Ever since Chef Ray Garcia left Fig restaurant in Santa Monica, I’ve been waiting for him to find a new home. So when news came that Garcia was taking over the old Rivera space in downtown Los Angeles to open Broken Spanish restaurant, I couldn’t wait to check it out.
While Rivera’s loss was mourned, Broken Spanish has more than filled the void with inventive food and drink. This is contemporary Mexican food turned up to 10. And Garcia’s team has opened up the space so it feels lighter and more festive. (Bonus: It’s just a few blocks from my office!)
For smaller bites, the requeson cheese accompanied by snap peas, black sesame, agave and sea beans is a light way to start before moving on to the esquites, or Mexican street corn salad. Garcia’s version uses Kewpie mayo, manzano pepper and parmesan, changing up the classic.
Don’t skip the rebanada, which comes with foie gras mousse spread atop pan dulce and sprinkled with piloncillo cane sugar and salt. It’s decadent without being too heavy.
The corn tortillas, made from heirloom corn from Mexico, come with either refried lentils or whipped carnitas fat. While both are satisfying, I prefer the lentils, which has tons of flavor.
Both tamale offerings are worthy. I don’t like lamb, so I would never order the lamb neck, king oyster mushroom and queso Oaxaca tamales myself, but everyone I know who has tried them love them. I prefer the version with English peas, fava beans, Swiss chard and hoja santa (I’ve seen three different presentations of this dish, so you know Garcia is constantly tweaking his offerings). It’s a great vegetarian option, as is the chile relleno, a poblano stuffed with potato, kale and lemon, and topped with a soubise sauce.
Moving on to larger plates, try the jumbo shrimp with cascabel chili, pequin pepper, guajes beans and pineapple. Go bigger with the chicharron topped with elephant garlic mojo, radish sprouts and herbs — expertly cooked with bold flavors.
While the tres leches is beautiful, I liked the taste of the chile mango dessert more. The combination of the mango panna cotta, habanero caramel, passion fruit curd and cayenne meringue offers an elevated version of the classic Mexican mango chili treat. For a less bold but no less tasty option, try the paleta with coconut sorbet, dulce de leche, cinnamon graham cracker, avocado mousse and cilantro.
Do not skip the cocktails. Mike Lay’s (Faith & Flower) drink menu complements Garcia’s food, as well as stands on its own. My favorite cocktail that I’ve tried is the Senor Ted Mosbley with bourbon, Fernet-Vallet, oroblanco citrus cordial, Damiana herbal liqueur and Teapot bitters. I could drink this all day. The Mariachigroni made with mezcal, hibiscus-infused aperitivo and Bitter Truth EXR herbal liqueur is another one that hits the spot.
For something lighter, go with the Green Garden, made with blanco tequila, Belle de Brillet pear liqueur, lemon, ginger, green juice medley and fennel flower. Or try the Tepache Fizz, which mixes traditional pineapple tepache soda with blanco tequila, genever, East Indian cream sherry, lemon, cinnamon and spices.
Broken Spanish restaurant is definitely a place I’ll be frequenting. And with its convenient location off the Expo Line, you can indulge all you want and not have to worry about driving home. Double score!
Note: A meal here was hosted.