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DineLA: Ciudad

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Last week I put on a fancy dress and hit Ciudad. Of all the DineLA restaurants so far, this was the highlight. The open expanse of the room seemed a little chilly and impersonal at first, but little touches like homestyle drinking glasses and retro 1950s accents warmed the room. This restaurant runs with Disneyland-like efficiency. You know those musicals with dancing waiters twirling through the room in perfectly choreographed symmetry? That is what the service at Ciudad brought to mind. Even a party of 20 next to us could not throw a wrench in this well-oiled machine.

In lieu of a traditional bread basket, crisp breads arrive with two dipping sauces - an olive tapenade and a hummus with hints of various spices dominated by cumin that made it taste very much like an Indian samosa.

The first course of tamales negro set the tone for the entire meal. "The 2 Hot Tamales" put their own spin on Mexican food in a way that makes perfect sense. They tweak it just enough to intrigue the palate and sometimes leave you guessing, but with complete respect for the original dish. The tiny, almost transluscent sweet shrimp that tumbled from the tamale were so delicious I could have eaten a plateful of them and gone home happy. The Aji Amarillo Chile Sauce left a slight afterburn, but not enough to mask the delicate flavor of the shrimp.