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This Is LA’s Most Authentically Inauthentic Mexican Food

Ray Garcia says his LA restaurant Broken Spanish is "authentic in its own inauthenticity," serving whipped carnitas fat on its tortillas and foie gras butter on its pan dulce.

Ray Garcia named Broken Spanish on the offense.

"I think whenever you try to put a 'what I do' [on your food]—or if your guests or media try to put a label on what you are—there's always so much room for conversations like, 'Oh, that's not really fried chicken, or that's not how you barbecue," the Los Angeles native chef-owner said. "Right away people start thinking, 'Oh, that's not really Mexican food because you're using these ingredients that my mother didn't use.

"I think just the name 'Broken Spanish' is the biggest cue that it's broken Spanish," Garcia said. "It's not regional specific study on food in the Yucatan or Guadalajara or Mexico City. This is broken." (All photos by the author.)
pan dulce

"This is Broken Spanish—it is Mexican food as seen through a Los Angeles lens. We're saying that it's authentic in its own inauthenticity."

And so it is.

Panna cotta comes together with habanero and with foie gras butter. For $28, you can horrify or mesmerize your Snapchat followers with the cabeza, a lamb's head dish with pickled onion and cabbage.

The Green Garden with blanco tequila, Belle de Brillet, lemon, ginger, a green juice medley, and fennel flower.

The Green Garden with blanco tequila, Belle de Brillet, lemon, ginger, a green juice medley, and fennel flower.
raison d'être

One of the dishes that epitomizes Broken Spanish's is the tortillas served with whipped carnitas fat.

"A lot of what we incorporate is that sort of sustainable approach to farming, to growing, to harvesting, to cooking," Garcia said. "This is sort of a snapshot of that."

The concept of the dish emerged from a problem at Garcia's other restaurant, BS Taqueria. The restaurant makes a lot of carnitas, and a lot of fat gets left behind. Gallons and gallons.

"I was noticing how much fat we had left over and how delicious it is. Kind of like pan drippings when you want to make a roasted chicken—you scrape that bottom. That's where the great flavor is."

Just some of the leftover gallons and gallons of pork fat from BS Taqueria carnitas.

Just some of the leftover gallons and gallons of pork fat from BS Taqueria carnitas.

The BS Taqueria carnitas are made by rubbing pork with salt, pepper, chiles, and onion; the pork then gets cooked in its own fat. The meat gets swooped up for tacos, but the fat was always doomed for the dump—until Garcia had the idea to transform the pork trash into pork treasure. That's when the popular Broken Spanish creation was born.

"I'd love to say that we're able to repurpose and reuse all of that oil," Garcia said. "We're not, but we were able to a least get a portion of it back onto the plate."

Broken Spanish hand makes each tortilla. _It's like cooking a loaf of bread slice by slice,_ Garcia said.

Broken Spanish hand-makes each tortilla. "It's like cooking a loaf of bread slice by slice," Garcia said.
The final product, whipped pork fat seasoned with garlic, serranos, fresh lime zest, and pink sea salt. The final product: whipped pork fat seasoned with garlic, serranos, fresh lime zest, and pink sea salt.

The noble effort may not solve the fat waste problem entirely, but the result is positive.

"When you eat it with the tortillas it's really tasty," Garcia said.

In addition to the flavors the oil has from the carnitas, the pork fat gets treated with garlic, serranos, fresh lime zest, and pink sea salt. Once seasoned, the fat gets whipped in a stand mixer until it achieves a creamy, butter-like consistency.

The carnitas fat is then served with fresh house-made tortillas.

"As far as service goes, it's our bread and butter, it's our focaccia and olive oil," Garcia said. "It's just something that kicks off the meal for your stomach but also tips you to what kind of restaurant it's is going to be.

"Obviously they're not tortillas from a packet. They're not even on a plate. They're not even yellow."

The tortillas with carnitas fat definitely send a delicious message to carnivores, but the restaurant sits well with vegans and vegetarians as well. The meatless alternative of the appetizer is tortillas with refried lentils.

"I think we definitely strike a happy balance for our guests," Garcia said. "I think that whenever you put a half a lamb's head on a plate, that's going to get a few extra Instagram followers and more conversations, but the reality is we have six vegan items on the menu, [and] eight vegetarian items. Our biggest sellers are vegetarian."

"It's a very fancy plate presentation. The classic tortilla in a napkin," Garcia said. "I just need my white toque."

Whether you swing by Broken Spanish to get your skull meats on or go veg with your meal, just don't call it authentic.