If a secret restaurant serving progressive Mexican cuisine from a former chef at Twist by Pierre Gagnaire appeals to you, the team behind El Dorado Cantina has a new spot for you. La Cocina Exclusiva opens at Tivoli Village on Friday hidden behind a sliding door and up a set of stairs. The exclusive 40-seat experience intends to stay somewhat secret with some in-the-know people told where to find it and others discovering it on their own.
In January 2020, El Dorado Cantina opened at the outdoor shopping center on the westside. Then after Hamptons closed permanently in May 2020, El Dorado scooped up the space. The lower level and adjoining patio space between the restaurants serves as overflow for the crazy popular Mexican restaurant. But a sliding door in the overflow space leads to a set of stairs that, once climbed, reveals La Cocina Exclusiva.
Where El Dorado Cantina specializes in burritos, tacos, and carne asada, diners at La Cocina Exclusiva can find chicken karaage tacos, shrimp tempura tacos, whole branzino with rice noodles and poblano sauce, and tamales with yellow curry shrimp and crab. Diners can expect more tapas as well as large-format dishes meant to share. Down the line, La Cocina Exclusiva expects to add a cheese cart. The restaurant has its own cocktail menu as well, featuring intricate drinks such as a horchata colada, guayabitos en verano, and a Polynesian mango using organic ingredients.
“We want people to discover it,” says Ryan Klaasen, director of operations at El Dorado Cantina and La Cocina Exclusiva. “It’s more of like a secret restaurant within the restaurant that some of our customers will stumble into, some of them will be invited into, but ultimately, the way that we want to get this message out to the people is word of mouth.”
Where diners at El Dorado Cantina can grab a cocktail, drink, and entree and leave about 90 minutes later, those at La Cocina Exclusiva can expect a longer coursed experience. The space features 40 seats, a small bar seating six, and a small patio overlooking the El Dorado Cantina shared patio.
Executive chef Rob Meistrell worked at Twist by Pierre Gagnaire before heading up La Cocina Exclusiva and brought over some of his team from Twist to surprise diners with seasonal dishes and an ever-changing menu. And corporate chef for El Dorado Cantina and La Cocina Exclusiva John Miranda is the former chef de cuisine at Twist. The talent alone in this kitchen promises to bring daring and surprising dishes.
So far, La Cocina Exclusiva plans to be open Tuesday through Saturday for three hours.