Lost in the Jungles of the Yucatan - Ka'teen [Thoughts + Pics]

Mention Chef Wes Avila, and many local food lovers may already be familiar with the name. The founder and OG Chef behind Guerrilla Tacos, had started his career working under illustrious folk such as Michelin 3 Starred Chef Alain Ducasse, Chef Walter Manzke (Republique) and Chef Gary Menes (Le Comptoir). He then left and started Angry Egret Dinette during the start of the pandemic, and has recently debuted the largest restaurant opening of his career: Ka’teen, which states that it will “explore the flavors of the Yucatan Peninsula.”

Walking into Ka’teen (next door to Tommie Hollywood Hotel), there’s no denying it’s a gorgeous space. Mostly outdoors with a covered partial indoor area (still open to the outdoors), it has a beautiful “jungle / rainforest” ambiance.

The actual seats are a bit uncomfortable (wicker chairs with poor back support), or stone seats (built into the walls), but the ambiance of the dining room makes up for it somewhat. On this particular visit Chef Wes Avila had just stepped out (we had a later dinner reservation), but we were still excited to see what was in store.

Wes Colada (Avion Tequila, Coconut, Pineapple Gomme, Lime, Cinnamon):

How could you not order a drink named after Chef Wes Avila during his new restaurant debut? :wink: This turned out to be a fantastic, well-balanced Pina Colada elevated. Less sweet than most versions, but still tropical, fruity, bright, and in balance with the alcohol. :slight_smile:

Ka’teen Margarita (House Margarita served with Volcan Tequila and Choice of Passionfruit, Guava or Mango):

Their Ka’teen Margarita was less successful. We chose Passionfruit and this was like a blast of real Passionfruit, super tart, slightly tropical, fragrant. It was a nice wake-up call, but way too sour, and way too boozy with a massive hit of Tequila. :frowning:

Looking over the menu, we were somewhat taken aback by the lack of dishes that evoked Yucatan cuisine. I’m by no means an expert, but none of the classics found at local Yucatecan restaurants were on the menu except Cochinita Pibil.

Instead, the menu read like an extended version of Chef Wes Avila’s Angry Egret menu(!), but with some things from his Guerrilla Taco days (e.g., Scallop Tostada (which looked identical to his version at Guerrilla and currently served at Angry Egret), Quesadilla(?!), a few Tacos, etc. We started with…

Stripe Bass Ceviche (Mango Pickles, Avocado, Chile Serrano):

This was outstanding! :blush: I’ve tried most of Chef Avila’s Ceviches since the early days, and this Stripe Bass Ceviche is easily his most balanced, delicious Ceviche he’s ever made. The Stripe Bass was bright and tender, the creamy Avocado was a perfect pairing to add some creaminess. The Mango Pickles added some tart and sweet, and the Chile Serrano added a light spicy heat to round things out. The crispy Tostada shell was perfectly fried (not oily) and a great match. :heart: (Highlight of the evening.)

Tuna Aguachile (Fresh Tuna, Aguachile Verde, Pickled Seasonal Fruit):

This was just OK. The Tuna tasted fresh and meaty with enough tenderness, but it didn’t really taste like it had absorbed any of the Aguachile seasoning. It tasted like freshly cut, Raw Tuna thrown onto a plate and then the Aguachile Salsa was added at the very end. The Pickled Seasonal Fruit was only lightly pickled (a good thing) and added some sweetness. And at $22 (+ tax, 5% surcharge, tip) you’re looking at $30 for this small Appetizer.

Papas Bravas (Umeboshi Aioli, Chives):

Their side of Papas Bravas sounded interesting, but unfortunately it fell short in execution: These tasted like Oven Roasted then Sauteed Fingerling Potatoes, lightly salted and with some Chives thrown on top. :frowning: If there was any “Umeboshi Aioli” it was non-existent.

Pescado Zarandeado (Whole Fish, Mixed Salsas, Spicy Carrots):


First, I was happy to see this wonderful dish appear as a regular mainstay on Chef Wes Avila’s menu here at Ka’teen. However, from my various friends from Mexico and eating around locally, Pescado Zarandeado is most famously from Nayarit, Mexico, not the Yucatan (but perhaps they have a version as well?).

Ka’teen’s version on this evening was made with a Whole Grilled Branzino. It was nicely grilled with some char marks, and the first bite (after removing bones) yielded moist, delicate, lightly flaky Branzino. The 2 Salsas were shockingly mild, a far cry from Chef Avila’s fiery Housemade Salsas back at Guerrilla Tacos and Angry Egret. (Looking at the hamster clientele, it was no doubt that this was watered down to appease the locals.)

The order came with Handmade Corn Tortillas, which were super thick (excessively so). Those that remember Broken Spanish’s (which are from the same source as Taco Maria’s) Tortillas? Imagine a version that’s like 150% the thickness of those already thick Tortillas(!). :open_mouth: They ended up being slightly gummy in the middle due to how thick they were, with the Masa just barely cooked through. :frowning: Certainly better than using mass-produced, flimsy Corn Tortillas, but these went way too much in the opposite direction.

However, even with the crazy-thick Tortillas, the Pescado Zarandeado was quite tasty. It fell short of Chef Wes’ Pescado Zarandeado Special he cooked at Guerrilla Tacos a few years ago (that one used a better Fish, and the Salsas were more engaging and flavorful), but after that (and Chef Sergio Penuelas’ OG version at Mariscos Chente back in the day), Ka’teen’s version was very respectable and tasty. :slight_smile:

Cochinita Pibil (Banana Leaf Wrapped Heritage Pork with Dry Chiles and Bitter Orange):

The only dish on the menu that felt like it was from Yucatan, this turned out super dry and chewy. :sob: Even though they advertised this as a “Heritage Pork” (and it was confirmed they used Pork Shoulder), this was just too lean. So after looking past the nice Banana Leaf presentation, the Pork Shoulder within was just dry. It was a chore to eat. :cry: We added on as much Salsa as possible to try and add some moisture to each bite, because otherwise it was nearly impossible to eat. That’s how dry it was. :frowning:


We finished up the meal with their Housemade Churros. These were fried to order, so they arrived piping hot. The Chocolate Caramel Sauce was not too sweet and a nice pairing.

Service was spotty - our waitress was nice and friendly, but the pacing was horrendous: All of our dishes (appetizers, sides and main course) arrived at the same time(!)… within 5 minutes of us ordering(!). :open_mouth: :confused: How? When we asked our waitress about it, she gave a strange excuse that “sometimes the kitchen is able to cook everything at once.” Clearly she screwed up and fired all the dishes into the system immediately. We didn’t want to waste food, so we just kept all the dishes and tried to enjoy them as quickly as possible.

Ka’teen is certainly one of the more beautiful restaurant spaces to open over the past 2 years (since the pandemic) that we’ve been able to visit. It evokes a stylistic jungle / rainforest ambiance, nice lighting and with Deep House / Chill / Down Tempo Electronica playing as the soundtrack for the evening. With Chef Wes Avila (of Guerrilla Taco fame) at the helm, it seems like a slam dunk, but unfortunately there were issues throughout the meal. First, nothing on the menu except the Cochinita Pibil evoked “Yucatan cuisine.” Everything else felt like a generalist “Mexican cuisine” greatest hits tour, with Tostadas, Ceviche / Aguachile starters, Baja Fish Tacos (that Chef Wes is serving right now at Angry Egret Dinette (and was serving at Guerrilla back in the day)), etc.

Except the West Hollywood rent seems to have seeped into the menu: From the $16 Chips & Guac(!), $22 Tuna Aguachile (tiny), to $24 Fish Tacos(!) (which are the same Fish Tacos from Guerrilla and Angry Egret), it feels like it’s some of the Chef’s solid hits, but marked up ~50 - 75% in price at times, it’s hard to see myself returning. Our meal was ~$130 per person (with only 1 cocktail per person).

The Stripe Bass Ceviche and Pescado Zarandeado were standout items, but the rest of the dinner was just OK (to disaster with the Cochinita Pibil). We would rather return to Angry Egret Dinette and enjoy a Lunch or Dinner there at far cheaper prices for the same food (but with better Salsas and more edge) than return to Ka’teen in its current state. Perhaps the menu will shape up and we’ll get more interesting dishes from the Yucatan? Only time will tell.

6516 Selma Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Tel: (323) 410-6360



Thank you for the excellent rundown, as usual. This restaurant looks to be very “of the moment.” Here’s to hoping it can reach its potential. Nice looking space and the ingredients are there for this kind of concept to knock it out of the park, if it’s dialed in correctly. I was unaware of this project until your review, but I hope the menu can end up fulfilling the promise of this kind of cuisine it apparently aims to represent.

There is so much of world cuisine with which I am unfamiliar; I would love a restaurant like this to give me a proper introduction to real Yucatan style food. I’m sure there are exciting dishes to discover in Yucatan cuisine beyond the normal generalist “Mexican cuisine,” of which there is a lot in LA…

I believe that pretty much all restaurants (especially new restaurants) will be like “one hind behind their back” during the pandemic, but I definitely want all these new ventures to succeed so I can try them eventually and hopefully when they hit their potential.

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Hi @BradFord !

Welcome to Hungry Onion L.A. Board. :slight_smile: So good to hear from you; we always need OG Hounds.

Thanks for the kind comments. I agree, I know Chef Wes Avila is talented (some of his “Omakase” meals he did at Guerrilla Tacos back in the day were stellar). He’s classically trained, and he has the culinary skills.

We’re hoping the opening menu is just to play it safe for the local crowds, get them settled in, and hopefully he expands / adds more Yucatan dishes to the menu. If he does, I think with the beautiful dining space (and it’s covered outdoors), it can be a great place for a unique dinner.

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I’d love to be introduced to more ingredients and dishes specifically from or popular in the Yucatan area…what better place than a place like Ka’teen, since chef Wes has already a following and he can take some risks with ingredients that many diners (such as myself) aren’t familiar with yet? I don’t expect the menu to be exclusively Yucatan, but I think it’s a great opportunity for them to share with us a bit more Yucatan flavor.

I’m not a chef, and I don’t know much about about Yucatan food at all, but I would imagine / love to see them using ingredients like:

  • huitlacoche (corn smut). I imagine this could go very well with a bone marrow taco. Present the bone marrow very hot tableside and spoon it over for some drama. And/or with some mushrooms - maitakes take very well to high heat (like Bavel’s oyster mushroom skewer), morels go fantastic with bone marrow (or heck add some chevre goat cheese, which should pair with both the bone marrow and huitlacoche!), etc. I mean the mushroom and huitlacoche dish could be a side on its own, instead. I get that huitlacoche is seasonal - but it’s also available in preserved forms, just as truffle is. So, how about adding the preserved kind as part of a condiment to mushroom or corn dishes, how about a tamale, or maybe even a subtle way to boost the earthy flavor of some sauces for a main? Maybe work it into a compound-butter (instead of garlic in “maitre’d hotel butter”) and slather it over corn, vegetables, etc…
  • pumpkin - so many ways to make this good, and it’s quite cost-effetive, too. roast it, brush it with an agrodolce, make a “toffee” with its seeds, etc.
  • papadzules, with the pumpkin seeds…apparently a predecessor to enchiladas.
  • dulce de papaya (candied papaya) for dessert - maybe with a cinnamon ice cream?
  • and Yucatan herbs like verdolagas (purslane), hoja santa leaf, chaya. purslane can go well with some raw preps (I like it with beef tartare, though that specific dish might be out of place here)…how about with a fish tartare?
  • Then, make a tlacoyo with a fish skin chicharron! So easy to work these herbs into ceviches or salsa verdes.

These ingredients can of course be more than just substitutes or proxies for other ingredients with which the LA populace may be familiar. But they can lead the way, if they choose. There’s a lot of potential; maybe they’re waiting but I think diners would be open to it.


Great ideas @BradFord . :slight_smile:

Yah Chef Wes Avila has certainly been more daring back at Guerrilla Tacos, so he can do more creative stuff and integrate more ingredients from the Yucatan as you mentioned. (Great idea about verdolagas or hoja santa in some raw preps. Maybe even in ceviche or aguachile dishes as well.)

Thinking on the menu we had even more, it really feels like that Grand Opening menu was playing it safe for the local Hollywood crowd. I’m hoping he’ll start to introduce more exciting and Yucatan ingredients / dishes soon.

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