Rivera presents Spanish and South American delicacies and very innovative takes on the traditional tapas spots of Mid City.
In fact, the very thing that sets Rivera apart from its neighbors begins right at that bar. The bar manager has carefully concocted the restaurant?s specialty drink menu. Their take on a margarita includes fresh lime and floating cucumbers for a refreshing relaxer. If Burke-Williams served alcohol with their $100 massages, this would be their relaxing signature. The Barbacoa is a heady mixture of blanco tequila, chipotle juice, jalapeno, agave nectar and ginger. Float a homemade slice of beef jerky on top, and you?ve got the most complex and satisfying bloody-sweet mary tequila drink of your life.
Rivera leans toward all things tequila, which includes the thick-leather ?tequila tasting? chairs, low to the ground for easier landings and departures, and saddled with broad side extensions to easily set your glass between sips. They are basically old-school, elementary student desks for mescal abusers; and abuse you can, as the tequila tasting list numbers well into the hundreds with each varietal broken down by category ? agave, blanco, mescal and so on. With glasses priced from $14 to close to $50, it?s best to pick with a clear eye for the tequila guy.
The dinner menu is split down three lines ? snacks, starters and larger plates. The larger plates are plenty for one and include selections such as a mole pork chop to wild striped sea bass with tomatillos and tempura chilies, but eliminates the fun of trying a plethora of things.
We preferred to play in the starter sandbox to get a maximum array of flavors. We started with a house special from the snack section which was a Yucatan take on chips and salsa with the salsa being a charred-habenero mixture with a fluid, smoky heat that lingered for a good moment or two after every bite.
Onto the little plates, we started with a chilled, pickled pasilla chili ? blackened on the outside and stuffed with creamy, white burrata cheese, a close cousin of buffalo mozzarella. The succulent mix of spice with the milky cheese soothed the tongue on every impact. Grilled quail cut into pinky-sized nibbles suffered from a heavy-handed salt shake that was fortunately minimized by an unctuous black bean puree beneath. Two lamb lollipops covered in a dollop of olives, capers and chorizo was gamey and good right down to the bone.
Best of all was a seared black cod about the size of a grown man?s knuckles with seared strips of Serrano ham blessing the crispy top. Simply set a fork lightly on top of the fish and the moist, buttery fellow fell apart like a deck of freshly-shuffled cards. Teeth suddenly became obsolete as the buttery flesh literally melted away on the tongue and slid easily down the throat. As close to dessert as fish could possibly ever be.
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