Frida Mexican Cuisine has opened in the Otay Ranch Center, on the far eastern edge of Eastlake Chula Vista. It is a branch of the Frida Mexican Cuisine restaurant in Beverly Hills, which has specialized in authentic and regional Mexican fine dining for several years.
I’d been to the Beverly Hills restaurant twice and was impressed by the food, ambiance, and service. The room was colorful, warm, and unpretentious. Service was attentive. The food was outstanding, very much on the order of El Agave and Spicy Mexican Grill in Old Town and similar to what I guess Casa de Madera tried to be in its first iteration. When the Otay Ranch Center opened over a year ago, mention was made that a Frida restaurant would open there sometime in 2007 and it finally did, about two weeks ago.
We went for lunch a few days ago and it was excellent. We ordered the Guacamole as a starter, the Mole Poblano and the Flautas de Pollo for lunch entrees, and the Crepes de Cajeta for dessert. The Guacamole was good with a chunky handmade texture. The Mole Poblano was just about the best I’ve ever had -- the rich and complex mole a wonderful balance of flavors, not overpowered by any of the many ingredients (including the chocolate). It was accompanied by good beans and rice and a very good cheese gordita. The Flautas de Pollo were a delight, light, fresh, and tasty, topped with queso fresco and drizzled with Mexican crema. The portion was huge and could easily have fed two. The Crepes de Cajeta were wonderful (cajeta is a thickened syrup made from goat’s milk).
The restaurant is in a freestanding contemporary building, reminiscent of the very clean and minimalist lines of the Mexican architecture of Luis Barragan or Ricardo Legorreta, although without the vibrant and warm colors usually associated with their work. The Otay Ranch Center is San Diego County’s newest mall and is designed as a “lifestyle” mall, the latest trend in mall development, in which the mall is designed to look more like a small town main street than the usual mallscape. It is located near the intersection of Olympic Parkway, Birch Road, and SR 125 (which is the South Bay Expressway, the new toll road). This location is somewhat remote for many San Diegans, unfortunately, but it’s worth the trip if you like to explore good Mexican cuisine.
So far the Frida website has not been updated to mention the Chula Vista opening but the phone number is 619-216-8666 for hours and directions. The menu here is very similar to the Beverly Hills menu, which is at: http://www.fridarestaurant.com/