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Frida Mexican Cuisine, Chula Vista

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JeffSD Jan 3, 2008 07:33 AM

Frida Mexican Cuisine has opened in the Otay Ranch Center, on the far eastern edge of Eastlake Chula Vista. It is a branch of the Frida Mexican Cuisine restaurant in Beverly Hills, which has specialized in authentic and regional Mexican fine dining for several years.

I’d been to the Beverly Hills restaurant twice and was impressed by the food, ambiance, and service. The room was colorful, warm, and unpretentious. Service was attentive. The food was outstanding, very much on the order of El Agave and Spicy Mexican Grill in Old Town and similar to what I guess Casa de Madera tried to be in its first iteration. When the Otay Ranch Center opened over a year ago, mention was made that a Frida restaurant would open there sometime in 2007 and it finally did, about two weeks ago.

We went for lunch a few days ago and it was excellent. We ordered the Guacamole as a starter, the Mole Poblano and the Flautas de Pollo for lunch entrees, and the Crepes de Cajeta for dessert. The Guacamole was good with a chunky handmade texture. The Mole Poblano was just about the best I’ve ever had -- the rich and complex mole a wonderful balance of flavors, not overpowered by any of the many ingredients (including the chocolate). It was accompanied by good beans and rice and a very good cheese gordita. The Flautas de Pollo were a delight, light, fresh, and tasty, topped with queso fresco and drizzled with Mexican crema. The portion was huge and could easily have fed two. The Crepes de Cajeta were wonderful (cajeta is a thickened syrup made from goat’s milk).

The restaurant is in a freestanding contemporary building, reminiscent of the very clean and minimalist lines of the Mexican architecture of Luis Barragan or Ricardo Legorreta, although without the vibrant and warm colors usually associated with their work. The Otay Ranch Center is San Diego County’s newest mall and is designed as a “lifestyle” mall, the latest trend in mall development, in which the mall is designed to look more like a small town main street than the usual mallscape. It is located near the intersection of Olympic Parkway, Birch Road, and SR 125 (which is the South Bay Expressway, the new toll road). This location is somewhat remote for many San Diegans, unfortunately, but it’s worth the trip if you like to explore good Mexican cuisine.

So far the Frida website has not been updated to mention the Chula Vista opening but the phone number is 619-216-8666 for hours and directions. The menu here is very similar to the Beverly Hills menu, which is at: http://www.fridarestaurant.com/

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  1. d
    daantaat RE: JeffSD Jan 3, 2008 08:37 AM

    This might be worth a trip combined w/ a detour to the Otay Ranch Center!

    1. kare_raisu RE: JeffSD Jan 3, 2008 01:48 PM

      Awesome news! Thanks so much Jeff! Sounds like the SD mex scene is getting better by the day...

      1. kare_raisu RE: JeffSD Jan 4, 2008 04:31 PM

        I swung by today to check it out.
        It is really nice restaurant, modern, sleek and a cool place to bring friends and hang at the bar. The menu is impressive and pretty reasonable. An Alta Cocina chowdown is in order!

        The mall is really nice too - along the lines of Fontana's up north.

        1. s
          sdnativa RE: JeffSD Jan 14, 2008 10:44 AM

          Tried this place on Friday night - drove from Point Loma. Was extremely dissapointed at NO LIQUOR LICENCE. Otherwise, the food was good; service was frenetic. Our first waitress handed us our menus and asked if we wanted to order "drinks". That was when we found out there was no alcohol. Without hesitation, she asked us for our appetizer, then dinner orders. We had not opened our menus yet. We asked for a few minutes to look over the menu. Almost immediately, a different waitress appeared to take our order. Then a third waitress did the same. This all occured in the space of about 5 minutes. It was a very odd experience. No complaints about the food. We had enchilidas and tacos which were very good. The restaurant itself is beautiful. The only other caveat is be prepared for a "mall experience" if you go on a weekend. Loads of people and traffic. If you plan on drinking with your dinner, call ahead first about the liquor license situation.

          1. j
            JeffSD RE: JeffSD Jan 18, 2008 04:22 PM

            We went back to Frida a second time and had another excellent lunch. Very fresh ingredients and great sauces -- we ordered some appetizers and had the chilaquiles. Both times service was good and attentive, although again these visits were for lunch and the place was fairly empty. Since we didn't try to order any alcohol, I didn't know that the liquor license had yet to be granted, but now that I think about it there was no wine list presented with the menu. On our second visit the hostess said the liquor license will be active on Saturday, January 19. Frida has also just opened a tacqueria in Brentwood, so maybe they've been a bit overextended, Hopefully, questions of service and liquor will shake out with a little more time.

            1. Eat_Nopal RE: JeffSD Jan 30, 2008 06:04 AM

              Kare_Raisu & I went to Frida last night... beautiful place... certainly a different style than the Beverly Hills location. We sat down... they served us Chips & Salsa... I couldn't take it! We walked out.... what kind of Mexican place serves Chips & Salsa???

              2 Replies
              1. re: Eat_Nopal
                kare_raisu RE: Eat_Nopal Jan 30, 2008 06:26 AM

                I think I actually laughed.

                1. re: Eat_Nopal
                  DiningDiva RE: Eat_Nopal Jan 30, 2008 07:59 AM

                  A gingo Mexican place ;-)

                2. m
                  MasterofLightChick RE: JeffSD Feb 7, 2008 07:26 AM

                  Eat Nopal - you crack me up! I love getting served chips & salsa the second I sit down and get upset when they are brought out in the most expedient fashion possible. I guess it's all a matter of personal preference.

                  1. e
                    ECerda RE: JeffSD May 12, 2008 09:04 PM

                    We had dined at Frida on two other occassions in the last month and figured it would be a great place to take mom on Saturday for Mother's Day (Since Mexican people always celebrate Mother's Day on the 10th). The prior two occasions I had tried 2 separate dishes and welcomed the opportunity to share my taste with my family. I recommended a dish to mom and dad and my wife proceeded to order something new to try out.

                    The meal was described as a "filet mignon butterflied accompanied by customary sides including a mole enchilada". To our surprise the plate was brought out with "Skirt Steak". When I informed the waiter he said that he would get one of the lead persons. I spoke to the lead person and proceeded to point out the difference between skirt steak which was on my wife's plate and filet mignon which was on dad's plate. He said that he would get the manager. The manager proceeded to come to the table and ask if there was a problem, to which I replied there was no problem that we just wanted to get charged the apporpriate price for skirt steak (which a similar plate was available on the menu.) The manager assured me that there would be no problem to go ahead and enjoy our dinner.

                    We proceeded to finish our dinner and receive a bill that had the incorrect price based on the manager's concession. When I approached the manager regarding the bill error he proceeded to inform me that there was no error and that skirt steak and filet mignon are the same cut of beef just prepared different. I told him that skirt steak and filet mignon come from different parts of the cow. I told him that I wasn't trying to get something for free and that I was pleased with the meal that it just didn't seem fair paying filet mignon priced entree when skirt steak was offered and reminded him that he had already agreed to the price at our table.

                    The manager seemed disturbed by my questioning and didn't seem pleased with giving me a fair price. He finally made the adjustment but I don't think he ever understood why he made it. The manager has very poor negotiation skills and customer service skills, let alone any knowledge of beef cuts and food preparation.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: ECerda
                      Eat_Nopal RE: ECerda May 13, 2008 08:18 PM

                      Ah the dangers of branching out into multiple locations without good local partners!

                    2. e
                      epicureous eggplant RE: JeffSD Jul 1, 2008 01:58 PM

                      A night out the girls was spent at Frida's for dinner. We started with a cevich, the first on the menu. It was on the sweet side, but I developed a taste for it as I kept eating.
                      My girlfriend's ordered the tacos, and each one said that everything tasted very sweet. I had the mole poblano. The plate was very beautifully presented. The mole was dark and thick. The rice was watery yet the beans were very tasty and hearty. The little cheese gordita that comes with it was yummy too. A huge boneless piece of white meat chicken came with the dish, it was awfully dry, but the mole itself was good. I also tried the Chamoy martini out of curiosity. It's mixed with chamoy, cranberry juice, and vodka. The Tamarind martini at Romesco's still cannot be beat.

                      Still, Frida's is a beautiful place. I will go back to try more of the food.

                      1. c
                        cookieshoes RE: JeffSD Jul 24, 2008 12:30 PM

                        Went here over the weekend. Only had margaritas and some appetizers.

                        I appreciate that others have liked this place. But this place was expenssssssssive, but didn't have the quality to match. The building is nice, but it's still in a mall.

                        To start with, House margaritas were $10 each. We're talking no-name tequila and pre-made mix. And, they were extremely weak to boot. Mind you, this was at 3pm. So, no Happy Hour here.

                        And the rest of the menu follows. $17.95 for fajitas?! I asked if the taco plates came with rice and beans, and was told that they didn't. Just 3 small tacos. The least expensive of which was $10.95, on up to $15.95. For 3 tacos.

                        So, the lady got the Ensalada Mexicana ($10.95) and I had the Frida Platter ($14.95), which was 4 mini sopes (each about the size of a small cookie), a single mini potato taquito cut in half, a single mini chicken taquito cut in half, and four mini slices of a quesadilla (again, verrrrry small). All of the items on the platter were tasty, but the thing was gone in about 2 minutes because there was barely anything on the "platter" to begin with. As for the salad, the chicken had obviously been pre-grilled and left in a fridge for who knows how long earlier. So, it felt like eating leftovers. And the rest of the salad was a bland pile of baby spinach, with only a few tiny crumbs of the advertised mexican cheese and chile.

                        For the one round of drinks and two small-portioned apps, in the bar patio, the bill was $50.

                        Ouch.

                        Anyway, all of the dishes coming out of the kitchen looked fine. But, we won't be coming back. I don't mind spending $, and I don't mind spending it on mexican food. But this place goes over the limit. Especially considering that none of these dishes are unique. It would be one thing if this food was rare around here, but these are all dishes you can get better at any number of places locally, not to mention just 10 minutes south of the restaurant itself, over the border.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: cookieshoes
                          deckape RE: cookieshoes Jul 24, 2008 02:53 PM

                          I had a similarly disappointing experience at Frida a couple of weeks ago. Without going into details, the food was just weak, weak, weak, the atmosphere incredibly noisy (noisiest restaurant I've ever been in), and the service got more indifferent the longer we sat.

                          A real disappointment.

                          1. re: cookieshoes
                            kare_raisu RE: cookieshoes Jul 24, 2008 07:40 PM

                            Thanks for the report cs. I am sorry to hear that the experience was such a waste of $$$.

                            You are so right that you can go arcoss the border and get superior for much much less, see:
                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/536474
                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/539751
                            I havent been back since my single trip with eat_nopal months past - but the single dish I can vouch for is the Filet in Huitlacoche sauce. I think its the single thing that we ordered there that we liked.

                            Dont give up on Mexican fine dining because we do have Romescos nearby which is my favorite fine dining restaurant in SD.

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