Guisados: Redefining The Taco Experience
So I thought I knew what tacos were but, alas, I am just a gringo.
I know the difference between fast food Mexican and Tex-Mex. I know that Mexican cuisine varies greatly by region (El Norte, Puebla and the Yucatan, to name a few).
And I know bad Mexican vs. good Mexican food by sight, taste and smell.
I lived in Quanavaca, Mexico to learn Spanish for six weeks when I was a kid. I’ve lived in Los Angeles, as an adult, for almost seventeen years. I thought that would afford me some bragging rights on my knowledge, or at least exposure, to Mexican food – but then I met Guisados and then a whole new world of flavors and approach to taco engineering opened up to me.
My ignorance was exposed.
My ego may have been bruised but my palate and belly couldn’t be happier.
When you think of tacos you think of two small thin tortillas, some grilled carne asada, slow-cooked carnitas, or el pastor on a spit with chopped onion, salsa verde and cilantro. These are the garden-variety ingredients and means of preparation.
And this is NOT what you get at Guisados.
Guisados, a father and son owned business, (Armando De La Torre Sr. and Armando Jr.) which started in Boyle Heights and has now popped up in Echo Park and DTLA is taking Los Angeles by storm.
And for good reason, they make amazingly different boner-licious tacos, and here is why.
The tacos are made with BRAISED meat.
The inspiration behind introducing this to the general public was that braised meat tacos were what Armando Sr. grew up with and made in his own home, but he hadn’t seen it readily available to the taco lovin’ Angeleno public.
Neither had I.
The result… tender and flavorful chucks, or shredded pieces, of meat soaked in their own fat, juices, herbs and spices.
The house made tortillas are HUGE.
They are double the size of normal tortillas to trap in their stew like sauce.
You can almost drink this taco.
They offer a very popular sampler plate to expose you to their wide variety of classic and contemporary dishes, but those tacos are smaller and I wanted to be more selective and get the proper portion. ‘Cause I knows what I like and I had to have one chicken, one pork and one steak taco; and one quesadilla with chorizo for good measure.
Here is my haul!
Bistek en Salsa Roja
Flank steak simmered with red bell peppers and tomatoes. What is there not to love?!
Served with chile de arbol and avocado. Because of the amount of time the flank steak was simmered the heat and moisture breaks down the tough connective tissue (collagen) making the meat literally fall apart upon contact. The addition of avocado adds a lovely texture, and cooling factor; these tacos are served steamin’ hot.
Quesadilla con Chorizo
Queso panela, grilled and complimented with chorizo. Served with a mild chipotle sour cream. YES! There are few things I love more than chorizo and even fewer things then melted cheese, so this is a no brainer FlavorBoner.
But what makes this different from any quesadilla that I have ever had is that the panela is a brick that is grilled so that the texture is thick and crispy, and yet still gooey.
It’s brilliance. Simple brilliance.
Note: It is the same size as the taco and uses the same tortilla.
FlavorBoner Warning: This is highly additive. You might want to save room for two.
Shredded pork cooked in a sweet, red achiote chile. Served with Yucatan compliments, pickled red onions and habanero chile.
2ND Note: They will ask you at what level of hot you want your habanero chile… this is a personal choice, like what brand of condom one likes to use for sensitivity.
I went with a five and was very happy.
This was the most delicate of the braises. It lived in a world between a paste and a sauce and the pork flavor was phenomenal.
Tinga de Pollo
Shredded chicken breast with tomatoes, cabbage and chipotle chile. Served with avocado. This was the biggest surprise for me as I generally feel that steak and pork are more flavorful meats (partially because they are fattier) but this… well, damn.
This chicken taco was just as flavorful as the pork taco and beat out the steak.
You can just feel the love and heart in its juices.
I honestly felt that I was let into someone’s soul when I ate here. I was tasting an entire piece of history, culture and family heritage. Like I was let in on something personal and sacred. Me, the gringo.
I learned something at Guisados. I know next to nothing about what is cooked at homes in Mexico, or in the Ustados Unidos, but I am eager to find out.
More diverse and authentic Mexican cuisine to come.
El Gringo de FlavorBoner