RVOC September 2009 : Page 182

taste the difference between organic and corporate, Schneider doesn’t try much else in the way of pushing Mexican cuisine’s borders. Te Kurobuta pork carnitas are an effective use of the meat, but she prepares them classically: slow- roasted until the meat collapses into a pile on your plate. Bueno, yes, but you can buy nearly five pounds of comparable (or better) carnitas for the same price, just a few miles away (Carnitas Los Reyes in Orange, for example). Schneider could’ve added something, done a twist; instead, nada. Although it’s nice to see Schneider use organic meats for her carne asada and carnitas street tacos, charging $6 for a pair of two-bite tacos is too much considering La Sirena in Laguna Beach gives you tacos twice as big using the same quality of meats for the same price. Likewise, the “tacos grandes” are just a bit bigger than the street variety and, while delicious, simply aren’t inventive enough to justify the cost or even the effort of a talented chef like Schneider. Te caldo de siete mares suffers from the same problem—fundamentally sound, crammed with shrimp, scallops, fish and clams, but only slightly better than the same soup found at nearly all Mexican restaurants for twice the cost and a smaller bowl (try Mariscos Licenciado No. 2 in Anaheim). Te best entrée, the fish pibil (seasonal fish baked in a banana leaf and rubbed with an achiote-spiked citrus marinade) is also a straightforward version of a Mexican classic, but it’s fine in this case because there is only one Yucatán- style restaurant in Orange County, and it’s a bakery. Lunch is actually a better time for Schneider to show Lunch is actually a better time for Schneider to show off, specifically with the tortas. She takes this Mexican hoagie and combines two cultures with the Sloppy José, which isn’t an X-rated joke but carnitas combined with crunchy pork rinds. ...continued but not too much—and that’s the allure and drawback of Sol. Te complimentary black bean dip and freshly fried tostada is welcome, but just a tablespoon of salsa? Granted, it’s derived from zesty dried guajillo peppers, but what kind of Mexican restaurant is it when you get more salt than salsa? Te idea of guacamole beyond basic avocado is invigorating, but the execution in the Guacamole Sol—mango, tequila, goat cheese and pine nuts—doesn’t quite work; the avocado and goat cheese overwhelm the other flavors (better to make your own “rainbow” guac with a choice of five ingredients out of 15, ranging from chicharrones to berries). Te remaining appetizers, however, impress— clams bubble with a tequila-spiked butter, while the mango salsa accompanying the toritos (sweet peppers stuffed with shrimp, scallions and jack cheese) is perfect. You’re not going to find toritos at most order uP! a platter of street tacos and a gaggle of newport’s finest, both in the bar. Mexican restaurants, which can’t be said about most of Sol’s dishes. Sol Cocina boasts of using organic, local ingredients on most of its dishes, and while you’ll 182 | | September 2009 off, specifically with the tortas. She takes this Mexican hoagie and combines two cultures with the sloppy josé, which isn’t an X-rated joke but carnitas combined with crunchy pork rinds. And the hamburguesa is almost like the hamburgers served in Mexico; jack, a Meyer beef patty, some pico de gallo, red onions and pickled jalapeño for bite. But then comes dessert, and Schneider’s playful genius returns. Dessert nachos sound like a disaster, but are quite the opposite: buñuelos (fried flour tortillas sprinkled with cinnamon) cut into triangles, drizzled with gritty Mexican chocolate sauce, and topped with a dollop of whipped cream and almonds. I’m surprised this is the first time I’ve encountered the dish, because it’s so obviously tasty: four layers of sweetness buttressed by the crunch of the buñuelos and the cooling cream. More traditional, but just as delightful, is the flan de requesón. Don’t expect the usual tired retread of custard-flavored Jell-O; requesón is a ricotta-like cheese here forming the body, while a topping of citrus syrup covers the flan with a sugary, cool counterpoint. Honestly, Sol is excellent, and all of Newport and Corona del Mar should brave the Coast Highway traffic to lounge in its luxury. But here’s hoping Schneider will continue to create, to wean us off the easy and toward her full potential demonstrated in dishes like the crudo and the dessert nachos. Challenge us. We can take it. Until then, another order of street tacos, por favor, heavy on the salsa. R

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