Javier Plascencia is a man in the spotlight - the chef from Tijuana (who actually attended culinary school right here in San Diego) has garnered numerous accolades in the past year - from a feature on "Mexico, One Plate at a Time", to being the subject of an article in the New York Times and a profile by one of my favourite magazines, the New Yorker. I'd only heard about Plascencia last February, when a post by Street Gourmet LA put him on my radar. His food looked fantastic, and since then, I've been actively looking for an opportunity to try it without crossing the border (visa issues ad nauseum).
Leave it to Jay Porter, outspoken owner of The Linkery and El Take It Easy, to bring Plascencia here for a pop-up dinner at the latter establishment. While I've never found the food at Jay's restaurants particularly compelling, I deeply respect his love of our region's product, and his efforts to promote true farm-to-table cuisine in San Diego. So, perhaps it is unsurprising that we would see this union of the two men, given their common goal of highlighting the local bounty.
Reservations filled up well in advance of this one-night event (not surprising given Plascencia's fame). The evening's menu ran $40 for 5 courses - each course a version of a dish served at one of his Tijuana restaurants. The big question for us was: would we be seeing the cuisine of the punchy Mexican maestro in its true form, or would it tend towards the oft-times insipid flavours we've unfortunately experienced at El Take It Easy.
|Amuse - Scallop, beef tendon, nopales|
Uni, ahi, green shrimp
|Heirloom bean risotto|
Wild mushrooms, black truffle, huitlacoche powder, epazote air
|Berkshire pork en Caja China|
Mole de fiestas, root vegetables, chochoyones
|Mexican chocolate ganache|
Coffee, cardamom cotton candy, mezcal-compressed strawberry, natilla ice cream
It seemed evident that the dishes served tonight were just a tantalizing taste of Plascencia's ability (shackled as he was by logistical constraints) - an elaborate advertisement, if you will. It beckoned to us, "For the real deal, you'll have to make your way across the border". And perhaps that is the point - most of us in San Diego are overlooking a huge and still burgeoning food scene a mere half-hour drive away. It looks like I'll need to get that visa taken care of very soon.
El Take It Easy
3926 30th St.
San Diego, CA
Phone: (619) 291-1859