Photos: WeHo Has A Sexy New Mexican Restaurant And Bar
Toca Madera, a new fancy organic Mexican restaurant in West Hollywood, offers spicy small bites, craft cocktails and a sultry ambiance—but above all a killer happy hour. Toca Madera (meaning 'knock on wood') takes the place of St. Nicks Pub on 3rd Street. We were invited to check out the space and were taken with its suggestive ambiance. It's a beautiful, sultry space with dark wood, deep purple benches and small tables with chain-linked legs. It's more lounge than restaurant, forcing an intimacy among diners that works well with its tapas-style menu. Decor touches include bright red roses and sexy photographs—I was directly seated beneath a photograph of a topless woman. There's also a posh patio outside, or you can take a seat at the bar made out of crystal and quartz. There's a photo booth and occasional DJ.
The menu—available in both the vegan and omnivore variety—is meant to be enjoyed by a group sharing small dishes. Chef Raymond Alvarez has described the food as "barrio-style fine dining." Our meal began with warm tortillas, honey butter and salsa. Small plates included tamales, guacamole and a salsa flight. Our favorites included the quesa fundido ($12)—a gooey, melted blend of asadero, Oaxacan and panela cheeses pepped up with pasilla chiles and mushrooms—and the sweet corn tamales ($8, includes two). These two rich dishes were both flavorful and reminiscent of comfort food. If you're looking for something lighter, we'd recommend the guacamole ($12) or the seabass ceviche ($14), both of which are served with plantain chips.
There's also an extensive taco section (each order comes with a pair). We liked the surprisingly spicy turkey picante tacos ($12), made with ground turkey, plenty of spice courtesy of serrano peppers, chipotle and cumin and topped with sharp white cheddar. These come served in a hard shell. Our other favorite is their own take on a classic, the carne asada ($14), which comes topped with cilantro, red onion, cotija cheese and sweet chipotle sauce. It's just the right amount of spice and sauce, and the meat is extremely tender.
The vegan menu includes vegan enchiladas with spicy tofu or spicy soyrizo, tofu lettuce wraps and soyrizo asada with guacamole, cilantro, onions, sweet chipotle sauce and vegan mozzarella.
For dessert, we definitely suggest the churro ice cream sandwich ($11). The churro is soft and chewy, and the dulce de leche ice cream is light and creamy. The cinnamon and sugar that dusts the churro make for a pretty sweet dessert, definitely suited for sharing among a few people. This treat is available vegan.
The drinks at Toca Madera are not only delicious, but aesthetically pleasing. There are many tequila-based cocktails, as one might expect, as well as some interesting twists. Our favorite non-tequila cocktails were two spicy ones: Southern Belle (Bulleit bourbon, Ancho Reyes liqueur, red bell pepper, lemon) and the Gordon (Hendricks gin, hibiscus tea, lime, ghost-pepper tajín). We also enjoyed the refreshing El Guapo (Milagro Silver tequila, fresno chili, lime, smoked sea salt), which has a bit of a kick, and the dry Ocho Club (Tequila Cabeza Blanco, Peychaud's Bitters, raspberry jam, grapefruit, Dolin dry, lemon and egg white), which comes served up with a pale pink rose floating on the surface. Craft cocktails at Toca Madera will run you $14. There is also a selection of wine, beer, and, of course, tequila. They have over 100 tequilas. Now, you could easily rack up a large bill on the pricey craft cocktails and a number of plates, but for those on a budget looking to experience the ambiance without breaking the bank, Toca Madera does offer a pretty compelling happy hour.
From 5 to 7 p.m. daily, you can score select cocktails, sangria and house wines for $8, and draft beers for $4. They also offer small bites for $8, including the sweet corn tamales, salsa flights, and a variety of meat and vegan tacos.
Toca Madera is located at 8450 W 3rd St in WeHo. 323-852-9400. Open Tues.-Sun., 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Happy hour is 5 to 7 p.m.