The very first Counter Intelligence column I wrote for The Times, back when pigs could fly and raccoons had the miraculous power of speech, was of the Jalisco-style birria dive El Parian, a restaurant I had run into a few years before in a stretch when I decided to eat at every restaurant on Pico Boulevard, more as a performance-art stunt than as an act of cuisine.
Then as now, El Parian looked from the street as if it had gone out of business long before; a metal security door, grimy windows, and walls lumpy from many, many coats of graffiti-obscuring paint. Then as now, the restaurant was decorated with beer signs, what looked like a first-grade map of Mexico painted on the wall, and a glittery jukebox grinding out music even when nobody was in the room to hear.
El Parian also had -– has! -- the best Jalisco-style birria in a Los Angeles lousy with birrieras, crisp roast goat served in a shallow bowl of goat consomme, a dish so goaty and spicy and utterly delicious that it is easy to see why birria has become the emblematic dish of Guadalajara, a city rich in characteristic preparations that any metropolis would be proud to call its own.
In that old Times column, a yellowing copy of which can still be seen on the walls, I called El Parian's birria the best single Mexican dish to be found anywhere in Los Angeles, and the succeeding decades have done little to blunt that claim. Flor del Rio, Chalio and Birriera Guadalajara, among many, many others all serve excellent birria, and I like all of them, but I am always happiest at El Parian's sticky tables on a Saturday morning, surrounded by cheerful families, the miserably hungover and bowls-full of L.A.'s worst chips.
So: the birria taco, moistened with broth, tucked inside a thick, handmade, practically bulletproof corn tortilla with cilantro and onions and the usual accompaniments, including a squirt or two of the mean, thin house chile sauce custom-formatted to combat the richness of the goat. Or the bowl of birria (pictured above), which is more or less the same thing deconstructed, only with lots and lots of life-giving consomme.
1528 W Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 386-7361.
Saturday afternoon at Chez Jay
Ghost chile pepper comes to L.A.
Pantry: San Pellegrino Pompelmo
-- Jonathan Gold
Photo credit: Amy Scattergood