Taco Tuesday: Lamb taco at El Borrego As de Oro
If you have spent serious time braising meat, you probably know that moment when you take a pot out of the oven, take off the lid, unpeel the foil, and discover that your short ribs or lamb shoulder have transformed almost beyond recognizability, becoming crisp and caramelized, and melting to the point where you can eat them with a spoon. It may seem as if as if you had nothing to do with the transformation -– what you put in the oven was a lump of wet meat and some wine –- yet still, you're the one who made it possible. It's why you learn how to cook.
I bring this up because it is possible to experience something pretty similar weekends at El Borrego As de Oro, a surprisingly spacious Texcoco-style barbacoa joint on Slauson Avenue near the Harbor Freeway. Time moves at an ovine pace, here under the sign of the sheep, and you will spend a certain amount of time loitering near the entrance of El Borrego As de Oro. Once you order, it may take the cooks half an hour to throw together a couple of tacos de barbacoa –- lord only knows how much longer it would take to assemble a costillas platter, or a bowl of soup. There are lots of full-color menu banners inside the dining area; you will have plenty of time to work yourself into a froth of buyer's remorse -– that Huasteco combination looks pretty awesome on the wall -– before the tacos arrive.
You will be asked whether you want small tacos, which come on tiny store-bought tortillas, or large tacos, a couple of bucks apiece, on tortillas that look handmade. (If only all questions were so easy to answer.) When the tacos finally make it up to the counter, you may well groan. The tacos are vaguely anemic-looking, and you have waited so long. But then you notice the burnished meat spilling out of the tortilla, crusty, crunchy bits of deep, lamby richness, and you sluice the taco with the deep-red salsa: smoky, hot and totally satisfying. Should you have gotten a cup of lamb consomme to go with the taco? Probably. But it's okay that you didn't, too.
222 W. Slauson Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 235-1880.
-- Jonathan Gold
Photo credit: Jonathan Gold