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Category Archives: Cal-Mex

Bacon, carnitas and pork rinds atop pillowy tortillas stand out at Mountain View’s Cocina Central

The 3 Piggy's Tacos at Cocina Central in MountainView.

The 3 Piggy’s Tacos at Cocina Central in Mountain View.

When you’re craving authentic Mexican cuisine in the Bay Area, you don’t have to travel very far. Chances are there will be a taqueria within a mile from where you stand.

So I’m always looking for a Mexican restaurant that offers a unique twist to the cuisine.

I really enjoyed the tortillas used for the tacos at Cocina Central in Mountain View. The tortillas tasted like soft, thick pillows and filled me up fast despite their small size.

Dish of Choice

I chose the 3 Piggy’s Tacos, three tacos topped with carnitas (shredded pork), bacon and chicharon (pork rinds), along with avocado sauce, pico de gallo and cheese. The tacos came with a side of brown rice and beans served with cilantro lime and cojita, a cheese that reminded me of a taste and texture similar to parmesan.

I also ordered the Margarita Central, made with blanco tequila, lime, agave and sea salt. I split complimentary chips and salsa with my parents. My portion of the meal came out to about $23 before tax.

The 3 Piggy's Tacos at Cocina Central in Mountain View.

The 3 Piggy’s Tacos at Cocina Central in Mountain View.

The Taste

Despite being traditionally salty meats, the bacon and pork rinds did not overdo it on the sodium front. The bacon was cooked at that well-balanced point between crispy and tender, the pork rinds added a unique texture and crunch, and they both complemented the shredded pork. The cheese melted perfectly on the tortilla, creating a thick layer that stretched out to the edges.

The look of the chips threw me off because they looked like Doritos. They tasted nothing like Doritos, however. They tasted fresh and crisp, coated in a smoky, peppery seasoning. The restaurant gave us a small bowl of chips at a time, but they gave us a refill when we asked. The salsa had a good helping of cilantro and a subtle heat that gradually grew as I ate.

I could definitely taste the tequila in the margarita, which was a good thing. I hate it when you get a drink and all you taste is the syrup and mix. It wasn’t a heavy drink and was quite refreshing for a hot, summer day.

Other Details

I was satisfied with the meal, but the service at Cocina Central was lacking that night. They brought us to a dirty table, so we had to wait awkwardly in the aisle while someone cleaned it off. We had to ask for silverware and water a few times, and a gentleman (who I assumed was the manager) brought the check before we finished our meal. What if we wanted dessert? The service was a bit slow, despite not being a full house.

However, what the staff lacked in service, they made up for in friendliness. They were not rude at all. They just seemed a bit overwhelmed. I’m thinking they must have had a rush of customers before we got there. I think once they work out the kinks in the service, Cocina Central could be a great restaurant on all fronts.

Cocina Central is located at 2590 W. El Camino Real, Suite 13 in Mountain View. For more information, call (650) 397-5996 or visit www.cocinacentral.co.

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2015 in Cal-Mex, food, Mexican, tacos

 

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Shrimp enchiladas smothered in creamy enjococado sauce a delight at Mountain View’s Agave Mexican Bistro

Enchiladas de Camaron with enjococado sauce at Agave Mexican Bistro in Mountain View.

Enchiladas de Camaron with enjococado sauce at Agave Mexican Bistro in Mountain View.

In my humble opinion, Mountain View has one of the best downtown districts in the Silicon Valley area when it comes to dining.

Visitors who stroll down Castro Street have more than 50 eateries to choose from to satisfy their appetite, with cuisine ranging from Indian to French, to Italian to Korean, and so much more.

Close-up of the enjococado sauce over the Enchiladas de Camaron at Agave Mexican Bistro in Mountain View.

Close-up of the enjococado sauce over the Enchiladas de Camaron at Agave Mexican Bistro in Mountain View.

My dad wanted to take me and my stepmom out to dinner, and our Saturday night excursion led us to Agave Mexican Bistro. Alexandro Garcia, a Mexico native who brings his family’s favorite recipes to his cooking, owns the restaurant and three others in the Bay Area with Susan Garcia, according to the restaurant’s website. Agave is known for combining traditional Mexican flavors with a health-conscious “California-style of cooking,” according to its website.

Dish of Choice

I love when I can combine two of my favorite foods – seafood and Mexican – in one dish. I chose the Enchiladas de Camaron, tortillas filled with bay shrimp and cheese, and smothered in your choice of enjococado (a yogurt- or sour cream-based sauce), green or red sauce. I chose the enjococado sauce, and the meal came with black beans and rice. With a hibiscus mojito, my portion of the meal came out to $26.

The Calamari at Agave Mexican Bistro in Mountain View.

The Calamari at Agave Mexican Bistro in Mountain View.

With my parents, I split the fried calamari, which came with a side of chipotle aioli. The appetizer cost $10.

The Taste

I’m happy that I went with the enjococado sauce (I had to Google it before I ordered). The sauce was creamy and savory, and there was a generous amount of cheese and shrimp in each bite. The enchiladas were tender, and they didn’t taste like they were made with regular flour tortillas. They taste like a hybrid of a noodle and moist cornmeal in texture. They were delicious. The chopped nuts on top added a toasty flavor and interesting texture to the dish.

The Hibiscus Mojito at Agave Mexican Bistro in Mountain View.

The Hibiscus Mojito at Agave Mexican Bistro in Mountain View.

The hibiscus mojito was refreshing and light, not too strong or overloaded with sugar. I also enjoyed the mint and citrus flavors. This will be my go-to drink on my next visit.

The calamari was solid, but it didn’t wow me. The meat was lightly breaded, but I wish there was a bit more seasoning. The aioli was mild in flavor and light in texture. I was hoping for more heat.

Other Details

We received great service at Agave, which has a modern yet laid-back, homey feel. Our waitress was very nice and courteous, and she came back frequently to make sure we had everything we needed. It’s always a good feeling when you get great service and a great meal. Unfortunately, those things don’t always go together, but Agave covered both fronts.

Agave Mexican Bistro is located at 194 Castro Street in Mountain View. For hours and more information, call (650) 969-6767, or visit agaveca.com or www.facebook.com/AgaveCA.

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2015 in Cal-Mex, Mexican, seafood

 

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Pulled pork waffle & Indian-style tacos highlight trip to Moveable Feast’s SJ Taco Festival

Paneer Crazy Tacos at San Jose/Bay Area's Got Curry?

Paneer Crazy Tacos at San Jose/Bay Area’s Got Curry?

There are three types of food that I will never get tired of: Seafood, Indian food and tacos. So when I found out that Moveable Feast was hosting a festival dedicated to the latter, I knew I had to go.

The company hosted the 4th annual San Jose Taco Festival of Innovation at the city’s History Park, Saturday, May 23 through Sunday, May 24. The festival brought a fleet of food trucks from around the greater Bay area that introduced their own twist on the traditional Mexican dish. The great thing about the festival: All the plates were $6 or less, so you could get full for a reasonable price.

Waffle Amore, San Jose

My first stop at the taco festival was Waffle Amore, which is focused on bringing “the taste of authentic Liege and Brussels waffles” to its customers, according to the food truck’s website. Its toppings include Belgian chocolate hot fudge, maple bacon butter and Speculoos, a type of shortcrust biscuit.

I went for the savory side of the menu and ordered The Porkwich, a crisp waffle sandwich with pulled pork, braised with spices and topped with BBQ sauce and Waffle Amore’s own crunchy Granny Smith Apple fennel cabbage slaw.

The Porkwich at San Jose's Waffle Amore.

The Porkwich at San Jose’s Waffle Amore.

The food truck was generous with the pulled pork, which was tender and moist. The BBQ sauce was sweet and tangy and was a great complement to the slaw, which had a nice crunch and subtle apple flavor. Best of all, the waffle was soft in the middle but crispy on the outside. I didn’t necessarily think “taco” as I ate the dish, but I was not disappointed.

For more information about Waffle Amore, call (408) 645-5351 or visit waffleamore.com and www.facebook.com/WaffleAmore.

Got Curry?, Bay Area/San Jose

After Waffle Amore, I headed over to Got Curry?, a Bay Area food truck that specializes in Indian-Mexican fusion, according to its Facebook page. I was happy to see two of my favorite cuisines coming together. My eyes automatically went to the Paneer Crazy Tacos, soft tortillas topped with cheese cubes, topped with tikka masala sauce, rice, onions, bell peppers and Indian spices.

My tacos did not come with bell peppers, but they were dressed with cilantro, which I think was better anyway. The tikka masala sauce was creamy, and the aioli brought extra spice and tang to the dish. The paneer tasted fresh and had a soft texture, while the cilantro and onions added the taste of a traditional taco.

Despite their small size, these tacos were filling, and I was debating on if I could make a trip to another food truck. It was a great value for $6. For more information about Got Curry?, call (510) 501-5022 or visit www.facebook.com/gotcurry.

Treatbot, San Jose

I wanted to grab a fish taco, but I knew I would be too full for dessert. And I really wanted an ice cream taco.

The Ice Cream Taco at San Jose's Treatbot.

The Ice Cream Taco at San Jose’s Treatbot.

My third and final stop was Treatbot, which specializes in ice cream and karaoke. I ordered the ice cream taco, a waffle cone in the shape of a taco and filled with two scoops of ice cream. Customers could choose from Mexican Chocolate, Pineapple Mojito Sorbet, and Eastside Horchata, a rice milk-flavored ice cream infused with cinnamon. I went with a scoop of Mexican Chocolate and Eastside Horchata.

The ice cream was rich and creamy without being overly sweet. I loved the strong cinnamon flavor in the Eastside Horchata. The Mexican Chocolate was also tasty, but I didn’t see what made it different from regular chocolate. I was expecting the flavor of Mexican hot chocolate, which is flavored with cinnamon and the spicy kick of chili pepper.

I really enjoyed the waffle part of the taco, which was subtly sweet and crisp. I’ve been on a waffle kick lately.

I would like to try some of the other flavors on Treatbot’s regular menu, including The 408 (caramel ice cream with fudge and Oreo cookies) and Macapuno (coconut ice cream with coconut chunks).

For more information about Treatbot, call (408) 548-7328 or visit Treatbot.com or www.facebook.com/Treatbot.

 
 

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Chipotle sauce spices up bland chicken tacos at Sonoma Chicken Coop in San Jose

The Soft Chicken Tacos at Sonoma Chicken Coop in downtown San Jose's San Pedro Square.

The Soft Chicken Tacos at Sonoma Chicken Coop in downtown San Jose’s San Pedro Square.

To celebrate Valentine’s Day — or Anti-Valentine’s Day depending on your perspective on the holiday — a fellow single friend and I went out on the town. We decided to venture to downtown San Jose’s San Pedro Square, which offers an eclectic array of restaurants, pubs, and live-event venues. We wanted to grab a bite to eat, so we stopped at Sonoma Chicken Coop, a casual dining restaurant known for its rotisserie chicken.

Dish of Choice

Originally, I was going to choose the steak tacos, but the restaurant is known for its chicken. So I chose the soft chicken tacos, which came with a choice of three corn or flour tortillas. I chose the flour tortillas, which came with shredded chicken, cabbage and cheddar cheese. The entrée also came with a side each of chipotle sauce, salsa and guacamole. With a glass of water, my bill was about $12, including tax.

The Taste

The chicken tacos were not as flavorful as I would have liked. In fact, they were pretty bland. Although the chicken was somewhat tender, it was not as juicy as I had hoped, and there was no seasoning. The dish’s saving grace was its chipotle sauce, which was like an aioli, only a bit thinner. It added a great spice and zest to the chicken.

I did enjoy the fact that they used cabbage instead of lettuce. It had a nice crunch and more flavor than iceberg lettuce. The tacos definitely needed a side dish, such as rice or black beans. That would have added more heartiness and presentation.

I don’t want to judge the entire restaurant based on this one dish. My friend ordered the 1/4 chicken entrée, which looked succulent and full of flavor. I think I’ll choose that entrée next time.

The Ambiance

Sonoma Chicken Coop is a casual restaurant with a modern feel, where customers go up to the counter to order and pick up their food. I enjoyed their outdoor seating area at the San Pedro Square location, which was rustic and woodsy. There was a small bar outside for guests to enjoy a cocktail, a nice fireplace and plenty of seating for a special event such as a birthday or anniversary. Sonoma Chicken Coop in San Pedro Square is a nice place to stop for a bite to eat and a cocktail before venturing out for the rest of the night.

Other Details

Sonoma Chicken Coop is located at 31 N. Market St. in San Jose’s San Pedro Square and has three other San Jose locations as well as restaurants in Campbell and Parsippany, New Jersey. For hours and more information, call the San Pedro Square location at (408) 287-4098 or visit www.sonomachicken.com.

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2015 in Cal-Mex, chicken, Mexican, tacos

 

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Healthier but still tasty burritos at Campbell’s Aqui Cal-Mex

The Pork Carnitas Burrito at Aqui Cal-Mex in Campbell.

The Pork Carnitas Burrito at Aqui Cal-Mex in Campbell.

If it wasn’t for my ongoing weight-loss efforts, I would probably eat burritos every day. Anything that includes a tortilla, meat and cheese satisfies my belly. So I was happy when a new acquaintance invited me to a late lunch at Aqui Cal-Mex, which she says is a popular hangout in downtown Campbell.

Dish of Choice

I ordered the pork carnitas burrito, which was made with shredded pork, green rice, pinto beans, salsa and jack and cheddar cheese in a whole-wheat tortilla. The burrito came with a side of chips and slaw, and I ordered a fountain drink. My meal cost about $11.

The Taste

The pork, rice and beans were nice and tender. I usually don’t like whole-wheat tortillas because they tend to be dry and grainy, but this was not the case here. I do wish the burrito had more cheese, but that’s only because I am a big cheese fiend. I liked the fact that I didn’t feel like I had a brick in my gut after eating the burrito, like I often do at other places. I thought serving slaw with a burrito was a bit odd, but it worked at Aqui. The slaw wasn’t too creamy or sweet, so it worked well with the rest of the dish.

The Ambiance

Aqui Cal-Tex has a contemporary and casual feel. You order and pick up your meal from the counter, and there is plenty of seating in the large dining area. There is also a separate bar room for those who want to enjoy a cocktail or two.

Other Details

Aqui Cal-Tex is located at 201 E. Campbell Ave. in Campbell and has three other locations in the Bay area: 10630 S. De Anza Boulevard in Cupertino; 5679 Snell Ave. in San Jose; and 1145 Lincoln Ave. in downtown Willow Glen. The restaurant has daily entree and roll-up specials as well as Sunday brunch. For more information, visit www.aquicalmex.com.

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2014 in Cal-Mex, Mexican

 

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