Petty Cash Taquería, Los Angeles review

Not that it really matters, but when it comes down to it, there isn’t much that’s authentic about Walter Manzke’s popular taco temple Petty Cash Taqueria on LA’s miracle mile. His chef de cuisine Fabian Gallardo might come from south of the border, but he has actually spent a disproportionate amount of his cooking career in Italian kitchens on the east coast. Nor is “Petty Cash” much of a giveaway for the Tijuana inspired cuisine either. (Turns out the name was taken from a band that used to perform cover songs by Tom Petty and Johnny Cash.) And perhaps it’s a bit of an overreach to create a graffiti-covered, East LA-inspired, street-food-meets-street-art crossroads in the middle of ritzy Beverly Blvd. But hey, I have to hand it to them – they have most certainly pulled it off!

The casual, bright and airy, bar stool bedecked space feels like a rambunctious communal dining room that feeds off of an effervescent bar. And while a vast majority of the young “hora feliz” crowd might be transient, the buttercup yellow menus offer a myriad reasons to linger way past happy hour. Not surprisingly, the cocktail program is rather impressive, with vertical and horizontal flights of Tequilas and Mezcals seldom seen this far north of Baja, plus some kitchen-inspired combinations using avocado, tomato water and chilies.

The Bomb.com - Petty Cash Taquería

The Bomb.com

The Nachos might be legendary, but something referred to as the Bomb.com is an irrefutable runaway hit. Appropriately named by one of the kitchen staff and concocted quite by accident, the bowl of chunky guacamole is generously surrounded by a coliseum of Santa Barbara sea urchin with a flask of (what might look like biodegradable packaging materials but are in fact) the most wonderfully dry, light and crispy Chicharrones (pork rinds) my teeth have ever had the delight of snapping into. The delicious explosion of a buttery, salty, creamy crunch has elevated my hankering for Guac ‘n Chips like never before.

Hamachi Ceviche - Petty Cash Taquería

Hamachi Ceviche

The Ceviche bar offers a “build-your-own” Aguachile, which is a house-made Climato version of the famous marinated seafood cocktail – in addition to a few traditional options, like bright slithers of zesty and refreshing Himachi with lime, tomatillo and avocado. Our server also recommended the newly added (and perhaps ripe for reconsideration) Ceviche salad, which brought back old memories of a real fishing trip, where forkful after forkful yielded nothing more than cabbage and peanuts, and only once in a great while – a tiny reward.

But it’s all about the tacos. Whether it’s the shatter-crisp, beer-battered Mahi-Mahi, the citrusy, smokey char-grilled Octopus, the picante adobe-rubbed Pork Shoulder, the Carne Asada, the tempura Acorn Squash or any of the other gourmet creations – the local, seasonal and natural ingredients that chef Gallardo forages for at various farmers markets are only eclipsed by the unbeatable price of around $5 – $6 a pop. His confident use of flavors, marinades, fruits, herbs, garnishes and other surprises, create deeply satisfying and highly attractive servings. The warmth of the freshly pressed tacos reminded me of that wonderfully magnetic sensation you get when you grab hold of a just-scooped, flavor-spiked taco from the serving hatch of an ultra-popular food truck with an enviably long line around the block, followed by sealing up the top edge over the onions and the cilantro, and then balancing the bottom end onto your lip – so as not to lose a morsel of its delectable contents, as you send it into the tasting gallery…

Pettycashtaqueria.com

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Tuome review

Although many have labeled it South-east Asian, to me, Tuome (pronounced tow-me) is more of an Asian-American micro-bistro with a micro menu serving some exciting twists to familiar dishes in two micro dining rooms tucked away in the nether regions of the East Village. When I noticed that (former-accountant-turned-chef-success-story-in-a-bottle) Thomas Chen offers only 6 appetizers, 5 mains and 4 sides without ever repeating a single ingredient, I knew I needed to settle in and make myself comfortable. The ambiance is romantic enough without any unnecessary fluff. There are a few recycled pieces of rustic bric-a-brac in and amongst the obligatory face-brick, with some interesting incandescent light-bulbs and a single wall of bamboo, but the main features at this 45-seater are the large picture windows…and of course the food.

Egg - Tuome

Egg

The Egg is not your regular fourth-of-July variety. This one comes with an international pedigree. After being boiled and shelled, the whites are fried in a deliciously crispy panko crust, while the yolks are deviled and topped with the most wonderful mixture of pickles and chilies.

Octopus - Tuome

Octopus

I couldn’t help feeling a little sorry for the lonely tentacle of the Octopus with just a few crunchy crumbs of pork infused XO-sauce on the plate, until our server whipped out a red siphon and discharged a handsome mound of beige foam right beside it.  “Brown butter and potato espuma”, he declared. Not quite what I was expecting to keep an octopus company, but after tasting the combination of the crispy tentacles with a sweet center, flavored by the umami-rich sauce and velvety, buttery foam, he could have discharged some onto my snow boots and I would have happily lapped it up.

Chicken - Tuome

Chicken

The Chicken is cooked two ways: half of the breast slithers were astonishingly moist and ridiculously velvety – thanks to the gradual cooking of sous-vide, and the rest were fried to a delectably dry crisp. And both were balanced on a satiny porridge pedestal of garlic rice with a few swooshes of basil jus.

Short rib - Tuome

Short rib

I was still in two minds about expecting at least two beef options on the menu, but when the charcoal-colored portion of Chen’s Short-rib effortlessly flakes apart to reveal a moist and tender, dark-watermelon interior that has that slow-braised honey flavor, there simply is no way around the matter but to concede that it doesn’t get much better than this.

Rice - Tuome

Rice

Our side of luxuriously duck-fat infused Rice was bound in kale leaves and dotted with slices of fragrant Chinese sausage. One bite and I was instantly teleported to a street vendor in the Wan Chai district of Hong Kong.

As our server described the only dessert option, I couldn’t help but notice a half-knowing grin crawl across her face. She probably hadn’t had any takers for the odd marriage of a Chinese beignet with red bean paste all night (or perhaps all week for that matter), and so rather than break with popular appetites, we too abstained and enjoyed the rest of our Tempranillo from the modest – yet highly approachable wine list.

Tuomenyc.com