The New Menus – and Experience – at Rivera

Chille Relleno | Anaheim chile with Martian Red Corn Salsa, Burrata Cheese, Cherokee Tomatoes

Recently, I had the privilege of attending a blogger dinner held at Rivera in Downtown LA to preview the new menu, a new concept that combines three categories of Chef John Sedlar’s interpretations of Latin cuisines. Sangre encompasses dishes inspired by the Iberian roots of Latin cooking, Samba is comprised of those with South American, Central American, and Caribbean influences and the Playa Bar menu incorporates seafood-themed cuisine inspired by Mexico. Each of them are served in specific dining rooms in Rivera and come complete with “sound bites,” or the explanations and history behind each dish. The Conexiones menu is the main menu that is served throughout the restaurant and, overall, emphasizes the connection between those Latin roots and our city. Local Californian ingredients are used, giving each dish its unique flair and that fresh, home-grown touch.

Post-Columbian Gazpacho | Traditional Cold Heirloom Tomato Soup ($9)

In an interactive spin that’s brand new at Rivera (and probably anywhere), diners who want to know more about particular dishes are directed by the menus to call 1-310-464-6884 and follow the prompts to hear Angeleno Magazine’s 2009 Chef of the Year Chef Sedlar personally explain the history and preparation of each selected dish.

There was a seemingly endless stream of dishes that came in threes this night, and while Chef Sedlar’s cooking is always exciting, I’ll prioritize detailing dishes that topped my list and save you the 15 dish-long play-by-play.

My first and second favorites hail from the small plates menu. I’ve always been a fan of gazpacho, and if this is “traditional” then perhaps I’ve been missing the execution in so many others. I loved that it made with golden tomatoes, decidedly sweeter than any orange variety I’ve had. I really enjoyed this cold but indulgent soup. It was interesting to recall the colors as I learned later (through the press release, but diners will learn by calling the number) that before Columbus, gazpacho was white, not red, because it did not yet contain the fruits of the New World: Tomatoes and peppers. The Flan de Elote ($11) was another elegantly simple – and sweet – dish, with a light corn custard topped by black quinoa and dressed with squash blossom sauce.

Continue reading