For the past 12 years, Chefs Ramiro Arvizu and Jaime Martin del Campo have been preparing the dishes of their native Jalisco at La Casita Mexicana in the Eastside neighborhood of Bell. What sets the restaurant apart from the zillion other Mexican eateries dotting the city’s landscape is its serious commitment to retaining authenticity and using only fresh, local, and seasonal produce. In fact, most of the herbs and vegetables employed at the restaurant are grown nearby at a communal garden. The result of pairing southern California’s finest ingredients with Chefs Ramiro and Jaime’s immense talents is food that shines like no other taquería in town. La Casita Mexicana is truly one of a kind.
I met Chef Ramiro this past summer while traveling and eating my way through Baja. With his friendly demeanor and incredible knowledge of Mexican cuisine, he was one of the most memorable characters on our delicious voyage. After we parted ways, I vowed to check out the restaurant as soon as possible. It took a lot longer than I intended to make my way to La Casita Mexicana for a meal, but that’s how it goes sometimes when dining and exploring such an expansive city. Joining The Astronomer and me for dinner was my dear friend Esme.
Our waiter brought a complimentary bowl of tortilla chips drizzled with three different moles and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds as we perused the menu. With its distinct peanut buttery notes, the red pepian tasted like a Southeast Asian satay sauce. Made from crushed pumpkin seeds, the green pepian was mild and nutty. The dark brown mole poblano was the most intriguing of the trio with its spicy undertones and unabashed sweetness. It was tough focusing on the menu with such a tempting treat before us.
Prior to our entrees arriving, we were each treated to a bowl of the soup of the day—crema de frijol (cream of pinto bean soup). Topped with salty crumbles of cotija cheese and crunchy strips of tortilla chips, the smooth soup was intensely savory and perfectly balanced. I’ve never been more satisfied by a bean soup.
The Astronomer ordered chicken enmoladas ($11.95) for his main course. Similar in composition to enchiladas, the shredded chicken-stuffed enmoladas arrived smothered in the house-special mole poblano. The thick pool of mole appealed to The Astronomer at the start, but he grew tired of its chocolaty sweetness half way through.
The chicken enmoladas were served with a side of white rice.
Esme thoroughly enjoyed her chicken flautas with three moles ($8.99). The deep-fried corn tortilla proved to be an ideal complement to the chicken filling and array of moles.
For my main entree, I chose chiles en nogada ($13.95), the national dish of Mexico. With every color of the national flag represented, the dish consisted of a roasted poblano chili stuffed with spiced ground beef, dried fruits, walnuts, and candied cactus. A rich and creamy pecan sauce, along with a handful of pomegranate seeds, provided the finishing touches.
I loved how the dish brilliantly teetered between sweet and savory, like a Moroccan bastilla. The juicy pomegranate seeds were essential for reeling in the creamy sauce and sweet filling.
For dessert, we shared an order of churros ($3.99). The two-inch long rods were piped full of dulce de leche and served fresh out of the deep-fryer. All three of us were completely stuffed, but we rallied to finish these off because day-old churros are a travesty.
La Casita Mexicana
4030 Gage Avenue
Bell, CA 90201-1127