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Los Angeles Area Tamales Summer

Summer at McArthur Park: Mama’s Hot Tamales and Chichen Itza

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Restaurants & Bars Los Angeles Area Tamales Summer

Summer at McArthur Park: Mama’s Hot Tamales and Chichen Itza

Dommy | | Jul 14, 2008 05:32 PM

Summer is here and for me that means salads. I love Salads, chopped, cesar, cobb. Our current favorite is Spinach with my mom’s homegrown plums, a sprinkling of goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.

Summer to me also equals Mexico. Going back to Merida as a kid. Gawd it was hot… but the days on the beach and all the fresh seafood made me forget it all…

And so earlier this year I was longing for summer days… seeking Salads and Seafood and Home. So we made a couple trips to McArthur Park and Mama’s Hot Tamales and Chichen Itza…

Our first stop was at Mama’s

I had recently heard that Mama’s had expanded in space and menu. Now it’s a glossy professionally done menu full of all sorts of treats… of course highlighting the Tamales

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But having done a Japanese Pub Craw the night before, I was seeking something cleansing. Luckily for me, they now offer a wonderful Nopales salad…

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I have a love hate relationship with Nopales… I don’t like them in stews, but I like them in eggs. I prefer salad preps like this but ONLY with Tortillas… If you think there is no such thing as a good Veggie Taco… have one with Nopales… YUM!!

P. of course could not resist the lure of Tamales. He ordered a Tamale plate, two with a side of rice and beans. Of course, I had steal a couple of bites…

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He ordered the Honduran Pork Tamale (Banana leaf) which we found underspiced (We put some Salsa on it to make it a bit more flavorful) and the Chicken Chile Verde (Corn husk) which was wonderful. Moist, flavorful and full of Chicken. I also snagged some of his rice and beans… Mama’s has some of the favorite in the city… The rice is buttery and she adds Yerba Santa to the beans which adds a nice herbal pop!

To cap off the meal, I ordered something from their expanded drink Menu….

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Mama’s has always had the best Champurado, but now they have killer coffee too… I had the Mexican Mocha… which was the best of both words…

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Finally, I owed P.some Plantains. I had brought dinner back from Pollo Campero and ‘accidently’ ate all the plantains. (Which can see why I didn’t I didn’t think P. would want any…

)

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P. totally got the better end of the deal, because Mama’s version is just worlds apart…

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A whole Banana, fried lightly, it doesn’t have the same caramel edge that others do, but Mama does give you some awesome Black Rice and Crema to go with, so I can look past that transgression. Just an awesome way to end a meal…

My last trip to Merida was in the fall so I missed Octopus season. I was SO upset… but upon arriving to Los Angeles I heard the news that Chichen Itza had it on their menu… So a couple of weeks later we found ourselves back in the area…

To start, we ordered a Seafood Appetizer Sampler which included their Shrimp Ceviche (The shrimp was cooked through, so it’s wonderfully approachable) their Mussels in Smokey Habanero Sauce (So fresh!) and their tuna stuffed chiles. Although a bit more upscale than I would get at the Botana Bar in Progresso… it set the summer mood just right…

Then came out my Pulpo en Su Tinta… The Octopus was cooked tender and the ink sauce was one of the best I’ve had. Not too metallic, not to sharp, and married with other wonderful spices. This is truly a unique Mexican Dish and they execute it so well…

P. ordered Camaron al X’catic, shrimp in a super spicy Chipote Habanero sauce. One of his favorite dishes is the Shrimp Topolobampo at Babita, Shrimp in Habanero Sauce and he wanted to see how this version stacked up… Well not only did it reach its hights, but surpassed them. The sauce was true to its aromatic and fruity Habanero base, while making most of the complex smokey notes. It was similar to the one in the mussels, but with the shrimp, it took a different form.

Enjoying the lovely space, the wonderful seafood and a glass of great Sangria, we realized that although we love Babita… Chichen Itza is definitely in their league when it comes to the fine dining experience and inventiveness of dishes. Best of all though, the execute. Babita does has it’s pros, homemade tortillas, better wine list, etc… but I now feel totally confident to recommendinf Chichen Itza for those longing for Alta Cocina experiences in L.A.

--Dommy!

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