Review: Sol de Mexico restaurant makes red hot San Antonio debut
Note: This is a Just a Taste review, which the Express-News does soon after a restaurant or bar opens to give our first impressions.
Tacos, empanadas, quesadillas. San Antonio knows Mexican food. But this city rarely sees it as prepared by chef Daniel Mendoza at his new Beacon Hill restaurant Sol de Mexico.
Sol de Mexio opened three weeks ago in the shopping strip home to fellow dining scene newcomer SoHill Cafe. It’s located in a sprawling space most recently home to a short-lived steakhouse and even shorter lived country diner.
The dining room retains traces of a short-order vibe but is largely transformed by festive papel picado strung overhead, colorful and mismatched woven place mats at each seat and a parade of food emerging from the kitchen on decorative earthenware plates.
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Mendoza, a Nuevo Laredo native, brings Le Cordon Bleu training and a resume including time under celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse to the food of Central and Southern Mexico, and he does it with grace, poise and big flavor.
On the menu: Let’s start our day with the Puerco Volador omelet ($10.50) — it’s a good a place as any to see what makes this restaurant special. A delicate cloak of eggs hides a cache of crispy pork belly, manchego cheese and Brussels sprouts. That’s topped with a fiery green salsa and jiggly chicharrones, then garnished with microgreens, pickled onions and a trio of edible marigolds. It’s a level of visual artistry and deliciousness seldom directed at a humble breakfast order.
That skilled execution continues across the menu. The Mexican frittata ($10) is a gorgeous assembly of zucchini blossoms, nopales and Oaxaca cheese drizzled with reduced balsamic vinegar and at least three varieties of edible flowers. A blue corn empanada ($8.99) sports a remarkably thin and crispy shell that accentuates the deep, earthy flavor of huitlacoche and corn packed inside. The chile relleno ($8.99) looked as if it was freshly plucked from a garden box, covered in tender microgreens, flower blossoms and petals, and a sprig of rosemary.
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And lets talk tacos. Blue and yellow tortillas at Sol de Mexico are made from corn that’s nixtamalized and ground in house. The excellent marlin taco ($5.99) features flaky fish poached in a smoky chipotle broth with a side of intensely dark and oily salsa made with morita chiles and mango; the taco pastor ($4.50) is loaded with flavorful pork stained a deep cherry red with spice; and a chef’s special, the Taco Veneno, boasts a well seasoned payload of refried beans and chicharrones.
The Rib-eye Ranchero ($28.99) was a visual showstopper of a dish. A 12-ounce steak draped in salsa and sauteed peppers was served atop a smoldering cedar plank alongside a roasted marrow bone topped with crispy strands of onion. A puddle of refried beans on the far end of the plank was topped with a slab of griddle-charred queso panela. For all the dish’s showmanship, though, the tough and lackluster steak was served a degree or two from well done, making the dish feel like one of the less compelling values on the menu.
Sol de Mexico is a BYOB breakfast and lunch spot for now, with plans to add a ticketed dinner service in the future. But there’s no reason to wait — this restaurant is worth checking out today.
Location: 1725 Blanco Road, 210-481-4222, Facebook: Sol de Mexico Authentic Mexican Restaurant
Hours: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday
Paul Stephen is a food and drink reporter and restaurant critic in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | email@example.com | Twitter: @pjbites | Instagram: @pjstephen