The dishes at Damian (and its taco annex, Ditroit) incorporate California’s rich bounty into Mexican preparations tweaked just so.

Damian Staff Cervantes Odermatt and Kwon
Thomas J. Story
From left: Chef Chuy Cervantes, general manager Ana Odermatt, and beverage manager Jun Kwon

At Damian in the Arts District of Los Angeles, legendary chef Enrique Olvera—known for New York’s Cosme and Atla, and Pujol in Mexico City—is further evolving the definition of what Mexican food can be. Ingredients like uni are combined with market greens in an inventive take on Caesar salad. Yukon gold potatoes are delicately hand-mixed with freshly ground white masa to create a tamal that becomes a potato-studded vessel for salsas of every kind. The dishes come out of the kitchen into an indoor-outdoor dining space covered in the greenery typical of Mexico City: Abundant monsteras and plume split-leaf philodendrons hang overhead as custom cutlery is placed alongside handmade Oaxacan dishware. 

Unlike at many restaurants of this caliber, the dishes themselves are deceptively simple yet over-deliver in complexity of flavor. Head chef Chuy Cervantes uses greens like wasabula, yu choy, and broccolini to embellish his dishes. A guacachile sauce is made by blending peppers, onions, and garlic before being brushed over carne asada, further deepening the char on a well-grilled steak. 

The dishes shared with us—and now you—are excellent expressions of what we love about the ever-growing diversity of Mexican food in the U.S.: They’re easy, despite their fine-dining restaurant pedigree; they’re delicious; and they’re local as can be. While each may require a bit more prep than you’re used to on a weeknight, no dish is beyond the skills of a home cook. Each is worthy of a party, the equipment needed no more exotic than a grill or a blender. Some dishes need no cooking at all. Tuna tartare is served atop a layer of chilled avocado salsa with a sprinkle of homemade furikake, an already winning spice combination that’s even better when handmade. The tuna is chopped until creamy, all the better to complement the crisp tostada. Plan ahead, invite some friends over, mix up a round of smoked highballs, and you will be transported to the lush plant-draped patio of Damian. Plus, you’ll have some amazing dishes to pull together time and again when you want to cook simple yet stunning modern Mexican meals at home. 

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