If your command of Zapotec is a little rusty, quiadaiyn (pronounced “kia-dine”) means the summit of a hill or mountain, red land and red clay crafting place.
According to Melissa Martinez, this was the name given to her grandfather’s hilltop home in the Mexican village of San Marcos Tlapazola, known for its red clay soil and pottery.
Now, it is also the name for her family’s restaurant, a small Oaxacan place in the shadow of the Robinson Beautilities sign in Mar Vista. It’s the family’s first bricks-and-mortar business after nine years of running Melissa’s Catering and a tiny takeaway-only taqueria in South L.A.
“My father and mother have been working for restaurants for 25 years,” Martinez says. “So they finally decided to open up their own place to offer something simple and original from Oaxaca. The recipes they grew up eating.”
Three moles — including a rich coloradito redolent of dried fruit, chiles, cacao and nuts, balancing sweetness and heat — currently share the menu at Quiadaiyn with specialties such as molotes, tlayudas topped with Oaxacan meats and chapulines sauteed in butter and garlic. All tortillas are made by hand in the kitchen, where the senior family members do the cooking.
A customary Oaxacan lunch is reflected in a plate called Almuerzo Quiadaiyn, which comes with a choice of cecina, tasajo or chorizo, and traditional sides such as black beans, rice, grilled cactus, green onions and imported chile de agua.
“It’s what we have in Oaxaca pretty much any day right before going to work,” Martinez says. “So it’s comfort food. Like home.”
Elsewhere on the menu is a bowl of spoon-tender barbacoa de chivo served with huge, thick, handmade tortillas to sop up the stew’s concentrate of dried chiles and liquefied goat.
To drink, a prickly pear snowball thaws on the surface of a rose-tinted horchata made with cantaloupe and pecans. After dinner, atole blanco, which begins with fresh corn in the kitchen and ends with spent corn kernels at the bottom of your cup, is served in a colorful pitcher aside a cinnamon-kissed concha.
For dessert, if it’s not an atole kind of evening, you’ll find nieves in flavors including lime, prickly pear and smoked milk. Breakfast options include such as enfrijoladas and a not particularly Oaxacan French toast.
The family plans to add more moles to the menu and make a possible foray into farmers market empanadas. Martinez also dreams of venturing into mass-producing the family’s tortillas.
“We hope that this becomes bigger,” she says. “We would like to expand and give more to the community and to people. Including good food and service.”
12326 1/2 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 313-7654, facebook.com/quiadaiyn/