made but not hot enough off the griddle and the although the side salsa that came with my order was very flavorful, it had no heat to speak of.
There's some issues here that I need to address before I end this post. This place is expensive ($3.00 - $3.75 per taco depending on the filling) for the size of taco you get; Loteria Grill is not what I would call your standard taqueria where the working man can grab his lunch or late night meal. Its a high brow restaurant/take-out hybrid. Its not a pretentious place at all, but pretentious folks may frequent it.
The other thing, sometimes things look really great on paper. Like when I imagine the Lakers having Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul all on the same team. While that lineup looks impressive, and each individual is talented, the team still needs to have chemistry in order for it to truly work.
The problem here, is that I love Cochinita Pibil and Tinga De Pollo ( I also love Chicken Mole and Chicharrones en Salsa Verde) but it doesn't mean its gonna work in a taco, and that's it.
Oh, I'll come back to Loteria Grill for sure but only to try those items on their own and not in taco form.
And since this blog is only to further the taco cause in Ventura County, I'm limited in discussing Loteria Grill's menu as a "whole".
If you have the cash, please go ahead and try these guys. As always, my review is based soley on the tacos I ate. 3/5 stars.
180 Promenade Way
Westlake Village, Ca 91362