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Blog: El Cochinito Is Cuban For 'Don’t Be Vegan'

A review of Mohawk Bend's fall cocktail menu, plus the Silver Lake spot that will turn any vegan into a raging carnivore...

Bingeworthy consists of dining and imbibing duo Cory and Megan. This is our first review on Echo Park-Silver Lake Patch. 

This is Cory.  

I know you feel it. You’re excited about it. The cool air is moving in, the days are getting shorter and your friends back East are telling you that the leaves are changing color. It could only mean one thing. FALL IS HERE…or AUTUMN, depending on how cultured you are. And as the seasons change, so does Bingeworthy. We are going to make a marked effort to find lesser known gastrogems and then tell YOU (yes you) all about it. If there are white tablecloths on the table, WE’RE NOT EATING THERE…maybe. We begin with some Cuban magic at El Cochinito in Silver Lake.

Now, I am from Miami, so I know Cuban food the way a native Californian knows burritos, and this was the real deal. The menu is simple and straightforward with mostly a la carte options (beans and rice are included) and then you treat yourself to authentic sides and garlic sauce. Our table was full! The service was sweet and appreciative. This is what we had…

Lechon Asado: The slow roasted pork. I literally just drooled on my keyboard remembering it. It had the perfect combination of crispy outer meat with tender glistening pork inside the pile. The dish was in front of Mey-Ghun but I kept on finding ways to distract her so I could sneak a bite with my fingers. I think I got away with it as I was not beat up by her last night.

Pollo Empanizado: Just a simple flattened, breaded and fried chicken breast but OH SO PERFECT. A squeeze of lime and a drizzle of garlic sauce made this plate outrageous. I made sure half of it came home with me.

Ropa Vieja: The classic shredded beef in a tomato sauce overflowing from its bowl with thoughtful nuances of cumin and oregano. It begged to be on top of the black beans and rice for one perfect bite after another.

Fried Yucca: For those of you who have never come into contact with a yucca, it is a tuber with a little more personality than a potato, but you must steam it first before you fry it and that’s where the artistry come in. It can’t be too mushy. It has to air on the al dente side as these yuccas did. Again, a squeeze of lime and a drizzle of Mojo de Ajo (garlic sauce) sent us all over the moon.

Maduras: You can’t be from Cuba and not love these. Roasted sweet plantains, glazed with their own caramely sugar. Mush it on your chicken before you take a bite and understand the power of simple delicacies.

I need to go back there and sample everything. YOU need to go there and sample something. Now we drink!

Mohawk Bend is pretty much just ******** awesome! Located in a retrofitted Vaudevillian theatre, it sets the standard for drinks in Echo Park. They love to go local with libations and it was there that I discovered Snap, which I will be pouring copiously as winter approaches.

But tonight we focused on their new Fall Cocktail Menu. The Drunkin’ Punkin’was a sweet reminder of the season with all the flavors you want in a pie, shaken into a drink. If that turns you off then you’re being close-minded and hideous. It’s an amazing sipping drink that makes you yearn for fire and roasted marshmallows.

The Thyme Bomb wasn’t necessarily fall feeling and I think would be better appreciated on a crisp afternoon then at night, but its mix of aromatic thyme, cider and gin were all wonderful complements to each other.

Yummy Yammy was the only miss on the cocktail menu for me. Too thick and confused. They should have just been happy with the Punkin’.

But the real winner was the Incom-Pear-able. This drink borders on genius. Spiced Pear vodka, serrano pepper, lemon, cilantro and grenadine. A novice bartender could not come up with this. Every flavor leant itself to the appreciation of the other. Not too sweet, not too spicy and full of character and aroma. I ordered another within moments of my first sip.

MEGYGUYN’S VERSION OF EVENTS!!!

How We Learned About El Cochinito

Last time we had drinks at Rivera Restaurant, Cory enjoyed some light banter with the family sitting next to us, during which the topic of Rivera’s $40 imported pig appetizer arose. Everyone was all like WUT. Why would we buy that? We should just fly to Spain, fun strangers, and eat some ham together! Cause THAT costs an outlandishly inappropriate sum too! Then, the patriarch of this family gave us a life-changing tip: there’s a little hole in the wall in Silver Lake called El Cochinito. They have the best pork in LA. In all of LA! Maybe the world.

I have no explanation as to why, but we chose to ignore this knowledge for three whole months. I now lament that time as a dark period during which I refused to become the woman I should. OH wait, that phase is still happening. But I feel like finally eating at El Cochinito is a step?

Anyway, I’d seen El Cochinito. It’s in a strip mall on Sunset near a Baskin Robbins. It also happens to be down the block from Café Tropical, which is where I go for delicious Cuban sandwiches and coffee. In fact, the day we ate at El Cochinito, I had lunch at Café Tropical: a Cubano sandwich and café con leche. I don’t know how to do anything in moderation.

My Secret Fun Habit

As soon as it could plausibly be considered evening, I rode my bike down to El Cochinito. I was early. After locking up my bike, jumping over a cement wall, and nodding to a panhandler, I entered this so-called hole in the wall. My first impression was, wow, feels rustic almost. Dim lighting, unexpectedly soothing interior. I grabbed a table in the corner near the bar and promptly ordered a glass of red wine. They don’t have a wine list, so it was just table wine – fine by me.

Not only did the server bring me a giant pour, but it was accompanied by a basket of warm toast and soft butter, plus ice water served in a mason jar. These details are important when you’re starving from having spent the past four hours not eating delicious Cuban food.

At El Cochinito, I read a Junot Diaz story while I waited. This is my secret hobby: reading & boozing in public. I do this all over town, so if you ever catch me reading alone at your favorite watering hole, know that I am holding the book aloft for a reason. It is so my soul mate will recognize me as the literary loner of his dreams. Future husband, are you reading this and taking notes?

Trick! I would never be interested in a guy who likes books.

Why I Am Still Not Talking About the Food…

Honestly El Cochinito was so good, I just want you to go there and experience it for yourself. That’s b******. But it’s my excuse for failing to find food-related adjectives. I’m sorry. I’ll make up for it in a moment with a funny anecdote about Cory. But first, you must meet “Corli.”

Corli is the official name for Cory and his lovely girlfriend Orli, whom he needs to marry immediately. They arrived right on time, because they are mature and decent people. Orli ordered red wine, same stuff I was drinking, and Cory ordered white. When it arrived, he sipped it and said, “Wow this is really great! I tried it, and I was like, “Yeah! S’good!”

So, when our server returned to take our food order, Cory was like, “What’s your name?” This is always his opener. Then, Cory was like, “[Insert server’s name, which I have forgotten], what is this wine? It’s great!”

The server looked over at another server and kind of mumbled, “Uhhh it’s Charles…”

I was like, “…Shaw?”

Then we all laughed and continued enjoying our two-buck chuck.

Yucca Is My New Jam

I ordered the Lechon Asado, which came with steamed yucca, something I’d never had and with which I am now obsessed. The garlic sauce, the crispy pork, the yucca, the pork. The PORK!!! All of it was fucking phenomenal. The pork was just so porky. For someone who mostly follows a vegan diet, it was like stumbling upon a fresh spring after wandering through the desert for forty days. Next time you are praying, ask Jesus what this is like. He will tell you to fuck off and just go eat at El Cochinito, which you should promptly do. You too, vegans.

In Which I Fail to Finish a Cocktail

We ended the night at Mohawk Bend, where Bingeworthy friend Mike met us. I was the chump who ordered the Yummy Yammy. I’m sorry I did it, cause aside from the vegan marshmallow garnish, it was not that awesome. I never order a cocktail without finishing it, except, apparently, after stuffing myself with stewed pork and ordering a drink made with yam puree. I actually didn’t think it tasted that bad, but this was a rare instance in which booze seemed unappealing to me.

By the way, I eat at Mohawk Bend at least twice a week, and I’m still not on a first name basis with anyone who works there. Next time I am there, which will probably be tomorrow, I will order the Incom Pear able or whatever atrocious pun this delicious drink is dubbed.

So, hello in advance, friendly Mohawk Bend staff, whose names and faces all seem new to me all the time! Can’t wait to not talk to you again, except to mumble an embarrassingly-named cocktail, and quietly request a plate of bacon-wrapped chorizo-stuffed dates (which are amazing at Mohawk Bend).

Cause F veganism! Cuba has liberated me.

After That…

I rode my bike home. There was a wonderful breeze. When I crawled into bed, helicopters were enjoying a convention over my house. It’s fall. Echo Park Lake may have water soon. Please go to El Cochinito before that happens. It is my favorite Bingeworthy dinner so far. While we’re ranking things, here is my second favorite. You should also go there, but not before you go to El Cochinito.

Food

El Cochinito
3508 W Sunset Blvd
Silver Lake 90026

Booze

Mohawk Bend
2141 W Sunset Blvd
Echo Park 90026

Follow us on Twitter @bingeworthy


 


 

 


This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

chuk bekr October 16, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Yes! The Little Pig is one of the best Cuban spots in town (another being El Colmao on Pico) Try the halibut with Moros and on MTuesWed they have (in addition to black beans) splitpea, garanzo and red beans.

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