By MERV HECHT | Contributing Writer
When a treasured long-time restaurant closes, it’s painful. But when Kayndaves closed, it seemed that only a few days later a new iteration opened with competitive food—both were Mexican inspired.
For me, Kayndaves was great because it was the only Mexican restaurant nearby that served a mole taco. But that’s history.
Prima Cantina is a nice addition to the restaurant scene, with a different twist on Mexican dishes. There are a lot of dishes I haven’t had time to try yet, but the guacamole was OK, and the tortilla chips were very good.
I ordered two tacos: the carnitas because that’s standard Mexican fare and the mushroom barbacoa because the name seemed out of place, and it was clearly something new—it is a combination of corn and mushrooms and very delicious.
The menu provides a wonderful selection of tacos and bowls, some of which are out of the ordinary.
One excellent feature of Prima is that it not only has typical Mexican fare, but a top-notch cocktail selection and seven entrees for those who want a full dinner. There is something for everyone, including seafood, only missing a chili relleno.
One of the main draws for me to a Mexican restaurant is the sauce. I eat often at Lares on Pico and El Cholo on Wilshire because they have great hot sauce. El Cholo has several at different levels of heat and different flavors. There was a nice article about its history in the LA Times recently. And Tacos Por Favor used to have a great sauce bar, with marinated carrots and wonderful peppers. COVID seems to have ended that.
Getting back to the sauce issue, that’s the one negative at Prima. They advertise a “salsa bar.” But that doesn’t exist. They provide a bland tomato-based sauce with the tacos.
For an additional $2 you can order one of four sauces from the “bar.” The spiciest of the sauces is a white sauce that looks like cream. Yes, it’s hot but doesn’t have much flavor. The pineapple sauce is not really a sauce. The other two lack power.
The restaurant advertises a connection to Baja California. The last time I was in Tijuana or Ensenada the tacos were served with the real thing, and I hope Prima gets its sauce act together.
Since this is probably the best Mexican food in the Palisades I’ll be back to find out.
Merv Hecht, like many Harvard Law School graduates, went into the wine business after law. In 1988, he began writing restaurant reviews and books. His latest book, “The Instant Wine Connoisseur, 3d edition,” is available on Amazon. He currently works for several companies that source and distribute food and wine products internationally. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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