I don’t want to oversell La Huasteca, although my first inclination is to write: “go there this minute.” The food is memorable, prepared by Chef Rocio Camacho, who made her mark in East L.A. at Moles La Tia. Now she’s performing on a larger stage, literally.
La Huasteca is in the Plaza Mexico, a sprawling shopping center in Lynwood that is built around a full-size reproduction of Mexico City’s Angel of Independence.
The restaurant, its walls covered in murals, has been a gathering place for political meetings and has long been known for high-end Mexican food, but Camacho has moved it to an even more remarkable level.
For starters, you must put an order of the empanadas on the table, exquisite puffs filled with squash blossoms and crema, surrounding a mound of rough-mashed guacamole. And order the spicy ceviche, its citrus marinade a cousin of the Peruvian ceviche at Mo-Chica, which is recommended at www.atLarrys.com. Oh, and the salsas put on the table are clearly home-made and wonderful.
Since Camacho is known for mole, it’s wise for someone to order her signature mole de los dioses, as complex and delicious a dark mole as you will ever taste. The tamarind mole on a chicken breast is a delicious rebuke to anyone who thinks that cranberry sauce is the way to enliven the white meat of chicken. My recent lunch mate had a pork mole and was transported by the taste of the mole and the skill in cooking the pork to perfection. At a dinner, I ordered the tikin-xik bass, one of the most memorable fish dishes I have ever had. Usually I believe that fish should be unadorned and simply speak for itself. However, this bass, bathed in sour citrus and achiote, covered with red chile, and cooked in a banana leaf, was a symphony of flavors that harmonized with the fish.
Every dish comes with rice, and it’s not an afterthought, but moist and filled with slivers of vegetables. Oh, and you can watch a woman hand-making the tortillas you’re served.
Save at least a little room for an order of flan for dessert. The butterscotch topping is subtle, as is the flavor of coconut that doesn’t overwhelm.
On Friday and Saturday nights a mariachi group performs from 8 to10. Don’t wince: Mariachi Juvenil Tapatio consists of nine accomplished players and singers. They also perform Sunday from 12-2, but be forewarned, the Sunday afternoon meal is served buffet-style. The regular menu is available only after 2:30.
There’s a full bar, serving a margarita that pleased a friend who sampled a lot of them at writer’s conferences in Mexico. Is La Huasteca perfect? There’s no Mexican beer on tap, bottles only. The chair legs rasp on the concrete floor. It’s in Lynwood.
But the food, the food, the food. You will find yourself thinking about it days later, wondering how soon you can go back, and how many people you can bring along so you can taste even more of Chef Camacho’s wondrous cooking.
La Huasteca is located at 3150 E. Imperial Hwy. in Lynwood, CA. Phone number is (310) 537-8800. Web site is www.Lahuasteca.com.