I was thinking about things to do Downtown on a Wednesday night—Jazz and Modern Mexican Food crossed my mind. Not as arbitrarily as it might sound given an encounter I was lucky enough to have with the lovely Lauren Brand at the June, Marketing Round Table.
“Lauren Brand, with Provecho and Remedy,” she stood and said. This introduction is part of what happens at the meeting put on by Hal Bastian and company—Downtown BID.
After the meeting I was sure to run into Lauren, and she was sure to inform me that I should take her up on an offer to visit Provecho for some Wednesday Night Jazz and Modern Mexican Cuisine. Somehow we snuck a Happy Hour in, which was more than enough to convince me to trust Lauren on her Wednesday night suggestion.
The story of Provecho really doesn’t start with all of this PR / blogging talk…It’s more of a love story that began when a young girl named Jill and a boy named Gabriel worked at a restaurant in Pasadena called Mi Piace—Jill went on to college, so did Gabriel. Jill graduated college and opened Café Citron, a tiny neighborhood place in Monrovia. Gabriel went on to become Chef Gabriel Morales…Then Jill and Gabriel got married.
It does not take a cognitive epiphany to understand that Jill and Gabriel were destined to open a restaurant—lucky for us downtownsters.
Provecho’s décor is what I call high end soothing. Yes, it has a hint of modern, which foreshadows Chef Gabriel’s take on cooking.
But before discussing the food at Provecho I must mention two of the best drinks of downtown libation lore. The Provecho Margarita and the La Sancha…I ordered both as my girlfriend and I sat in the comfortable booth with a window-side view of Wilshire. I should mention here that my girlfriend doesn’t have the same appreciation for my hundred hour workweeks as the readers of my books and blogs, so Lauren making sure that she was invited made a happy life experience possible. And then some incredible Jazz filled the air.
The Provecho Margarita begins with a cool refreshing note—muddled cucumber and fresh lime, so Chef Gabriel. The second note is hot—chili lime rim, so Chef Gabriel. And of course the third semi sour note, a must in all Margaritas. As I swished this fine agave nectar around my palate I noticed the girlfriend smiling after her first sip of the La Sancha—so I took it from her and proceeded to wash down my Margarita.
The La Sancha is a complex mixology and although I am certainly qualified to break it down atom by atom for you, I won’t. Suffice it to say that the overwhelming goodness of this concoction comes from the juxtaposition of pomegranate juice to jalapeno—this drink is hot and sweet all at the same time.
Because the most significant accomplishment of Provecho or the soul of the matter is, as aforementioned, Chef Gabriel’s ability to put his own modern translation on traditional dishes I would like to suggest any meal at Provecho start with a Grilled Caesar Salad. That’s right, he grills the lettuce and cleverly incorporates cilantro croutons.
The lemongrass guacamole is another good example of the Chef Gabriel twist. But not because of the guacamole, which is good, however the warm tortilla served with this dish is a superstar. And the spicy tuna tostadas should absolutely be ordered to accompany the lemon grass guacamole.
I suggest to the folks working in the kitchen at Wolfgang Puck’s Bar and Grill LA Live that they try the spicy tuna tostadas at Provecho, so they can experience for themselves what their tuna tartare should taste like. Oh, and take note that priced at ten dollars the spicy tuna tostadas at Provecho are not only much better than the tuna tartare at Wolfgang Puck’s—it’s seven dollars less.
Ceviche at Provecho is a serious affair, and just so there is no surprise, Chef Gabriel’s approach is more of a Crudo style. The highlight for me was the halibut prepared with a black truffle sauce, sherry vinegar, and red onion escabeche. I can’t help but wonder what the Chef would do with the ceviche of my childhood; I imagine the cocktail sauce would have some kind of Chef Gabriel twist that would have me writing still more effusive words. Ah, ceviche for barbarians like I, but now I digress.
Because of more dietary limitations than I care to bore my dear readers with, I will just say that, while skilled in the kitchen, I am not a restaurant critic—I have Alec Silverman for that. But I am a lifestyle expert with considerable credentials, and I can tell you that Provecho is a great addition to all of our lifestyles. Atmosphere, food, and Jazz Wednesdays are all flawless. Perhaps the only challenge this restaurant faces is that it does not have the same visibility from the street as some of the other restaurants in the neighborhood—think Bottega Louie. But once found, Provecho, which means enjoy your meal, delivers a very enjoyable meal indeed.
And there is something to be said for feeling like you’ve discovered something—next time I’m going back for the Sea Bass.