PLAYA 7360 Beverly Boulevard / Los Angeles  / (323) 933-5300

Located just down the street from the landmark (and one of the worst) Mexican restaurants in town—El Coyote—this new addition to the Beverly Boulevard scene is the proud sister to Downtown’s Rivera. This just may be another example of wanting to date the little sister instead.

Enter into a giant loft like space that is both hip and yet warm in its display. Floor to ceiling backlit bottles anchor the bar, which opens into a room of tabletops, long community slabs, and banquettes. The floors are pentagon shaped painted tiles, trimmed by hardwood on the sides. Add in whimsical chandeliers that look like fantastical wigs that would make any drag queen jealous, and you’ve got a great neighborhood eatery.
Unlike so many new restaurants, there’s no pretense here. We were greeted warmly each of the three times we arrived, and by the fourth visit, the gorgeous Christine was kissing us hello, while Will, one of the terrific servers, offered us a welcoming handshake. Serving dinners every night, and brunch on the weekends, it’s a tough job for the Duo to recommend one experience over the other since they were both winning events.
 The dinner menu is interesting and unique, reminiscent of their downtown Rivera, but with its own twist and emphasis on casual, not fussy presentation. Thank god the head “bartender”, Julian Wayser, calls himself just that, and didn’t utilize the inflated “mixologist” (please, is this science, or is this dinner?). 
The bar is a happening (and very pretty) scene, so make sure to let him serve you one of his myriad concoctions. Our favorite was the one he called “Chinese Democracy”; how could it not be with a name like that? Picture yourself in the hot and sultry South-East Asia, a monsoonal shower is banging against the tin roof of your beach cottage, and there you watch a heron leaving footprints down a warm, sandy beach, while you sip on London Dry, Arrack lime, jack fruit, gomme and micro amaranth. 
We don’t know what it all is, but for only $12, you’re transported, and it delivers a sneaky punch as well.
Most everything is tapas with a salute to some Latin country somewhere in the world.  The flavors are like fireworks in your mouth, and there wasn’t anything we didn’t enjoy.  We started our eating fest with corn flour tortillas that were delivered to our table piping hot, hand made by the bar-side Latina, and imbedded with rose petals to set a beautiful beginning. 
The gazpacho dish called “Fission” is a must try, loaded with habanero peppers (wow, hot & tasty) scallops, shrimp, laced with Spanish extra virgin olive oil (the Spanish olive oil is the healthiest in the world due to the trees’ location, soil and weather conditions), micro herbs and topped with a slice of watermelon—so good and only $7 bucks.
We tried the Enselada Flan de Elote, which was fresh corn custard, queso cotija squash blossom sauce and black quinoa (not a rice, not a grain, but a small sort of cous cous that is being touted as the healthiest to consume). Healthy or not, the dish was great tasting. Who thinks of these things? 
Chef John Sedlar does, in fact. He’s North American, but he was raised with his Latina mother and grandparents. Chef had previously owned Bikini and then promoted Patron Tequila around the globe, but now he’s cooking at Rivera and Playa, the latter of which opened its doors February 11, 2011. If you ask around, he is renowned as “the Father of Southwest cuisine”, an infusion of all Latin cuisine, and after a few bites, we can understand why.
If you want something hearty, try the tapa Arepas Cacas, which are Venezuelan corncakes used like hamburger buns around Mexican shrimp, mango, cotija cheese and lathered with a mojito dressing ($11.00). The maize cake salsa samilla ($11.00) served with fresh burrata, salsa verde, arugula salad, amaranth and sal de Colima proved to be refreshing and light. Michael loved the “muscles melt down” (while Scott loved the muscle melt down of bar back Preston), 
a combo of vapor cooked muscles, charred tomatillo Serrano, salsa, avocado, lime and crema ($13). There were a half dozen of them, enough muscles to keep anyone in West Hollywood happy for the night, and they were very spicy and very flavorful accompanied with a superb broth.
Don’t think of this place as “fine dining” or elaborate, the food is rustic and very reasonably priced, which we like. 
The plates are fun, often times decorated with political and satirical fancy, and even the names of some of the dishes are unique. We just had to sample the Maize Cake Jewish, only to discover that it was smoked salmon, crème fraiche, Bermuda onions, caper berry and lime ($12); and yes, you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy this one, but it sure helps. 
The pan seared Loup de Mer was one of Scott’s favorite dishes of the evening. A sea bass filet served on a square plate and accompanied by five vibrant streaks of different sauces (chimichurri, ahi pinca, salsa verde, ahi romesco and ahi Amarillo....if any of that means something to you other than “terrific flavors”), it proved to be tender, fresh and bursting with tangs and zests.  It was also a beautiful dish at which to look, and well worth the $28. 
Full? Keep going with the unusual and particularly yummy Thai Tamalli, which was a tremendous combination of fresh corn masa, shrimp, basil, mint, slantro, lemon grass,Thai chili, ginger garlic salsa that resulted in a superlative blend of savors and spices.
Leave room for the desserts; they should not be overlooked. The outrageous, Patel Cafe, came as a breathtaking display of everything chocolate, comprised of pastel café, mocha sponge, espresso crème, toffee honeycomb and Colombian chocolate ice cream ($10). We can’t say enough about this dessert and it was worth every single unfathomable calorie. 
The Coconut dessert was a coconut and pineapple bread pudding with roasted pineapples, papaya and the best, creamiest coconut sorbet we’ve ever tasted ($9). We’re drooling all over again just writing about it.
We don’t like spending weekends inside and yet the lighting here is so nice and open that you don’t feel like you’re indoors. We also want something “sweet” on the weekends, and boy do they have this and more (and we’re not just talking about Preston and Christine).
Almost as soon as you are seated,a basket of hot almond flavored blue corn muffins are rushed to the table and quite frankly, this and an espresso would have been enough to keep us happy all day.  There are too many great items to mention, but there were three standouts for us. 
The Waffles de Jalapenos Confitados ($13), are contemptible. Who would have thought that waffles with Jalapeno peppers would have made for a good taste-treat, but trust us they do (order it with a side of thick-cut smoky bacon that will easily make you forget about your impending heart attack). 
The Panqueques (pancakes) are like some alien (no pun intended) form of pancake we’ve never before experienced ($12). The thin cakes are layered with a nutty chocolate, and bite after bite delivers a sweetness that is truly incomparable.   
Lastly, the Eggs Benedict are a Latin take on this age-old dish with chipotle bernaise ($13), and the result is stupendous.

Thursday through Saturday are the most popular and fun nights, so make sure to reserve ahead. Brunch is still relatively unknown, so you can enjoy a nice afternoon in a bright, airy space without having to wait in line just to get inside. Do yourself a favor and come to Playa, come hungry, and leave happy. We did all of the above, and we’re glad we did.

Appetizingly Yours,

Michael and Scott
The Dining Duo

Posted by The Dining Duo | 12:10 PM | , , , ,

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