Monday, April 17, 2017

Where to Eat: Mexican Street Food @ Cocina Condesa, Studio City

The Eats: Mexican Street Food, including favorites like tacos, elote, four types of guac and more

The Location: The Valley (Studio City)

The Vibes: Lively, rowdy, Southwestern themed

Good for: Alone, dates, groups (large and small)

When-To-Go: Daily

The $$ Factor: Apps $7 - $13, Entrees, $14 - $22, Cocktails, $12

The Names behind the scenes: Executive Chef Eddie Garcia, Executive Beverage Director David Rubin

The 4-1-1: Chef Garcia has worked at a ton of well-known L.A. restaurants, including City Tavern, Malo’s, Sweeney’s Ale House and The Woodman

Parking Situation:
Valet and free/paid street parking

I’ll Be Back…: For the Guacamole Loco!

Weekend brunches. $5 Margarita Mondays. Taco Tuesdays. Daily all-you-can eat taco lunch buffets and afternoon happy hours. 

Clearly, Cocina Condesa is trying to get us to come visit, and never leave. 

This airy, brightly colorful bar / restaurant on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City offers a variety of reasons to saunter in on any given day, whether it’s to stuff our faces with endless rounds of tacos or to sip on mezcal margaritas to kick off the week.

In a playful, lighthearted manner, Cocina Condesa makes unconventional and fun twists on traditional Mexican fare, juxtaposing many different flavors — from crispy and chewy, to sweet and spicy. And, apparently, many of the recipes also come from and have been in Executive Chef Eddie Garcia’s family, for generations.

Here’s a look at some of what's caliente at Cocina Condesa …

The four guacs. There are four guacamoles to tickle your fancy, ranging from a house guac to super spicy and a fruity one with pomegranate seeds and dried apricots. The most unusual one is probably the Guacamole Loco, pictured below. Fresh avocado gets mixed in with spiced mango and lime, all topped off with cojita cheese and toasted crickets. Yes, toasted, crunchy, surprisingly absolutely-delicious crickets.

Antiojos. A wide variety of Antiojos — appetizers, or “little cravings” as they call it — are up for grabs, from vegetarian friendly options like Fried Sweet Plantains to heaping, filling portions, like the Empanadas, pictured below. Two fried dough shells are packed tightly with juicy shredded, braised chicken and topped with creamy manchego and cojita cheeses.

Having grown up in SoCal, I’m also a huge fan of elote — a.k.a. Street Corn — and Cocina Condesa’s version of this glorious snack is on point. Corn-on-the-cob comes slathered in cojita cheese, chili powder, lime juice and a spicy Tapatio aioli. 

Happy Hour findings. Cocktails and small plates are discounted like at any other given happy hour in the city, but what makes this one stand out in particular is the $7 Two Tacos with Rice & Beans plate, pictured below. You get so much for what you order, and, you can mix and match any of the ten tacos off the regular menu. There are the standard taco fillings like chicken, steak, and carnitas, but then there are more one-of-a-kind fillings, including short rib with sriracha salsa and mescal braised Brussel sprouts with raisins. 

Desserts. And, save room for desert! You can’t go wrong with  the decadent chocolate brownie with fried vanilla ice cream, topped with dulce de leche sauce...

... or with the churros and dulce de leche dipping sauce.

Libations. The creativity doesn’t stop with the food; the signature cocktails hold their own weight, too. With names like “Boyz in the Hood” and “El Chapo,” these drinks are serious business, smoothly blending super fresh fruits, juices and purees with extraordinary ingredients, like grapefruit bitters and cinnamon simply syrups. The Spicy Mango Margarita, pictured below, is a refreshing combination of mango puree, tequila and agave, with a chili-lime salt rim giving it a zesty kick.

Other notable spirits / beverages: Five different tequila flights for those who prefer their tequila untainted and straight up; the Bronco, the Cocina Condesa version of a Moscow Mule; and, a respectable house margarita (pictured below).

So, as you can see, there are quite a few selections to enjoy here. Choose to sit on the sizeable outdoor patio or inside, by the bar area which can get loud and boisterous, depending on the time and day you go. Wherever you sit though, don’t forget an order of the Guacamole Loco.

See you there soon!

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