It used to be that people would venture to East L.A. in search of authentic Mexican food at known spots like King Taco. But now Cities restaurant is expanding East L.A.'s culinary scene, bringing fine dining to the mix...yes fine dining in East L.A. is not an oxymoron, thanks to Cities Executive Chef Steven Tolosa. With extensive culinary training, Chef Tolosa really knows his stuff and can knock the socks off of any foodie or food critic, for that matter. The best part is he's homegrown. Chef Tolosa is a graduate of Salesian High School in Boyle Heights, right next to East L.A.. So after working in San Diego and Atlanta, Chef Tolosa is back to his roots and the community is loving it. Not only is he making his mark on those in the area, but he also serves much of the working downtown L.A. crowd who keeps returning during lunchtime to enjoy his culinary delights.
From the appetizers to the dessert, Chef Tolosa's creations are all top-notch and really wow the palate. He started us off with the most tantalizing ceviche I had ever tasted. This isn't your average citrusy ceviche...this is a Passion Fruit Ceviche with chunks of fresh ahi tuna, shrimp, cucumber, red onion, fresh sweet citrus juice to cut through the acidity, served with crispy tortilla chips. The sweet passion fruit mixed with the citrus really makes for an exquisite juice you just want to drink right out of the bowl. This ceviche is a must try.
Next, Chef Tolosa brought out the most delicious appetizer, something my taste buds had never experienced...Fried Green Tomatoes, plump juicy green tomatoes perfectly fried, topped with delicious fourme d'ambert blue cheese, buttermilk dressing and chow chow (tangy Southern vegetable relish) on the side. They were absolutely divine! A little taste of his days working in Atlanta. Lucky for us, he's brought it to the eastside. ;)
I couldn't let him bring out the entrées without asking him for his amazing Bacon Wrapped Dates, filled with goat cheese, almond shavings, and topped with tamarind honey sauce you'll just want to lick right off the plate. These really are divine, another must have.
For entrées, I tried the Chipotle Braised Short Ribs, boneless c.a.b. short ribs, that just slide off the bone and melt in your mouth, roasted tomato mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, in a red wine demi glace. This is a fabulous dish, perfect for the hungry diner or even for sharing. That is if you're going to share something else, of course, like the Turkey Meatloaf. Now this is a very nice dish, something new you don't see on many menus. It's a scrumptious meatloaf, but a healthier take on it, made with ground turkey, with a little kick added to it, with roasted poblano chiles, roasted tomatillo sauce, along with a sunny side up egg on top. It's served with roasted tomato mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables...comfort food at its finest.
The Pork Rib Loin Chop is superb...stockyards bone in pork chop, wonderfully juicy and flavorful, with apple butter on the side, served with a sinful bacon bread pudding that's so good, it's almost like a dessert. You still get your sautéed vegetables on the side, so you don't have to feel too guilty, though it's worth it. ;)
I hear the Chipotle Fettuccini is also amazing, something I'll have to try on my next visit. The Skirt Steak with your choice of chimichurri or smoked gouda sauce, my favorite, is also a fantastic option. Or how about Handcrafted Fried Chicken? Cities also offers seafood options, like Blackened Mahi Mahi and Pan Seared Atlantic Salmon, if you're in the mood for lighter fare. There are also great salad options. And the best part is, the prices are very reasonable for the value you're getting. Entrées start at $13 for the Kobe Burger and go up to $22 for the Grilled Rib Eye Steak.
As a side note, if you're looking for some nice wine to pair your meal with, Cities has some nice options. My favorite is the Fabre Montmayou Malbec from Argentina...rich and flavorful, it paired well with all the dishes I tried.
Be sure to save room for dessert, because Chef Tolosa creates the most divine and decadent chocolate truffle I have ever tasted. It's called the Aztec Truffle and is an explosion of intensely rich chocolate in your mouth, mixed with cinnamon and chile spices. The best part is after you finish eating it, the cinnamon and chile notes just tingle in your mouth. It really is amazing! Guys, it would make the perfect Valentine's Day treat for your ladies. ;)
Chef Tolosa also offers Bread Pudding, Chocolate Marquise (flourless dark chocolate cake), and Butterscotch Pudding for dessert, which all sound amazing.
Cities is a popular spot for Happy Hour Monday through Friday from 4-8 pm, with drink specials and their full bar menu, which includes all the appetizers I mentioned above, as well as chicken wings, crab cakes, calamari, seared Atlantic scallops, and their very popular nachos made with pepper jack fondue, tomatoes and jalapeños. There's even escargot on the bar menu...where else can you find that?! These are served with chipotle garlic butter on grilled crostinis.
Cities also has some great deals, like their delicious Kobe Burgers for just $8 on Tuesdays and 50% off all wine bottles on Wine-O Wednesdays. They have a dj Friday and Saturday nights from 10 pm until 2 am, so you could also burn off some calories after your delicious meal. And Saturday evenings from 8 to 10 pm, they have a live jazz band to entertain you while you dine. It's very nice.
So if you find yourself on the eastside, go indulge in some fine dining. And if you're on the westside, now you have the perfect excuse to venture east of downtown. ;) Cities is located at 4512 East Cesar Chavez Ave., right off the 710 freeway. They are open for lunch Tuesday through Friday, and dinner every night starting at 5 pm, closed on Sundays. For more information, call 323-526-4555 or visit their website at http://www.citiesflavor.com. You can also find them on facebook. See you there!