Sunday, March 22, 2009

I promised but...

I know I'm not supposed to spread the word on this place but when I first started this blog, I told myself that I would post about interesting finds, not always about following food fads. Lately I've gotten sucked into the Korean taco trend so I have to redeem myself.

A few days ago, I went to Solvang and Santa Ynez where two different people recommended a place in Santa Barbara for dinner, called "Petite Valentien." They told me that I MUST get the mushroom crostini and that the entrees were really cheap without the sacrifice of the ambiance.

Our original plan was to eat at the shellfish company on the wharf but I've learned a thing or two in the past and it's to always trust what locals say, especially if they work in food or wine. So, my roadtrip troupe and I drove down to SB and parked our cars and walked on over to look for this place.

$18 entrees. ALL of the entrees were $18. They had entrees like kobe hangar steak, frog legs, escargot, shrimp, veal, etc. and it changes every week apparently. I got the $8 mushroom crostini (I split it with a friend and it comes in two pieces) and the $18 veal milanese with proscuitto and arugula. Almost half the table got it and loved it. My friend got the $9 plate of mussels for appetizer, which is a way better deal than the crostini but at these prices, why not just get both?

If you're visiting SB, you gotta eat here instead of all the commercialized places on State st. It's romantic, almost all the wine come in glasses and are cheap ($5-$7 for most) and I'd still have spent less than having gone to cheesecake factory or some place equally painful. Now I regret not getting dessert. I heard they had wonderful cheesecake.

Petit Valentien
1114 State St
Santa Barbara, CA 93190
(805) 966-0222

Petit Valentien on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

La Taquiza

I know, I know. Another Korean Mexican taco? Well, perhaps the Kogi truck started a trend, or perhaps it's just the perfect time for latin-asian fusion cuisine to emerge. Whatever it is, Kogi is not the only one doing the Korean Mexican taco.

Behold La Taquiza. They are known for their mulitas, which are two tortillas with cheese, meat, and veggies inside. Almost like a quesadilla, but on crack. Here are some pictures of those:

I eat at La Taquiza about once every two weeks, usually it's enough time for me to really crave it. The last time I was there, I saw a sign that said they were going to start serving Korean tacos. Yes! More than just satiating my cravings to eat Korean Mexican tacos, I was excited I would be able to compare the two existing Korean Mexican fusion tacos and blog about it. Truly, madly, deeply.

I met Miguel, the owner of La Taquiza, who explained how they went through rigorous test groups to see which combinations of flavors worked the best. I ordered the pork and the beef.

It's basic. Meat, kimchi, Korean hot pepper sauce, avocado. No frills (nor cabbage). If you feel like you need to add something, you can always go to the salsa bar (pictured below) and add whatever you want to it. I wanted to taste it the way it was.
The verdict? I think Kogi and La Taquiza have very different takes on the Korean Mexican taco. Kogi strives to make it fusion from the beginning, mixing ingredients that work together, and tends to lean towards being sweet. The thing with Kogi (in the Alibi Room, not in the taco trucks) was that all the menu items started tasting the same. Could it be because of the marinade? I know that when I ordered the tacos from the taco truck, the pork and the beef tasted very different from each other. In the alibi room, I ordered chicken, beef, and pork but they gave me three beef tacos. I also ordered beef sliders so there I was eating a beef slider or taco and the carbs don't taste that much different to make it seem like I'm eating two completely different things.

La Taquiza, on the other hand, uses less ingredients, and takes a different course. It combines authentically Korean items like kimchi and garnishes pork that is prepared in a Mexican style (yes, I know al pastor is derived from Lebanon but it's now Mexican, ok?) though the short ribs taste like Korean galbi and the avocado can be argued to be Californian, but Mexican food uses it almost like a staple. The avocado cools down the Korean hot pepper sauce and the kimchi which are both very spicy!

They're both good, like I said. Kogi uses higher quality ingredients but La Taquiza makes it work with less ingredients and there's a kick to the flavors.

I also tried their shrimp tacos, which comes with cabbage. Miguel was kind enough to explain that cabbage only belongs in fish/shrimp tacos. They also have Korean burritos so I'm going to try those tomorrow and will report back.

Short cap: Kogi = sweet and spicy. La Taquiza = spicy and salty.

I had the short rib burrito today. Must admit I'm not a fan. I guess I just don't really like sticky rice to be in my burrito and I also wanted more Mexican ingredients. It was basically short ribs that tasted like galbi with Korean hot pepper sauce, avocado, kimchi and Korean sticky rice. The concept is good but I wanted more of the Latin ingredients.... maybe even cilantro or tomato. The pico de gallo helped a bit but I think the sticky rice threw me off.

La Taquiza 2
3009 S Figueroa St
Los Angeles, CA 90007
(213) 741-9795