As a few of you might recall, I recently posted about my quest to find good-eatin' on the Westside with a budget of $9. A slew of you sent in a slew of good suggestions (thanks!), and I thought I'd take a moment here to let you know where I went and what I thought.. so.. here goes.
I ended up "blowing my wad o' cash" (as tony michaels so eloquently put it!) at Tacomiendo. I went with David Kahn's suggestion and ordered the plato de flautas. And...
They did not disappoint. This was my first time trying flautas, so perhaps I'm not qualified to offer an authoritative assessment - but I thought they were delicious, nonetheless.
I had an early dinner - around 5pm - and while parking was difficult to find (the small plaza parking lot where Tacomiendo is located was completely full), the restaurant itself was entirely empty. That said, the service was friendly and attentive (they had no one else to tend to!), if not altogether fast. This is by no means criticism - I don't mind waiting a bit for freshly prepared food. I'd much rather have something whipped up on the spot than have something that's been lying around handed to me the second I order it.
In addition to the flautas, I ordered a carne asada taco that was as tasty as it was simple: tender shards of masterfully grilled steak nestled in a small, warm, and puffy handmade flour tortilla - that's it. No onion, cilantro, lime, or chile (salsa) accompaniment - just steak and tortilla. Ordinarily, I'd dress it up with a few of those staples, but I wanted to get a feel for the "true" flavor of the meat and tortilla - pure and undiluted. Superb. As much as I enjoyed the carne asada, the tortilla was a joy in its own right. Handmade makes all the difference, I've got to say.
The flautas (chicken, by the way) arrived as a tempting trio, still sizzling from the fryer (or are they grilled in a pan? not sure..). I've been told that flautas are essentially the less-popular cousin (at fast food joints, at least) of the taquito, but I've got to say I see no reason why flautas this good couldn't take off, too. Crispy, but not fragile (in that easily-shattered Taco Bell hard taco way), plump, but not overstuffed, flavorful, but not overspiced - the flautas hit all the right notes at every level. The chicken in the flautas was prepared in a way that reminded me something of steak picado - moist shreds of meat stewed with tomatoes, peppers, and onion. Atop the flautas lay a generous scattering of shredded cabbage and crumbled cojito (cheese). The rice and beans that filled out the plate were also fine. The rice in particular - so often dry and/or unimpressive at many otherwise fine Mexican restaurants - was steaming, fluffy, and with just the right tang of tomato and onion - very well done.
I finished the meal by indulging in something I've had on my list of "must-trys" for the past year: a thick mug of steamy champurrado. Yum. I can't quite put my finger on all that must go into it, but it's seemingly milk and cinnamon intensive, and I love the smooth, almost hearty consistency. Again, as this was my first try, I have no idea how the champurrado here stacks up against the storied street vendors of East LA or elsewhere.
All in all, a very nice, memorable meal.