It was a rare Sunday a few weeks back when The Astronomer, June, and I ventured into Downtown Los Angeles for a book talk followed by dinner. Over-scheduling is something that we avoid with every fiber of our being, so weekends are often dedicated to lounging, relaxing, and general directionlessness.
But when I caught wind that Rosecrans Baldwin, the author of the unparalleled Everything Now, was popping up for a book conversation and signing at Hauser & Wirth, I immediately penciled the event into the family calendar. And while we were in the neighborhood, a reservation for dinner at Damian was made too.
Enrique Olvera opened Damian in October 2020 after operating successful restaurants in Mexico City (Pujol) and New York City (Cosme and Atla). There are a dozen restaurants in the chef’s growing portfolio, including a more casual taqueria next door to Damian called Ditroit, where the fish flauta rules and the churros do too.
We came in right when Damian’s doors opened for dinner at 5 p.m. The dining room, which snakes into a back patio, was less empty than anticipated, with a few folks at the bar and some groups scattered throughout the space. Damian’s moody lighting, industrial touches, and pops of greenery transported us to Mexico City for the evening.
While The Astronomer sipped a Japanese beer, I nursed the Ride or Die cocktail ($22) made with Casa Dragones añejo, Koch Espadin ancestral, Suntory Toki, and coffee tobacco bitters.
Botanas were dropped off at the table while we perused the menu. The nibbles included pickled cauliflower, green olives, blue corn tostadas, and salsa.
June ate an off-menu quesadilla filled with soft Mexican cheese, while The Astronomer and I shared a trio of appetizers including the fish tartare tostada ($24) with avocado, furikake, and plenty of fresh lime juice.
Also on hand was a huarache ($32) topped with tender bits of octopus, a schmear of Weiser potatoes, onions, and nasturtium.
The tamal mole negro ($22) came garnished with a mix of carrots, herbs, and shishito peppers. A pot of creme friache was served on the side.
For our main courses: a duo of delicious proteins destined to be wrapped in warm corn tortillas and assembled into tacos. First up was the carne asada ($52) with sweet potato and bone marrow.
Second up was the lobster al pastor ($48) served with the greatest condiment of all time: pineapple butter. According to our server, the silky sauce is made with just butter and fresh pineapple.
We couldn’t resist ordering the restaurant’s signature hibiscus meringue ($17) with pomegranate for dessert.
And while one dessert would’ve been perfectly adequate, we added on the mil hojas cacao for good measure ($17). Our server says that pastry chef Joshua Ulmer usually avoids putting chocolate desserts on the menu but made this one for those who don’t like chocolate. As folks who like chocolate well enough, we found the dessert to be very lovely with its deep cacao notes.
One year ago: Slacker.
Two years ago: Slacker.
Three years ago: The Year In Delicious: Top 10 Bites of 2019
Four years ago: Nightshade – Los Angeles (Arts District)
Five years ago: Cassia – Santa Monica
Six years ago: Tết 2017: Not Your Grandma’s Bánh Chưng (InstaPot Edition)
Seven years ago: Sadelle’s – New York
Eight years ago: Lincoln – Pasadena
Nine years ago: L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon – Las Vegas (MGM Grand)
Ten years ago: Thịt Bò Xào Hành Tây – Vietnamese Stir-Fried Beef with Onions
Eleven years ago: Moqueca Brazilian Cuisine – Oxnard
Twelve years ago: OB Bear – Los Angeles (Koreatown)
Thirteen years ago: M Café de Chaya – Los Angeles (Beverly Hills)
Fourteen years ago: Cajun Steamer – Birmingham
Fifteen years ago: Ngự Viên – Ho Chi Minh City
Sixteen years ago: Pappardelle in Lemon Cream Sauce with Peas and Smoked Salmon