Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Rivera: a Review from Dine LA

 You know how sometimes the places that are closest to you are the last ones you try because you always think: "it's right there and we can always go another time"? The boyfriend and I put off Cana for this reason (huge mistake), and we also put off the restaurant across the street: Rivera. This also turned out to be a mistake. Here is the cliff notes version if you're in a rush. The food can be as good as WP24 but not consistently. Two things that are much better than WP, though, are the cocktails and the service. Both are excellent. Also a good thing to know about Rivera is that it has 3 dining rooms, each specializing in a different cuisine with different menus. So it is a place that I image would never get boring.

Now for the lengthy review where I dissect all of the courses. First, the cocktails are inventive and fantastic. The boyfriend got a spicy cocktail with some homemade beef jerky in it (he loved it), and I got a grapefruit cocktail with homemade coconut cream (like coconut flavored whipped cream not like the creme in the pie, and I also loved mine). We started with a round of appetizers from their regular menu, the mussels and the softshell crab. The mussels were tasty but somewhat standard. The softshell crab was great. Softshells are an east coast delicacy and very hard to find out here, so Rivera gets bonus points for even serving it. Plus, this one was prepared in a way I had never tried, with arepa-style corncakes, a spicy sauce, and some sort of "7 flavor" seasoning decoratively placed in the corner. Then we moved on the appetizers we got with our Dine LA menu. The boyfriend had an avocado mouse (i.e. guacamole) over a corn mixture with homemade tortilla chips. This was tasty but, like the mussels, fairly standard. I had smoke salmon and two types of caviar on mini tortillas. I forget what all the accompaniments were, but I really liked this. For our main dishes, I had a phenomenal chicken dish with a spicy gravy. The flavor of the gravy (jicama and jalapeno) really made this dish stand out. The boyfriend had steamed salmon with 3 sauces. It was a nice piece of salmon, but the dish was on the bland side. Then we both had the pumpkin ice cream with blue corn crepes for dessert. The pumpkin ice cream was great, really flavorful without any artificial taste to it. The blue corn crepes, though, were not good, far too dry. I know Rivera is all about Central and South American ingredients, but in this case, I don't think anyone would begrudge them a little cheating by way of a traditional French crepe.

Throughout all of these courses, service was friendly, prompt, and knowledgeable. Both our waiter and the food runners were able to list all the ingredients in any dish, and our water glasses and cocktails were never left unobserved. All in all, I think Rivera is a place that could be fun and delicious experience if you know ahead of time which dishes are winners. Because when Rivera gets it right, they really do it well.

1050 South Flower Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015

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