Silver Lake is About to Get Duro! The Full Scoop on Ricardo Diaz’s New Taco Dorado Shop

Duros: A New Kind of Taco Dorado in Silver Lake
Duros: A New Kind of Taco Dorado in Silver Lake

 

*Originally appeared on LA Times Food’s Daily Digest Foodblog on September, 25 2013.

Ricardo Diaz continues to uphold his family’s legacy of Mexican food hospitality (Diaz’s family is responsible for L.A.’s quintessential Mexican seafood family restaurant franchise: El 7 Mares). Slated to open in four to six weeks near Silver Lake’s Sunset Junction is Diaz’s Duro, a joint project with his  brother-in-law Patrick Aguirre, former head baker at Bouchon Bakery in Napa; and his sister Stephanie Aguirre, responsible for the Michelin-rated La Taquiza Fish Tacos in Napa.

Duro will be a strictly taco dorado housewith a menu of about a dozen or so contemporary and classic takes on the folded-over crispy taco variety and the rolled-up flakyflautas. Each will be served with a different salsa and topping meant to highlight the filling, including smoked chipotle orange crema and even arugula on some tacos. The menu combines the experiences of Diaz’s refined homestyle classics and Aguirre’s fine dining skills. Expect fillings such as pickled pigs feet, a creamy brandade using a house-cured Mexican fish instead of the traditional salted cod, a duck guisado,Diaz’s homemade chorizos and veggie options such as Mexican spice-intensive sautéed garbanzos. And yes, there will be a chimichanga, though served with a spicy broth for dipping.

Keeping true to the chef’s passion for fresh craft beer, about four to eight rotating local craft beers will be on deck. Diaz is making a strong effort to bring in some of Mexico’s emerging craft breweries to L.A. Mexicali’s Cucapá is confirmed, and maybe a few beers from Ensenada Brewing Co. will be available.

This soon-to-be crispy taco haven is replacing the family’s restaurant at the 7 Mares complex, but its outdoor “La Playita” ceviche stand next to it will remain untouched because of its popularity among  old school and new school clientele.

The new eatery will seat about 50 and will have a “reclaimed” feeling to it. Meaning that its minimalist tables, chairs, rusted channel letters and simple counter will be reclaimed from the old 7 Mares restaurant. It will also be the first restaurant where Diaz displays some of his own “impressionistic human figure art,” in addition to some barrio-rooted murals. The name Duro translates to “hard” in Spanish and is not only a nod to the restaurant’s namesake crunchy antojito but to the hard-knockbarrio lifestyle of Diaz, who grew up in Highland Park, Boyle Heights and East L.A., and to Patrick Aguirre’s rough upbringing in Montebello.

Meanwhile, Diaz said that Chorizo Amor is a dream distant-future concept of a bigger house-made Mexican sausage and beer company, but for now he’s focusing on Duro, his newly opened Colonia Taco Lounge and Bizarra Capital in deep Eastern Los Angeles.

Chibcha Restaurante Colombiano: Cola, The Other Colombian Gold

Chibcha Signage
Chibcha: You Never Know Unless You Try
I have been finding myself in Echo Park a lot recently, vroom-vrooming on my Vespa up and down Sunset Boulevard as if red lights never existed. From East L.A and back, I observe each and every restaurant along the way and remember them better than than the street names that surround them.

So naturally, it is quite obvio (sorry I can’t pass up the opportunity of using the Castillian Spanish pronunciation of obvious every time it comes up since my older brother taught me it, ha ha) that I have been frequenting a few of the local establishments. Few because well, I don’t crave all that hipster shit all the time and would rather much drive out to K-Town, Thaitown, Scoops any where else for that matter.

Not to say that I don’t love me a good Quinoa Burger or Soy Cheese Crepe and such but last time around the guest and I tried to eat this stuff, we couldn’t help but feel a little lame. Thus, it was time to activate my foodblogger powers!

….try a uncharted random place!

the menu at chibcha
The Menu At Chibcha: Please Be Good!!!

A great, Pulitzer-Award winning food writer once wrote to me “for every good meal, you will have 10 bad ones”. And to top it off, my creature-of-habit guest and I were starting to become ravenous since it was hot as hell outside.

And I will admit, I was a little nervous upon stepping in to Chibcha Restaurante Colombiano. My guest had been with me through both bonk and wow before and I hoped against hope that this place was not going to be a bonk. It was peak lunch and the place was damn empty. But we were sat and the water was served, there was no turning back now.

Perusing the menu, I will be honest and say that it looked like whatevers eyy. I don’t know much about Colombian Food, all I knew is that it was about damn time I tried an Arepa, the staple flat corn cake down there. Thus, an Arepa was imminent. My guest wanted a Arepa De Queso, an Arepa that was baked with cotija cheese.

Arepa De Queso
Arepa De Queso: Toasted Cheese Can’t Be Bad…Right?
And score! I knew toasted cheese wouldn’t do me wrong! Albeit, a bit dry and hockey-puckish in texture. The whole thing tasted of those browned cheese edges that we all look forward to. And that alone was enough to keep us coming back for a little nibble more.

Sancocho De Colita
Sancocho De Cola: The Other Colombian Pride
With only a few dishes standing out of the glossy photo bunch, I decided to go with the Sancocho De Cola since I had recently had the Puerto Rican version in NY not too long ago. Cola translating to tail, these oxtails (at least 3 huge ones!) were slow cooked ’till that signature mouthwatering tenderness was achieved. The broth was a delicate one but full bodied with large chunks of creamy Yucca, starchy green plantains and cooked-through potatoes. A hand full of minced cilantro was thrown on top for a bright herbaceous contrast for the rich collagen-intensive broth.

Sancocho De Colita Acompañamentos
Company For The Lonely Oxtail

As if it couldn’t get any better, the soup is served with chewy white rice, half of a semi-ripe avocado and an Arepa! Finally. Although, my mouth was spoiled with the toasted cheese one by now. I found this regular one almost inedible due to its dry denseness…which all the better to dunk it into the oxtail broth!

By the end of the meal we were both smiling.

…Pheeeew.

Chibcha Restaurante Colombiano

2619 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026

(213) 483-8072

The Taco Task Force of Los Angeles: Assignment #1 (Baja Ensenada Style Fish Tacos)

Let’s face it, the Los Angeles Taco scene has been in desperate need of some strict regulation. There ARE Tacos of sufficient quality in this Mexican’s home away from home known as L.A. But in a time where Crispy Tacos and haphazardly spiced Al Pastor continue to receive inexpert praise…the urgency has never been higher.

The Taco Task Force of Los Angeles was assembled by Bill of Street Gourmet LA and me after several delightful trips to the Taco Motherland in its closest proximity to us; Tijuana and Ensenada. Taco’s are the foundation there, serving not only as a cheap, filling convenient street food but a fundamental staple to Mexican Gastronomy as a whole. The basic Carne Asada is a complex structure comprised of three to four different cuts of beef in almost any Taqueria you walk into in Mexico, where as in the U.S…you will be lucky if you get a good quality cut of just properly tenderized Flap meat.

But when a two and a half hour trip is simply unattainable, the Taco Task Force of Los Angeles will strive to optimize your local Taco experiences of Los Angeles and beyond…

Other members of the Force include:

Joshua Lurie of Food GPS
Cathy & Vern of Gastronomy Blog
Matthew Kang of Mattatouille

Following a recent trend of interest in Baja California, our first objective was the Baja Ensenada style Fish Taco.

A signature item originated in the warm Ensenada fishing docks, the Baja Fish Taco is believed to have its roots in the influx of Japanese immigrants that once habituated the Baja coast. The abundant, fresh seafood lived harmoniously with their advanced frying Tempura techniques. It was only a matter of time until it interbred with the tortilla culture of Mexico…

With only a few tweaks that worked for the bettering of it–such as the common sense switching of oil to lard and the required addition of Mexican grown spices & local (softer) wheat flour–the Fish Taco was born.

Typically, Fish Tacos are to be adorned to your personal preference, from the essential fresh garnishments of finely minced cabbage, a simple Red, Green or Pico de Gallo Salsa and either Mayonnaise, Mexican Crema or a thin, creamy blend of the two. Handmade tortillas are beside the point as it will clash with the delicate flake of fish, thin, no frill’s, small taco Tortillas is its usual vehicle.

Five components of the Fish Taco were to be graded from a a range of 1 (unsatisfactory) to 5 (exceptional).

Those components were:
Key Ingredient (Fish; Freshness?)
Authenticity (True to Ensenada style?)
Cooking (expertly fried; greasy?)
Overall Flavor (blanket flavor)

With that said, the following will be posted in accordance with the Force’s consensus of least favorite to best:

5th Place:

El Taconazo (South El Monte)

taconazo storefront with cute-ish girl
Best Fish Taco in The World Since 1978? Really now?

A family run small franchise with locations all around Southern California…kudos for that. BUT, the most driest, blandest and unbalanced fish taco ($1.69) of the the round up.

DSC07035
Is Anybody In There?

The fish of choice was a scroungy Pollack. A popular fish amongst the food business for its friendly, light flavor and usually moist flake. Here, that was not the case with a strange off flavor and and lumpy, papery batter. The over compensation in mediocre relishes only made it even more underwhelming.

The Final Score (as transcribed by Josh of Food GPS; his score is first, followed by B standing for Bill, J for me and C for Cathy and her fiance Vernon)

Grade of Key Ingredient: 1.5, C 2.5, J 2.5, B 2.5 AVERAGE 2.25/5

Condiment: 1.5, C 2.5, J 2.5, B 2 AVERAGE 2.125/5
Authenticity: 2.5, C 2, J 2, B 2.5 AVERAGE 2.25/5
Overall Flavor: 1.5, C 3.5, J 2.5, B 1.5 AVERAGE = 2.25/5
Cooking: 1.5, C 2.5, J 2, B 2 AVERAGE 2/5

OVERALL FISH TACO SCORE: 2.175/5

El Taconazo on Urbanspoon
El Taconazo in Los Angeles

Address:
9516 Garvey Ave
South El Monte
CA 91733

4th Place

Señor Fish (Original Location in L.A: Eagle Rock)

señor fish signage
Colorful Façade but What About Your Tacos?

Other veteranos of Fish Tacos being around since 1988, there’s actually a few of these sprinkled around the L.A basin. I remember always walking by the one in Alhambra on my way to school back then but always being repelled by that gimmicky fish character, plus, this went under the Pricy Taco category ($2.50).

señor fish guey
Clumpy Batter but Good Fish N’ Toppings

With the myriad of other fresh, grilled options on the menu, they seemed to have lost their focus of a traditional ‘ol fried fish taco. The Cod itself was outstanding. flaky and moist! But the batter was soggy and just peppery as far as spices go. Kudos though for touching up on the the Ensenada tradition of personal customization of toppings, already dressed with slivered cabbage, Crema and a Pico de Gallo but one of the few with a exceptional Salsa bar.

salsas at senor fish
El De Guajillo Era Chingon

Grade of Key Ingredient: 3.5 C 4, J 3.5, B 3 AVERAGE 3.5/5
Condiment: 4, C 4, J 4.5, B 4 AVERAGE 4.125/5
Authenticity: 2.5, C 2, J 2, B 2 AVERAGE 2.125/5
Overall Flavor: 3.5, C 3, B 2, J 3 AVERAGE 2.875/5
Cooking: 3, C 2.5, B 2.5, J 3 AVERAGE 2.75/5

OVERALL FISH TACO SCORE: 3.075/5

Señor Fish on Urbanspoon

Señor Fish in Los Angeles

Address:
Eagle Rock
4803 Eagle Rock Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90041
(323) 257-7167

3rd Place

The Best Fish Taco in Ensenada (Los Feliz)

"Best Fish Taco"...HA!
Those Quotes Are There For A Reason…Best in Ensenada?!

Newcomers to the Fish Taco slanging scene (Since 2007), this place was quite cracking with locals. Behind the counter, an assembly line of Fish Tacos was hard at work. This, along with being the only entirely D.I.Y topping customization spot of the day, made it look very promising.

Fish Taco Assembly Line
The Model Fish Taco Assembly Line

DSC07043
D.I.Y!

ALTHOUGH entirely customizable, the Angeleno-ized accouterments were seen as “goofy” by the Street Gourmet shifu, with stuff like Pineapple Kiss (“tropical refreshing bite”), a watery Hot Guac, Mad Mango Salsa, a Mango Less (“all of the passion – none of the mango”), Mild (“delicious, but wimpy”). Plus points for perfectly uniform, finely shredded cabbage and free flowing Crema Magica (“the final ingredient”).

naked tacos
Pretty Good Naked Tacos

The fish itself was the most flavorful of the day thus far, albeit chewy instead of soggy, the batter touted a mysterious irresistible deliciousness with not much actual spice flavor, perhaps a little MSG in the mix? No idea, but the fatty Basa (Vietnamese Farm Raised Catfish) was an endearing choice. Tortillas were nothing special.

Grade of Key Ingredient: 4.5, J 4.5, C 3.5, B 3.5 AVERAGE 4/5
Condiment: 3.5 B 2.5, C 3.5, J 4 AVERAGE 3.375/5
Authenticity: 2.5 J 2.5, B 3.5, C 3.5 AVERAGE 3/5
Overall Flavor: 4, C 3, J 4, B 3.5 AVERAGE 3.875
Cooking 3.5, C 3, J 3, B 3 AVERAGE 3.125/5

OVERALL FISH TACO SCORE: 3.475/5

Address:

1650 Hillhurst Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 466-5552

The Best Fish Taco in Ensenada in Los Angeles

Best Fish Taco in Ensenada on Urbanspoon

2nd Place

Tacos Baja (East L.A)

fish taco facade
The East L.A Gem

This place has not been short on national coverage for its fragile-fried fish. Magazine and newspaper pieces are framed on every wall and they have continually been adding more tables since they opened up ten years ago. They have built a loyal following, coming from East L.A, its fun to observe the interaction between people in the lines that form sometimes.

hot blondies
Hot, Chile Powder Kissed Blondies

I used to eat here pretty often since my dad actually grew a liking to this place (very rare). I remember at times eating 15 of those delicious Chile Gueros at a time. They are kissed in oil and dusted with a savory, chili powder that reminds me of Lucas, a Mexican staple Chile Powder candy of Latino youth. These serve the same purpose to fish tacos that french fries do to burgers, not absolutely necessary but certainly nice if you come across some that are done expertly.

manta ray tacos from TBE
My Old Favorite and Still Perfectly Fine
(Rear Taco)

Seemingly small at $1.59 a pop but these tacos are packed with 1-2 moist, soft and flaky fat piece(s) of Catfish that are crispy on the little edges. Tortillas deserve an honorable mention for their superior quality, petite, chewy and thick. A smoky salsa and a cool crema only increase the experience with its zing and fresh-crisp qualities.

Grade of Key Ingredient: 4, B 4, J 3.5, C 3.5 AVERAGE 3.75/5
Condiment: 2.5, B, 2.5, J 3, C 4 AVERAGE 3/5
Authenticity: 3.5, B 3.5, J 2.5, C 2 AVERAGE 2.875/5
Overall Flavor: 3, B 3.5, J 3.5, C 4 AVERAGE 3.5/5
Cooking: 4.5, B, 4, J 4.5, C, 4.5 AVERAGE 4.375/5

OVERALL FISH TACO SCORE: 3.5/5

Address:
5385 Whittier Boulevard,
Los Angeles, CA
(323) 887-1980?

Tacos Baja on Urbanspoon
Tacos Baja in Los Angeles

1st Place

Ricky’s Fish Tacos (Silver Lake)

rickys stand
Dunking That Basa

A eager newcomer to the L.A Fish Taco scene, Ricky has been charming the local bloggers with his Ensenada raised swagger. He touts his brief weekend taco show times on twitter and is proud of his rare 5 Star rating he has received on Yelp.

rickys fish taco champion
Announcing The New Premiere F
ish Taco of Los Angeles at The Moment
($2.50)

With his skilled frying technique that involves piercing the fillet while frying and his secret frying medium that adds a unequaled deliciousness all too common to….lard, shortening, a mixture of the two perhaps? For him to know and we to find out, but all I know is that it produces a light, non-greasy, perfectly spiced crisp! His Basa batter involves imported Mexican wheat from his homeland and a significant amount of mustard to give it that signature zing. He thins out mayonnaise with skim milk to get the crema to the right texture and slivers his cabbage razor thin, just like they do it back home. The salsa is minimally chunky with a decent kick. All it needs to be absolutely perfect is a griddled tortilla instead of a the steamed, blandish Superior brand Tortilla he uses. But I do tend to be a tortilla elitist and most public will not even notice.

…Introducing the new, TOP, most authentic Ensenada-Style Fish Taco of Los Angeles County.

Grade of Key Ingredient: 4, J 5, C 4.5, B 3.5 AVERAGE 4.25/5
Condiment: 4.5 B 4, C 4.5, J 4.5 AVERAGE 4.375/5
Authenticity: 3.5 J 5, B 4, C 4 AVERAGE 4.125/5
Overall Flavor: 4, C 4.5, J 5, B 4 AVERAGE 4.625/5
Cooking 4.5, C 4.5, J 5, B 4.5 AVERAGE 4.625/5

OVERALL FISH TACO SCORE: 4.4/5

Ricky's Fish Tacos in Los Angeles

Follow Ricky on Twitter to find out when and where he will set up taco base.

Our next assignment will be….Birria.

Just Another Day (my birthday, I guess…) FINALLY UPDATED!

Well, the day is coming closer, damn closer. Faster, faster than anything else i’ve seen or overcooked before. I’m already stressing over a new alias/blog name since, pretty soon…i’m going to…outgrow it. Yup, one more year ’till the big 2-0, ending my…hmmm….I don’t know what to label it (teenage years).

Well, as the ‘real world’ continues to kick my ass, my birthday (both the early celebration on Sunday and today) actually went by pretty good…for the first time. It all started with my usual early sacrificing but sustaining visit to the Alhambra Sunday Farmers Market to peruse the endless varieties of unique asian greens, followed by my will-to-live restoring yoga session. This week I decided to try out some pretty Chrysanthemum leaves that go for about $5 a pound (I know, only got about a dollars worth). I don’t know what I would do without food and yoga…

We somehow had enough money to have brunch at my favorite brunch place at the moment, Flore Cafe in Silver Lake. I don’t usually use those cheesy words like ‘heavenly’ to describe the taste of food but for their Tofu Benediction Dish, I believe there is no other word. Think of it like a vegan take on Eggs Benedict: freshly baked toasted Batard Bread topped with tender slices of soft tofu, a generous handful of organic crispy kale, slices of ripe tomato and creamy Haas avocado. And that heavenly sauce…well, I’ll just quote one of the waitress’s there, “every day when the day is over, i’m always hoping that we’ll have somehow have some left over so I can take it home and pour it over everything”.

When I was already thinking about what I was going to have for dinner (go out to eat twice on the same day?! I wish…) My sister calls me all of a sudden to tell me that she will take us out for dinner!! I couldn’t think of any other semi-affordable place so I decided to appreciate it and go all the way to one of my other favorite places at the moment, Au Lac, all the way in Fountain Valley. I wrote about this place earlier….simply, a one of kind type of restaurant, worth the drive from anywhere. And just when stuff was starting to go kind of bad (made the reservation kind of late so starving and snapping at each other, ran incredibly late and almost gave away our table), the wonderful Chef Ito, yet again, saved my day and changed my life. Not just for his tight welcoming hug that he gave and the glorious food that we shared, both cooked things like 5 spiced Soy Duck Noodle Soup so meaty, its scary and his raw creations like Jackfruit smoothies with a similar funk like Durian and Hot and Sour Soup with slippery coconut noodles and 4 different kinds of seaweed, but for his affection and charity.

Like I said earlier, the food here is really made with love, seriously. Right, when it looked like everyone on the table was finished eating, the lights suddenly start to fade out and Chef Ito and some of the crew come out. They start to sing “Happy Birthday” and are carrying a plate with some slices of that–whatever is above ‘heavenly’–raw pies that he makes with a lit candle. It was something sincerely heartrending: “Happy Birthday Javier” handwritten above the vertically stacked pies with chocolate mint sauce, a rose made with tomato peel and mint leaves on the corner…i almost cried because everything was so beautiful.

I’m going against my no-photo policy so I can show you just how compassionate it was.


…I could eat this all day, really.

Thank you again Chef Ito for everything: the pies that I had again for my real birthday, taking those elixir shots with me, but most of all, gracing me with your kindness and making me happier.

The City of Alhambra Certified Farmer’s Market
Every Sunday of the year (except Easter)
8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at
the corner of Monterey Street and Bay State Street.

Flore Vegan Cuisine
3818 W. Sunset Blvd.
(323) 953-0611

Au Lac
16563 Brookhurst Street
Fountain Valley, California
714.418.0658

a one of kind type of place

Straying from "the usual": Thaitalian and the Alcove Cafe

Thai and Italian, how does that work you say?

Very Nice Actually

As for the latter…not so much unfortunately.

I understand how it can be hard to stray from your “usuals” every once in a while, sometimes we need some security in our lives. But there are so many great options out there, but along with those oppurtunities come great risks. Sometimes the oppurtunity cost is great as in Thaitalian in Pasadena, but more often, it is dissapointing as in the Alcove. (I usually don’t thrash on places or write about bad experiences since stuff happens sometimes but just to prove a point…)

Thaitalian…man, a Squid Ink Risotto with a Thai Basil Seafood Stir-fry, a tart, authentically fish-y Tom Yum soup packed with cubed veggies. This was just one of those meals, the creamy, pallid pitch-black Risotto actually Al Dente, circling around tender mussels, clams, calamari, shrimp, scallops hell….i even swear their was one of those chewy “veggie shrimp” that they serve at those vegetarian chinese places. With my new veneration for bivalves, probably my new current “favorite dish” at the moment. They also have curry Pasta, Pizza and Mozzarella Egg Rolls if you’re into that sort of thing.

Alcove on the other hand…*sigh*. I was dissapointed with this place, it was good….but just not as good as i expected. It sounded so promising. Don’t get me wrong, i’m willing to come back and get their juicy Lamb Burger again with a cup of their Immortal Tea blend but maybe I’ll go somewhere else for dessert, somewhere where they actually bake their Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons on premises. A cool place to hang out for wine, coffee, tea and conversing though.

Thaitalian
49 E Colorado Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91105
626-585-8808

The Alcove Cafe
1929 Hillhurst Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 644-0100