Written by: Maylee Tan // @pixel.eats
Photos by: Maylee Tan
Nestled in the bustling heart of Hollywood is a gleaming Oaxacan gem that dares to defy misconceptions about Mexican food while honoring tried and true traditional flavors. Tlayuda challenges the idea that Mexican food is greasy and unhealthy, and magically manages to deliver authentic, drool-worthy bites that attract visitors from far and wide.
Sisters Laura and Anna run the vivid and artistically decorated shop with bright smiles, serving tasty dishes with a cheery charm that is reminiscent of your childhood friends' mom's homestyle cooking.
The Taste Test
The Famous Classic Supreme Tlayuda
Apart from being the restaurant's namesake, a tlayuda is a crisp, toasted tortilla adorned with a sure smear of bean puree, a generous sprinkle of Oaxacan cheese, and crowned with three types of meat: tassajo beef, cesina pork, and chorizo.
This sent my tastebuds on a texture trip that I never wanted to return from! The creamy bean puree and the crunchy tortilla sang a duet that voiced a smokey, crispy tune. The fresh Oaxacan cheese layered thick above went straight to my head but was grounded by bits of fine, shredded lettuce. Depending on which piece of meat hit your tongue first, each bite was a new, flavorful experience. How's that for dimensional?
Despite it's many components, the dish was incredibly balanced and would have me running back. Because of the large portions, I'll bring a friend or two with me the next time I visit– if I can get myself to share, that is ;)
Sweet and Savory Enchiladas de Mole
If you want a flavor experience that keeps you on your toes, this dish is "The One". The chicken tucked away in the enchiladas was incredibly fresh and tender and was heavily drenched in a glossy glaze of mole negro. Settled softly in the mole was queso fresco, and the enchiladas were brilliantly paired with a generous heap of rice. The rice might seem plain, but looks can be deceiving– it was light and almost buttery, which provided a striking contrast to the rich texture of the mole. It was a true yin-and-yang experience.
Not Your Average Chicken Tacos
I thought I knew what a good taco was and didn't expect to be wow'd by something I could find anywhere in Los Angeles. Tlayuda proved me wrong and I couldn't be happier about it. The sheer quality of the chicken was something else– it was slightly fattier than the chicken you'd find in a dry taco de pollo which helped the tacos deliver more flavor. But what made these tacos much more unique than your average taco was that bean puree. Yup. Like the bean puree in their supersized tlayuda. It brought another dimension of texture and another layer of flavor that no one thought was needed in a taco.
This one's for the skeptics. Let these tacos prove you wrong.
The Colorful and Delicious Drinks
To wash all the goodness down was an equally amazing selection of drinks. All brightly colored and unique, it was tough to pick a favorite! Here's a rundown of the flight:
Brewchata: I consider myself a coffee connoisseur, so when I learned that they chose (local) Bicycle Coffee for their roasters, I was ecstatic. Paired with their homemade horchata, this made my caffeinated heart sing!
Horchata: Homemade and smooth. The bits of cinnamon floating at the top did not allude to a chalky texture– this was light, refreshing, and perfectly balanced. It's everything you'd want in a glass of horchata.
Tamarindo: my Filipino heritage naturally draws me to tamarind, and this lived up to my expectations with it's subtle sour flavor.
Jamaica: this bright purple drink tasted as beautiful as it looked with light floral notes and a soft sweetness.
No matter which drink you choose, you won't be disappointed!
A Slice of (Cheesecake) Heaven
And to think, we almost left without dessert! Mascarpone cheese. I needn't say more, but I will: a fine, delicate almond crust. This cheesecake does all the work; each bite melts when it hits your tongue and not once is it ever too sweet. I'm sure you're wondering, "but what about that ridiculously sexy dulce de leche glaze?" It's perfect. All proper dining etiquette out the window, I wiped the plate clean.
Be prepared to think twice about your current favorite cheesecake.
Final Thoughts and The Future
I would be so bold as to call Tlayuda a revolution in American-based Mexican food. After eating everything I felt incredible, as though I've been on a healthy, green, no-carb diet all year. Food that makes you feel as good as it tastes is a rare find and it's one that I'll keep coming back to.
Laura and Anna have been running Tlayuda for the last three years and have a beautiful and bright future ahead of them. Customers have already begged for more locations and travel from all over just for a taste of authentic, Oaxacan cuisine. These two women, along with their all-female staff, break boundaries with a smile, proving that Mexican food can be "clean, simple, and tasty."