Corazon y Miel
6626 Atlantic Ave
Bell, CA 90201
A destination-worthy restaurant in Bell? Or more likely to be asked: where is Bell again?
For those of you who don’t venture outside of the central/west parts of LA (or SGV for the FOBs), Bell is a few minutes directly south of Downtown. With regard to restaurants, the most (and for some, only) notable one would be La Casita Mexicana. But last year, Corazon y Miel (“heart & honey” in Spanish) opened in the area, to much critical acclaim. The restaurant labels itself as a Latin American gastropub of sorts, and Chef Eduardo Ruiz’s time at Animal gets brought up over and over again, but at the corazón of things Corazon y Miel is straight-up soulful Latino food that has been taken to the next level with refinement.
While Corazon y Miel has indeed received its share of acclaim and coverage from a critical/press perspective, I feel that the word still hasn’t truly reached the general public. Very few blogs have covered the restaurant, and mentioning its name to a casual Yelper usually elicits a “huh?” response (not sexy enough I suppose). In fact, the vast majority of patrons at the time of our dinner on a Friday night was local (later confirmed by the restaurant, who was surprised that we were from West LA and Fullerton, respectively – we actually chose the restaurant because it was kind of a midway point between us). But that just means that the rest of town is missing out…
First of all, the dishes are reasonably priced. Appetizers are all under $10, and entrees don’t go past low-$20s. Sure, some may scoff at paying $20-30/person for Latin American cuisine, but c’mon – if Corazon y Miel was located in Downtown or the westside, I can assure you that you’d be paying much more for the same food. Our party of three ate and drank plenty for a little over $30/person. And if that’s not enough food, bring a party of five and “fire the menu” – your party gets one of each dish on the menu for $175 (that’s $35/person, and you save 20+% off menu prices).
But how’s the actual food?
Jalapeno y Tocino ($6) – bacon, jalapeno, chorizo, street corn salad
This appetizer essentially captures the essence of East LA street food. Here, a bacon-wrapped hot dog is replaced with a bacon-wrapped jalapeno that has been stuffed w/ chorizo. And an elote is a bed of mayo-y corn salad. A nice start.
Ensalada de Cueritos ($8) – pig skin 2 ways, chili con limon, candied citrus zest, Ommegang Wit Taster
This was my favorite of the night. I haven’t had cueritos (pickled pigskin) many times, but I can say that I’ll be looking it more on menus from now on. It had a very soft and gelatinous texture, reminiscent of a Korean acorn jelly, but retained a very porcine flavor. Marinated and served like a ceviche, the acidity countered the pigskin wonderfully. And the other way, the chicharron, was textbook execution. Too bad they ran out of their regular ceviche dish, because they certainly do this well. Came w/ a beer taster BTW.
Corazon Burger ($10) – beef, bacon, grilled panela, sweet jalapeno onion relish, fries, add fried egg ($1)
This was a very novel attempt at Latin-izing the gastropub burger, but there was just a little too much going on. The patty was meaty and well-seasoned, but combining that with the bacon, the panela cheese, and the aggressive sweet jalapeno onion relish, and everything is kind of fighting against one another for attention. Plus, wasn’t a fan of the cemita-esque bun, but again, I totally get the concept.
Pan con Chompipe ($18) – 2-pound Salvadoran turkey leg sandwich
This thing was HUGE – imagine one of those mutant legs you eat at Disneyland in sandwich form. Definitely a knife-and-fork sandwich. Came with a turkey gravy on the side, but it was barely used, as the turkey leg was plenty flavorful and juicy (latter surprising for turkey). Plus, fried capers? Genius.
Borrego ($20) – lamb chops en barbacoa, goat cheese gnocchi, pickled chayote
While the lamb chops were finished on the grill, it didn’t really embody a true barbacoa-style meat. A rather straight-forward dish, but the chops were cooked to a nice medium-rare, and the goat cheese gnocchi were tasty as well.
Boca Negra ($6) – chocolate cake, chipotle custard, ancho whip
Not necessarily spicy, but definitely smoky. This was very good.
I really liked my dinner at Corazon y Miel. Great interpretation of Latin American cuisine at reasonable prices, executed with the precision and refinement you’d expect from a more modern/progressive restaurant. Yes, it’s in Bell (where again?), but that’s arguably closer for most people than say, the SGV, and there’s a lot of parking. Also, the bar program is pretty damn impressive (shoutout to Darwin). You can make reservations for their fairly long bar, where it’s happy hour 5-7pm & 9-closing (full menu served as well), and you get to interact and sample stuff, etc. If you live on the westside, and your friend lives in the OC/SGV, Corazon y Miel is a great midway point to meet up. If not…still go.