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Melanie Wong | Jun 19, 201905:18 PM     1

Recently William and I enlisted a friend to join us to check out the new spot, Villa Azteca, in Oldtown. We had noticed its opening day on Steinbeck’s birthday in February. Happy to say that Salinas has another terrific regional Mexican restaurant, this time offering fresh takes on the cooking of Michoacán.

We munched on the complimentary and very thin totopos with zesty roasted tomato salsa while sipping micheladas. My pineapple michelada was a full quart!

We shared the appetizer of Tacos de Jamaica, $10. Hibiscus flowers and cheese were melted in supple handmade corn tortillas in a cross between a quesadilla and a taco, sort of chavindecas style, and served with tomatillo salsa and guacamole on the side. The flowers were a little stringy, but we liked having a vegetarian taco option.

Shari had the Rib eye huarache. $27, a garlic and herb-marinated steak perched on a chubby blue corn masa base, dressed with contrasting rivers of tomato salsa and tomatillo salsa, a paddle of roasted nopal, pico de gallo, grilled cebollita and cotija cheese. A pool of heavenly frijoles de olla filled in the plate.

Entrees are amply portioned. Enchiladas de camarones swathed in a zingy chipotle cream sauce for William featured on-point juicy shrimp. The green rice on the side had toothsome separate grains not unlike risotto. The Peruano beans were equally wonderful.

For me, Chile relleno de pollo, $22, stuffed with achiote chicken and sitting in a puddle of piquant chile-tomato salsa and then napped with a second nogada-like cream cheese and almond sauce. On top, toasted pepitas, cilantro and crispy chorizo for a riot of complex flavors and contrasting textures. As a chile en nogada fan, I was thrilled with this saucing and to learn that the seasonal specialty will be available later in the year.

Chef came out of the kitchen to check on us. We heaped praise on him and his mother with only one quibble that two of the sauces were too salty. We can’t wait to return and eat our way through the rest of Villa Azteca's menu.

Villa Azteca
157 Main St
Salinas, CA 93901
(831) 256-2669
Closed Mondays

Villa Azteca
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