IN THE MOOD FOR MEXICAN FOOD? Irvine is home to a variety of Mexican restaurants, from Tijuana-style taco patios to modern Mexican restaurants to chic dining rooms that serve fine dining with creative handcrafted margaritas. Here are three of my favorites.
1. LA SIRENA GRILL – Orchard Hills
The family-run La Sirena Grill in Orchard Hills Shopping Center.
La Sirena Grill’s contemporary Mexican cuisine received props from many Southern California food critics and even landed in Sunset magazine’s “Best of the West”.
And now I know why. My daughter and I arrived the other night when the sun was setting and a guitarist was playing James Taylor songs on an outdoor deck at Orchard Hills Shopping Center.
We ordered at the counter and then grabbed a table on the terrace in front of the house, where the benches and chairs are upholstered and a fountain trickles gently.
The center has a Napa feel to it, with lots of olive trees and grapevines climbing on stone pillars and over arches.
Clara and I sipped our homemade watermelon strawberry Aguas Frescas until our dinner arrived.
La Sirena is all about organic. So if you choose the Carne Asada it is grassy and if you choose the chicken it is free range. We went with the Blackened Wild Salmon Fajita. Tender pieces of fish were accompanied by a grilled pasilla chilli filled with herb cheese, roasted salsa, and fresh, handmade corn tortillas. We also shared the Carnitas Enchilada platter with spicy pico and queso fresco.
The diet starts tomorrow.
2. TACO ROSA – The market place
Taco Rosa serves a mix of Spanish, French, and Mexican flavors.
An order of chips is $ 6 here, but it’s muy bueno so don’t skip it. They’re actually lime and chilli corn chips that come with a jalapeño salsa and bean dip.
When you order the chips you will want something refreshing to wash them off. And you’ll be in luck because Taco Rosa has an interesting selection of handcrafted cocktails like the Jose Cuervo Horchata Margarita or the Mango Margarita, which is a mango chamoy popsicle.
Taco Rosa’s menu advertises “Mexico City Cuisine”, dishes with a refined flair. Taco options include wild salmon with papaya butter, boiled steak with mushrooms, and calamari. A popular starter is the Shrimp Ceviche Tostadas.
In the mood for lighter dishes, I ordered the Rosa Bowl – rice, black beans, sauteed spinach, and roasted corn.
My husband wanted home cooking and opted for the pozole de puerco, a delicious hominy and pork stew.
Taco Rosa also has a chic dessert menu. It was a swirl between the chocolate churros
Sauce or Pastel de Cuatro Leches, served with white strawberries with a ganache coating.
So we both ordered.
3. TAQUIERO TACO PATIO – Campus Plaza
The Taquiero Taco Patio on Campus Plaza serves freshly made Tijuana-style tacos.
If you’re craving some authentic Mexican tacos, you must try the Taquiero Taco Patio.
I went to lunch and watched them make corn tortillas from scratch behind a window.
The tacos are tiny, street taco size, so I ordered two: one with rotisserie pork, avocado, and pineapple, and one with pulled Yucatán-style pork and pickled onions.
Wrapped in foil and warm, they’re some of the best tortillas I’ve ever tried.
Taquiero also sells Mulitas Tijuana style quesadillas. Cheese is melted on either side of two corn tortillas and you can choose from six fillings.
And definitely Taquiero’s famous french fries – voted best in the OC – in six different ways. I topped an order with Carne Asada. Hard to beat crispy french fries that are topped with melted cheese and drizzled with sour cream and guacamole sauce.
Got an ice cold homemade horchata to rinse everything off, but they have a nice selection of craft beers too.
You can take your meal on one of two terraces to eat under shady trees.