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RESTAURANTS: EARLY BIRD

Chef John Rivera Sedlar makes auspicious return

The visionary behind such onetime L.A. eateries as Saint Estephe, Bikini and Abiquiu does himself proud with the Latin-themed Rivera.

February 09, 2009|S. IRENE VIRBILA | RESTAURANT CRITIC

Spread the word: John Rivera Sedlar is back! The chef who brought us Saint Estephe in the late '80s, then Bikini and Abiquiu (all, sadly, gone) and then took a break from restaurants for far too long, has opened Rivera in downtown L.A. on Flower Street, a stone's throw from L.A. Live.

Rivera's presence on the street is so discreet, think of it as a stealth restaurant. Look for the grid of stylized Rs (for Rivera) at the bottom level of the Met Lofts building on the south side of Flower. Trust me, it's there.

At this casual, Latin-themed restaurant, Sedlar is sending out small plates calibrated to get even the most jaded foodie excited. He grinds his own maize for the handmade Nixtamal tortillas florales with flowers and herbs pressed into their surface. Served with a silken avocado butter, these are a must. I doubt very much that anybody could resist the "dog's nose" salsa either, with its deep, mysterious flavors.

He does the crudo genre a favor with his raw scallops garnished with cucumber, gentle horseradish pearls and ginger salsa, and reinvents chile relleno by stuffing a pickled pasilla pepper with a perfectly tuned avocado salad. Seared black cod with matchsticks of serrano ham is another beautiful tapa. Or a crispy duck leg in a Rioja and morita chile sauce.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday, February 11, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 50 words Type of Material: Correction
Rivera restaurant: The Early Bird column in Monday's Calendar section about the restaurant Rivera in downtown Los Angeles gave the wrong menu and pricing information. The correct information is: Tidbits and snacks, $3 to $5; appetizers and tapas, $9 to $36; larger plates, $19 to $35; sides, $4; desserts, $7.

Still feeling peckish? Go for one of the larger plates, like the incredibly tender pork shoulder slow-cooked in a banana leaf or the carne churrasco -- prime rib-eye with a haunting yellow gazpacho sauce.

The wine list put together by sommelier Steve Geddes is killer too, replete with wonderful selections from Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Chile, plus Madeiras by the glass. Which is not to forget the tequila list and the sound of the bartender shaking up those crazy cocktails.

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virbila@latimes.com

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Rivera

Where: 1050 S. Flower St., L.A.

When: 5:30-10:30 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, 5:30-10 p.m. Sundays. Weekday lunch begins soon. Full bar. Valet parking.

Price: Starters, $4-$15; cold dishes, $12-$18; hot dishes, $15-$28; tempura, $2-$8; nigiri sushi, $5 or market price; rolled sushi, $5-$15.

Contact: (213) 749-1460, www.riverarestaurant.com

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