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Restaurants & Bars 17

E.K. Valley in Culver City

AndrewF | Jun 25, 201204:16 PM

My wife and I dropped in to this small, homey dining room on Washington Blvd. near La Cienega on Friday.  As we were on a mission to shake up our comfortable routine, our trip here proved to be a worthy departure.

We started with a couple horchatas and chips and guacamole, which was brought out with some salsa.  The guacamole was fresh and pretty straightforward.  Avocado, onion, cilantro, tomato; no hint of lime. Some may desire a dash of salt, but it was clearly homemade and quickly consumed by us.  The salsa was a smoky, tangy, slightly sweet deep red concoction, not chunky but not thin and with a little bit of heat.

My wife had the red mole chicken enchiladas.  I had the cecina plate, chile-marinated thin-sliced grilled pork.  The cecina plate featured maybe eight slices of pork, grilled perfectly.  It came with three corn tortillas, some sliced avocado and other veggies, rice and beans. I got pinto beans, which were good but paled in comparison to the phenomenal black beans my wife got with her meal.  I'm still trying to determine what they were seasoned with, but they were just full of flavor.  The mole enchiladas she got were excellent.  The mole was the expected deep brown color with the requisite flavor and complexity and a nice undercurrent of heat.  Underneath this blanket of mole were tortillas stuffed with shredded chicken, to which I maybe would have paid more attention had I not been so taken with the mole.  It's the best mole I've had in some time.  Maybe I need to sample more fact, my life would probably be exponentially better if I did, but I think I've found a pretty good one that I will return to often.

This is a small operation; I understand this to be a husband-wife team. The owner/chef welcomed us, thanked us for coming, and served us. He was actually working all of the tables (about 7-9, which were all full by the time we left).  As such, the service was a bit disjointed, but my wife and I didn't mind as we weren't in a rush. Our food took a little longer than might be expected, which the owner recognized and prompted him to refill our bowl of guacamole.  Given that it is a smaller operation and that the food was as great as it was, it's something I don't mind, particularly as I expect this is something that will improve over time.  The owner shook our hands on the way out and thanked us again for coming.  The meal came out to about $33 with tax and tip.

Me, I'm excited.  There's just not enough good flavor out there, or in most cases it's very hard to find.  The flavor was here and in abundance.  I'm thinking about the beans.  I'm thinking about the mole.  I'm thinking about the genuine welcome and send-off we received.  I want to try the rest of the menu, as long as one of us always gets the mole so I can have a bite.

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