RIVERA

Sedlar challenged diners to expand their expectations of tortillas and enchiladas without preconceived notions

Photos Courtesy: Izumi Tanaka

The Challenge

Haidos faced a tantalizing challenge in positioning the exhilarating work of the gifted Chef John Rivera Sedlar, named ESQUIRE’s “Chef of the Year” in 2011.

Sedlar’s unmistakable approach—refined, yet sensual and earthy—helped to define Los Angeles as a world-class dining destination through the vibrancy of his restaurants Saint Estèphe, Bikini and Abiquiu in the ’80′s and 90′s.

After taking a decade long break from the Los Angeles restaurant landscape, she re-established Chef Sedlar as the preeminent authority on Latin cooking in Los Angeles. This was accomplished through the launch of Rivera in 2008, which coincided with the re-launch of downtown Los Angeles as the cultural epicenter of the city.

Sedlar in turn challenged diners to expand their expectations of tortillas and enchiladas in order to encounter Latin cooking, especially the foods of the Americas and the Caribbean, without preconceived notions.

With Rivera restaurant, Haidos positioned Sedlar to conquer a new generation of discerning diners with sophisticated Latin foods which inform and astonish as well as nourish. Sedlar’s ethnographic and historic approach to his original recipes embrace the sprawling legacies of trade, conquest and culture which continue to shape and enrich Latin cooking today.

Background

Chef John Rivera Sedlar is often credited with revealing the deep elegance of Latin food for the global tastes of the digital age. For decades, Sedlar’s visionary menus have seamlessly integrated rustic authenticity side-by-side with sophisticated mestizo fusion.

A New Mexico native, Sedlar is one of a handful of chefs who first brought the cuisine of the American Southwest, with its utterly unique ingredients and signature flavors and techniques, into worldwide prominence in the 1980s. His tirelessly creative work has elevated the world’s perception of the ingredients, vast culinary history and gustatory heritage of the New World, particularly those of Mexico, as well as an appreciation for the complexities and subtleties of fine tequilas. This legacy was given new context, relevancy and excitement in the context of two adjacent, modern, cosmopolitan locations in the central business district which avoided all of the usual cultural clichés surrounding Latin culture.

Results

2011

2010

Los Angeles Times, December 2010

“L.A.’s revolution in dining” by S. Irene Virbila

“John Sedlar is upping his game at Rivera, his sophisticated and entertaining ode to Latin food.”

Los Angeles Magazine, October 2010

“Border Guard” by Margot Dougherty


“So much of what John has done over the years has been fueled by his insatiable interest in and curiosity about the history of food and the cultures it comes from,” says Evan Kleiman, the host of KCRW’s Good Food and chef-owner of Angeli Caffe. “He’s a food scholar. That would send some chefs down the rabbit hole of intense technique, but John’s food is very direct. Every restaurant he’s done is like a thesis, and now Rivera is his dissertation a really delicious one.”

LA Weekly Blog, September 2010

“Where Are Our Latino Chefs” by Amy Scattergood

“When people leave Los Angeles I think what they want to come back home to is Mexican food. The identity of the city, really our true heritage is Latin. It’s Mexican, Zapotec, South American, Spanish, Portuguese.”- JRS

LA Times, August 2010

“Rivera Menu Features 300 Years Worth of Culinary History” by Jessica Gelt

Travel + Leisure, May 2010

“Best Restaurants in Los Angeles” by Peter Jon Lindberg

Los Angeles Magazine, March 2010

“Best New Restaurants”

“Located near L.A. Live, the restaurant, a glossy den with electronic murals on the walls and light fixtures modeled on a conquistador’s helmet, embodies a passionate dialogue between the Americas and Spain. Sedlar hews to tradition without being bound by it. Hand-pressed tortillas that carry the ancestral tang of ground nixtamal might be a preamble to cochinita pibil, slowly cooked pork rubbed with achiote a Yucatecan classic that he tweaks with purple Peruvian potatoes. Just as in Mexico City, the chile pasilla is served chilled, but the filling of burrata contributes an unexpected lushness. The baba cachaca dessert, bolstered with citrus slices and Brazilian sugarcane brandy before being finished with Chantilly cream, combines the exactitude of a Parisian patisserie and the abandon of a Rio bar. Sedlar has been roaming the borderlands between worlds for more than two decades, and Rivera is his most brilliant articulation of the theme.”

Los Angeles Magazine, January 2010

“A critic’s most memorable dining experiences of 2009″ by S. Irene Virbila

“We all have our secret pleasures. Sometimes it’s a late-night tongue or carnitas taco eaten with salsa dribbling down your chin while standing in the pool of light next to a taco truck. L.A. is full of such spots for Mexican food. But something more elevated is hard to find. That’s why dinner at Rivera is such a treat. At this casually elegant spot, John Rivera Sedlar weaves bright Latin flavors together to create irresistible dishes. I can’t stay away from the warm tortillas florales imprinted with flowers and herbs, or the “dog’s snout” salsa that will leave your nose running from the chile quotient. I love his Spanish-inflected duck confit in a puddle of Rioja sauce fired with Cascabel chiles and the pork shoulder braised in a banana leaf until it’s so tender you can literally cut it with a spoon. It’s sumptuous and down to earth at the same time, both wildly inventive and delicious.”

2009

LA Times Magazine, December 2009

“Wrappers Delight” by Wyatt Peabody

“The tamal is at once ancient and modern, organic and hip. What place is more appropriate than L.A.?” – JRS

ABC Local News, December 2009

“Vista LA” (Video)

LA Times, December 2009

“The year in food: changing tastes” by Jonathan Gold

Esquire Magazine, November 2009

“Best New Restaurants” by John Mariani

“It becomes very clear very quickly when a chef is having a ball, and John Sedlar is having a ball. You can tell by the fresh, hot tortillas with Yucatan-style charred-habanero “dog snout” salsa, named for the chiles that make your nose run like a Chihuahua’s. But he is dead serious that Mexican food  careful, high-end Mexican food  should get as much respect as French and Italian cuisine, and he makes his case with wonderful dishes like braised barbecued pork short ribs with toasty, dried-guajillo-chile sauce. He corroborates it with sea trout suffused with aromatic, saffron-colored quinoa, which takes on a piquancy from yellow gazpacho sauce. Some of the food packs heat, but Sedlar is not interested in spiciness unless there are levels upon levels of flavor and texture. By the time you get to the crunch and heat of wild striped bass with tomatillos and tempura-fried chiles, Sedlar has ended any debate over whether true greatness can come from the humble food culture he so loves. Even if he does serve chapulines, which are grasshoppers.”

Gourmet Magazine, November 2009

“Having a Grand Time, Los Angeles” by S. Irene Virbila

Bon Apetit, November 2009

“Downtown Los Angeles” by Carolynn Carreno

“For a city so passionate about taco trucks, L.A. has had little upscale Latin food. That is, until John Rivera Sedlar came out of a 14-year sabbatical. His guacamole is pureed into an “avocado butter”; poblano chiles are stuffed with creamy burrata cheese.”

Signature Magazine, November 2009

“Keeping L.A. Fed…and Hungry” by RAQUEL OLIVO

Best of Citysearch, October 2009

“Best Los Angeles Latin Food”

Best of Citysearch, October 2009

“Best Los Angeles Celebrity Chef”

LA Times Magazine, September 2009

“Liquid Heaven” by Jennifer Stockley

Playboy Magazine, October 2009

“TOP 10 Tequila Lounges” by Christina Couch

Los Angeles Magazine, September 2009

“The Cocktail Bar” by Lesley Barger Suter

Jonathan Gold’s 99 Essential L.A. Restaurants

“Rivera” by Jonathan Gold

“This is a restaurant Los Angeles has needed for a very long time.”

Angeleno Magazine-Chef of the Year-John Sedlar

“The Comeback Kid July 2009

Angeleno Magazine-Chef of the Year-John Sedlar

“Featured Bar Program”

Los Angeles Magazine-Best of LA

“Tequila Selection” July 2009

Vogue.com June 2009

“Features:Favorite LA Restaurants” by Jeffrey Steingarten

Los Angeles Times, April 2009

“The Review: Rivera in downtown Los Angeles” by Irene Virbila

“The New Cocktailians”, April 2009

“Where to drink Now by Jonathan Gold”

Washington Post, April 2009

“Postcard from Tom”

Los Angeles Magazine

“LA’s new 4-star eatery” by Patrick Kuh

San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco Chronicle-”Between Meals” by Michael Bauer

LA Weekly

Rivera Restaurant, “Tequila Sunrise” by Jonathan Gold
Rivera Restaurant, Tequila Sunrise Slideshow

CitySearch by Mar Yvette, February 12, 2009

Downtown LA Gets exciting new Pan Latin Cuisine

LA Times, February 9, 2009

Chef John Rivera Sedlar makes auspicious return

LA Weekly, January 28, 2009

L.A.’s original fusion dude opens the Mexican Rivera

Food GPS, January 16, 2009

Profile: Rivera Chef John Rivera Sedlar

Discover Los Angeles, January 2009

Comeback Kid

Press Release, 2010

“Connect Centuries, Continents and Guests with Sound-Bites for an Audio-Edible History About Latin Food”

2008