There’s a lot more variety to Mexican food than we typically see represented in restaurants in the U.S. Every region in Mexico has its own unique characteristics. The kiosk Café Campesino on Pacific Avenue was a local expression of this variety, but because space is limited, there was only so much owner Dina Torres could do. Earlier this year, Torres opened the similarly themed Jaguar Mexican Provisional on Soquel Avenue, in addition to keeping her kiosk open, and she talked to us about her new restaurant.
What inspired you to open Jaguar?
DINA TORRES: I made the decision to open the Jaguar restaurant because people were always asking me to open my own restaurant to eat inside, because many times of the year it’s rainy or windy. I started working on the project for years and years to reach this goal. At Café Campesino, I only serve chicken. It’s a very small place. Here, I’ve added pork, fish, beef and shrimp to expand the menu. I decided to make a new menu here with more choices. I use the menu at Café Campesino for specials.
What’s a new item you have on the menu for Jaguar?
I have entomatado. It’s made with pork chops and a special chunky tomatillo sauce with herbs and chile morita peppers on top. That’s one of my favorites. We serve with Spanish rice, homemade tortilla.
Are you preparing food from any particular region in Mexico?
My menu is all over from different states in Mexico: Oaxaca, Querétaro. Puebla, Mexico City. Yucatán. Nayarit. I’m changing the dishes of the specials. For example, for Valentine’s Day, I served rabbit. It’s from Nayarit, the recipe. It’s rabbit in spicy sauce with spices and herbs and potatoes. My mom made family dinners with amazing dishes. She was very exotic, cooking. She can do whatever. I drove with my parents across my country; that’s why we have different regions’ dishes. In my family, we have a lot of chefs. One of my nephews has a culinary school. My other nephews have bakeries or restaurants.
Tell me about your mole.
My mole is Puebla style. It’s got 31 ingredients. We make the sauce with raisins, walnuts, peanuts, sesame seeds, plantains, many kinds of dried peppers and spices. This is Puebla style.
1116 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. 600-7428. jaguarrestaurantinc.com.