Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Mexico Restaurante y Barra: Larry Nicola gives the people what they want

West Hollywood's new Mexico Restaurante y Barra is all about trying to show you a good time, from the goofy Mexican zebra at the front door to the serapes draped on the back of the chairs in case of a chilly evening. What's surprising is that the food is far better than it needs to be at a place that's tailor-made for hosting margarita-fueled groups of friends. DSCF4004
A few writers were invited to take a trip to Mexico, West Hollywood style on Sunday night. Owner Larry Nicola may be of Lebanese heritage, but he's got two things going for him: he loves Mexican food and visits there often, and after 30 years on the L.A. restaurant scene, he seems to know what L.A. wants.
Basically, L.A. diners want simple, non-gloppy Mexican food, excellent guacamole and plenty of types of margaritas and other cocktails, and who is he to deny them? Located in the building that once housed the Doors recording studio, Mexico is squeezed into the former Benvenuto space on Santa Monica near La Cienega. DSCF4005
The best seats in the riotously pink, mostly outdoor restaurant are on the upstairs patio -- try to forget you're overlooking Santa Monica Blvd. and pretend it's a beach resort, which shouldn't be a problem after the first drink. All the fruit juice-based cocktails are too sweet for my taste, but the Silverrano with tequila, cucumber, lime and serrano chile is just right for sipping with chips and chunky guac. We could have easily called it a night after appetizers of duck taquitos (above), roasted corn with crema and verdolaga (purslane) salad, halibut ceviche (above) and grilled shrimp cocktail with chipotle salsa.DSCF4006
But there were also hearty main dishes to explore -- grilled chicken with mole coloradito, red snapper and richly porky carnitas (above). Next time, I think one order of carnitas for the table and an assortment of appetizers and plenty of guacamole would be the perfect way to go.
With prices that are reasonable for the neighborhood and a well-conceived menu, Mexico is a big improvement over the area's other places like Spanish Kitchen and Marix.
Would I go back on my own dime? Definitely, if I were looking for a fun spot or needed to be in that area. But I might look for parking on La Cienega, as their lot is pricey at $7.
Mexico Restaurante
8512 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood
Phone 310.289.0088


Miles said...

I ate there last night for the first time and it was quite good, but I don't think the cheese appetizer (though delicious, but not served with enough piping-hot tortillas)did me any favors. For the main, I had the roasted chicken burritos and they were fab. I also tasted the carnitas tacos and they were very good as well. Just stay away from the cheese. Seriously.

Kathy A. McDonald said...

I ate the leftover roast duck and snapper Veracruzana the next day--still delish. Did you mention the wood fired black beans? They were outstanding as was the guac. And they have happy hour!

Anonymous said...

the queso fundido w/ soyrizo was amazing! there were not many tortillas , but it was even better with the chips and guacamole. DON'T stay away from the cheese!

Anonymous said...

If you want cheese, go to a cheese shop, not a Mexican restaurant.
The more people avoid cheese, the better off they will be.
Cheese is the death knell of the western world - How many Asian countries specialize in cheese = none? Most of the healthy people of the world - get the picture.

Filtafry said...

it surely looks great to eat at Restaurante y Barra...

for the food they serve to their customer and the ambiance of a Mexican inspired restaurant..

Miles said...

the queso was delish, but i really think it made me sick the next day. probably was just something going on with me, though. so try it if you aren't cheesey sensitive.

LAkompany said...

We ate hear last week. Loved it. The margaritas rival El Coyote's. The waitress we had was charming and helpful. We had a variety of dishes during happy hour. Quite a nice menu.