Supper Liberation Front chef Josh Gil once provoked Westside L.A.'s wildest Mexican food dreams by teasing about a creative Oaxacan restaurant named Mitla with the Bricia Lopez of Guelaguetza. The project never happened as planned and Gil went off to work for BLT Steak. Fortunately, Gil is still serious about giving local Mexican cuisine a boost, as Eater finds the chef re-teamed with his SLF partner Daniel Snukal to unveil a new Baja-style taqueria in Santa Monica.
Currently soft-open in the shadow of Saint John's Hospital on Santa Monica Boulevard, the nineties hip-hop-bumping, wood-accented Tacos Punta Cabras offers a simple, straight-forward roster of cod, shrimp, and scallop tacos, each bearing a light, tempura-style batter that puts the focus on impeccably fresh seafood and away from the common standard of dense, flavor-obscuring breading.
Sold at $3.50 apiece, the tacos vastly outshine dollar truck tacos, with flour tortillas pounded out by hand, house-made creme fraiche, and vegetarian substitutes including tofu and our era's favorite steak replacement, cauliflower. Tomatillo and chile de arbol salsa is also available in a range of mild to hot, while the restaurant plans to fill a front display case with chips and tortillas to-go.
The menu also includes tostadas and truly sublime cocteles that stray considerably from the mouth-puckering acidity of so many found on the curb, again emphasizing sweet, popping whole shrimp and slippery, crunchy scallops in a balanced broth of cilantro, tomato juice, and Persian cucumbers, shy of any discernible sharp citrus.
Though the menu is as sparse as parking is difficult to find, this chef-helmed taqueria offers an enjoyable lunch and appears to fall under the mantle of today's respected talents who are obsessed with engineering perfect versions of familiar dishes through excellent ingredients and handmade everything, a big step-forward in comfort food that Jonathan Gold recently called "one of the strongest culinary movements in the country at the moment."
With the recent opening of Blue Plate Taco and the news that Tinga is coming to Santa Monica, the Westside suddenly finds itself with a few great taco destinations, albeit at expected, higher Westside prices. In any case, Tacos Punta Cabras is a great new addition to a busy neighborhood hard at work and hard-pressed for a great lunch option.
Tacos Punta Cabras is currently soft-open from 11:00 A.M. to 8:00 P.M. at 2311 Santa Monica Blvd. Santa Monica; 310-917-2244.