There's something about a restaurant with shoes on the ceiling that just throws us off. At La Otra Taqueria Escuela, Steven Arroyo's brand-new addition to his food fiefdom forming around the corner of Stanley and Beverly (joining the original year-old Escuela Taqueria and the 3-year-old Potato Chips), the actual shoes suspended from the ceiling sent us a subliminal message: Get this stuff to-go, dash home and hope the chips are still warm when you get there.
Joyously, they were.
The most authentic, rough-hewn taquerias we've loved have never staked their claim on chips; there, the chips are often nothing more than brittle, store-bought sops for whatever on the taco or burrito happens to go overboard before the first attempt at consumption. One does not pay extra for them. It was therefore not necessarily a positive sign that these "chewy" chips ($3) are some of the best we've ever had -- wonderfully light, simultaneously crisp and pliable. A few were a bit like soft bottom-of-the-pile-of-nacho chips in texture, yet without the deluge of creams, purees and melted gunk heaped over the top.
The shrimp tacos ($7 for two) were spiked with tomato mojo -- basically a salsa in this case, not the Cuban-style mojo with which many might be familiar -- and, more importantly, bits of chorizo. The latter lent a rich, salty undercurrent to the small, fresh-tasting shrimp, though the whole to-go venture -- drawn out significantly by the regrettably slow and somewhat, as is to be expected at this very early stage of the restaurant's run, disorganized service -- meant the shrimp didn't so much "pop" as crumple beneath each bite.
Likewise, the bullets of branzino (a somewhat curious choice of fish for a California eatery) adorning the fish tacos ($8) weren't exactly "crispy" as advertised, but mild, dense and sweet, particularly bolstered by the accompanying chipotle crema. The grilled sweet corn, or elote ($5), was well-charred and tasty. However, we would have preferred cotija and mayonnaise to the Manchego the restaurant smears across the kernels.
Our recommendation: Eat in (and maybe give the $28 "butcher's plate" a whirl), bring your own beer (at least until the license is squared away), and watch for falling footwear.
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