Cocina Condesa For a Fine Meal in Studio City

Cocina Condesa dresses up street food for a delicious dining experience in a colorful, welcoming restaurant.

cocina condesa taco platter

photo courtesy of Cocina Condesa

As the weather warms up I find myself making more excursions east of the grade. Those adventures are made even better when I get to have wonderful meals at the end of them! Here’s a spot I’d like to recommend if you are going to Universal or anywhere in Hollywood. On the way home, hit Cocina Condesa for dinner. It’s a bustling Mexican restaurant and mezcaleria on the south side of Ventura just east of Colfax.

cocina condesa exterior

You can’t miss Cocina Condesa, because its colorful exterior and welcoming patio tables stand out from the surrounding businesses on Ventura Blvd. The dining room and bar welcome you with the lively conversation of its many patrons, and the warm natural wood decor. Families, dates, business meetings, and girls’ nights out were all around us when my friend Suzanne and I recently dined there as the restaurant’s guests.

Cocina Condesa markets its food as “Mexican street food,” but it sure doesn’t come across that way. The dishes have roots in Oaxacan cuisine, and with chef Eddie Garcia and mixologist David Rubin’s influences, the blends of taste and texture are at times fully satisfying and also surprising.

Our server explained that Cocina Condesa is primarily a “small plates” restaurant, and by now Los Angeles is pretty accustomed to this sort of thing. Plus, we lucked into visiting on the restaurant’s Taco Tuesday, during which selected tacos are only $2.50 each. Bring on the plates! Pair that deal with $8 house margaritas, and you have one fine hora feliz.

To start, we tried a few of the new drinks on the menu along with the requisite (and satisfying) chips & salsa & guac.

cocina condesa chips and salsa

First course

In the mule mug is the Bronco: Whiskey, Fresh Ginger, Soda, Fresh Watermelon Juice, Fresh Lemon Juice. For a ginger-lover, this is a solid, refreshing beverage. The watermelon juice makes it taste like summer. I tried the pink one, the Paloma: Tequila Blanco, Pinch of Salt, Squirt, Fresh Grapefruit Juice, Fresh Lime Juice. It was delicious. The best margarita I ever had in my life was at a tiny streetside bar in Loreto, Baja California Sur. The Paloma is the first drink that reminded me of that!

Then we tried some of the tacos from the Taco Tuesday menu – the asada was our favorite with perfectly cooked steak and toppings, but the vegetarian entry, with squash, sweet corn, and mushrooms, was a surprisingly sweet counterpoint to the other items we tasted. Everything we tried was quite delicious but another taco, this one on the regular menu, was our hands-down favorite: the Cerveza Battered Camarones Tacos. Basically, shrimp tacos. Topped with papaya jicama slaw and avocado sauce, this taco was the perfect combo of flavors.

cocina condesa shrimp tacos

Cerveza battered camarones tacos – photo courtesy of Cocina Condesa

Another favorite was STREET CORN, which I put in all caps because it is not to be missed. The chefs will take the corn off the cob for you but we opted to eat it the authentic, messy way. This corn is prepared with tapatio aioli, cotija cheese, chili and lime.

cocina condesa street corn

Street corn

Between the small plates and sampling a few of the bigger meals (meant to be shared), we had to try some mezcal. It’s a tequila-ish alcohol that Cocina Condesa serves with a wedge of orange with chili powder on it. The act of drinking it is meant to be similar to tequila: down the shot and then suck on the wedge of orange. But I decided to sip this, and really savor the flavor. Basically it tastes, to me, like liquid smoke, perfect for the barbecue lover!

cocina condesa shot of mezcal

We tried the short rib birria dish, which is braised beef short ribs, topped with grilled frisee tomato salad and sautéed shitake mushrooms and served over pureed potatoes. The beef was so tender and savory, this was a very close second to the shrimp tacos. There was nothing left over.

cocina condesa short ribs birria

Everything about this dish is good

We also had to try the mole. I mean, if there is mole on a menu, isn’t a requirement to eat some? So we chose the chocolate mole chicken enchiladas served with Mexican rice and a scene-stealer: refried white beans. First time I’ve ever seen that.

cocina condesa chicken mole enchiladas

Refried white beans, upper right

Like good researchers, we saved room for dessert. There are a few good options, but the most “street-foodie” seemed like the right choice, and boy were we happy with it.

cocina condesa mini churros

These are mini-churros served on a nest made out of a brown paper bag alongside a bowl of caramel dipping sauce which honestly, you can just eat by itself with a spoon. What a satisfying end to a delicious meal in a great place.

A few cool things about Cocina Condesa:

  • Easy to get to off the freeway – from here, take the 101 to Laurel Canyon, south to Moorpark, east to Colfax, south to Ventura, turn left. Roll on up to the brightly colored Cocina Condesa and if there’s no street parking just valet for $6. Make it easy on yourself.
  • All dishes are served on unique plates made of wood, like slices of trees preserved and shined up for admiration and use. This is a small detail but every dish that came out was served on these and I was delighted by them
  • There is a back room with its own bar that you can rent out for parties.
  • The location is studio-close, so the staff is beautiful and you might be dining or drinking alongside cast, crew, or executives from shows in production.

Cocina Condesa
11616 Ventura Blvd.
Studio City 91604
818-579-4264
Website

 

Jeannine’s Lets Kids Eat Free in February

Jeannine’s Gourmet Food Hall invites kids to eat free with an adult during the whole month of February!

jeannine's signPhoto from Jeannine’s website

Since Jeannine’s opened in The Shoppes at Westlake last year, I’ve been there a handful of times – for coffee, lunch meetings, even cocktails with my girlfriends. But I must say I didn’t consider bringing my kids there because it seemed like kind of an upscale-casual place to me. The bright dining room with its translucent chairs, a bottle of wine on every table, and even the cozy booths, the joint feels fancy.

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But I’ve been doing my kids a disservice, then, because they too like the fancier things sometimes. And as we discovered, Jeannine’s isn’t too fancy for them, in fact, it’s just right.

During the month of February kids 12 and under eat free from the kids’ menu if they dine with an adult who pays for an entreé. The meals are only $6.50 each, but that savings can go towards the purchase of a tasty cocktail.

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The Black and Basil, basically a blackberry margarita. Delicious.

My children sampled a few items from the kids’ menu, and Mom and Dad had to taste everything, too! Consensus: the homemade chicken tenders are not to miss! They have a crispy homemade batter with tender juicy chicken inside. Served with ketchup and ranch, this normally comes with fries or fruit cup but we added mac & cheese because wherever we go we have to try the mac & cheese.

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Jeannine’s kids’ mac & cheese is a kid-friendly version of the dish for adults: a three-cheese sauce with delicious pasta, but without the breadcrumb topping or the bacon. My kids both loved it.

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As for the adult entreés, you really can’t go wrong here. Jeannine’s offers a daily updated menu and there’s something for everyone. On this evening we had the salmon and a tri-tip salad served with onion ring slivers in a tangy dressing. Both were delicious.

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But what about the fries? I knew you were going to ask that, so we did our duty as storytellers and shared an order of fresh made fries.

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Served piping hot in a bucket with plenty of salt, these definitely passed the “But are the fries good?” test. Jeannine’s also has  tasty sweet potato fries on the menu if you’re into that sort of thing (which I am).

If you haven’t been to Jeannine’s yet, this month is the time to go – kids eat free all month long, and this is good for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! Be sure to check out the lighted, animated fountain across the way after your meal. My kids enjoyed watching it and running around after dinner!

Jeannine’s Gourmet Food Hall
30770 Russell Ranch Rd.
Westlake Village, CA 91362

My family enjoyed a complimentary meal at Jeannine’s. All opinions are ours.