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Restaurant Review:

La Choza now in O.C. and worth a visit

October 29, 2008|By Jim Reger

When it comes to homemade tortillas, I have been spoiled since last year’s trip to Mexicali. To taste homemade tortillas hot, fresh and full of flavor was a perfect experience, but it has intensified my scrutiny of other tortillas.

La Choza, which is Spanish for “the hut,” advertises homemade corn tortillas. The smell of the tortillas greets your nose as you walk in.

The restaurant has been at its O.C. location for a little more than a year after being forced out of its Santa Monica site of 31 years.

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In the beginning, owner Enrique Haro opened his restaurant and worked to grow the business in what was a remote area in 1976.

Customers came for the handmade tortillas and the margaritas, as well as some intriguing entrée items.

His challenge in Orange County is similar to what he faced in 1976. The site of his restaurant is across from the closed Levitz store, and until Bella Terra expands, he will not have a lot of foot traffic.

The former occupant was a Vietnamese restaurant that never caught on with the community. La Choza’s food, though, should be enough to bring customers to the elegantly decorated restaurant.

Haro transformed the two-room facility into a warm, inviting space. The walls are decorated with vines and paintings, and the tables and chairs are very comfortable. The second room can be used as a banquet room for private parties.

My lunch began with the queso fundido and combined two of my weaknesses, cheese and chorizo. The Monterey Jack cheese is put in a mini casserole dish and melted with flecks of the Mexican sausage sprinkled on top.

If you don’t know that the cheese and chorizo are going to leave grease in the bottom of the dish it would be an alarming site, but I was expecting that and enjoyed the dish with the three homemade tortillas.

I have read criticism of the tortillas from another reviewer as doughy and spongy, but I found neither to be the case. The tortillas are going to be thicker, and I enjoyed the texture and the flavor.

One of the other appetizers I found distinctive was the nopalitos. Tender young cactus is mixed with chopped tomato, onions and cilantro and served with the tortillas.

On Mondays burrito and margarita specials are promoted, and Haro takes a dollar off the regular price. I was in the mood for a chicken burrito and got the burrito plate, which came with rice and beans.

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