Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Happy Hour at Border Grill Santa Monica with Chef Raymond Alvarez

Border Grill Santa Monica has always been a solid Happy Hour destination. I've met many friends over the years for drinks and small bites here when they've been staying over on the Westside, usually passing through.One of the best margaritas I've ever had, the prickly pear margarita, was right here at Border Grill.

I met Executive Sous Chef Raymond Alvarez when he joined our group of bloggers and writers for a Tijauna Convention and Visitor's Bureau(Cotuco)sponsored media trip. Regional General Manager, Doug Rausenberger, and Executive Chef, of Ciudad were also along for the debauchery.

Ray added some inspiration from our Baja journey into the Border Grill menu recently, and you can sample these fine foods at Happy Hour 7 days a week.

Cocktails at the Border Grill are always expertly made with fresh ingredients, they're virtually bullet-proof. They always come out great. A friend and I ordered the Mexican Greyhound(herradura silver, grapefruit,california chile,fresh lime, and cane sugar)and a Classic Margarita. I loved the citrusy and spicy Greyhound. The Paloma with homemade citrus blend and prickly pear margarita as also recommended.At $5, the El Charro margarita is a done deal, El Charro is perfect for margaritas,available for Happy Hour.It's what I use at home.

I had taken Ray and the crew to Barbacoa Ermita in Tijuana where they experienced Hidalgo Style pit roasted lamb barbacoa.Ray decided to add his version in August for his Baja inspired menu, and it has been such a popular taco, it is here to stay. Now Raymond had to use a couple of cooking techniques to duplicate the slow pit cooking method. He uses banana leaves instead of maguey spines.

Now, there is an amazing barbacoa in the San Diego area, Aqui es Texcoco, and I can cross the border to visit Barbacoa Ermita, but LA has not yielded a favorite. I like the tacos at Breed St., Borrego de Oro is OK,but the cooking is not refined. The meat is usually overcooked, or minded over so much it never hits its optimum moistness level. Using quality lamb, as Border Grill uses only the best, and working with the limitations of a "modern" kitchen, he has achieved the unlikely.Border Grill has my favorite barbacoa taco in town. A tasty chile de arbol salsa lifted and tweaked from Tijuana, and a perfectly ripe slice of avocado are fitting complements.

There's just muscle tissue, no exotics, or pancita, but a wonderfully straightforward taco of barbacoa.In this instance, flavor trumps tradition and variety of lamb cuts.

The $8 for three tacos at Happy Hour is a great bargain. These are high ingredient tacos, something that Border Grill does right always.In Mexico, taco stands use quality cuts of meat, the freshest local produce, and sophisticated salsas.They can sell them for a dollar due to the economics in Mexico, in the US, quality tacos can't be had for a dollar. Even the La Jarocha on Breed St. with her homemade guisados charges $1.50.

I'm hoping Mary Sue and Sue will let Raymond dig a pit in the kitchen and take it to the next level.How about it, Tamales?

We also tried the Peruvian inspired amarillo ceviche, refreshing and zesty. Ceviches have been consistenly good over the years at Border Grill, and only $3 a shot during Happy Hour.

In case you missed the Baja menu items back in August, this beef shank in a Yucatan style sauce was stirred by our dinner at Slivestre,Benito Molina's seasonal hideaway in the Valle de Guadalupe.I hope this comes back.

Border Grill has a fine dessert menu, they're not available for Happy Hour, but why not indulge?

Go visit Raymond and Doug for Happy Hour at Border Grill. Stellar cocktails and some of the best margaritas in the city,excellent tacos, maybe the best tasting barbacoa taco in town,a nice tequila list,select wines and Mexican beer,and always a festive ambiance.

Border Grill Santa Monica
Happy Hour
Monday through Friday - 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Friday and Saturday - after 10 p.m.

No comments: