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Apr 21, 2007 09:36 AM

Questions about Casa Moreno and CalMex? (Monterey)...

I am trying to narrow down my choices for dinner on Friday night in Monterey (one can't eat at Passionfish every night, and we will be going there with friends on Saturday). If it were up to me, we'd perhaps try Melange, but hubby wants to keep price and dress level very casual.

So, I've decided we should expand our horizons. Here are my questions:

Casa Moreno Taqueria (on Fremont): it has gotten good mentions in the Monterey Herald and elsewhere, and has the advantage of being right across the street from our usual Monterey hotel. Plus, it looks very nice, with a great patio. It hasn't been there that long, however, I've *never* seen it open whenever we are staying across the street, and their website is inactive. Anyone know the deal? Closed for good, or just strange hours?

CalMex, on Cass in Monterey (not to be confused with the awful, overpriced MexiCali Grill on Lighthouse!): this place, which has two menus, one upscale Mexican, one California cuisine, intrigues me. If they have a website, I can't find it. The Herald reviewers called it best newcomer this year:

but I've never seen any mention on CH. Has anyone tried it? Any comments? Hightlights of the menu?

I am also consiering Amir's Kabob House on Lighthouse. I've asked about this place before and havent gotten any feedback, but it is always crowded when we drive by...They do have a website:

So, I guess it is time to add some reports on some newer places to the mix. Your help would be appreciated! I will report back on whichever we choose. Thanks!

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  1. Never been to Casa Moreno or Cal Mex. I would suggest Fishwife's Turtle Bay great inexpensive fresh or cal mexican food. It is very casual you order at the counter they do bring you your food at the table.

    1 Reply
    1. re: chrystaldawn

      thanks, but actually, what intrigues me about CalMex is *not* that it is california-mexican (I'd actually rather go to Watsonville for straight up Mexican food): it is two seperate menus, one California cuisine, one Mexican.

    2. Looks like you may have to boldly go where no Chowhound has gone before. If you do, let us know how it turns out.


      3 Replies
      1. re: Ed Dibble

        I wonder whether it's just the passage of time between JB's April post and now (August 2007), but having read your review I had a few expectations about the food in particular, but the entire eperience was like a visit to Bizarro-World tonight when we dined at MexCal. The service was polite but S - L - O - W. Our table ordered 2 margaritas and 2 soft drinks, and it took at least 15 minutes before they were brought to the table -- and there were only two other customers in the restaurant at the time. Our salads (nothing special) came another 15 minutes or so later. Then it was at least half an hour before our entrees arrived. Cod and vegies were cooked beautifully, but the cod was arranged atop the "corn rice" side dish -- which did NOT live up to Ed's "FAB" description, for there was no spice, no moisture, nothing to bind the rice and corn together either physically or in terms of flavor, and worst, the rice and corn were COLD under the hot fish. My husband had the carne azada and it was leathery; my son had chicken fajitas and said the food was cold and "not worth waiting for." For the most part, the food was mediocre, the dining room was disheveled, the wait staff was inefficient. All in all, a huge disappointment, and we will not darken that door again.

        1. re: metaphor

          not sure who the 'your' is in your post...but I don't recall seeing a report from Ed on this place, and 'FAB' just doesn't sound like something Ed would write anyway (?). However,. I did report in another thread, and wasn't that enthusiastic either:

          On a related topic, Casa Moreno is definitely closed for good, as of my last Monterey visit. I am sorry I never got a chance to try it; hope to see something good in that location...

          1. re: susancinsf

            The "Ed" in question is certainly not me.

            I looked at the menu at MexCal and saw nothing I really wanted to eat. It looked like one side of the menu was totally overpriced Mexican dishes, and the other side of the menu had the usual suspects.

            On the other hand, I was very pleased with Amir's Kabob House. Unpretentious, properly prepared Afghani cuisine.


      2. My parents and I just went to MexCal on Saturday, actually. One word of caution, as one of the reviews mentioned it kept a LOT of The Whaler "charms" including the turquoise pleather booth tops and green velour seat coverings...


        I had a really enjoyable meal there. Mom had the Carne Azada which was the best steak (not traditional carne asada) I have had in an upscale Mexican restaurant...ever. I would ask for the "corn white rice" instead of the oregano potatoes because the rice was FAB. Sort of like Mexican dirty rice. The tortillas that come with the carne azada are to die for, as is the guacamole. Anyway, I had the Lomo de Puerco which was a really lovely flavored pork chop. It was a little overdone for my taste (I prefer medium) but still had a wonderfully smokey flavor. (Served with the corn white rice and veggies.) As a note on the veggies, the chef did a lovely array of chayote, squash, and carrots. They had a nice spicy kick and were very fresh tasting. Dad, who usually adores Mexican, opted for a pepper steak and ate it in about 3 minutes flat, a sign that I took as good. He is a big-wig around town and declared that he would be taking fellow big-wigs to dinner there this week.

        There were some service issues, and many of the wines listed on the wine list were not there, but the servers were clearly trying their hardest, and the issues were no where near catastrophic.

        All in all I deeply respect what the Chef here is doing. It is so rare that you can really see someone bring their down-home flavors to an upscale restaurant without dumbing the food down. I thought this was just an amazing example of the food.

        So...give the servers a break, they are trying, and give this place a try. Also, although one side of the menu is deemed "California" I would say it is more "steakhouse" with many meats on the menu (chops, pork loin, prime rib, etc.).

        For the record it is MexCal...and no, they do not have a website.


        1 Reply
        1. re: Jeni Bean

          Thanks so much for the report back; and for the clarification on name...I work with a program nicknamed CalMex, I am sure that is why my brain kept mixing them up...will be sure to post correctly if I go as I hope to try it this weekend! I completely agree with your respect for what the chef is trying to do; that is a big reason it is compelling to me. Hubby doesn't find upscale Mexican food as interesting as I do, so he might just have to try the prime rib. :-)

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