22 Jan Tacos, Mezcal and Crickets at Tacoteca
It’s not hard to find tacos in Los Angeles. From taco stands to taco trucks, we love our tacos. Now Santa Monica has a new taco spot where, in addition to tacos and other dishes,there is a full bar featuring mezcal-based cocktails and craft beers. The Westside needed another great drinking spot. Welcome Tacoteca!
Bartender Gilbert Marquez has crafted the cocktail program. With over 90 mezcals, he has created a menu of modern cocktails that emphasizes indigenous Mexican flavors.
I started with a Bebibas Ancestrales and ordered the Aguacatero (Mezcal, avocado, green chartreuse and lime). The drink comes with a worm salt rim that was spicy and a cricket garnish. Yes, crickets…..after all, they say that insects are the new protein. I went outside my comfort zone and tried them and despite the visual image, they were slightly salty and crispy and don’t really taste like anything. I survived!
As I am obsessed with avocados, we started with the Smokey Guacamole with chunky pieces of fresh avocado, pico de gallo and morita-mezcal salsa boracha. The tostadas were super crispy and strong enough to hold up to the guacamole and the smoky salsa.
We also ordered the Scallop Crudo of wild scallop carpaccio, black aguachile, red onion and cucumber. The scallops were unbelievably delicate and light but this dish is spicy and definitely not for the fainthearted. My mouth was on fire!
After the spicy dish, it was time for second round of drinks. We ordered the Oaxacking (mezcal, toasted coconut milk, pulque, orange juice, lime). The toasted coconut milk added a touch of sweetness that helped with the spiciness of the previous dish. The La Bruxa (Japaleno infused mezcal, banana, lime, cilantro, activated charcoal) was sweet at first but then smokiness came through on the midpalate and it finished with a little spice.
And now it was taco time. With six tacos on the menu, we tried three of them. The tortillas are freshly made:
Grilled Octopus Taco with serrano chile-peanut sauce and micro cilantro – The perfectly cooked octopus was surprising really good and the peanut sauce and onions added a little sweetness.
Carne Asada Taco with Mexican chimichurri and roasted red peppers – I loved the tender chunks of meat and the piquant chimichurri on top.
Lamb Barbacoa Taco with mint garlic salsa and fresh onions – Lamb and mint is always a perfect pairing.
We also ordered the Chalupa de Champinones – sauteed mushrooms, goat cheese, roasted jalapenos, fried parsely and green salsa. While not on the taco menu, it came on a tortilla and could be eaten as one. After all of the other plates, this dish seemed a bit heavy and after all the spices in the other dishes, the flavors in this dish were a bit muted.
Being a Westsider, I am happy that another good eating/drinking spot has opened up. There are many more drinks to try, as well as other dishes, so I will be back.
2460 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, California 90403