John Sedlar's new Rivera menu features 300 years' worth of culinary history and the sound bites to prove it [Updated]
John Sedlar, long known for his soulful Latin cooking, is introducing an equally soulful dining experience to his downtown restaurant, Rivera. Inspired by the rich history of Latin cuisine and the diversity of cultures that had a hand in creating it, Sedlar and the other cooks at Rivera embarked on an in-depth exploration of the varied roots of the Latin food that we enjoy in modern-day Los Angeles.
The result is a new menu, just released at Rivera, called "Conexiones." The menu draws culinary connections across 300 years and three continents, linking history with the present in food that draws its inspiration from locales including the Iberian Peninsula, South America, Mexico and California, as well as from cultures including the Moors, the Incas, the Mayans, the Aztecs and Angelenos.
The dishes are presented on special regional menus available in specific Rivera dining areas: Sangre (Iberian roots); Samba (South American, Central American and Caribbean influences); and Playa (mainly seafood that tips its hat to Mexico).
In addition, Sedlar has created a series of audio bites featuring his voice explaining the history, cultural context and preparation methods of particular dishes. The bites can be accessed by dialing a phone number on the menu (310-464-6884) and following the prompts based upon numerical coding beside each dish.
Called "Table Talk," this interactive feature showcases Sedlar's gift of gab--he is a good storyteller. It will also probably make guests aware of how far food has come since the historical times that they are learning about. After all, nothing says "Digital Era" like dialing up a story on your cellphone from your menu.
Hopefully the practice will jump-start conversation among guests at a table rather than end with a cursory Facebook and e-mail check. Don't be that person.
Rivera, 1050 S. Flower St., L.A. (213) 749-1460; www.riverarestaurant.com.
Photo: Rivera's tamale with braised pork short rib, hedgehog mushrooms and guajillo sauce. Credit: Ringo H.W. Chiu / For The Times