A creative collection of recipes from one of the world’s best chefs graces the menu at Haute Enchilada
A visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium offers sightings of a giant Pacific octopus, a new jellyfish exhibit, and seahorses better disguised than Dana Carvey.For me the journey is enhanced by a stop at one of Moss Landing’s unique eateries.. Previously a bustling antiques marketplace, the center is now revitalized by the Haute Enchilada Cafe and Galerias, with local artwork on display and an artist’s reception on the third Sunday of the month.
At the Haute Enchilada, I had a really hard time ordering—so many interesting and unique ingredients and combinations. I owe this dilemma to Chef Ferran Adrià, who closed Spain’s El Bulli restaurant last year, one that many considered to have been the world’s best. The creative chemist of a chef will continue with gastronomical research, and, apparently, providing a menu to a restaurant in a tiny fishing village on the Monterey Bay.
Tropical-bright vinyl tablecloths cover umbrella-shaded tables on the front patio, which is encircled by pots of succulents, salvia, and cacti. We started with an order of crunchy, house-fried tortilla chips and salsa made with fire-roasted vegetables.
From the list of Light Bites, a Haute Enchilada al Mole ($6.95) was stuffed with free-range chicken, covered with mole and melted cheese, and hidden by organic greens with avocado, cilantro and onion. The complex mole sauce was at once sweet, bitter, and a bit spicy with pumpkin-like undertones.
Four triangles of Rosemary Chicken Panini ($12.95) on focaccia held roasted red bell peppers, onion, feta cheese and mushrooms, and was plated with a pretty green salad topped with bright slices of red onion, carrot shavings, cucumber and croutons.
An opportunity to taste an Aztec delicacy came in the guise of Crab and Huitlacoche Enchiladas ($19.95). Huitlacoche means black excrement in the Nahuatl language, and is a fungus that swells corn kernels to 10 times their size. Two fresh corn tortillas were wrapped around crab and these chewy mushroom-like nuggets, and topped with a light citrus-tart sauce. Accompaniments included black beans with onion and cilantro and Spanish rice dotted with cooked carrot.
I immensely enjoyed the Pescado Cubano ($21). A large, thick fillet of line-caught snapper was coated with pistachio nuts, grilled, and laid upon a bed of black beans. The textures of firm white fish, toothsome nuts and soft beans meshed perfectly. It was sauced generously with a bright green tomatillo-avocado blend. Also topped with sauce were two round plantain fritters; sweet and stuffed with a bit of cotija cheese. A molded scoop of curly-tailed quinoa was dotted with peas and carrots.
Haute Enchilada also offers exotic desserts ($6.95 to $7.50). Warm Ginger Sticky Pudding, sugar-free Salted Caramel Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake, and Flourless Chocolate Decadence by themselves are worth a stop. There are also cookies ($3.50) including lemon bars. We shared two, one just loaded with chocolate chunks, and a super-crisp oatmeal with bits of apricot.
The Haute Enchilada Cafe and Galerias, 7902 Moss Landing Road, Moss Landing, 633-5843. Full bar. Open daily for brunch and lunch from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Serving dinner Wednesday through Sunday from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m. Visit hauteenchilada.com.