Chulita, the new Atla California-style modern Mexican restaurant from restaurateur Shireen Imani, is now open on a thriving strip of Rose Avenue. Botanas y mezcales, or “Mexican drinking food,” are the focus of the tightly curated, mezcal-centric offerings, in a space that simultaneously evokes a Tulum beach shack with the essence of Venice Beach. A true labor of love, Imani concepted Chulita when she moved to Venice after ten years in New York, craving the neighborhood spots of SoHo and Nolita she frequented, and aiming to create a place for the neighborhood that evoked a sense of community, showcasing authentic Mexican food and artisans in their true forms.
“In Spanish, a chulita is a petite girl with provocative style,” says Imani. “Not only is the space itself small and stylish, but it’s a collaboration of incredible women who are in positions that are often male-dominated in the industry, including our bar manager, pastry chef, line cooks, consulting chef, and even my accountant who owns her own firm. They are chulitas – cool girls getting things done.”
Imani incorporated finds from past travels to Mexico into the design, straying away from the ubiquitous sombrero and maraca motifs of kitschy Mexican restaurants. The country’s heritage is honored with pieces like hand-loomed textiles from an Oaxacan weaver, handmade plates from a small town of potters outside Jalisco, and cypress wood from Mexico that serves as the bar top and dining benches. Finding inspiration in a variety of surfaces and locales in Mexico, Imani adapted the design of a manhole cover she came across in a small town outside Mexico City, and laser cut the pattern into the restaurant’s custom dining tables.
An abundance of light throughout the restaurant is enhanced by white bamboo walls with pops of yellow, while the restroom wall features a hand-painted mural of palm trees on agave fiber. Guests have the option of dining in the cozy dining room, at the bar, or on the covered and heated patio, immersed in the neighborhood action of Rose Avenue.
Chulita’s menu showcases Mexican flavors, using local ingredients and modern techniques to create bright, authentic produce-driven dishes. The kitchen crafted a menu that accommodates most dietary restrictions and diets, particularly the keto diet. Some health-conscious highlights include gluten-free tortillas made with cassava flour, fundido with cauliflower purée, and ceviche with seasonal fruit, such as pears and kiwis. The desserts are a perfectly sweet ending, incorporating familiar Mexican flavors, such as the Chocolate Ancho Chile Tart and Guava Citrus Cheesecake.
Highlights of the food menu include:
Cauliflower, Queso Oaxaca, Milliken Farms Shishito Peppers
Quesadilla de Calabaza
Valdivia Farms Squash Blossom, Quesillo, Pipián de Calabaza, Jocoque, Avocado
Kong Thao Farms Japanese Eggplant, Queso Burrata, Tomatillo Jam, Sunchoke Chips
Market Fish, Guajillo, Nixtamalized Celeriac, Radish,
Fennel Escabeche, JF Farms Swiss Chard
Chocolate Ancho Chile Tart
Gluten-Free Pecan Shortbread Crust, Spiced Chocolate Filling,
Candied Pepitas, Caramel, Persimmon
Guava Citrus Cheesecake
Maria Cookie Crust, Guava Jam, Passion Fruit, Edible Flowers
Alongside the market-centric menu, Chulita offers refreshing cocktails, with a strong focus on mezcal and tequila. The bar also serves mocktails, such as a seasonal lemonade and margarita with non-alcoholic botanical spirit Seedlip Grove.
Highlights of the cocktail menu include:
Gem & Bolt Mezcal, Salers Gentiane, Kina L’aero D’or, Cardamom, Fennel Seed
Tequila Blanco, Spiced Coconut Milk, Pear, Matcha, Lime
Casa De Fuego
Five Spice Seasonal Peppers, Tequila Blanco, Lime, Agave, Chareau, Aperol