ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
What restaurant owners and customers mean when they say an ethnic restaurant is “authentic” is that it’s different from those obviously Americanized restaurants purporting to be, in the present case, real Mexican. But being different from a hybrid doesn’t bestow full-bloodedness on a restaurant. There are many ways in which a kitchen can be inauthentic. Mizado is a great example of this. Its menu is as far removed from the standard Ameri-Mexican cantina as Creole food is from southern eats. But it’s not especially Mexican (where are the orange fat, cactus pads, and molé?). It is, however, a lot like a hundred restaurants in Los Angeles, where they’ve worked on diversifying Mexican food a lot linger than we have.
On the other hand, Mizado’s variations on the themes are fresh and for the most part delicious. A few puzzling items occur, but for every one of those are two or three exciting ones. It’s a net gain for the diner.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
The kitchen at Mizado adapts a range (though not a wide one) of the cuisines of Mexico and South America. Some of the dishes and ingredients are familiar, but most of it will engender not even a glimmer of familiarity among most non-hispanic diners. Even the dishes marked as “traditional” are very different from what you’re accustomed to. But there is excitement in this, and in the early going Mizado has been packing the house.
A large majority of the menu items are appetizer-size, with commensurate prices. This is a great place to get a Mexican cocktail or beer and three or four rounds of food. Most dishes are big enough to split. Although the same ingredients turn up multiple times, the flavor variety stays interesting. The handful of entrees are even a little better, with the grilled fish with chimichurri being the best cena in the casa.
Mizado is the newest concept from the Taste Buds (Gary Darling, Hans Limburg and Greg Reggio, all chefs and owners). Like their first two restaurant formulae Semolina and Zea, the trick was to apply the same inventiveness to a familiar ethnic cuisine that they felt free to indulge in their local-style cooking. In its first year or two, I couldn’t dope out what Zea was aiming for. That proved to be the creation among its customers of an appetite for the kind of food served at Zea. That worked, so here comes the approach again. Mizado opened in mid-2013, in a new building that stands, ironically, where a branch of Semolina once was. “Mizado” is a made-up, portmanteau word that translates roughly as “an intersection of viewpoints”
The single large dining room is airy and modern, with few identifiable ethnic notes–in case the concept doesn’t work out. In the center of one was is a chef who appears to be making sushi. More tables are in the busy bar, with still more outside. The latter are uncomfortable for dining, but they will serve you out there if you want.
Guacamole traditional, prepared table side, salsa roja.
Guacamole y Pistachio
»Guacamole India (avocado, banana, date, cashew chutney, cumin)
»Latin tuna tatami (raw tuna, guacamole, ponzu)
Salsa almendra y anacardo crema (smoked almonds, cashew, roasted jalepeno, tomatillo, agave, garlic)
»Salsa chile de arbol (pepitas, sesame seeds, apple cider, clove)
Roasted jalapeno crema, tomatillos, pepitas, cilantro
Tomatillo, roasted onion, garlic, serrano pepper, cilantro
Habanero, orange, carrots, roasted tomatillo, red bell pepper)
»Aguacate y serrano crema (tomatillo, avocado, lime, Salvadoran crema)
»Roja (tomato, roasted chiles, cumin, cilantro, agave)
Chicharrones de pollo (citrus and rum marinated fried chicken, aji amarillo, white soy)
»Chorizo fundido (hot sausage and three-cheese dip)
Queso fundido (melted queso blanco, cotija, mozzarella and manchego cheeses). Crisp tortilla strips.
»Pekin duck tamale, salsa borracha, pineapple jalapeno glaze, crema, cotia cheese, cilantro.
»Grass-fed beef tamale, roasted vegetables, chiles
Gulf shrimp, roasted chilaca peppers, citrus butter
Skewered, crisp pork belly, sweet plantains, salsa de habanero, salsa de tomatillo
»Aguacate (avocado, radish, roasted sweet red pepper, romaine, arugula, chayote, manchego cheese, roasted garlic vinaigrette)
Organic baby arugula, watermelon, tomatillo, cotija, pepitas, pisco vinaigrette)
Red chilie Caesar
»Carnitas (Michoacan-style pork, braised with orange, cinnamon, garlic, salsa de tomatillo)
Camarón (shrimp, garlic lime, ancho adobo, sweet pepper, onion, salsa de aguacate y serrano crema)
Carne (beer-braised beef, house salsa)
»Pollo (chicken, ancho adobo, sweet pepper, onions, salsa de arbol)
»Chorizo (hot sausage, potato, onion, salsa de habanero)
Verduras (vegetarian: grilled portabella mushroom, sweet onions, peppers, arugula, carrot, chilaca, salsa de almendra y anacardo crema)
Pescado Frito (Baja style masa-dusted fried Gulf fish, ancho chile tartar)
Pescado Plancha (seared fish, chilaca citrus butter, salsa tomatilla)
»Taquiza de Langosta (wood-grilled tropical lobster tail, baja cabbage, guacamole, three salsas
Caiman (alligator, ancho adobo, cabbage, cilantro, serrano, chicharron, ancho chile tartar)
»Puerco (slow-cooked, crisped pork belly, ponzu apples, pickled vegetables, salsa de habanero)
»Pato (duck confit, caramelized sweet onion, fresh pineapple melon salsa)
Venera (grilled scallops, onion, cabbage, tomato, bacon, Salvadoran crema, melon, house salsa)
»Atun (tuna, charred rare, citrus soy, melon, cilantro seaweed, roasted jalapeno crema, pepitas, cucumber, tobiko, romaine “shells”)
»Skinny Lobster Tacos (poached chilled Maine lobster tail, as above)
»Peruvian (fish marinated in citrus, chiles and herbs)
Salmon (orange, lemon, grapefruit, lime and carrot juices. Habanero, onion, fresh fruit, avocado, cilantro, corn nuts)
Atun (yellowfin tuna, lime, grapefruit, white soy, toasted sesame oil, avocado, plantain, carrot, habanero, cilantro, onion, corn nuts).
»Venera (scallops, tomato, pomegranate, grapefruit juice, habanero, pomegranate seeds, avocado, melon, cilantro)
»Baja-style camaron (poached and marinated shrimp fish in citrus)
(Ceviche with a Japanese touch)
»Atun Tiradito (sashimi-sliced tuna, citrus ponzu, melon, avocado, cucumber, cilantro, jalapeno, roasted pepitas)
Salmon Tiradito (white balsamic, guajillo chili oil, avocado, cilantro seaweed, tobiko caviar, jalapeno, edamame)
»Yucateca Cornish hen, marinated in pineapple and jalapeno, wood-grilled)
»»Pescado a la Campeche (wood-grilled fish, aguacate y serrano cremas, chimichurri)
Camarón nuevo barbacoa (large shrimp, serrano chile, toasted garlic, ancho adobo, pineapple, cilantr)
»Gaucho steak chimichurri (wood grilledtri-tip steak. Smoked pork belly potatoes.
Platos adicionales (sides)
Platanos (caramelized ripe plantains, cotija, agave, crema)
Pork belly potatoes
»Mac & chorizo
Emotes (green beans, chilaca citrus butter)
»Bread pudding with meringue baked on top
FOR BEST RESULTS
It’s not a good idea in most restaurants, but Mizado’s menu lends itself to ordering each course separately as you go. Four courses done that way get the most out of the big list of food.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
In the attempt to add a new twist to familiar items, Mizado brings quite a few of them down. The queso dip, for example, is made with better than average cheeses, but winds up just sitting there.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +1
- Consistency +1
- Value +1
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar +1
- Hipness +3
- Local Color +2
- Courtyard or deck dining
- Open Sunday lunch
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open till 11 p.m. MO TU WE TH, midnight FR SA
- Open all afternoon
- Unusually large servings
- Good for children
- Free valet parking
- No reservations