How do you turn the Mexican cooking tradition on its head in Los Angeles? Mole fries are a good place to start. Add in a blossoming craft beer selection and mezcal by the flight, and you've got all the makings of Mexican Restaurant 2.0. Or, as it's more commonly known, Bizarra Capital in Whittier.
The restaurant is helmed by Chef Ricardo Diaz, who previously worked to open such luminous LA Mexican spots as Cook's Tortas and Guisados. A lot of the same love for the Mexican cooking tradition is evident at Bizarra Capital, but it's all done with a discerning twist.
But you really should start with those Mole Fries. They're offered as a 'small plates' option for $7, and the pile of perfectly crisped potatoes you receive are worth every bite. Not that the thick, chocolatey poblano mole is any slouch either.
The whole dish is a success, thanks to plenty of melted cheese, grilled red onions, and a toss of toasty seeds. This is pure escapism in a bowl—especially when you've got a local IPA from Cismontane to ride along with it.
There's no single dish on the menu big enough to put you down for the evening, although the $16 plate of Carne Asada will certainly do its best to try. Most dinner items, like the fiery Seafood Aguachile, act as a shared dish, especially when you've got Bizarra's pitch-perfect guacamole and chips to use for scooping off of others' plates. The fried and sealed Quesadillas ($5) require a knife and fork anyway, so you might as well pass the platter around so everyone can get a taste of salty Oaxacan cheese and chorizo that's been prepared in-house.
Even the tacos, so hard to share without them falling apart or being devoured first, are ample enough to be plucked at by a couple of diners while working through an assortment of menu items. The Cochinita Pibil is the best of the bunch, stewed up for hours and served bright red from chile seasonings.
There is heat behind this Yucatan-style preparation, but it's quickly tempered by the same sort of thick, hand-patted corn tortillas that help make Guisados such a star. You'll find more to fire you up in the Mole Poblano Tacos, served with the same seeds and creamy dark mole as the fries, but with chicken as a base, diced red onions, and a few dabs of cheese.
If you want to experience a touch of fire, make for the dinner-only Toreados, a sauté of assorted chiles, plus a hint of garlic and lime. It comes as its own small plate—again, perfect with those tortilla chips and cooling guacamole—or in a taco so hot you'll be flagging down the waiter for another cerveza.
Ricardo Diaz has already managed to reshape the discussion on contemporary Mexican food in Los Angeles, thanks to the success of places like Guisados and Cooks Tortas. At Bizarra Capital, the chef is able to reinvest those winnings into a suitable sit-down restaurant that that runs wild with invention (read: mole fries) and fun (read: beer).