MEXICAN FARE COMES TO HOLLYWOOD
As hard as it is to believe, I’m of the opinion that stellar Mexican food is hard to come by in Los Angeles, at least in a large, upscale environment. We all know and love our beloved hole-the-wall joints that delight us, but finding a swank place that serves kick ass Mexican food, that would impress someone like yours truly, who was raised on the real-deal, is not so easy.
New to the game along the much-improved Cahuenga Corridor in Hollywood is 3Dog Cantina, housed in the redesigned Capitol Cities location. Gone is the generic sports bar motif replaced by cool digs featuring a welcoming sit-down area, a hip bar and an impressive outdoor patio area soon to become a local hangout spot courtesy of the folks at Spacecraft Group. Velvet Margarita Cantina across the street, known for overpriced mediocre drinks and food, better watch out and up its game or prepare for a rude awakening.
Under the direction of Chef de Cuisine Efrain Cuevas, a recent transplant from Chicago, 3Dog Cantina promises to deliver fresh, innovative, regional Mexican cuisine and specialty cocktails in a stunning setting inspired by the traditional Mexican art of celebration. During our recent visit, we sampled the varied and lengthy menu and feasted on Mexican gourmet food that would make any true “mama” proud.
Starting with a reliable order of chips and salsa, cocktails were in order. If you’re in the mood for a margarita, give the Bentley Margarita, made with Maestro Dobel Reposado tequila, limejuice, agave nectar and Grand Marnier, a try. Think “Cadillac” and be prepared for a stronger kick that the house margarita.
If you’re looking for something a little different from the cocktail menu, go with the Burro Negro, made with Jameson (my favorite), blackberries, fresh basil and ginger beer. I tend to stay away from Jameson made cocktails as they just make me want Jameson straight, but this one passed the mustard and held up to my strict Jameson standards.
I couldn’t resist the homemade Horchata, a personal favorite drink all my life, but unfortunately I found it to be too thick with a too “arroz con leche” taste. I prefer sweeter, less thick and more cinnamon.
For starter items, you can’t go wrong with the Oysters con Ceviche—freshly shucked oysters topped with Vallarta Ceviche served with cilantro crackers, lime wedges, and salsa Tamazula. The oysters are big and juicy and the ceviche gives the order a refreshing more bang-for-your-buck taste.
Another must-have is the Guacamole Molcajete, prepared tableside, made with Roma tomatoes, red onion, lime, and cilantro served with crispy homemade corn tortilla chips. You can tell a lot by a Mexican restaurant’s “guac” and this one tastes authentic.
While waiting for bigger plates to come, it was time for Round Two drink-wise. Looking for an easy-to-drink cocktail, you’ll probably love the Strawberry Cobbler Margarita, made with Milagro tequila, limejuice, agave nectar, fresh strawberries served with a graham cracker rim. It’s sweet and pleasing to the taste.
Want something with more bite? Go with the La Moda Vieja (Anejo Old Fashioned), mixed with Don Julio tequila, brown sugar, vanilla syrup, grapefruit and orange bitters. You might think this a sweet drink but it’s not. It packs a good kick and is a great take on the current Old Fashioned craze.
With a menu that will please meat eaters and vegetarians, there’s something for everyone. The Birria Tacos, featuring Poblano chiles filled with slow-cooked goat, mole rojo, Chimichurri potatoes and queso fresco, is an extremely pleasing item. All taco orders are served with black beans and your choice of rice—creamy Poblano rice or Spanish brown rice.
An exotic choice is the Pechuga Con Mole—grilled duck breast with Mole Poblano, wilted garlicky green, grilled plantains, and papaya salsa. While the duck was a little too salty for me, the rest of the table loved and devoured it. The mole salsa, a house specialty, is completely satisfying on its own. Every last drop was enjoyed.
A light yet delicious option are the Shrimp and Crab Enchiladas, prepared with warm corn tortillas filled with grilled shrimp, lump crab, Chihuahua cheese, Guajillo enchilada sauce, cilantro crema, queso fresco and pickled radish. Hearty and loaded with a delectable taste, this one is a crowd-pleaser.
Another terrific and healthy choice is the Flor de Calabasas Quesadilla—grilled flour tortilla with melted Chihuahua cheese, squash blossoms, and scallions, served with sour cream, roasted tomato salsa and tomatillo arbol salsa. Order to share or as an entrée, this item is simply sensational.
Dessert included the tried and true Honey Flan—honey kissed custard served with homemade cajeta…delish! And Homemade Churros dusted in cinnamon sugar, with rum caramel and a side of chocolate caliente (hot chocolate – perfect for dipping).
Happy Hour is Monday thru Friday from 3-7pm and Brunch is offered Saturday and Sunday from 11am – 2pm, Sunday features Bottomless Mimosas. Keep in mind that brunch in their cool patio space is a great way to spend any weekend.
3Dog Cantina is located at 1615 N. Cahuenga Blvd. in Hollywood. Call 323-465-1750. Hours: Lunch Mon-Thurs 11:30am – 5pm; Dinner 5-11pm; Late Night 11pm-2am; Friday and Saturday Lunch: 11am-5pm; Dinner 5-11pm; Late Night 11pm-2am.