Hubby had decided we had to try this Yxta spot downtown.
I was none too thrilled when we pulled up – housed in a spectacularly ugly mini mall at 6th and Central, Yxta is a dumpy looking, gruel-colored hunk of concrete. I love a good hole in the wall, but this place is alarmingly large, spectacularly lacking in character and comes complete with a mega tacky “Now Open!” plastic thingy slung across its front. “Man,” thought I, “This place better serve booze.”
We go inside; I feel a little better. The interior is brick and tile and lined with eye-catching art. The light fixtures are exquisite. There’s a bar. And even though the place is two-thirds empty, it’s welcoming and casual and the wait-staff seems relaxed….no smell of desperation in the air…yet.
We order drinks. Hubby has the classic margarita. I order the escabeche martini with gin. The chips arrive – they’re warm and crispy; the salsa’s fresh and zingy. And then I see our drinks arrive and that warm, fuzzy feeling I always get when we’re at some place I feel is about to reveal itself as really, really special, comes sweeping over me. My martini (boozy to the rafters and brimming with at least half the daily allowance of veg) is heaven. Any sailor returning to shore should be administered this upon arrival.
We began with tostadas with sashimi grade tuna. They arrive with alarming speed, which makes me nervous. I needn’t have worried. First off, holy generous portion size, second, they’re not kidding when they say sashimi grade. Not a whiff of fish here – just pure, gorgeous, perfect tuna – I ate the fried onion topping separately.
For the entrees, we ordered one of the sweet shrimp dishes – Camarones de Ajillo. We’d guzzled an incredible sweet shrimp sashimi special at Shin Sen Gumi in Torrance the night before, and figured we may as well continue a winning trend.
Honestly, this is a dish that makes a restaurant. This dish is INSANE. It seems…French?! So unctuous, so rich, so deeply in your face flavorful, this dish…it has my undying love. But share it. That’s my advice. It’s intense. We shared the carnitas simultaneously and welcomed the more muted, earthy flavors to balance out the extravagant flavor.
And then we made a mistake…kind of. We ordered the flan; it’s called pineapple flan actually which is unfortunate because anything involving pineapple sounds wholly unappetizing unless you’re on vacation. Anyhoo, I pictured some light-as-air, caramel goodness and what turns up is a) ENORMOUS and b) has the texture of the richest cheesecake ever. Delicious? Yes! But prepare to wear baggy pants for the next 48 hours – a party of four could easily share this sucker. We asked what the secret was. The waiter scuttled off and returned with some empty, opaque explanation involving condensed milk. I called BS. He finally admitted the chef would not reveal the recipe. Whatever. It’s the sweet shrimp I’m coming back for.