616 N. Robertson Blvd. | West Hollywood, CA 90069 | (310) 657-9888 | tortillarepublic.com | Pricing: $$
We all know there are endless Mexican dining options in the LA area, but two things separate Tortilla Republic from the rest of the pack: complex flavors and a nod to good health. Don’t expect to find heavy fare buried under layers of melted cheese here. Instead you’ll find more creative, lighter fare. There is even an extensive gluten-free menu.
The trendy neighborhood surely influenced the owners and chefs Cathy Shyne and Brandon Warren when creating the offerings on the menu. The location on the strip of North Robertson, between Melrose and Santa Monica, is de rigueur among the fashion set. You can lunch at TR while shopping for everything from Louboutin to Philip Lim and not be concerned about fitting into your new purchases when you get home.
Rich, the Palisadian-Post’s staff photographer, and I began with the requisite chips, guacamole and a salsa tasting: Salsa de Mesa, Salsa de Tomatillo Cruda and Salsa de Papaya. You may wonder why there is a charge for this sampling until you actually try it. The moderate price is justified and was more so when Chef Brandon explained exactly how much effort goes into the preparation of all their sauces. Our palates were fired up (literally) and ready for the ensuing Conga line of dishes.
The Baja/Rock Shrimp Tacos served “skinni style” (butter lettuce in place of tortilla) were a crunchy delight. Tequila-battered rock shrimp mingled with mango salsa and boozy/limy tequila passion fruit cabbage slaw, while the zesty chipotle aioli added creaminess. I don’t know how “skinni” these tacos were in the end but they were worth every calorie.
The pickled tartness of the beets in the Sweet Potato Hibiscus Flower Taco did the fandango on my tongue with the sweetness of the potatoes – we weren’t sitting out this dance.
One by one the dishes strutted their stuff: Flautas de Pollo, light and crispy with just enough heat; Tacos de Jicama, a signature dish of shrimp chipotle mayo, avocado and roasted corn salsa embraced by a thinly sliced “jicama” tortilla.
When a “Beetarita” swaggered in from the margarita bar we couldn’t turn it down. The fresh red beets, ginger purée and agave had us feeling like we were flirting with the picture of good health. The unassuming bay leaf had us believing it was altogether wholesome. Oaxacan Free Range Chicken Mole Enchiladas – complex and rich with heat from 16 different chilies – rescued us from inebriation.
The Churros had the final dance. These were not the “theme park” variety. Two final dips – one in the accompanying chocolate sauce and one in the cajeta caramel sauce – and this culinary dance was done.
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