Tamara’s Tamales

Bundles of joy: Tamara's main attraction

Bundles of joy: Tamara’s main attraction

Corn utopia:  Chips and two kinds of salsa

Corn utopia: Chips and two kinds of salsa

A food blogger’s dream, Tamara’s Tamales (13352 Washington Blvd. in Marina del Rey) is tucked away in a nondescript location, easy to miss but a joy to discover. It is also a vegetarian’s dream; the mother and daughter who run the restaurant were themselves vegetarians for several years, during which they reinvented family recipes, finding suitable substitutes for the traditional meat and lard. Our meal began auspiciously with the crisp, pleasantly salty corn chips, and a pair of great salsas: the slightly smoky, slightly sweet tomato-jalapeño and the bright, tangy tomatillo. For drinks, we ordered lemonade and guava, both made from fresh fruit juice. Then came our first batch of beautifully wrapped tamales, each husk delicately enfolding a moist, almost creamy blanket of masa. There were pasilla rajas, featuring fresh chilis, tomato, onion, cheddar, and jack cheese (so good that it was gone before we remembered to take notes); spinach-mushroom, often a losing proposition but here a winner, flavorful and just a little salty; the veggie special, with a motley but delicious combination of ingredients, including, improbably but triumphantly, parsnip and shiitake; and potato mole (the odd one out in its banana leaf wrapping), packed with tender chunks of spuds perfectly complemented by the subtly bitter hint of chocolate. Although advised that two tamales would be enough for each of us, we clamored for more, ordering green chili, with a vibrant red vegetable sauce, and black bean with white corn. We left feeling as stuffed as the tamales themselves but oh-so-happy. It may sound corny, but, Tamara, we’re glad we found you.

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