The fusing of drinks and food is not a new one. Wine and beer have been served alongside meals since as long as I've been eating, and I have been eating a really long time. Then we got the fancy cocktail bars where bartenders became mixologists and played with foraged ingredients concocted into intricate beverages. It was rare when food was served next to these creations because perhaps the drinks were sustenance enough.
Then the mixologist met the chef, kind of like how I imagined peanut butter met chocolate for the first Reese's peanut butter cup, and they thought they'd try to see if they could get along under the same roof. Brilliantshine in Santa Monica is owned by mixologists, but they brought in a great chef so diners could enjoy great food and drinks. Further up the road is another new bar/restaurant, trying to do the same thing, Tacoteca.
Tacoteca comes to us from Adam Fleishchman, the Umami Burger creator, and chef Ricardo Diaz who's taco claim to fame first came from the institution that is Guisados. I knew we'd be in for a good taco with that pedigree, and we were. The tortillas are handmade so they're soft and delicious, allowing the rolled ingredients to shine, like dry aged chorizo with avocado salsa and seared farmer's cheese, and grilled octopus with serrano chile-peanut sauce and micro cilantro. Score one for the taco.
That thing about cocktails comes into play at Tacoteca as they have over 70 mezcals to sample. You can drink it straight or have it Spanish Style with tonic, grapefruit and rosemary, or go all out with mezcal, chartreuse, lime and avocado.
I was happy to drink the avocado as well as eat it in the smokey guacamole. The large round chip (fried tortilla) was an interesting add though not entirely practical, but I was happy to see large chunks of avocado with a robust morita-mezcal salsa boracha also on the plate.
What I wasn't happy about was how quickly our food arrived, and all at the same time. I was just getting into a groove with my mezcal when all 4 plates came out. I will say that it was opening weekend so there's still time to work out the kinks and I suppose getting your food too quickly is better than too slowly. And oddly, the place was pretty empty for opening weekend.
We worked quickly to get around to all the plates before they got cold. The scallop carpaccio was nice, but perhaps not memorable, and the street corn, well, you can never go wrong with street corn. It was steamed with an aged cotija cheese, lime mayo, cayenne and tamarind glaze making for one tasty vegetable.
While the fusing of food and drinks continue to evolve, I'm going to put Tacoteca more into the bar category to go for some Mezcal and a casual, quality taco. Then I'm going to hit Cadet next door for an after dinner French Margarita.
2460 Wilshire Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA