Lonchera carts rove the dining room loaded with surprises like purple sea urchin shells filled with mussels and green chile rémoulade. John Rivera Sedlar melds street food and gastronomy, the ancient and the new. The Staples Center glows like a lavender asteroid nearby as you enjoy a goat cheese tamal cooked in a hollowed-out squash. Finish with the Lenten bread pudding and—porque no?—the flight of aged Madeiras.
Best New Bars, September 2009
Not a lot of guys could stick beef jerky in our drink or rim our glass with ground crickets and get away with it. Julian Cox (right), head bartender at John Sedlar's upscale nueva mexicana restaurant, can. The least plausible star cocktails come from Rivera, like the Barbacoa (blanco tequila, chipotle, jalapeño, ginger, and agave nectar garnished with a dried meat hunk) and the Donaji (mescal, citrus, pomegranate seeds, and agave nectar, the goblet dusted with chapulín—cricket—salt). Even with such ingredients, the most remarkable thing about these beverages is their balance. The drinks aren't all this adventurous. Tequilas are infused with everything from vanilla to cantaloupe. Vodka gets a kiss of violet, rose water, and Thai basil. The bar area comprises ten stools and a few chairs for leisurely tequila sipping, so scoring a seat among the hordes of mixed-age, moneyed Hollywood types can be tricky. The wait is worth it. Time warp: Mexico City, 40 years in the future. Ultimate swill: Did we mention the Barbacoa? Secret ingredient: With bugs on the menu, you may not want to know
Best Tequila Selection, August 2009
There's no salt licking or lime sucking at downtown's Rivera
. Instead, chef John Sedlar commissioned leather chairs for genteel tequila sipping. OK, it's over the top. So is the $2,500 membership fee, even if it includes a bottle of house añejo
. The tequilas, infused with vanilla, passion fruit, or rose blossom, are irresistible.