I rarely go to the South Bay. I can count the number of times I’ve been there on one hand. So when Mexican restaurant Ortega 120 invited me and a bunch of food writers, including fellow blogger e*starla, down to Redondo Beach for a meal and tequila pairing, I was a little skeptical. I mean, it just seemed so far (melodramatic, I know). But far be it from me to turn down free food and tequila, right? I’m not gainfully employed at the moment, after all.
So when we arrived at the homey-yet-stylish restaurant via chartered passenger van (tequila pairings, remember) and I saw the extensive menu, I was immediately excited. And co-owners Demi Stevens (mixologist) and Tommy Ortega (chef) didn’t disappoint. Neither did the night’s tequila sponsor, Partida. Let me tell you why.
There were no fewer than six cocktails (full-size, may I add) and four neat tequila drinks (i.e., straight liquor) that accompanied our five-course meal (that’s just food I’m talking about; a sixth course consisting of three cocktails I put in the cocktail category). I’m sure if we didn’t have that much food that I would have been drunk by the end of the meal, so good thinking, Ortega 120.
That said, the food was great, as were the drinks. I liked some more than others, though. My favorites on the food side were the taco de atun crudo, an Ahi tuna poke-style taco with guacamole, roasted corn and mango pictured above, and the chile-braised shortrib served with pozole (hominy) risotto that was so interesting and tasty I kept thinking about it the next day. On the drinks side, I liked the pomegranate ginger margarita and the espicy mango, which mimics Latino mango-chili candy. All in all, it was a good, solid dinner.
I do have some nitpicks, though. The snapper Veracruzano was a tad overcooked for my taste, though the flavor was there. The dessert of churros with chocolate dipping sauce and vanilla bean ice cream was decent, though the churros were on the crispy side, which isn’t my preference. I have to give props for the inventive use of horchata in the horchata martini: it’s actually made with La Tradicion Horchata Liqueur and vanilla vodka with a sprinkling of cinnamon on top. To me, it smelled much better than it tasted, though.
Partida also provided a parting gift of a sampling of some of its tequilas, agave nectar, a lime and a lime squeeze. Not that I didn’t like it, but because my mom likes margaritas so much, I promptly turned it over to her. So thanks for providing an easy birthday gift, Partida.
Oh, and if you’re going to Ortega 120 for lunch, the restaurant has a $10 “3 Before 3” menu, which includes three taquitos, tacos or sopes, with beans, rice, and soda or iced tea, for $10. There’s also a $10 meal with a cup of soup, half salad and half torta available.
There’s also a “Tequila University” hosted by Demi Stevens that takes place twice a month through August (the next class is June 23; then again July 7 and 21, and Aug. 11 and 25). For $20, you get a tequila flight, margaritas and light appetizers. With the copious amount of high-quality tequila on hand at Ortega 120, this is sure to be fun for tequila lovers.