Monday, January 5, 2009

Latino-Japanese food is a must in LA

Provecho restaurant
It's sushi with a Latin influence.
By Jessica Gelt January 5, 2009

The words "sushi" and "Latin food" aren't often used in the same sentence, let alone in the same restaurant description. But in the case of former Republic chef Gabriel Morales' new modern Mexican restaurant Provecho, Latin sushi is just what you'll get.

Located on the ground floor of a slick downtown office building, Provecho specializes in ceviche, raw fish and tequila. If the only ceviche you've had is the kind made of whitefish soaked through with lemon, mixed with chopped onions and scooped onto a tostada shell, then Morales' ceviche may intrigue you.

There are more than a dozen varieties of ceviche and sashimi-like fish dishes on the menu, and very soon (most likely beginning in February) the ceviche/raw bar that stretches along the back wall of the restaurant (just like a sushi bar) will be ready for action. There, diners can watch the chefs make ceviche and plate oysters. Just behind the ceviche bar is a large sheet of glass that doubles as a water wall and offers a view of the bustling kitchen.

Morales says that the most popular item from the ceviche bar is the halibut sashimi with black truffles, sherry vinegar and red onion escabeche. The grilled rare albacore with jalapeƱo-garlic vinaigrette and a light and airy lemongrass guacamole also scores points, as does the rock shrimp ceviche.

Other menu items include hearty, flavorful plates such as pork al pastor with pineapple confit, mole negro de Oaxaca and oxtail-stuffed halibut cheeks, as well as tacos, tamales and rich soups. To start, you may want to consider ordering Morales' version of charcuterie, simply called carne y queso. The platter comes with habanero gouda and three types of meat, including a mole salami made by a small producer in Santa Barbara.

Also available are more than 80 varieties of tequila kept in a humidor above the bar. Staff members are schooled in tequila flavor profiles, regions and aging techniques, and they can help you sort out what type you'll most enjoy.

A word to the wise: Sipping a fine tequila is the way to go at Provecho. The restaurant itself feels a bit like a spa, with low lighting, soft, warm colors and upbeat music at a reasonable volume.

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