Located just minutes away from LMU’s campus in Playa Vista is a hidden treasure of the LMU area: a trendy, reasonably priced and excellent Mexican restaurant called Tocaya Organica. Tocaya Organica offers a variety of salads, bowls, burritos and chips, however it is their tacos that separate them from other local shops.
The atmosphere of Tocaya Organica immediately captures the senses of any guest who walks through its doors. From the outside, the restaurant is modest, but from the inside, it is an Instagram influencer’s dream. Decorated with a blue-grey aesthetic, the restaurant feels modern and inviting. The open ceiling gives an airy, open feel, and the succulents on the wall add freshness. I took a seat by the large windows, enjoying the natural light.
You order at a counter near the door before grabbing a seat, where your food is brought to you. The menu is full of mouth-watering items — when you are hungry, it is nearly impossible to pick what to eat. The tacos contain a variety of toppings, but the protein and cheese is up to you to choose; luckily, for those who have problems choosing, there are chef-recommended options.
I tried all four tacos with the recommended proteins and cheeses: the Cali (avocado, onion, salsa, achiote chicken and manchego), the Barrio (roasted tomato salsa, avocado, diced red onions, cilantro, carne molida and jalapeno jack), the Tulum (charred bell pepper, red onion and habanero, arbol salsa, grilled pineapple, chicken tinga and queso fresco) and the Baja (shaved cabbage, sweet chipotle sauce, cilantro and vegan chipotle crema, halibut and jalapeño jack).
Left with just the bases, the tacos are gluten free and vegan. Tocaya Organica also offers selections that follow the principles of the Keto Diet.
These four tacos were as flavorful as the best L.A. street tacos, and each one tasted completely unique. The Tulum was my favorite: the chicken tinga, a shredded chicken, was spicy, but not overwhelming. The grilled pineapple complemented this spice with a hint of sweet, tied together with a mild, creamy cheese on top.
The other standout taco was the Barrio. Despite the jalapeño jack, this was one of the least spicy tacos. The avocado, onion and cilantro were basic taco ingredients, but it was in the beef that the Barrio became a world of its own. The meat was juicy, exploding with flavor when it touched your tongue. The other ingredients—specifically the avocado—were there more to accentuate the carne molida than to add their own flavors, so when they all come together, the texture and taste went beyond the average taco.
I also ordered the tostada salad, which ended up being the sleeper hit of the meal. Above a crispy corn tortilla were black beans, shredded romaine and butter lettuce, tomato, diced red onion, corn salsa and citrus dressing. For a protein, I ordered carne asada, and for a cheese, I ordered manchego.
From the first bite of salad, I was taken by the variety of the flavors. The salad was perfectly mixed: I couldn’t see all the ingredients, yet I had no problem tasting each one. It was refreshing, due to not only the citrus dressing, but also the fresh ingredients. The combination of the flavors was different for each forkful, which made each bite taste new. Every aspect of the salad, from the sweet corn bursting with flavor to the tender carne asada rich with spices, complemented each other flawlessly.
The guacamole, a must-have side, was dreamily smooth and topped with pomegranate seeds and lime pepitas. I was a skeptic about the pomegranate seeds, but once I tried them I was hooked. Though sweet, they added more depth to the flavor, bringing out hints of lime. The pomegranate seeds and lime pepitas acted to create a more complex flavor while also lending itself to a more unique texture.
Tocaya Organica is the best restaurant in the Playa Vista area. It has high quality food for a reasonable price and offers so many items that it requires revisiting. Their “modern organic Mexican” options are filling, beautiful and—most of all — absolutely delicious.
This is the opinion of Jacob Cornblatt, a sophomore film production major from Gaithersburg, Maryland. Tweet comments to @JacobCornblatt or email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.