Monday, March 19, 2012

Casa Vega

Bronze Medal for My Roots
I have roots, as most of us do. We are from neighborhoods that play a part in how we grow up, what we grow into. When I travel to other cities around America, I am usually type-casted as a city white girl from Los Angeles, more specifically, a Valley Girl. And I am, there is no doubt about it. But I am also from a particular part of the San Fernando Valley that is heavily influenced by Mexican culture. And as ironic as it may seem, good Mexican food is not something that is easily found in restaurants. Trucks and home kitchens are the main sources of belly delight, though every once in a while, one can find gold. My palette is extremely picky with Mexican food
Casa Vega is a place usually heard about in hushed undertones, which could be considered odd, since the place is always packed when dinner time rolls around. It’s in a chicer part of the Valley, off Ventura Blvd, in Sherman Oaks, surrounded by more expensive of the neighborhoods. But this place transports you to a kitchen, surrounded by family, filled with love and tradition.
I went with Ms. Lash, a fellow white girl, but from Indiana, who chose this place. I had heard about it, it being a choice for an engagement dinner for my friend, but had never gone, much to her surprise. So we went after work, I myself excited about the possibility of flavor filtering its way into my heart.  

My drink of choice was, of course, a margarita, classic, and quite large. I had one, wanted two, maybe even three, but stuck with my original. Now, people familiar with Mexican food know that color is automatic, flavor is expected, and heat is warranted. I ordered the burrito empanada. Which translates to…fried everything. It’s a wet-style burrito, meaning they covered the top with hot sauce and shredded cheese. Now, normally with Mexican food, I eat as little meat as possible, as much cheese as possible. But not in this case. This empanada had chicken in it, finely shredded and seasoned with simply salt. Seasoning isn’t always needed on the meat with Mexican food because of the extra flavors that come from the sides like guacamole, sour cream, hot sauce.
Normally here, Mexican food is Americanized, and this was a little bit, which could be seen in the menu itself. True-to-culture flavors are usually found in homes, taco carts, and trucks. Burritos are not normally found in Mexican cuisine (as neither are nachos). It’s a shame as being so close to Mexico, but every so often, treasures are found. As treasures are, digging deep into the sand is a requirement.
This place will satisfy the need for Mexican cravings, with the low lit interior and the lively crowds hovering around the bar area, as well as the curvy booths meant for intimate conversation. It is one of the best restaurants in the Valley, if you require sit downs, or a drink. The flavors meshed well, as to be expected, but flavors in Mexican food should be expected. Most are good. Some are excellent. Rarer are the ones that are salivatingly exceptional. This was good.
I, for the most part, would go back just to sit at the bar. I love the chatter and the familiarity that the patrons express, even if I don’t partake. But my roots prefer taco carts in Downtown Los Angeles at 3am with Mr. Turbay, Mr. Moncada, or Mr. Castro, so this gets a bronze.

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