Loading...
Mexican Cuisine

Josef Centeno's Bar Amá Opening Tomorrow

Comments (0)

By

Fri, Dec 14, 2012 at 6:00 AM

click to enlarge Bar Ama - D. SOLOMON
  • D. Solomon
  • Bar Ama
Josef Centeno dubbed his new restaurant "Bar Amá" in homage to the foods his mother, grandmother and great-grandmother cooked in his native San Antonio, Texas. (Amá is short for mamá.) But don't expect a replica of their kitchens. "It's the food I grew up with, but my version," says the chef.

Bar Amá is slated to open Sat., Dec. 15, just down the street from Centeno's Bäco Mercat in downtown's Old Bank District. At first, hours will be 6 to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 5:30 p.m. to 12 a.m. Friday through Saturday.

Many scorn Tex-Mex for its "Macho Combos" and "Pancho Villa Platters." But Centeno counters that the cuisine began simple and homey. His mom would make fideo soup from just water, beans, tomatoes and pasta, for instance. Restaurants later began adding gobs of sour cream, clumps of guacamole and gluey orange cheese -- all heaped onto plates bigger than your head.

Centeno strives for innovation, not authenticity. His plan to infuse Tex-Mex with new influences should come as no surprise to fans of Bäco, or Centeno's time at The Lazy Ox Canteen. Both restaurants blend global flavors covering Europe, Asia and Latin America. Centeno also aims to emphasize quality execution of Tex-Mex concepts.

Like the puffy taco -- a deep fried tortilla that fluffs up as it absorbs oil, rather than forming into a hard shell. It is then crammed with meats, cheeses and guacamole -- "really decadent," says Centeno. He'll make each to order in a fryer dedicated to just that purpose. Puffy tacos are rare outside of Texas, so they may be new to even the most zealous L.A. taco fans. (The only local purveyor is Arturo's Puffy Tacos in Whittier.)

Angelenos might also not recognize sopaipilla -- a fried pastry crust that can be served sweet (filled with honey and sugar) or savory (packed with meat and beans). Cabrito (baby goat) and chicken fried steak are menu highlights too. Tex-Mex staples include fajitas, chalupas, chile verde, and chile con carne. Also look for "Mom's mole," "Dad's burger," and "Grandma's menudo."

Complement your meal with tequila and mezcal, including sotol and bacanora varieties. Ginger agua fresca is available too, and "Bäco Pop" sodas in flavors such as tamarind-mango, pineapple-cinnamon, root beer-chocolate, and hibiscus.

As with Bäco, Centeno designed Bar Amá himself. The space, designed to seat 72 guests at 2,100 square feet, was previously Urban Noodle and an empty retail shop. Centeno mounted wood paneling and painted tiles along the walls to create a cozy, warm feel. Accents such as orange napkins, red chairs and multicolored string lights add pops of color. No sombreros or Pancho Villa posters -- or combination plates -- in sight.

click to enlarge Bar Ama - D. SOLOMON
  • D. Solomon
  • Bar Ama


Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. Reach the author at dainabeth@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter at @dainabethcita.

Related Location

Related Content

Now Trending

Slideshows

  • The Year in L.A. Food (So Far)
    We've got so many restaurants, you could eat at a different joint every day of the year -- and probably the rest of your life -- and never go to the same place twice. It would be impossible (both physically and financially) to try them all, but luckily, you have us. Check out The Year in L.A. Food (So Far).
  • Ladies Gunboat Society at Flores
    At Ladies Gunboat Society, the new operation out of the restaurant that used to be Flores on Sawtelle Boulevard, the Hoppin’ John is served as an appetizer or a small plate rather than a side, and the price is the stuff of comedy.
  • Malibu Pier Restaurant and Bar
    Malibu Pier Restaurant and Bar, with chef Jason Fullilove at the helm, is in the two buildings at the pier’s entrance that used to be Beachcomber Cafe and Ruby’s Diner. Those buildings, which have been overhauled completely, reflect both the pier’s 109-year-old history and the cultural import of Malibu itself.