Amaranta Cocina Mexicana
The Rallo’s manage Amaranta Cocina Mexicana and six other concepts, four in San Jose —Consuelo Mexican Bistro, El Jardín Tequila Bar, Thea Mediterranean and Sazon — and two —Colibri Mexican Bistro and Zazil, in San Francisco. With the opening of Amaranta Cocina Mexicana in the Westfield Topanga Mal six short months ago, the dream has become a reality. And all I can say is "Ole!" In fact, "Mucho Ole!"
First, the room is physically quite beautiful. The large bubble chandeliers shed a glow of amber light throughout. the large, festive booths create a feeling of comfort and generosity. You get a sense of largess from every angle. And, nicest of all, this will be exactly what you will experience for kindness, warmth and smiles are de rigueur in this place. The food is somewhat different than the chain store Mexican cuisine. It is attractively served, with large portions at fair prices and, for the most part, very, very tasty indeed.
Mario, our quick-on-the-draw server, was upon us seconds after we were seated. Here, they bring a patter of warm tortillas with a variety of four sauces, ranging from tepid to mucho calor. My suggestion: allow these to linger, for the fare yet to come is worth waiting for.
We started dinner with a bowl of freshly made guacamole and chips. Prepared at the table, it consists of avocados, Serrano chile, white onions, tomatoes, cilantro and lime juice. The handmade chips add a piquant flavor to this marvelous concoction. And there's enough for three or four to share this forspice.
Next, we selected their Quesadillas Mixtas: three different crisp corn tortillas filled with cheese, chorizo and sautéed poblano chile, then fried. They're large and can be cut into thirds to create a lovely appetizer for three people. Delicias to the Maximus. You must try their Tortilla Soup for it is sensational. At a mere seven dollars, this thick soup with its manifold ingredients including avocado, guajillo peppers, fresco cheese, tortilla strips and fresh cream fresca is a food for the gods.
So far, excellent. And the entrees did not disappoint either: Fran selected the Carnitas: Prepared Michoacán style, this is a heaping plate of slow cooked marinated pork, served with sautéed green onions, and the ubiquitous lime and cilantro. Adorning the plate was a heaping serving of mixed vegetables, rice and refried beans. This fourteen dollar dish was enough for at least two, possibly three people. My wife's smiling face denoted great satisfaction with her choice of entree. I too, was delighted with my trio of enchiladas: One shrimp, one pork and one plain cheese – each quite large, juicy and tasty. I chose a double helping of corn, carrots and peas worked into the massive portion of Spanish rice. Superbo!
My measure of Mexican food has always been the culinary greatness of Casa Vega in Sherman Oaks. Up to now, no other Mexican restaurant has come up to the quality, taste and affordability of Mr. Vegas' fifty-year old establishment.
Today, I'd have to concede that Amaranta has broken through that barrier because each dish passed the Feinstein taste-test with flying colors. A word of caution: Desserts are not one of their strong suits. A second word of caution: When you decide to visit, please, tell 'em Jose sent you. I'm planning to invest in their stock!
Amaranta Cocina Mexicana Located in Westfield Topanga Mall Enter from Owensmouth Garage Near Victory Blvd. and Topanga Canyon. 6600 Topanga Canyon Blvd. Suite 1029 Canoga Park 91303 Tel. 818-610-3599 Open for lunch and dinner 7 days. Dinner: Approximately $50 for two w/o alcohol. Note: A shot of the Fonseca Family’s limited edition Añejo tequila is $175.