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By Priya Konings

Although Mike Isabella has had one fruitless venture into Mexican food (the critically panned Banderolo) he has decided to make another attempt, and based on the food served at his pop-up dinner, this time around should be much more successful.

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Pepita Cantina, which will open in Ballston next year, has a concise, well-organized menu featuring antojitos, soups, and salads, tacos and street food, and desserts. The antojitos include a spicy guacamole, essential to any good Mexican restaurant, as well as a classic tomato salsa, a green salsa made with gooseberries, and pipian, a surprisingly creamy and nutty spread, made with pumpkin seeds, cilantro, and orange, which gives it a bright, citrusy note.

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The salads and soups may be the best section on the menu, as it features a fresh, crunchy jicama salad, and crazy cauliflower, easily the best item on the menu. As in his other restaurants, Isabella is able to take the simple, often over-looked cauliflower and elevate it into the shiny star of the menu. Here, he drenches it in a zesty chipotle sauce, sprinkles it in soft morsels of queso fresco, and drizzles it with crunchy corn nuts. It’s creamy-tangy-crispy love triangle that everyone will love.

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For the tacos, try the fried avocado taco: you can’t really go wrong with avocado no matter what you do with it, and fried food is always your friend.

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Last, but certainly not least, are the cocktails. The Pepita Margarita is smooth and satisfying; the Carmelo is heady and smoky; and the Papa Viejo comes complete with a grilled avocado slice. In other words, it’s all good.

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For dessert, sample flan or tres leches cake, and enjoy it with, what else, another cocktail. The Pancho Villa has smoky marshmallows and the chocolate caliente has a kick that you won’t forget anytime soon.

The Pepita pop up is over but today, Tuesday, November 11, it’s Taco Tuesday at G. The restaurant will be offering a selection of tacos and Mexican beer from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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