With walls splashed with distinctive murals, technicolor hues, and an authentically flavorful menu, a meal at La Cocina Mexican Restaurant is always an occasion. The bright purple of the building catches your eye as you drive down US 1, and the facade seems to speak of what’s awaiting you inside – something vibrant and singular that always leave you wanting more. Walking through the doors just before they opened for lunch, we were greeted by the restaurant’s Executive Chef Norberto Jaramillo. Norberto’s passion and enthusiasm for his culinary art is infectious, and we eagerly awaited the dishes he had in store for us. And he and owner Andres Soto had certainly cooked up something special.
First to our table was the Stuffed Avocado. This light and fresh appetizer is the perfect shareable to get your meal started in a unique way. Lump crab with a chipotle aioli is sandwiched in between the avocado and garnished with slices of cucumbers and tomatoes. It’s all drizzled with a cilantro vinaigrette and garnished with sauteed shrimp.
Our next sampled appetizer was not quite so light, and lactose intolerant readers should beware – the Queso Fundido is almost straight cheese (trust us, no complaining here). The beautifully-melted cheese is baked with chorizo, onions, and peppers that give it a little bite and a lot of savory flavor. The dish is served with warm corn tortillas that make a tasty vehicle for all that cheese. It may be an appetizer, but there’s no judgment if you keep it for yourself.
If the last appetizer was just straight-up cheese, the Molcajete is nearly straight-up meat. It’s a feat of Chef Norberto’s culinary talent that he can take such simple and straightforward ingredients without a lot of fanfare and make them taste incredible. The Molcajete is grilled steak chorizo, chicken, and pork carnitas all presented together in a very heavy stone bowl and served with a bed of rice and grilled jalapenos. All the unique flavors of the meat start to intermingle, and you’re left with a dish that will convert you to carnivorism.
If you’re able to tear your eyes away from the amazing appetizers, you certainly won’t be disappointed by the entrees. We were treated to the Veracruz-style Red Snapper – a seared snapper fillet sauteed in a tomato, olive, and bell pepper reduction and served on a bed of rice with a side of seasonal vegetables. It’s flavorful and rich, with a little acidity from the tomatoes and a slight punch courtesy of the olives.
We rounded out our La Cocina experience with a Mexican classic – Enchiladas. And if you’re thinking, “Oh, well, I’ve had enchiladas before. Not that exciting.” Think again. They may be authentic and traditional enchiladas, but like everything that Norberto does, the flavor is unbelievable and you’ll savor every bite. With your choice of protein, the Enchiladas start with corn tortillas and are topped with mole sauce, queso fresco, and chopped lettuce.
Surrounded by electrifying colors and dining on mouth-watering food, your experience at La Cocina Mexican Restaurant (both visual and gastronomic) will be one for the books.
La Cocina is located at 3290 US 1 South. Find them online at www.lacocinamexican.info.
Photography by Brian Miller.