A three pronged attack on Buffalo’s taste buds began close to three months ago. The first wave was Casa Azul. A partnership between Zina Lapi and Victor Parra Gonzalez (lead image) that puts out fresh handmade tacos, that lured people in. That opening was just a precursor to what was to come next, with Chef Parra Gonzalez opening Las Puertas (casual taqueria). After that will be the unveiling of the second floor of Casa Azul, with a full service restaurant and bar, opening (hopefully) in just a few weeks.
Las Puertas, translated it means the “The Doors.” The name was spawned from the many hurdles that Chef Gonzalez faced when opening his latest establishment. As his mother told me, “It’s the amount of doors we had to knock on in order to be able to open the restaurant.” It’s a story best told by Victor and his mother, while sitting at the bar – that’s if and when he has the time to tell a story, as he’s so busy running between both restaurants. Las Puertas’ feature table feels like it’s out of the movie Inception. Masterminded by designer Jean Michel Reed, the walls of the space are actually doors. Then behind the bar, an amazing mural inked by artist Carolyn Perillo (see here).
As for the menu, the food is locally sourced where possible, allowing for incredible freshness once it hits your plate. Upon asking the chef his best recommendations, a barrage of food was placed in front of me.
($8), Acapulco Ceviche ($15), Carne Enchilada Tartare ($19), Bone Marrow ($15), Mole Verde ($14), Corn Ramen Pazole ($10), and Chocolate Cake ($10)
In trying to compress the amount of writing that BRO readers’ eyes have had to endure from my previous verbose detailed posts, I will focus only on a couple dishes and a dessert. You’re welcome.
The Gauc is fantastic! Rustic and hearty. Not your typical mortared paste we’re used to. Add in the salty caramel brittle, which conjures that great sweet and salty balance… then sprinkled with crushed spicy crickets. Yes, you read that correctly. Chef Gonzalez takes the insects, dehydrates them with Chile de Arbol salt and lime, then grinds it into a powder. The concoction is served with homemade tortilla chips. It’s a very citrus forward dish with a nice bite!
A spicy enchilada sauce, mixed with a prime filet of beef and pickled onions, creates the base of another dish. Pickled mustard seeds sit comfortable next to the main. Then lime flavored chia crackers are thrust into the meat, as if something intended to be set apart, yet miraculously part of the production. The finishing touch – a liberal dusting a foie [gras] snow.
Notes on the other dishes: The Mole Verde, fantastic! All locally sourced vegetables… fresh, colorful and spicy!
Acapulco ceviche, citrus marinated fish served in a spicy tomato sauce. Traditionally served with Saltine crackers, I felt the dish was much better with the tostada chips that came with the guacamole. I understand the tradition element, but for me and my food companions, the Saltines stole the flavor from the dish.
Bone Marrow. The marrow is scooped out and whipped with cream cheese to a mousse-like consistency. Then layered back into the bone, served cold. I like the creativity, but this dish did not work for me.
For me, the big winner was the Corn Ramen Pazole. Perhaps because I’m convinced that when I was in the womb my mother ate lots of Asian food. I crave that salty goodness and noodles! Then, after I was born, living in Southern California, tacos and Mexican fare was a plenty. So this dish is so win-win all the way around! Presented to the guest as a bowl of corn and wheat pasta, topped with a 63 degree egg and some spices. Sprinkled throughout are marinated beech mushrooms. Where is the broth you ask? Well, that gets poured on top tableside. A traditional ramen broth that is infused with Mexican spices. Still spicy, still fatty, still delicious. Then as one eats this dish, the initially unassuming marinated mushrooms add a crazy great vinegary pop that made this complete. It was a flavor combo I kept coming back to again and again. This dish is so simplistic, yet complex in flavor profile at the same time! A magical marriage between the two cultures of food. Note: Since eating this, I have been back two more times.
For dessert I ordered the Chocolate Almond Spice Cake. What was placed in front of me was a very unique and modern take on a dessert. The best way to describe it is, they took the cake, tossed it in the air and played fruit ninja with an actual samurai sword! Something I think we’ve all wanted to do. The taste however isn’t chopped at all – it’s chocolate cake that has been spiced with ancho chili, over chocolate soil with a mango sorbet and chocolate curls. I would recommend one of these to round out the meal.
So far both restaurants that Chef Parra Gonzalez has had a hand in are fantastic. Now, just waiting till the third, Masa y Mescal, gets going. It really will be an all out “a salt”, which I’m looking forward to seeing on the rim of my glass!