I was really impressed by Cascabel in Toluca Lake last night. Not having heard of the restaurant prior to it's meteoric rise to #5 on the local 'heat map' on Eater, I made reservations for a party of four and set out to tony, quiet TL expecting a nice meal and nothing more.
When uber dropped us off at the address, we were on a typically quiet stretch of Riverside populated by two dental office buildings. Hard to believe that a restaurant could be 'hidden' in Toluca Lake, but sure enough as we squeezed through the two buildings we were taken into what appeared to be a house? of some sorts, replete with wooden door and framing. Upon entering, we were smitten - I've only seen the 'house' motif pulled off at French Laundry, but this was a much more accessible, stylish vibe with exposed beams, nice furniture-esque (yet restaurant appropriate) pieces and pops of color as if you'd see at a designer's home. Right away, I felt this is the 'coolest' spot I'd seen in the Valley, and a top five venue in L.A.
The approach is sound - the menu is apparently a spanish/mexican fusion, which makes sense given the nation's intermingled histories, with more an emphasis on coastal Mexican delicacies with Spanish influence - mussels with chorizo, yellowtail tiradito, blood orange scallop ceviche, hangar steak with poblanos & red wine demi glaze. The menu is sectioned into antiojos, ceviches, tacos & 'mas,' and it's a good way to tour the breadth of what is served that day (I was told the menu changes daily) without breaking the bank, or being saddled with any particular strong portion. It's tapas, in a sense, moreso than the L.A.-mandated 'small plates.' Definitely more cohesive and focused menu.
The food wasn't spectacular - there was no single bite or dish that is making my mouth water this morning - but each item was tasty and well-composed. The drinks are strong and fairly priced, and the overall experience is excellent.
Highly recommended and hopefully along with Girasol, Tipple & Brine, Barrel & Ashes & Black Market Liquor Bar, a mainstay in the ever-improving Valley scene.