Side dish becomes spotlight dish at Tinga Buena

The tacos I crave are simple… carne asada, cilantro, onions on a corn tortilla and some salsa verde. It’s hardly what Tinga Buena in Los Angeles serves up. But you know what? It’s fine with me because the complex flavors and unique sides gave my palette an adventure.

Located on La Brea Blvd., this understated taco shop has a contemporary vibe on the inside. Look up and you’ll see a mega-size outlet where dozens of cables hang above the long communal table. This place isn’t pretentious at all and tries to embrace a sustainable restaurant model by recycling and using biodegradable products. However, I’m curious where the banana leaf plates come from because if it’s imported, that’s not sustainable. If you know, please comment. OK, back to the food…

Here’s a rundown of what my friends and I consumed…

This is the Flat Iron Steak Taco. The green dollop is a tomato avocado relish that has a refreshing flavor and cools down the heat of the salsa. The meat was well marinated and the savory flavor worked well with the sweetness of the onions.

This is the 48 Short Rib taco. I had high expectations but it didn’t quite live up to them. I liked the texture and the look of this taco. Look at it. Don’t you want to eat it? But I admit I wanted a little bit more salt. The flavors kind of dulled after the third bite. I added some hot sauce which helped but I wanted salt, not spice.

But I think my favorite taco was my friend’s Papas Bravas taco. The potatoes were well season and cooked perfectly and topped with poblano rajas (poblano chiles, onion, garlic, and herbs).

You would think the tacos were the highlight of this meal but for me, it was the side dishes. Here’s the Arroz Con Crema – it’s a creamy rice with salsa verde and pickled onions on top. It’s the best when you take a bite of this after a salsa induced tacos. A bite of this will cool your palette for the next fiery taco.

This is the Elote Especial, a grilled sweet corn topped with crema, lime, and poblano purée. I admit I was tempted to get a second order right after I took my first bite. This is fresh corn off the cob and the flavors of each ingredient come through. It’s light and flavorful – the lime really highlights the freshness of this dish. This was my favorite dish of the night by far.

My final thoughts on Tinga Buena… I’d go back for the vegetarian menu and leave the meat off. The veggie dishes had more flavor and surprises. Here’s their menu if you want to check it out.

3 thoughts on “Side dish becomes spotlight dish at Tinga Buena

  1. Thanks for the review…I’ve been searching for Mexican food that doesn’t contain the words, carne asada, al pastor or just pollo. If you have time, try Guisados, they just opened up a couple of months ago and is located in Boyle Heights, 10 min east of downtown.

  2. hi , thanks for the review, I am glad you liked the corn! wait til the summer when it is oh so sweet…
    The plates are fallen palm leaves and are imported from India. We strive to find interesting , functional , attractive and sustainable products. We are switching plates to a new product manufactured in Carpenteria CA and made of tapioca starch…our first shipment arrives early next week. just fyi.
    we look always to shrink our footprint of waste and hope to continue to find more better locally produced items.
    thx again for taking the time to write about us.

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