I’m still kicking myself for not going to Californios right when it opened and the tasting menu was under $60. Four years and two Michelin stars later, I finally got to try this spot.
Many of the rave reviews from people whose opinions I respect were from the earlier days. If the menu were about half the current price (~$200 pre tax, tip, and drinks), I would probably be raving too. I liked the thoughtfulness and flavors, but the level of ingredients and execution were below average for two Michelin stars.
There were some highlights like the Plantain Bread with Banana Butter. The extra buttery rolls were rich with plantain flavor and adding the similarly noted banana butter was decadent joy.
The Flan was one of the best versions I’ve tried, with a perfect balance of creaminess and silky mouthfeel.
The wine pairing was excellent. Each pairing benefited the food on some level for me, with a few particularly standout. The sweeter Arnot-Roberts 2017 Trousseau North Coast paired with the cheese and smoke forward Tetela was one of my favorites.
Most of the meal was fairly forgettable however, and some dishes had serious execution errors.
Tres Frijoles, Chef Cantu’s bean and caviar version of the iconic Oyster and Pearls, was just too salty that it marred an otherwise wonderful dish.
An elevated take on Sope was a dud, with way too much doughy, bland masa that overpowered the trout roe.
The Tai Sea Bream was ridiculously overcooked and tough. And while I appreciated the use of Mindful Meat retired dairy cows for the Carne Asada, the dry, tough meat was not appreciate by my palate.
Service was fine, a little cold, but fine. Timing was fine.
Perhaps I just hit them on a bad night. I saw enough potential and passion in my meal that I would consider revisiting Californios another season.