Begin with a basil martini. It’s as good as the Kappa Paloma, which owned me at first sip, but the basil. . .the basil achieves an imbibe-able breakthrough in martini magic. Much like the place you’ll drink it.
As hard as XOC Tequila Grill is to know how to pronounce (Shaw-K, actually), it’ll only matter before you visit. After that it’ll just become that place with the sushi grade Hamachi ceviche. Or that ridiculous homemade guac. That cheese crisp thing we had in Mexico but never anywhere else. Get back to me with yours.
Homemade, handmade, everything, actually – that’s how they roll, with quite literally, the whole enchilada. This place excels where so many before have missed, mastering the exercise of taking something indigenously delicious, and defining the next level by backtracking to the beginning. Allowing the gold standard to surface by means of preserving, perhaps resurrecting, an essence. Some of our greatest culinary achievements have been met this way. And this place, out in Woodland Hills, meets that mark.
Located in The Village, the mood matches the mingle – it’s vivacious, festive – a margarita incarnated as a restaurant. If you were not in good spirits at arrival, that’ll shift, and probably immediately. Definitely after the cheese crisp. It’s happy here. Informal and fun.
And savoury. Mayan origins dictate the spice spectrum which define all those fantastic flavors coming out of the kitchen. Everything, everything, is handmade, freshly prepared. Fourteen-hour mole sauce? Check. Prepare your palate to be treated to tastes of maize, tomatillos, cocoa, epazote . . .menu items may appear familiar, but something soulful results when flavour heritages are honoured and produced in the absence of compromise. This is Mexico City Mexican. This is real deal Mexican.
Don’t go expecting gallons of cheese or shreds of iceberg. XOC (again, Shaw-K) is a far cry from the far-flung incarnations that have amassed over the years, masquerading as Mexican food. If you haven’t experienced authentic Mesoamerican flavors, that’ll change, after this. Your perception of what Mexican cuisine should be, probably will too.
And the patio sprawls as far as the cocktail list. Block out some time to enjoy both.
The street corn (esquites) is killer. Off the cob with cotija cheese and chile powder, this is fabulous way to experience authentic street corn without having to floss immediately after.
The pescado al limon is excellently prepared, and the fajitas are must for anyone who has that as their go-to. Sizzling atop freshly grilled peppers, onions, and tomatoes. The handmade tortillas and guacamole clinch it. So good.
Even the coffee, served authentically blended with cinnamon, piloncillo, and a squeeze of citrus, is transporting.
If you can’t dip chips in guac with toes dipped in the sand, this is a great back-up plan. Surrounded by a salient energy and vibrant visuals where everything tastes as good as it looks, don’t worry if you can’t pronounce the name. You’ll find reason to find your way back regardless.
XOC Tequila Grill, 6316 N. Topanga Blvd. #1110, Woodland Hills, CA 91367
Tel: +1(818) 992-7930
Located in The Village on Topanga Boulevard, Woodland Hills. It is open Monday to Thursday from 11:30am to 9:00pm; Friday from 11:30am to 10:00pm; Saturday from 11:00am to 10:00pm and Sunday from 11:00am to 9:00pm.
Type of Restaurant: Authentic Mexican Cuisine
Insider Tip: It’s located in The Village. Save plenty of time on either end of your meal to peruse and shop.
Price Band: Medium
Reviewer’s Rating: 8/10
Jolie Loeb is a Luxury Lifestyle columnist based in Los Angeles
Photographs by Jolie Loeb