I normally don't speak in hyperbole like that. Some disclaimers first: 1) I'm aware there's a thread about Tinga but I felt there was too much discussion about LSR in Santa Barbara and I want this review to just cover this restaurant. 2) This born-and-raised in Southern California guy has never been to Mexico. 3) That said, I've been to many of the often-praised Mexican restaurants in L.A., including La Parrilla, Loteria (not a fan), Monte Alban, Carnitas Michoacan, Mariscos Chente, etc.
I've gone twice in the past two days, as it's right up the street from me and there's a huge lack of good food in this area. I've had:
Cochinita Pibil tacos. Ridiculously good. The seasoning and textures is just excellent. It always bothers me when I get a guisado or something that's long cooked and there's just no texture to it, as if it were rillette or something. The flavor has a deep complexity and I noted some char on it, it reminded me of real barbecue from Lockhart, Texas (just not as smoky).
Shortrib tacos. Ridiculously good. Again, the texture of the meat. They call it deshebrada but instead of shredded, it's a nice hunk of cooked shortrib that is juicy and bursting with meaty flavor. The mashed potato and salsa verde just rounds it out to be a truly excellent taco.
Tinga Tostadas. Excellent. Chipotle flavor in the chicken is perfect. Again, perfectly seasoned, beautifully crisp tostada.
Side of beans were a little bland. Creamy rice is really good, but I would probably stick to the tacos. The side of grilled corn is fantastic, with a dollop of salsa verde and crema...I could eat a giant bowl of this.
Both their horchata and jamaica are two of the finest I've ever had.
Today they gave me a free coconut macaroon. Moist interior, crispy edges, dipped in chocolate. Awesome. There was also a special of chicken and waffles, with the chicken being battered in Horchata. Both days I've gone they've given me a little freebie. I wouldn't expect it in the future and I assume it's because this is their first week. They didn't need to sell me any more. If they can maintain their consistency then I will be a loyal regular, freebies or no.
I don't know how authentic it is. I spoke to the chef and some staff, apparently he's a catering chef and this is his first outlet. In cases like these I could care less about authenticity. The food tastes really damn good here and you can tell this is a work of love.
It's not cheap. They sell the tacos "a la carte", which is actually two tacos (or two tostadas in the case of the tinga). The pibil and shortrib tacos were something like 8.50 for two. But they are delicious, and substantial. Drinks are 3.75 but it's a large cup and both times I've been offered free refills.
I think many people will start comparing Tinga to Loteria or Red O, that realm of "high end" Mexican that attracts mostly gringos. I've been to Loteria many times and Red O twice, and my two experiences at Tinga were far more enjoyable than either.
I will be back often.
P.S. oh, and speaking of La Super Rica, I grew up in Ventura and used to go to LSR quite often. Tinga takes the cake on them too...
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