Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Baja Med: A New Culinary Movement in Mexico

Food in Baja is not just about Mexican food. It isn't just about the various Spanish or Argentinean restaurants either. A unique and exciting culinary movement is slowly pervading Tijuana and Ensenada. Baja Med, a mix of Asian, Mediterranean, and Mexican cuisine with Baja ingredients.

And this is where it all started, La Querencia.

And here is the man who started it all: Miguel Angel Guerrero.
(Everyone also agreed that he was pretty good lookin!). He and Bill from Street Gourmet LA explained each dish and the Baja Med cuisine to us.

Though you couldn't see much from outside because of all the cars parked there, the inside is filled with interesting decor including these "flying" birds on the wall.
Our group of 20-something people were all seated outside, though.

It was a hot day in Tijuana and chef Guerrera perked us up with pitchers of Techape, a fermented pineapple drink.
This lightly sweet drink reminded me of the Indonesian fermented drink called legen and it's so perfect on this hot day that I think I drank 3 glasses of this (or more).

Having stuffed ourselves with suckling pig and Argentinean steak at Lorca and Cheripan, the light samplings at La Querencia were a nice change of pace.
We started with a plate of Beet carpaccio with goat cheese - a dish that would seem to be common these days were it not for the raw beets.
I never realized how different beet tastes when raw as opposed to roasted. While roasted beets are sweet, these were crunchy and tart and even tasted pickled to me.

Lengua (tongue) Carpaccio
Tender and flavorful, both thinly sliced tongue meat and the sauces/garnish were nicely done. This was drizzled with sea urchin cream, so how could I not love it?

Squash carpaccio with capers, fried nori, tomatoes, onions, seasoned with 9 chilis.
This fresh vegetable dish had some great flavors. Everyone loved the 9 chili confit and lucky for us this wasn't the last dish to feature it.

Cucumber cup filled with scallops, sturgeon, caviar, 9 chili confit oil, chipotle sauce, crispy chives and spring onions.
The scallops were local scallops and were very fresh and flavorful. The dish was mildly spicy and the cucumber cup served as the perfect palate cleanser. Everything in this dish came together perfectly - loved it. Too bad I was told this was an off-the-menu item!

Cornbread cake, sage sauce, tomato salsa, shrimp
We ended with a heavier dish, luckily it was small. I loved the sage sauce and the tomato and the cornbread was quite flavorful although a bit dry if it wasn't for the sage sauce.

At the end of this meal (the fourth one that day) we were all very pleased with how light the dishes were and excited by the innovation going on here that is pervading the rest of Baja. Who knew?

La Querencia
Escuadrón 201 #3110
Col. Aviación
Tijuana
Ph. (01152) (664) 972-9935 & 972-9940

5 comments:

mattatouille

correction: all the GIRLS thought the chef was good lookin'!

Aaron

Actually Matt, looking at the photo, I think he's quite good looking too.

It's good to see the high-end cuisine that is available in Baja. Here I was incorrectly just thinking seafood and street tacos

burumun

see Matt! It's not just the GIRLS :P
It's purely an objective observation.

Anonymous

Please stop calling the huge effort to develop a regional Baja cuisine by many other talented Chefs "Bajamed". Baja food is far more than tacos and tostadas presented nicely, it is something truly unique that many chefs from at least 50 years, are working on. There is a lot more to the story of Mr Guerrero, wich it is pointless to vent here. Lets just say most chefs in Baja like any other goods chefs in the world, let their food do the talking for them. And the overwhelming mayority do not aprove of Mr Guerreros claims.

The Real Tijuana

Allow me to agree with Anonymous. The "Baja Med" brand was really invented by Javier Plascencia to promote his restaurants (Giuseppis, Saverios, Casa Plascencia) and does not describe the food here in Baja accurately. With several dozen chefs and chef-like mountebanks working both as colleagues and competitors, the politics of Baja cuisine run deep. Hit-and-run blogging from Los Angeles cannot portray our situation accurately.

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