In the world of fine dining, entrees are sometimes assembled to resemble great works of abstract art. A raspberry merlot reduction might be splattered across the plate like a Jackson Pollock knock off, while a piece of meat, reminiscent of one of Salvador Dali’s clocks, slumps over a mound of roasted artichokes.
That’s all well and good, but I have a theory: Mexican food is best when it looks nothing like art. The messier the meal looks — think refried beans and red sauce mingling with Spanish rice and green chiles in an almost repulsive looking sort of stew, all covered in melted, bubbling cheese — the better it will taste.
That’s why, when a few of us from the Reporter went to Antojo for lunch a couple of weeks ago, I was thrilled by the sight of my meal. The chicken alambres at Antojo are an interesting variation on what other restaurants might call chicken fajitas: grilled chicken mixed with grilled onions and poblano peppers, all smothered in melted mozzarella cheese and served with warm, homemade corn tortillas and boiled pinto beans. It was an ugly mess, but the taste was amazing. Gooey cheese and spicy peppers wrapped up in a warm tortilla is my idea of comfort food. Although the meal was a little on the greasy side, it didn’t bother me one bit. Paired with an ice cold Negro Modelo (check) and a table outside in the sun (check), the alambres made for a perfect, leisurely lunch.
But I’ve jumped ahead. We actually started lunch with an order of guacamole and chips. Antojo’s guacamole? Perfection — a little chunky and extremely fresh. It amazes me how many Mexican restaurants are comfortable serving guacamole made from only semi-ripe avocados. At Antojo, our guacamole was rich, creamy and slightly spicy.
Speaking of creamy … Saundra, not feeling particularly hungry after a late breakfast, opted for an order of Antojo’s Flan Napolitano (which they refer to as traditional Mexican crème brulée, on their menu). Flan is a dessert I’ve never been able to fully embrace. It has something to do with the texture. However, Saundra looked quite pleased with her decision and had no problem reconciling the dessert with a Corona.
Stacey went for a chicken torta, or Mexican chicken sandwich, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Antojo is quite a find, tucked away on the Ventura Avenue about halfway between Main and Stanley. This is the kind of Mexican restaurant you hope to find on a weekend night or for a weekday lunch. While other, more visible Mexican restaurants boast 30-minute waits or lines out to the street, Antojo has a quieter feel and, for the time being, a much quicker turnaround. n