Josef Centeno long ago proved he can cook just about anything, be it farm-sourced California cuisine at Manresa to potent, globe-spanning small plates at Meson G and Opus to bare-knuckle, tavern tapas and robust vegetables at Lazy Ox to his own proprietary restaurant, Baco Mercat, which highlights his signature standout sandwich amalgams in an experience where hamachi crudo with Georgian spices, goose confit, and sumac lebni make sense under the same roof. This Saturday, the chef will reveal Bar Amá, a love letter to the Tex-Mex he was raised on, taking a close-to-the-chest leap into nostalgia land, no doubt with a few twists from one of L.A.'s savviest chefs (puffy fried tacos with tongue carnitas and pequin chile vinegar salsa, he promises, and Daily Candy predicts, Frito pie and polenta taquitos).
L.A. Downtown News reports that the 2,115-square-foot space will crack its doors on December 15, with Centeno overseeing a roster of dishes inspired by northeast and central Mexican and southwest U.S. cooking, including chalupas, enchiladas, wood-grilled meats, fajitas, char-roasted salsas, mondongo soup, fideo, and weekend menudo.
El Torito this will not be, and The L.A. Times sweetens the news that in addition to a bar focused on tequilas and mescals, the chef will have a proprietary soda on hand called Bäco Pop, along with fermented fruit mashes. Gringo gourmands may veer towards a selection that pays homage to the Southwest's ubiquitous taco-burger stands, as Bar Amá's will also take on burgers, chicken, and kebabs blazed by broiler.
Given the civic pride and ever-lasting hunger L.A. feels for Mexican food, in all its regional and adapted permutations, as well as the high enthusiasm and esteem held for Centeno's cooking, Saturday's debut is one this city's food-obsessives are eagerly looking forward to.
Bar Amá, 118 W. 4th St. Downtown.