Taco Tuesday: Cochinita pibil
It's true, I'm afraid. I do hold a grudge against El Faisan y El Venado. Before it turned Yucatecan, the space was home to Eibis, a Poblano restaurant that served a kind of sandwich called a pelona -- "baldy,'' because the roll it was on was as round and shiny as the top of Kobe Bryant's dome -- as well as mole de panza, a fantastic, jet-black tripe soup that I have never been able to find again.
Plus, El Faisan y El Venado serves neither pheasant nor venison, both of which are staples of Yucatecan country cooking. False advertising, I say. I think we can all agree that Yucatecan panuchos and salbutes are fine things, Yucatecan variants of tostadas, and it is nice to have another place in town to get relleno negro on weekends, but I sometimes dream about that mole de panza.
Still, there is the matter of the cochinita pibil, pork rubbed with achiote and other spices, wrapped in banana leaves, and roasted until it essentially collapses into crust and juice. You can buy big packets of cochinita pibil there that are supposed to feed four, but nicely stretch to at least six. On the menu at least, tacos stuffed with cochinita pibil are the only ones available, which signifies a compelling single-mindedness. And as tempted as you may be by the codzitos and tamales colados, the tacos deserve at least your consideration: well-steamed commercial tortillas; small mounds of the soft, spiced meat; and a sprinkling of chopped, marinated onions. If you are serious about this, you will want to sprinkle a few drops of the thin, habanero salsa into your taco, which kicks the flavor into overdrive but may overtax your central nervous system.
231 N. Avenue 50, Highland Park, (323) 257-1770.
-- Jonathan Gold
Photo: A cochinita pibil taco from El Faisan y El Venado. Credit: Jonathan Gold / Los Angeles Times