What is it with all these new restaurants from celebrated chefs that seem to miss the mark? Add Bar Ama and Josef Centeno to the list. Baco Mercat this is not.
His take on the Tex-Mex he grew up with in downtown is his love letter to his youth. Unfortunately, the good-looking space doesn’t live up to his previous restaurants acclaim. Maybe he didn’t love his childhood that much.
Let’s start with the fact they serve lukewarm water. Ugh. People, water needs ice. The Monster shouldn’t have to ask for ice. Just put some damn ice in the glass already. This is becoming the most annoying epidemic since the great kale salad infestation of the last year.
The menu is a nouveau take on Tex-Mex with the requite queso, chile rellenos and enchiladas. For the goat lovers, you might be tempted by the young boer goat with coffee-chile rub. Somehow The Monster doubts a childhood Centeno was eating much grilled yellowtail collar but you can have yours with chili, lime and sesame.
So, you’d think the made to order guacamole with cilantro, lime, serrano and celery would be great. You’d be wrong. It proves fine at best.
The braised duck leg chalupa with cilantro and crushed avocado is similarly disappointing. It’s not bad mind you, it’s also not great either. The Monster loves him some duck so this is especially stinging.
What was tasty is the main course, a half chicken with ancho, lemon and oregano. Now this, this works. But one for three is a bad day at the free throw line and it’s not a great way to engender repeat business at a restaurant either.
Given the new space was not even halfway full at lunch and The Monster wonders if perhaps the writing is already on the wall for this space.
Why go? Catch it before you can’t.
Monster rating: 2½/5 Monsters
118 West 4th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013