Sep 28, 2018 01:31PM
● By Ashley Madonna
While we all love Tex-Mex, finding authentic Mexican restaurants can be a challenging task. So when owner and chef Mario Letayf and his wife moved to Southlake in 2011, they knew they had potential to bring something fresh to town.
They got to work and opened their first U.S. restaurant, Cinco Tacos Cocina, in Addison. This was not Letayf’s first venture into the industry. He opened his first restaurant, a French-inspired bistro named La Bonne in Mexico, back in 1990. He’s been trying out new concepts and honing in menus for a little under three decades.
Even though he cooked for Americans who traveled down to Mexico on vacation before, Cinco Tacos Cocina was his first look at what average Americans’ expectations were for the culture’s dishes.
Now, he’s putting an emphasis on elevating simple dishes with his bold combinations of flavors and high-quality ingredients. Dive into his distinctive dishes by ordering the Panela Cheese Zara to start. The grilled panela marinated in soy, garlic, mustard and chipotle sauce and served with guacamole and corn tortillas may sound like an unconventional appetizer, but Letayf says this creamy cheese is a go-to in regional dishes and is often found at Mexican markets.
For a lighter option, try the Michoacán Fresh Tuna Tostadas topped with guacamole, fresh ahi tuna, spinach chiffonade, citrus soy sauce and a creamy chipotle dressing. Served as a plate of four, these bites give off that crunch you expect in a tostada while also balancing the light aromatics of citrus.
As the previous owner of a Mexican seafood restaurant, Mario knows how to work with fish to create sophisticated flavors. Take his ceviche selection. With four choices on the menu, Ceviche Verde, Aztec Shrimp Ceviche, Shrimp Cocktail Ceviche and Tropical Seafood Ceviche, diners can enjoy the fresh fish while also taking in the nuances that make each dish shine – whether it be a marinade with a hint of heat or an ensemble of fresh fruits.
“In Mexico, we do a lot of ceviche,” Mario explains. “It’s sold everywhere in Mexico and people love it.”
Their mains show their efforts to present quality ingredients in classic dishes. Instead of serving up ground beef in a cold tortilla and calling it a taco, the menu sports Rib Eye Tacos, two planchada quesadillas topped with thinly sliced ribeye. That extra attention results in a mouth-watering dish that melts in your mouth.
The house specialties each revolve around a well-cooked protein that’s accented with fresh toppings. Bolo’s Mahi, a grilled piece of fish served with white rice and fresh avocado pieces tossed in Chile de Arbol olive oil, roasted garlic and jalapenos, provides both subtle spice and overall freshness to make each bite feel light. The Salmon Poblano, grilled marinated salmon served with Poblano pepper, corn, onion and a cheese garnish topped with a black bean chipotle sauce and fried spinach, provides that flakey texture the protein needs while still adding in hearty flavors.
While their menu offers a “Tex-Mex Corner” for those who want to stick to what they know – whether it is typical enchiladas or quesadillas, there are still plenty of high-level options for those who want to try something new. Their grilled octopus, served with black beans, and Monterey scallops come out well-cooked and perfectly seasoned.
“Our menu has something that will accommodate everyone. From a simple taco to our signature salmon, we just execute our food to the best of our ability,” Mario says.
Even though margaritas were not a big aspect of Mario’s drink menus in Mexico, he now offers 11 signature selections for his guests; however he is still sticking to his roots because even though there might not be a frozen margarita machine behind the bar, there is a gourmet espresso machine ready to whip up lovely lattes – just like he did at Bonne back in the day. Plus, there are plenty of premium tequila flights for those who want a sippable array of Mexican spirits.
Save room for dessert because the Dulce de Leche Cake is a must. With a spongy cake and sweet topping, it’s the perfect treat – and sugar boost – you need before heading back to Southlake.