Barbara Hansen's enthusiastic review in last week's L.A. Times Food Section was the catalyst for two friends and I to commit to the dubious trek of going to Lynnwood, Plaza Mexico and La Huasteca Restaurant today for a late lunch. I say dubious only because weather conditions made this a seemingly odd choice with the resulting traffic conditions including the closing of the 105 connecting ramp from the 405 south. I was the grateful guest, happy to do the driving and relied on the old Artesia/91 east route that lets you off near Compton with a short drive to Plaza Mexico on Imperial Highway. Sometimes you just need to get away.
Housing a branch of the famous El Gallo Giro, Plaza Mexico is like a colorful combination of the Camino Real in Mexico City and a Westfield Shopping Center. La Huasteca shares a commanding space in the center of the mall, with a large u-shaped bar, open kitchen and seating for at least 200. Large colorful murals surround you and wrought iron furniture is surprisingly comfortable. At 1:30pm they had a pretty good crowd finishing their lunch for the week between Xmas and New Years.
We liked the place immediately, not least of which for the adventure of getting there, the dramatic setting and the instant hospitality of our waiter Raphael and the Exec. Chef Alfredo who came to our table after we inquired about the shrimp appetizer with chives and tequila that had been mentioned in the article. It was explained that the appetizer had been a special for the $14.95 four course prix fixe menu of that day, but he was happy to do it for us. We surrendered our menus to him and for $60.65 ate like royalty.
1st course - the aformentioned shrimp with the chives and tequila over mashed potatoes-hint of heat in a light buerre blanc like sauce-excellent
2nd course - a white clam chowder with poblano chile and chunks of potato and pieces of clam-greater hint of heat and also excellent
3rd course - salmon with a haberno mango relish that could've had more heat for our tastes but nonetheless delicious served over delicately flavored rice - the salmon was the chef's variation on the seabass listed on the special menu and it was overcooked for our taste but at least an 8 oz. portion (we wished he had sent out the three entree specials of the day that included the chicken in a red pipian suace and the Dover sole with chipotle, capers and cilantro, but we did give him carte blanch)
4th course - a cheesecake with cajeta or caramel served over a drizzle of chocolate sauce-nice finale that I augmented with an equally nice coconut flan
Two coffees, a Negro Modelo, two horchatas for yours truly and a non-stopped replenished iced tea rounded out the order.
We'd rank the first two courses with Xiomara (whom we like a lot) and the rest - worth a another visit soon.
This place is truly a labor of love.
For recent posts inquiring about downtown L.A. options this might be a possibility if you have an extended lunch hour. Afterall, pictures of Chef Alfredo with Sheriff Baca adorn the entrance.