Tuesday, February 24, 2009

See You at Ciudad...

For my roommate's 21st birthday celebration last Saturday night, a bunch of us made our way downtown to...well...initiate her into the world of the late night happy hour. A beautiful, amazing thing, the happy hour that starts after the sun goes down is truly a gift to those of us who sadly do not get to end the day at 5 o'clock in the afternoon. These days, it's hard to find a restaurant, bar or lounge that indulges in the night owl's desire for a few hours of reasonably priced drinks and creative small plates; fortunately, there's Ciudad.

Sitting right on Figueroa between 4th and 5th Street in the heart of downtown LA, Ciudad is a gem for upscale, trendy Latin American food made with the freshest, most local ingredients - a true model for the fashionable Angeleno cuisine that so faithfully fuses sensual flavors, sophisticated style and seasonality with sustainability to create dishes that are delicious and in tune with nature. Aside from its fashionable food, the ambiance created within Ciudad's walls reflects the intimacy and energy of Latin American cuisine; sharp angles, straight lines and lots of warms colors outline both the artfully-placed bar at the center of the lounge area, and the geometric spacing of small tables in the rear dining room encourage close dining with friends and family.

We started off with happy hour drinks at the bar, and were more than pleasantly surprised to find that our drinks were $4.50...$4.50?!?! On a Saturday night in downtown LA?!?!? We were stunned and thrilled all at once. I ordered the house red wine, a smooth Malbec red from Argentina that was all at once rich and refreshing - a real treat for such a great price! The one down side to these late night deals is that they only apply to drinks, not the bar food that is available at the happy hour earlier in the day. Having come before, I know just how flavorful and juicy the fish and carnitas tacos are, so I made a mental note to return at an earlier time in the very near future. Sitting down in the dining room, we were brought some delightfully crispy cracker bread seasoned with nice smoky spices and toasted seeds, as well as a duo of dips - a savory olive tapenade and a freshly whipped hummus - that perfectly complemented the sweetness of the mojitos and margaritas that we had also began to drink, and that were also only $4.50...such a deal! Ordering the Pervian Ceviche was the best decision one could ever make; the generous chunks of mahi mahi sat perched atop a pile of fresh lettuce and tomatoes, marinating in a tangy, acidic pool of lime juice infused with ginger and chile, with two paper-thin slices of plantains that were lightly fried and crunchy. This dish practically melted in my mouth on the first taste. Others at my table ordered up the Roasted Poblano Chile Relleno, an appetizing-looking blackened pepper stuffed with delightfully salty cotija cheese and papas bravas, garnished with an assortment of salsas and a chewy, well-seasoned quinoa salad, and the Spinach Empanadas, little pockets of golden-crisp dough bursting with the dark greens, savory pine nuts, sweet raisins and fresh manchego cheese, and topped with eye-popping salsa verde. Both looked so good, but sadly, I did not get to snag a bite from either plate (the "mmmmm's!" from their seats spoke more than enough to the great taste of these dishes). To finish, the birthday girl was toasted with a complementary slice of the Goat Milk Cajeta Flan, whose milky-smooth texture was matched with the tang of the goat cheese base, topped with a buttery caramel sauce and blueberries...now that's my kind of dessert!

All in all, Ciudad is the perfect place to go if you are looking for a dining experience in downtown LA that is well-priced and well worth the typical suit-and-tie crowd. Whether you are looking to drink, eat, have a business meeting or just catch up with friends, Ciudad excels at bringing the beloved flavors of Latin America into both a menu and an ambiance that fosters a good time and a great meal.

445 S. Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90071
(213) 486-5171

Happy Hour:
4 p.m. - 7 p.m. Monday - Friday Happy Hour
4 p.m. - 9 p.m. Sunday Happy Hour Drinks

Happy Hour After Dark:
Wednesday & Thursday: 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Friday & Saturday: 9 p.m. to 12 midnight

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