Adventures in Veganism: Ortega 120 in Redondo Beach
Remember all those times your mom told you to eat your Brussels sprouts? And remember how you never did because you thought they were bland and had a weird texture? Well, it turns out, you were right and mom was wrong. Kind of.
Hope Lee Brussels sprouts at Ortega 120
A million hipsters notwithstanding, Brussels sprouts can be weird and bland -- but not at Ortega 120, a Redondo Beach restaurant specializing in "modern Mexican cuisine," where the Col de Bruselas Creljeinte are the best Brussels sprouts on the planet. Yeah, that's right, the planet.
The crispy vegetables -- cooked with arbol chili aoli, roasted pepitas and fresh lime and covered in purple onions -- are served in a portion large enough for two. The thought of that many Brussels sprouts might scare away the average six-year-old, but adults need not fret because once you are finished, you will want more. And more. And more. And more.
Filling up on one plate -- especially an appetizer -- is rarely a good idea, so don't order four servings of the Col de Bruselas Creljeinte because Ortega 120 is kind enough to have a vegan/vegetarian (and that pesky pescatarian) menu for those of us who don't even want to know what Tacos de Atun Crudo are. The eatery is also kind enough to explain that the black beans and lime rice are vegetarian, while the ranchero beans and roja rice are not.
Vegetarian, vegan or carnivore, you should always order the guacamole at a Mexican restaurant -- and Ortega 120 is no different. From a visual standpoint, there's nothing remarkably different between the 120 Guacamole and any other guac from any other eatery. Your taste buds, however, will disagree. Made from Haas avocados, cilantro, red onion, lime and queso fresco -- ask your server to ditch the cheese for a vegan version -- the 120 Guacamole is to dipped appetizers what Elvis is to rock 'n' roll.
This is relevant not only because Elvis is always important, but because you'll want to ask the hostess to seat you in the large dining room, which is where a large screen is always showing Fun in Acapulco.
Thankfully, the Enchiladas de Spinaca y Hongos are almost as visually appealing as Presley. The two enchiladas are stuffed with sauteed spinach and field mushrooms and topped with cilantro, onion and salsa verde, which also comes with queso Oaxaca and lime-scented sour cream for those who partake in such things.
Also of note is the Vegetarian con Salsa Verde. This plate is hard to describe as it's not really anything other than a mish-mash of ingredients on a plate. But don't take that as an insult because the sweet potato, sauteed peppers, roasted chayote, pumpkin seeds, cilantro onions and salsa verde are pretty great. It's something of a sampler, which is a good thing, given that everything coming out of that kitchen appears to be worth eating.
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