[This Hole-In-the-Wall Life] Pozole Paradise

I try to let a month pass before reviewing the same type of cuisine or restaurant in the same city, but LAS BRISAS DE APATZINGAN warrants breaking such rules. Yes, it's another Santa Ana Mexican dive similar to last week's Yucateco burrito find, but Las Brisas is a goodie that can't wait another week. The place specializes in food from the state of Michoacán, a rarity in a city teeming with so many michoacanos.

To the untrained eye (both gabacho and not), Las Brisas will seem like any other Mexican place: small; in a bad neighborhood; enchiladas, chimichangas and quesadillas on the menu and Jarritos in the fridge. But look at the menu again. Figure out which Spanish words have yet to become part of Southern California Spanish. Order them—none will disappoint. Aporriadillo is a Michoacán take on steak and eggs-dry beef mixed with eggs, then slathered with a tangy tomato salsa. Fans of rice pilafs will enjoy the morisqueta: white rice, cheese, cabbage, pinto beans and salsa served alongside tender pork ribs. Whatever you choose, order a huchepo (a small tamale prepared with corn masa so fresh it contains kernels, topped with Mexican sour cream, sweet cheese and a delicious green salsa), then order a dozen to go for only $15. And you'll never eat a better sope than a picadita, a crispy masa disk covered with Mexican sour cream, cheese, cabbage and the meat of your choice.

As delicious as the above meals may be, Las Brisas' best deal is not technically from Michoacán. Their green pozole stew comes in a large bowl and features a broth the color of AstroTurf. On the side is a plate of cabbage, diced onions, pumpkin seeds, some chicharron pieces, an avocado slice, a cotija cheese-stuffed jalapeño and two potato taquitos. Dump the cabbage, onions, chicharron, avocado and pumpkin seeds in the steaming pozole to make the cauldron cool. Eat the jalapeño (don't worry, there's so much sweet, unmelted cheese crammed into the swollen pepper that it wrestles the heat into a tasty truce) and dunk the taquitos into the pozole. Finish the sides, and start ladling the pozole into your mouth. Green pozole is a specialty of Guerrero, prepared with tomatillos and epazote instead of chile like its more-familiar red cousin. Las Brisas' green pozole is the most flavorful soup since bun bo Hue: tart gracias to the tomatillo and epazote, toasty with pumpkin seeds, transformed into a hearty revelation through the power of pork chunks and chicharron, an Orange County culinary treasure like none since the La Palma Chicken Pie Shop's legendary dish or the boysenberry. In layman's terms: muy bueno.


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