Before each home game this season, ClipperBlog will run “ClipperBlog Eats,” a restaurant recommendation from its resident restaurant reviewer, Ben Mesirow. Below is today’s suggestion:
We have expounded in the past upon Josef Centeno’s downtown empire, a little (but rapidly expanding) constellation of excellent restaurants from one of LA’s star chefs, and each of them would make an excellent pregame stop. Tonight, though, with San Antonio in town there is one obvious choice among them – Centeno’s Tex-Mex ode to his culinary upbringing, Bar Ama.
Tex-Mex is the subject of a fair bit of scorn in LA, mostly for its mountains of gooey cheese and sizzling platters of peppers, but Bar Ama is the first place to truly dedicate itself to a more soulful kind of Tex-Mex, and in Centeno’s capable hands it really works – the food is refined, balanced, and interesting without losing its innate sense of fun. There are giant bowls of queso, sure, but it’s incredibly delicious, rich and cheesy and viscous, with a generous pile of excellent spicy chorizo if you so desire, and best of all it does not taste even a little of melted plastic, as the standard version so often does. There are fajitas and chimichangas and a Frito pie, too, but the chile in the pie is made with lengua, you can get your taquitos with duck confit, and the chalupa is made with braised short rib.
So yes, Bar Ama is Tex-Mex, and yes, it has many of the dishes at which you have turned up your nose before, but it is also the type of place with pickled habanero in the tuna tartare and pomegranate in the ceviche, where the fried pig ears come with vegetable escabeche, where the tortillas are all spectacular and house-made, and even the enchiladas are fun, interesting, and full of flavor. In short, it’s the perfect place to start a San Antonio type of night. 118 W 4th St, Los Angeles, CA 90013; bar-ama.com