Saturday, February 11, 2012

Seduced by Some Oxtail Hash

I admit I was totally seduced twice this past Thursday night, an uncommon thing for discerning ole me.

For one, I was enchanted by the idea of going to the Los Angeles downtown art walk because it promised such a proliferation of galleries in one dense space, that I thought I would be sated with art overload and get a glimpse at what the area offered. I hadn’t been to the Spring or Main Street gallery rows since moving here months ago, and thought it would be a perfect opportunity to get a glimpse. I had been to a few artist lofts on the rooftops of painters who I consider talented in the area so mistakenly thought it might be a thriving hub of close-to-the-bone contemporary work from regional peeps.

For two, I was seduced by a review by food critic Johnathan Gold for the LA Weekly in which he extolled the virtues of the best dishes of 2011. The “El Toron” baco sandwich from downtown’s Baco Mercat was on that list. My boyfriend has warned me extensively not to be charmed by Gold’s never-ending fluffy adjectives and that’s exactly what happened, I fell for his description of the oxtail hash.

This particular sandwich is served at Chef Josef Centeno’s (Lazy Ox) downtown joint where he has created a menu that he would eat at home or make for friends. Baco sandwiches are basically pita bread wrapped around various Spanish-tinged, meat laden concoctions, served alongside pizza type flatbreads and a host of small dishes like wild boar on toast and the traditional English breakfast warped Centeno-style. It’s like perfect, gourmet end-of-the-night bar food.

Only we were there for dinner, after escaping the throngs of low brow, art lovers consuming the street fair-esque aspect of the art walk, where every gallery seemed to be churning out cheap versions of copycat Murikami,  Banksy and Alex Greys. And it was so packed, perhaps because of the day before glowing review at the, that our waitress had to comp us dessert because first, she gave our order to the table next to us, and secondly, she forgot that she hadn’t served us our food a few minutes after that.

But all that being said, my art malaise was happily fed with this Toron sandwich, even though the potato pancake overwhelmed the taste of the actual oxtail meat. A better ratio here would easily flip that opinion around. The cheddar and pickle on this dish mixed super-tangy with the charred edges of the hash. 

Of course, I didn’t get a photo of the sandwich because it was dark and cramped with people heartily devouring plate after plate of fried chicken, massive bowls of soups and a continuous string of more and more meat, and I don’t want to be one of those obnoxious food bloggers who flashes in intimate, low lit settings….but I did manage to get a shot of the bazole soup, which I loved. Thick with pork belly and beef bits, large and chunky with charred ends, floated in this super-Asian chili spiced, version with a fried egg on top that danced between ramen and something bloody and rich that would have put hair on Hemingway’s chest. 

I also really liked the sweet and sour, homemade soda selection. For three bucks a piece you can try from over ten varieties that include Black Mint, Meyer Lemon and Persimmon to name a few.

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