New LA restaurant Ka'teen features coastal Mexican cuisine from Chef Wes Avila

New LA restaurant Ka'teen features coastal Mexican cuisine from Chef Wes Avila
Courtesy of Ka’teen

The chef behind Guerrilla Tacos has opened a new restaurant.

As a child, Wes Avila, the chef behind LA's iconic Guerrilla Tacos, and his family used to go down the Pacific Coast to Ensenada in Mexico for weekend trips. As the parents of Wes' brothers and sisters were picky about food, they would only want carne asada tacos, so after dropping them off at the taqueria, he would go exploring with his dad, who grew up in Mexico.

It is now Avila's turn to bring the experience of eating Mexican food beachside to Hollywood. Ka'teen, his new restaurant inside the Tommie hotel, will open on Saturday, December 11 and will feature the cuisine of Avila's unique take on California street food. It caught the attention of Jonathan Gold, and eventually the Michelin Guide.

"Originally, it was a Tulum-inspired restaurant," he explained. "It has a Yucatan-inspired vibe, ambiance, and the cuisine itself is more Mexican coastal; it goes from the Gulf of Mexico to the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific. We're showcasing those styles of cooking and those ingredients, and I put my LA twist on them."

Courtesy of Ka’teen

Several dishes are served with jalapeo mignonette drizzled over oysters. Striped bass ceviche has pickled mango slices. Short ribs are embellished with shiso leaves and served with shiso dressing. Pescado Zarandeado, a roasted whole fish dish specific to Puerto Vallarta, comes with handmade tortillas and banchan-style sides, including pickles, salsas and caramelized onions, a tequila cocktail and a Cabernet floater.

It's the sharable, family-style approach to a lot of the entrees that Avila says makes him the most excited, such as the banana leaf-wrapped heritage pork or the braised lamb neck barbacoa, which are all served family-style.

It is his hope that Ka'teen will recreate "the festive atmosphere of people coming together to share a meal", encourage the kind of bonding that he and his dad experienced during their time in Baja, and bring back "the community we all longed for during the most difficult times of the pandemic."

As a result of Bernadette Blanc's design, the 5,000-square-foot restaurant is 80% outdoor and has no walls except the one that separates the dining area from the kitchen. Candles and basket chandeliers light communal tables. It is amazing how lush the vegetation is on every surface of the restaurant, blocking out the facades of nearby buildings and transporting diners to the tropical jungles of the Yucatán and Mayan Riviera. 

Courtesy of Ka’teen

The patio is one of the nicest in LA, and is expected to serve dinner first, as well as weekend brunch very soon.

During his training as a chef, Avila studied under Alain Ducasse in California and at the Parisian restaurant Le Comptoir before returning to his native country to work in kitchens like L'Auberge, Marché and Michelin-starred Le Comptoir. A few days a week, Guerrilla Tacos, a street cart side project, was founded by him as a way to serve sea urchin and wild boar tacos to word-of-mouth fans like the Los Angeles Times' beloved, late critic Gold, and to the Los Angeles Times' beloved, late critic Gold.

It is no surprise that Avila was a semifinalist in the James Beard Awards for "Best Chef, West" in 2017 and had built Guerrilla Tacos into a brick-and-mortar sensation in the Arts District and was awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand by the Michelin Guide to California seven years later. The magazine readers of Los Angeles magazine voted him the “Best Local Chef” last year, and he stepped away from Guerrilla Tacos and opened the casual Angry Egret Dinette in Chinatown after he left Guerrilla Tacos.

A lot of Avila's life has been spent traveling in Baja, and he has visited Tulum and Mérida numerous times throughout the last few years, and as a result, he says he has not really delved into history during the workshoping at Ka'teen. To him, cooking this way comes second nature, since he incorporates as many local ingredients as he can.

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