After the Oscars were over, we were still dressed up and headed to the one place in Downtown that we have been dying to go to but haven’t been: Rivera. Or as Josie always mispronounces it, Riviera. We walked in late on a Sunday and sat at the bar and were served by the kindest bartender named Matt. I thought he was from Boston but I was incorrect and then I thought he reminded me of Steve from Sex and The City and Josie agreed. She went to the bathroom and Chris went to order her a beer. I know my girl, Josie, more than most and knew that nothing would make her happier than her favorite beer an Old Rasputin. I told the bartender that I love whiskey and fruit and he made me one of the best cocktails of my life, Blood Sugar Sex Magic. Sure the drink may sound like a Justin Timberlake album name but it had Rye Whiskey, red pepper, agave nectar, and basil. It was delicious. Matt, the bartender, then showed us a bottle of cognac that goes for $250 a shot. We didn’t get to try any but we did hear a funny story about a guy that ordered four shots and refused to see the price and then almost fainted when he saw his $1,000 bill.
We came in for a drink and dessert but as soon as I saw the menu I began ordering and we asked if we could see the kitchen. The restaurant was sleek and well-designed but in the kitchen is where we saw the heart of the restaurant. We shook hands with everyone, met a high school student that will be soon studying at Le Cordon Bleu, and saw just how much love the restaurant puts in to everything. Josie is someone that equates details to love and I agree in a kitchen like this.
The corn tortillas were paired with fresh flowers and beautifully arranged and separated by parchment paper. It was gorgeous and seeing the process made it so spectacular. It was like art placed away until it was ready to use. In another corner were these plates that had stencils made of spices. Again the attention to detail and the time that these took to assemble were amazing and priceless.
When we returned to the bar I was given a sheet of paper that explains Rivera’s “Spice-ology.” Some of their plates on the menu “feature powerful graphic images created in custom seasoning blends that complement-in aroma, flavor, and image-the food they company”. I was impressed in the kitchen but when I saw it paired with the food it really enhanced my experience through all of my senses. The chef had sent out some of the flowery tortillas for us and I couldn’t stop myself from ordering a shrimp taco that had a great carrot puree on it. The gentleman of the evening, Chris, ordered the relleno and we also got piquillos rellenos which had chorizo and, my favorite, golden raisins. Josie ordered the calabacitas and the quinoa and spinach side but her favorite dish of the night was the relleno. Everything was beautifully presented and plated and Ken who delivered it became our bestie for the night. He and Josie even had a debate about a certain pepper and he went to the back and checked Wikipedia (the Bible of all) to give a proper response. The service here went far and beyond what was expected. It is a rarity in the LA dining scene and the UGs were impressed.
I ordered the baba cachaca with citrus and dulce de leche it was soaked and delicious. Once again the chef we met in the back surprised us with the torta xocolata. It was like an oversized truffle with drunken pineapples on top. We came for dessert and drinks and they all delivered but it was the food and service that made us Rivera converts.
Rivera has the tag-line “Modern Latin Cuisine” but I will always think of it as the restaurant that puts flowers in their corn tortillas. The attention to detail in food, presentation, drinks and service were exceptional. On a late Sunday night, after the Oscars, I wasn’t expecting much but I was impressed. Especially after we left a brand new 4 star hotel where we heard our server say, “I sure don’t want to be here.” It was like night and day and now I am dying to return for a proper meal at the table. I see a lunch at Rivera in the very new future.
Cuisine: Latin American
Neighborhood: Downtown1050 S Flower St #102
Los Angeles, CA 90015