GUISADOS

It hurts me to disagree with AA Gill. My fantasy is that we will one day meet, perhaps over lunch with Sir Elton John or Jeremy Clarkson, wearing snappy neckerchiefs and matching smug smirks, then arrogantly stare each other down and… well, I’m blonde. Surely it’s no biggie for him to replace one with another? But then he goes and spoils it all by saying something stupid like, ‘There Is No Such Thing As Nice Tex Mex Food.’ Slammed back to reality – where I don’t wear a neckerchief (well, not often), nor dine with rich fat cats – I bring you Exhibit A in the case against AA Gill: Guisados. (Hear: BING-BING! dramatic Law & Order sound effect). Somewhere in the 1000s on Sunset Boulevard, in Echo Park Los Angeles, my first hint that Guisados will be great is that it looks so bad. What is it about an open, utilitarian kitchen and sticky, vinyl-topped tables that denote something deliciously special? Ugliness bordering on unhygienic neglect is my beacon for the best South East Asian food. Heck, a stray cockroach and ‘out of order’ restroom practically make my mouth water. Now, I don’t know to where AA was referring when he wrote this: ‘The things that weren’t simply odorously disgusting hurt like scrubbing your uvula with a rusty wire brush,’ but it can’t have been Guisados. And though it nowhere resembles a Taco Bell, I still fit Guisados into the Tex-Mex category, both due to its geography and for the sake of this argument. I realise authentic Mexican food can be served outside of Mexico, but I’m not Mexican enough to confidently call this authentic Mexican food. I am, however, Mexican enough to say, ‘ay caramba! Guisados is goood!’ On the advice of a local (Angelino, not Mexicano) we order the sample plate of six perfect tacos ($6.99). You hear me, Gill? Perfect [per-fekt] tacos [tah-kohs]. The handmade corn tortillas are small, earthy and carby. Not thick, gluey dinner plates, or sweet as I expect, but pleasingly, mildly savoury. Which is a relief, cause the various pulled pork and braised chicken toppings make me pant like a carsick cat. Here’s the thing: I love me some Tex-Mex, but holy hot-and-spicy-Jesús, I am no hero when it comes to heat. Here’s the other thing: though quite hot, there was certainly no ‘uvula-scrubbing’ pain at Guisados. The heat here is flavour. Where usually I find chilli-hot foods completely numbing, to the point of rendering taste or enjoyment impossible, Guisados-hot is different. I can taste chilli, sure, but I can also taste the other hallmark spices of Mexican cuisine: cumin, garlic and oregano. In Spanish they call it, ‘equilibrar’. We make short work of the six small, spicy, perfect tacos. And had I known my flight would be delayed two and a half hours, I would have demolished another six. So, hey. AA? In my revised fantasy, I imagine the two of us sitting across a sticky-topped table at Guisados, with a cup of their sublimely sweet, almondy, cinnamony, heavenly-Horchata ($3) between us. As we sup you look me arrogantly in the eye and declare, ‘you’re right. You’re SO right. You’re always right.’ Then I peel my elbows off the table, lean across and smugly adjust your jaunty neckerchief.

http://www.guisados.co/

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