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