Mid-City: Checking Out the “Taco Speakeasy” Petty Cash
When Playa closed a couple of months ago, all I could think was what was going to happen to that beautiful space and lovely garden? Then I heard rumors it was going to be flipped fairly quickly and even met folks involved that may or may not have mumbled the name of the new concept to me. But they wouldn’t tell me what sort of food it’d be. And of course the name Petty Cash doesn’t immediately bring to mind tacos. I saw Walter Manzke was going to be the chef. I wasn’t familiar with him cooking Latin food before but I was interested to see what he came up with.
Fast forward to last week when someone asked me if I was going to crash the friends and family nights at Petty Cash. Eh? Well, I legitimately scored a reservation complete with a password for the taco speakeasy.
Diners were asked to leave their cameras and phones at home. So… in lieu of photos, I give you my line-art drawings (aka doodles).
The pig ear nachos with crema poblana and a soft egg was our favorite dish of the night. The strips of pig ears weren’t over-fried so you can still get the tender bits of ear. I would make myself a little package of tortilla chip, guacamole, a bit of egg topped with at least one strip of pig ear. We “pigged” out on this dish and probably should have held back a bit because by the end of the meal, we realized we ordered one dish too many. And yet there is more to the menu we wanted to try like the cheesy churros, aguachile (your choice of seafood!) and pozole. There’s also a couple of quesadilla options on the menu. The deep fried prawn sounded great but I’d definitely get the “poncho” style with zucchini flower.
I don’t know why I bothered insisting on getting some of veggie dish– to feel somewhat healthy with the onslaught of tacos? The crispy Brussels sprouts caught my eye though I would have given the baby beets with garbanzo beans a go as well. I used to love when Brussels sprouts “leaves” or “petals” were separated and then quickly fried. But I lose some of the hearty cabbage-y flavor I love so much. I would have preferred the Brussels left alone or just halved. Shaved is okay too. I didn’t think it was such a good value with the individual leaves spread out in a thin layer. The Morita-cauliflower crema on the bottom of the Brussels sprouts turned out to be a bit spicy. Every now and then a dab would get me.
We also had the Ceviche Negro (not shown- I know you’re sad I didn’t draw this dish). The ceviche of sea bass was dressed with squid ink, mango and peanuts. It was also a lot spicier than I expected it to be. But we loved it.
Tacos are sold at $4 each (except the fish is $5) or three for $11 or 6 for $21. If you get 6, it’s almost like getting one free taco. There are seven choices. What to do? Oh, we got all seven. Here’s the rundown:
Cook’s Ranch pork carnitas – salsa verde, guacamole
This one was my favorite.
Prime beef striploin carne asada – refried beans, guacamole
This was fine.
The Kraken – grilled octopus, charred chile de arbol, peanuts
My dining partner and I love octopus. This was fine.
Baja fish taco- beer battered wild striped bass, pico de gallo, cabbage
Also fine though I would have liked a little bit more pico de gallo and cabbage.
Charcoal-roasted portobello mushroom – asparagus, jack cheese, pipian
This was my next favorite.
Dorados- crispy rolled potato tacos, avocado, tomatillo, cotija cheese
You actually get 3 in an order. We loved these.
Liberty Farms duck gizzards
Surprisingly really tender. I guess I was expecting it to be a bit chewy like chicken gizzards. I enjoyed these as well.
For cocktails, I only tried the Banana Hammock which served as dessert for me. At the time of the preview, there wasn’t any desserts available but Bar Director Julian Cox slipped us some of the freshest strawberry sorbet. It was really amazing and I’d love to see it in a cocktail.
The Banana Hammock (Petty Cash rum blend, banana infusion, lime, tamarind, cassia) was garnished with dehydrated banana chips. I thought it was very interesting the cocktails were reasonably priced; between $8-$10.
The small cocktail list also included the Obligatory Vodka Drink (vodka, lime, rose water, ginger, candied rose petal), Petty Cash Margarita (blanco tequila, lime, citrus-spiked agave nectar), Nacho Libre (pisco, lime, caramelized pineapple syrup, Jamaichael Jordan**, egg white, creole bitters), Pancho Villa (2013 anejo tequila, Spanish red vermouth, “extreme Aperol,” house peach bitters, orange peel) and Buck Dynasty (your choice of spirit, lime, house fermented ginger beer). I had a taste of the ginger beer and it was very spicy. It’d go well with rum or vodka, of course but I’d think tequila would work just as well.
**The Jamaichael Jordan is the hibiscus tea, clove, Miexican cinnamon, raspberry drink for those “on the wagon.” I did have the “Dirty” Horchata as well which sadly is also booze-free despite its dirty name. The dirty comes from the look of it with long grain brown rice, pecans, Chinese cinnamon and evaporated milk.
Also, another interesting tidbit. Our favorite street food blogger Bill Esparza of Street Gourmet LA, is involved with the bar program as well. He has brought in hard-to-find agave spirits such as racilla and sotol. A giant 14-gallon jug of La Valentina sotol sits on the bar. Bill explained he has a good relationship with these distillers allowing him to bring such massive bottles over.
I’m looking forward to Tacolandia in a few weeks which hopefully Petty Cash will be serving some of those great duck gizzards and carnitas tacos.(323) 933-5300 © The Minty 2013