The missus and I had a really nice lunch today at Ciudad (445 S. Figueroa St., (213) 486-5171). Started out with their usual seeded and chili dusted flat breads/crackers with little dishes of tapenda. These things make a mess, but they're a nice way to start the meal. Wife ordered a Jamaica drink (which, I think, is some sort of sweetened orange drink with hibiscus blossoms and honey), and I had a naranjada (fresh oj, club soda, and simple syrup over ice).
The wife and I used to have lunch at Ciudad just about every Friday, but hadn't been back in a while, and I guess as a way of saying "welcome back," they comped us an appetizer plate of squash empanadas with a spicy dipping sauce and a little tomato, avocado and wild greens salad. The empanadas were delicious, and we both thought it was a really nice, gracious gesture.
The missus, as is her habit, ordered a bowl of tortilla soup and a salad. The soup was excellent, garnished with fried tortilla strips and a bit of avocado. It was the creamy kind of tortilla soup, with nice richness and good chicken, cumin, and cilantro flavors. I tend to like a bit more spice (this was definitely on the mild side), but I have to say, it was quite good. The salad was slightly wilted arugula, strips of roasted yams, toasted pine nuts, pieces of date, and fresh goat cheese with a light citrus vinaigrette. Although it was a creative, interesting mix of flavors, the yams were kind of lost in the other stronger elements, and their texture ended up being a bit gummy. Also, it could have used something crispy for textural contrast. (I do, however, love the way toasted pine nuts taste with goat cheese.)
I ordered the stewed beef tacos, which is one of my favorite dishes at Ciudad. This dish consists of three double tortilla tacos very generously filled with beef that has been slow stewed until it's basically falling apart, garnished with a bit of dressed shredded cabbage, radishes, and a nice (but again too mild) home made salsa. I really like the rich, moist, slightly sweet flavor of beef that's been cooked this way, and the combination of flavors and textures in these tacos is, I think, superb. Served with a bowl of beans in their own cooking broth, with little pieces of chewy, meaty, bacon -- a good, satisfying complement to the tacos.
Usually we split an order of dessert (they have a great torta de tres leches) over Cuban lattes (served with piloncillo syrup), but after the empanadas, we were too full. Total damage before tip came to $33. Extra added bonus: probably because it was Good Friday, the place was slower, and hence materially quieter, than is often the case at lunch. All in all, a delicious, satisfying meal at a good price.