I work in Westwood, and have tried a lot of the local restaurants, until now nothing really wowed me aside from Tanino on Westwood Blvd. A lot of the food caters to younger college and shopping crowds, with bar food, sandwich places, fast Asian food, and so on. Other than that it’s pricey upscale business oriented restaurants that have great menus, but rough prices. It was nice to walk into Casa Azul and see a well thought out interior, plenty of tables, an active waitstaff, and a menu that requires some consideration. Upon arriving I was greeted by the host and was seated at a small two top, and I will admit, it was quite small for two people having a rather normal three course meal. The decor was right up my alley though, blue booths, brightly painted highly stylized walls, the bar area glows green and blue, with some pink booths and walls thrown in for good measure! But decor does not a restaurant make, and we’re here today. . . to talk about. . . food!
Casa Azul Margaritas
I saw the drink on the menu and thought it a little pricey at $12, then a huge monster martini glass arrived at the table and I was happy. It has Blanco Patron in it, this makes me more happy! It was a little bitter at first, but it mellowed as the ice melted, revealing the cointreau and a limey tartness. Being a margarita drinker, this contented me.
Chips & Salsas
The chips are multicolored, it can be seen as cliche, I think it festive. They were tortilla chips, I’ve never had one that’s changed my life, and these were no different. The salsas were good though!
Green – This was interesting in the “What’s that ingredient?” sense. It definitely has lemon, lime, and jalapeno, but then I wasn’t sure if it was tomatillo or avocado or a combo of bother, but it was delicious. It was a light salsa that had a great citrus bite!
Red – Chipotle salsa with a little mole and tomatoes, it was a richer flavor with smoky notes in it. I preferred the Salsa Verde, but that’s why they have both, so you can pick and choose.
Wow, I’ve never had shrimp ceviche with whole shrimp in it, I’m used to the little chunks, but it was much more substantial than a lot of ceviches I’ve had. The shrimp were deliciously tender and the big chunks of avocado complimented it well. The olive oil created a contrast with the lemon juice that tasted similar to a soy or ginger sauce, which was later confirmed by the server as a Mexican variation of soy sauce from the company Maggi(click the link to buy the sauce). It comes with saltine crackers which aren’t visually appealing for presentation, but when the ceviche is on the cracker it is definitely understood why they’re on the plate. They bring a great salty crunch to the almost salad like flavors, working as a faux crouton if you will. I know I’m making this sound good, but I really can’t put into words the level of goodness the Maggi Seasoning Sauce adds to this ceviche. It brings an earthiness to a seafood dish that confused me and my taste buds in the best of ways.
I eat chile rellenos everywhere, it is my favorite of all Latin American food from any region south of the border. They can be done a hundred different ways and they are. The ones at Casa Azul Cantina were egg battered and stuffed with, what seemed like more of a queso blanco than a mozzarella. They’re made with poblanos(generally they’re made with poblano or pasilla chiles) and topped with an enchilada sauce and drizzled a sour cream with lemon. These were pretty high on my list of chile rellenos because of the poblano flavor. It’s very easy to lose the thin sliver of pepper that’s actually in the relleno when there’s so much cheese, breading, and sauce, but they did a great job at making sure the pepper flavor permeated the dish. While it was fried, filled with cheese, and topped with two sauces, these chile rellenos felt, somehow, light.
The skirt steak was ordered medium rare and was seasoned perfectly, it was a little tough to chew, but extremely flavorful. The cactus salad was surprising and good, tender crisp with a slight sliminess, it’s kind of like slimey crunchy green beans that were pickled? It has a very mild flavor, it’s almost like a citrus seaweed. I really loved the flavor of the cactus though, and look forward to my next encounter with it. The refried beans were delicious, salty with some bean texture still apparent and a creamier consistency, they don’t end up with the graininess of a lot of refried beans and they actually have some flavor. I’ve noticed most restaurants in LA don’t like to season their refried beans at all, and just give you a bland pile of mush, but there were actually components playing on my taste buds from their beans. The chicken enchilada seemed to have no chicken in it, but that was over looked because of the mole sauce. The flavors that shone through in the mole were the chocolate, chipotle, and i want to say chile de arbol. The guacamole was the great too. It was so great in fact that my photographer and I ate all of it before I even wrote anything about it. So that should tell you all you need to know about the guacamole!
Fresas Con Crema
It’s strawberries and whipped cream, it’s not meant to blast your face with uniqueness it’s meant to satiate your longing for sweets in a simple way and it does just that. I loved the addition of a little vanilla to the whipped cream it made the strawberries and whipped cream meld together. It was a great dessert, fresh and light, while being sweet and creamy at the same time.
The smell of the churros was the winner, that bright cinnamon sugar smell attacked my nose. They’re so *******(I actually used profanity in the rough draft) crunchy and gooey inside. They have a self-satisfying crunch while being almost gooey in the middle. They come with a strawberry glaze on the plate that tastes amazing when you drag the churros through it. This was both Blake’s and my favorite of the desserts.
The flan was tasty. It came with a citrus glaze underneath it that was extremely subtle, i would have liked it to have more powerful flavors, but all around it’s a good dessert. The caramelized portion was amazing, it was spongy and cakey, i just wanted a little more depth to the flavors present.
Casa Azul Cantina is definitely the best prepared Mexican food you will find in Westwood. The price won’t kill your budget, it’s a great date spot, and the menu has an exceptional variety of options for your nomming pleasure. While it wasn’t representative of authentic Mexican cuisine, it presented great flavors that are often overlooked in Los Angeles because of supposed authenticity of places that are cheaper. I’m glad to see someone attempting classy representation of, what’s come to be in LA, everyday food. So if you’re in Westwood and you want some of the flavors you love from your late night taco truck in a nicer locale, check out Casa Azul Cantina! I know I’ll be going back for the ceviche!