18 Tacos La Flama

18 Tacos La Flama

April 4, 2010

2404 S Barrington Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90064


Tucked into the corner of the platonic low-rent Los Angeles corner strip mall, between the Mattress Clearance Center and the Indian Fast Food, beneath the billboard and flappy flags, Tacos La Flama might easily be overlooked. Outside, it has about 10’ of frontage, but inside you find a fine neighborhood taco shop, augmented with a case full of pan dulce and a busy butcher’s counter too. A glass case is stacked to the rim with about a cubic yard of chicharrones.

I ordered one each of the carne asada, al pastor, and carnitas tacos, about average in size and $1.25 each. After a run of rather exotic tacos, I was relieved to come back to the world of the modest, humble taco – without pretension or putting on airs, these tacos simply want to follow their directive and bring you straightforward pleasure and nutrition, in accordance with the taco code of honor. Empalagado after so many Heroic tacos, I’ve returned to the virtues of the Ugly and Ordinary taco.

First I ate the carnitas, with a liberal application of the orangey “hot” salsa from the salsa bar. The salsa is not very hot, but has a good citrusy fruity flavor backing up peppery goodness. This was a good taco in the ordinary way – the carnitas rather grey in color, but with a good textural variation. An early bite was dry and almost crunchy in character, and a later bite was juicy and moist. The flavor had smoke and porkiness. The alignment of this taco was Lawful Good – a stand-up taco, a straightshooter all the way.

Tortillas were normal, doubled but not laminated. This afternoon was the first time this year I could use the Offset Tortilla strategy – when tortillas are unlaminated, slide the top tortilla 20% off the lower tortilla. After you fold and lift your tortilla, you have a 20% extension out the back of your taco with no topping in it. This can be folded over to prevent the “dumping syndrome” loss of taco meat out the back; and as you eat the taco from front to back, the gradual pushing on the contents will fill up that 20% taco tail with taco runoff and overflow. I learned this trick back in the Depression.

Next I ate carne asada. The Great Taco Hunt’s Bandini was right that the steak is way heavy on lemon juice, but I found this unusual sensation rather compelling. The little juicy steak bits so strongly flavored with citrus, salt, garlic, and the really good red salsa (which is pepper-smoky and fairly hot) had that perverse quality you find in Cool Ranch Doritos where the taste in your mouth makes you want more and more until it’s all gone.

Finally I ate al pastor. It was pretty normal stuff – good, but not intense, spiced fairly mildly, but this allowed the pork flavor to shine on through. A good every-day al pastor, I wish I could buy it in a big box in the cereal aisle and eat it out of a bowl every morning.

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