Given my inability to prepare a simple breakfast of eggs, bacon, potatoes, and toast for a group without experiencing a full-on panic attack, I have the utmost respect for chefs, line cooks, and others working in the restaurant industry. Cooking for a large crowd requires a level of grace, coordination, and timing that I could never hope to achieve. I am therefore amazed that the young and immensely talented, Victor Parra Gonzalez, has managed to open two different and equally wonderful restaurants within the past six months.
Although Parra Gonzalez is pretty well incapable of preparing anything that is not gourmet, his restaurant, Casa Azul (co-owned with Vincenza “Zina” Lapi) is ‘casual’ and serves popular Mexican street food: tacos, tortas, pozole, etc. His second restaurant, Las Puertas, serves innovative, upscale Mexican cuisine with an emphasis upon technique and quality, local ingredients.
Parra Gonzalez has worked tirelessly over the past few months on both restaurants, often only sleeping a few hours per night.
Parra Gonzalez has worked tirelessly over the past few months on both restaurants, often only sleeping a few hours per night. He credits his talented and dedicated staff for his ability to get both restaurants up and running in such a short period of time. Having visited both Casa Azul and Las Puertas, I can attest to the fact that Parra Gonzalez has a great group of people staffing his restaurants; the service and overall experience at both is always top-notch. But clearly Parra Gonzalez’s humble, kind, and amiable nature has much to do with his ability to attract such a motivated, loyal, and hardworking team.
Parra Gonzalez managed to find the perfect location on Rhode Island for his intimate but vibrant and colorful restaurant. It just wouldn’t have the same charm and neighborhood feel if it were located on a main road like Elmwood or Delaware. Upon entering the restaurant, there are so many interesting design features to admire: the adorable made-in-France chairs, the adjustable spheres of light above the bar, and the gorgeous mural (which is a work in progress) by Carolyn Perillo.
The locally produced, pickled mushrooms added a vinegary brightness to the dish.
I was intrigued by many items on the menu but settled upon four: corn ramen pozole, tiradito, mole verde, and spiced chocolate almond cake. The ramen combined both Japanese and Mexican elements to make a warm and comforting first course. To accentuate the beauty of the dish, the pozole broth was carefully poured into the bowl of noodles tableside from an earthy, ceramic vessel. The locally produced, pickled mushrooms added a vinegary brightness to the dish. The tiradito was a magical menagerie of pickled fruit, cured fish, avocado, and orange sorbet; everything about it was delicious, delicate, and refined.
The mole verde, made from pepitas, cashews, walnuts, peanuts, spices, and vegetables, was a showstopper. The velvety sauce had the richness, balance of flavor, and sophistication of a well-made curry. It was served with a perfectly cooked selection of vegetables, including broccoli, romanesco, roasted carrot, and kale. I completed my meal with an elegant dessert that involved chocolate, spice, and mango; it was so lovely that attracted the attention of a neighboring table.
Given the excited and sizable crowd, I anticipate that Parra Gonzalez will find much success at his new Rhode Island restaurant.