Sometimes an intention is all that is needed when you head towards a goal. My intention was to eat lunch at a nearby place which served local or organic ingredients in creative and tasty combinations. I've been meaning to try Gratitude Cafe and Superba Snack Bar for quite awhile, so I simply parked on Rose and walked around figuring I would choose a place to eat lunch once I got to the area. Superba was closed and Gratitude was just a block too far to walk to in the 90 degree heat.
Serendipitiously, I ended up at Cerveteca. They have a large enclosed patio, so you can enjoy sunny Southern California beach weather even when the beach (six blocks away) is overcast.
This marvelous place serves some of the best Latin inspired food I've ever eaten. They use free range chicken, wild caught salmon, and organic mixed greens for their salads, so quality is paramount. The fact that they use handmade tortillas speaks volumes about how much they care about their food. It's the equivalent of using bakery bread rather than using cellophane wrapped supermarket bread when you are making a sandwich.
Since their Happy Hour lasts from 3-7pm, you can get here earlier for drinks and appetizers before your dinner, or make your dinner from the Happy Hour menu which offers smaller bites of the menu items.
Mama's ceviche, made with lime cured fish, tomato, cilantro, radish, jicama, mango, and cucumber for $9 at Happy Hour ($16 regularly) is a fresh citrusly medley of ingredients. We added some of the pickled relish from the table to perk it up with some jalapeno, but for those who want no heat, it is good by itself. The accompanying chips are made from the handmade tortillas, so they can be addictive.
Since we couldn’t decide whether to get the barbacoa beef or pulled pork slider, so we got one of each for $6 at Happy Hour ($14 regular). The five spiced beef was the clear winner of the two with a marvelously subtly smokey spice (but not hot) flavor.
The Baja taco was the best fish tacos I've ever eaten. Period. For $4 at Happy Hour or $12 (for three) on the regular menu, the beer batter dipped and fried cod with slaw, crema, salsa, and aji sauce was the perfect combination of soft, crunchy, warm, creamy, and spicy (if you add the sauce served on the side). If anyone you know does not like fish or tacos, I would bet that after a bite of this taco they would change their minds (and I'm not a gambler).
The special of the night was seared Diver scallops on a bed of Romesco sauce with grilled and raw asparagus. The scallops were perfectly seared and slightly under done, so it was almost sashimi. The Romesco sauce added a nice flavor with a counterpoint of creamy texture to the scallops and asparagus. If this is on special when you go and you like scallops, make sure you save room for this dish.
I chose the Herb and Garlic Basted Game Hen for $18, made with achiote, tomato, thyme, rosemary, arroz ajillo, with a side (I chose the brussel sprouts with bacon), and tortilla. This game hen was one of the best versions I have ever eaten, with the skin and meat both infused with achiote and perfectly roasted. The brussel sprouts had incredible chunks of thick bacon, but it was a bit overwhelmed by the cider finish. The Arroz Ajillo was delightful, with just a hint of flavor that complimented the game hen perfectly.
Serendipity is defined as a "lucky coincidence"; I'm glad my luck was good enough to end up at Cerveteca.