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La Casita Mexicana: 99 Essential Restaurants 2011 

Thursday, Nov 10 2011
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When you sit down at La Casita, the spiritual home of Mexican cooking in Los Angeles, you are brought a basket of warm chips drizzled with jet-black mole poblano, a chile-laced red pepian and a green pepian made from crushed pumpkin seeds: the dense, complexly sweet mother sauces that are at the heart of La Casita's cooking. It is a cuisine worth getting to know, especially the ever-changing dishes scrawled on the chalkboard specials list, which are likely to feature huazontle, hoja santa or nopals grown in the neighborhood, as fresh and beautiful as they might be in an agriculture-obsessed Jalisco village — the Lenten and Christmas season menus are astonishing. Chefs Jaime Martin del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu are everywhere if you follow Spanish-language media, demonstrating recipes on the Univision morning show, opening supermarkets and splashed across advertising posters, and they are omnipresent at sustainable-food events. But mostly there is the cooking: a half-dozen different kinds of chilaquiles at breakfast, a beautiful purple-corn posole, delicious enfrijoladas and an impeccable version of chiles en nogada, the most famous dish of haute Mexican cuisine. There is no alcohol, but ask about the aguas frescas — you may luck into the alfalfa drink, green as envy and flavored with the tiny Mexican limes that grow in Jaime's mom's backyard. 4030 E. Gage Ave., Bell. (323) 773-1898, casitamex.com. Daily, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. No alcohol. Street parking. AE, MC, V. Mexican.

99 Essential L.A. Restaurants 2011:

Jonathan Gold's Introduction
Anne Fishbein's Photos
The Google Map

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La Casita Mexicana

The List:

A-Frame
Akasha
Alcazar
Angeli Caffe
Angelini Osteria
Animal
Antojitos Carmen
Attari
Babita
Bludso's
Border Grill
Bottega Louie
Bulgarini Gelato
Cacao
Campanile
Casa Bianca
Chang's Garden
Chego
Chichén Itzá
Chung King
Church & State
Ciro's
Comme Ça
Cut
Dae Bok
Din Tai Fung
Drago Centro
El Huarache Azteca
El Parian
Elvirita's
Euro Pane Bakery
Eva
Fab Hot Dogs
Father's Office
Fig
Gjelina
Golden Deli
Golden State
Good Girl Dinette
The Gorbals
Guelaguetza
Guisados
Huckleberry
Hungry Cat
Ink.
Jar
Jitlada
Kiriko
Kobawoo
La Casita Mexicana
Langer's
Larkin's
Lazy Ox Canteen
Le Comptoir
Little Dom's
Lou
Lucques
LudoBites
Lukshon
Mantee
Marouch
Mayura
Meals by Genet
Mélisse
Mezze
Mo-Chica
Mother Dough
Mozza
Musso & Frank Grill
Nem Nuong Khanh Hoa
Newport Tan Cang Seafood Restaurant
The Nickel
Night + Market
Oinkster
101 Noodle Express
Palate Food + Wine
Park's Barbecue
Picca
Playa
Pollos a la Brasa
Providence
Ray's
Red Medicine
Rivera
Rustic Canyon
Salt's Cure
Sapp Coffee Shop
Sea Harbour
Son of a Gun
Sotto
Spago
Spice Table
Street
Tacos Baja Ensenada
Tasting Kitchen
Terroni
Tsujita L.A.
Vincenti
Waterloo & City

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