The Monster heads to Tinga Santa Monica. Can still smell the waft of perfume the eponymous Rene used to wear as she held court in her restaurant/bar/warren. While the walls have been painted (and the creepy dolls have been replaced by horrific art), not much has really changed in this space.
Which proves both good and bad.
There are still multiple small rooms/nooks and crannies in the courtyard restaurant and bar which now has a Mexican motif in keeping with the food. The menu is meat/chicken/pork-centric (as the waiter tells us fish tacos are not at all authentic to Mexico). That’s fine and all (but hardly seems true. Baja, Mexico does exist). Really buddy, is a “pastram-adilla” authentic to Mexico? That would be a Boar’s Head pastrami, grilled chayote, gruyere and Monterrey jack cheese quesadilla. Didn’t think so. Get some seafood options, stat or lose business to Tacos Punta Cabras.
Start off with some chips (decent) and salsa (watery and weak) along with the spicy guacamole with house made “Tapatio” pico de gallo. This is nice, so nice the table orders a second helping of the stuff.
Next up some chicken nach-itos with crema and guac. In Mexico is it authentic to call them “nach-itos?” Either way, they are fairly tasty. Wish there is less crema but for those of you who like white saucy things perhaps this is a bonus.
At this point though you probably take a pause and look around. The space still feels like Rene’s. Which is to say it still retains a bit of a dirty air and you fear a college age girl wearing too many bangles may barf out her frijoles de la “Olga” all over your shirt after she has one too many dirty horchata frozen margaritas (those must be authentic!).
Going to the bathroom you wonder who may be hooking up in it (or worse) and looking around you feel like you did when you moved to LA all those years ago. It’s nostalgia, but maybe not quite the right kind.
The la pechuga tacos come (two to an order, accompanied by, well nothing). They are lemon brined chicken, salsa verde, papas bravas, salsa suegra, pickled red cabbage, queso fresco and the house made crema (which this time The Monster begs off of). They are decent, nothing more, and by this juncture you’re glad you’re with good company because the food isn’t the star of the show.
You decide against coffee or dessert and instead head to valet to retrieve your car and feel lucky that you knew Rene’s all those years ago when it felt new and fresh and fun. You’re glad Tinga is keeping alive the spirit of the place, you’re just not sure you’re ever coming back.
Why go? You collect creepy dolls.
Monster rating: 2½/5 Monsters
522 Wilshire Boulevard, Unit C
Santa Monica, CA 90403