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Javier Plascencia at El Take It Easy - March 5

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DiningDiva turned me on to the talents of Javier Plascencia with a wonderful post about Mision 19 quite some time ago, and I have been creepily following his exploits since then.

Well, thanks to Jay and gang, Javier will be popping up at El Take It Easy in a few weeks. I'll definitely be going... hope to see some CHers there as well!

Details (taken from El's website) below:
We’re pleased to present one of our region’s most renowned chefs, cooking a dinner at El Take It Easy on Monday, March 5th. Chef Javier Plascencia will cook a 5 course meal, in which each course is a version of a dish from one of his Tijuana-based restaurants, which include Misión 19, Erizo Baja Fish House, Casa Plascencia, Villa Saverio’s, and Caesar’s.

We will be accepting reservations from 5pm to 11pm — it’s rolling seating. The dinner will be $40 for 5 courses, with drink pairings for $30 extra. The regular beverage menu will also be available. Due to the special nature of this event, our regular menu will not be available on this nite (nor will our Manhattan Monday menu).

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  1. Yep, already made our rezzies. We have dined at the new Caesars' in Tijuana twice, and made it to Misión 19 last October. Hitting Erizo next week. This is well worth the price of admission! And no 90-minute pedestrian border wait, right Dining Diva? ;D

    1 Reply
    1. re: foodiechick

      $40 is well worth the price of admission and NO 90 minute wait for the pedestrian crossing. That was enough to push me to submit my application for a SENTRI pass :-D.

      But seriously, Erizo is seriously good seafood, I'm not sure I'd wait 90 minutes again, but I would definitely cross the border for it.

      P.S. My reservation is made too

    2. That sounds fab...went on the ETIE website and maybe I need more coffee but couldn't find the menu (love if it was fish based)...did find a every Wednesday, 3 course Veggie dinner for $20...awesome!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Beach Chick

        BC, I didn't see the menu either. I think the web site just said he'd be doing a dish from each of five of their restaurants. Erizo will be seafood because that's all they do :-). I'd bet that they'll do the Caesar Salad from the Hotel Caesar. The others? who knows.

        You could call El Take it EZ and ask if there will be a vegetarian, or non-red meat option, for the courses that are meat.

      2. Already booked at 7, so if you spot me you may throw food in my general dye-rection.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Fake Name

          Oh well...guess we'll go another time..
          ; )

        2. My party of 4 is very much looking forward to this evening. Not knowing what will be served is fine with me because I like surprises.

          On a related topic, Le Cirque recently announced they are doing a travelling Pop-Up dinner series in 10 cities, and San Diego is one of them. Will take place on May 11, at The University Club and is $150pp.

          http://www.clubcorp.com/About-ClubCor...

          4 Replies
          1. re: hungerpane

            $150 is REALLY steep for a 3 course meal even with wine pairing....

            1. re: karaethon

              You forgot the great book which is included in the price - but yes it is way overpriced

              1. re: honkman

                LOL...you beat me to it. I was going to mention the book. I'm guessing it must be a coffee table book worth worth about $50.

                1. re: hungerpane

                  No, it is a memoir available as paperback for $20-30.

          2. Eh, I wish I saw this post earlier. I'm on the waiting list unless I want to make reservations at 10:00 pm.

            For those of you who have been to Mision 19, do you remember the cost of the tasting menu or app/entrees? They don't have any prices listed on their website.

            11 Replies
            1. re: alcoholic29

              I've been twice and both times it's been quite reasonable.

              The first time there were 8 of us and between us we had:
              8 cocktails
              5 glasses of wine
              9 appetizers (one person had 2 apps and no entree)
              7 entrees
              4 or 5 desserts
              5 coffees
              The total bill for all of this, including tax and a very generous tip (probably 20% or more) was $60 per person. Portion sizes are not supersized, but neither are they precious and petite little morsels. We all left full and satisfied.

              The second meal there were only 3 of us. We had
              3 cocktails
              1 bottle of wine
              3 appetizers
              3 entrees
              I don't recall if we had dessert and coffee or not, I tend to think we didn't.
              The total cost on this meal was under $40 per person but a significant portion of that went towards the bottle of wine which was not an inexpensive bottle.

              For the quality of the food, ambience and level of service, this is one of the best values for the dollar around. I just wish the border wait wasn't so daunting, or I'd go more often.

              1. re: alcoholic29

                Mision 19 is very reasonable for the quality and creativity of their food. I think I paid something like $50 for 3 courses, incl tip. no ETOH. I was pretty blown away by how cheap it was.

                1. re: daantaat

                  ETOH? That's a new one for me. Please translate?

                  1. re: DiningDiva

                    No EtOH - no ethanol - drinks not included

                    1. re: honkman

                      Pfft.

                      I knew that.

                      1. re: honkman

                        Okay, I guess I'm officially old :-), I would never have guessed that in a million years

                        1. re: DiningDiva

                          it's not a "new" abbreviation, in other words, it existed before texting. but one that may not be familiar to those who aren't in the scientific/medical world all the time.

                  2. re: alcoholic29

                    My boyfriend and I endured the 8 course tasting this past weekend for a belated Valentine's day dinner. It cost $70/person, and with a couple rounds of cocktail and tip, the bill came out to about $200USD even.

                    1. re: mom jeans

                      "Endured" implies it wasn't pleasant - did you dislike the meal?

                      1. re: shouzen

                        Sorry, that word choice was probably a little too severe. In my head, it sounded more joking/slightly sarcastic :) The meal was among the best of my life, but I was definitely feeling stuffed near the end. Overall, the experience was amazing, one I wouldn't trade for anything, and all of the dishes were well executed and delicious. Next time, I'd just opt for a shorter tasting or just order from the menu.

                        1. re: mom jeans

                          MJ, that's one of the reasons I tend to order from the menu as opposed to doing tasting menus. Even with smaller portions on the tasting menus I tend to get too full before the last few courses

                  3. Gotta say- this was one of the best San Diego dining experiences I've had, and we'll will be headed South of the Border to Misión 19 very soon.

                    23 Replies
                    1. re: Fake Name

                      Awesome Fakey!
                      Tell me more...

                      1. re: Beach Chick

                        Some pics here: http://goo.gl/7kDfn
                        Apologies - it was SUPER dark in there.

                        Overall a very good meal given the price. I REALLY would like to see what he can do in his own environment, without the constraints of a pop-up format. Some misses (2 of the tostaditas), some eh (dessert), some hits (pork!)

                        1. re: shouzen

                          Wow shouzen....great pics and review!
                          Who all from CH attended?
                          I really look forward to going to Mision 19 soon.
                          Thanks again for a great report!

                          1. re: shouzen

                            Shouzen, great photos inspite of the darkness :-). I was on my way to your table to stop by and say "hi" and got side tracked. I'm sorry I missed you.

                            I actually liked the green ceviche mini-taco. Mine did not have textural issues, but my reservation was a couple hours before yours. Ceviche can definitely get tough if marinated too long.

                            The hit for me was the heirloom bean risotto. The beef and mushroom reduction was so rich and flavorful. The huitlacoche powder kind of got lost for me, but the dish was fantastic. I also liked the cochinita en caja china quite a lot as well, tho' I think I can make mole that is just as good or better :-/ I really did like Javier's version of mole because it's lighter than many of the more traditional ones.

                            Dessert was the weakest link for me, and that was the general consensus at my table. And it wasn't because the dessert was very tasty, it's just that everything before it was so much better by comparison.

                            Fo $40 it was a heck of a deal for what was served.

                            And, yes, having eaten at Mision 19 more than once, I would strongly encourage anyone to cross over and go try it. You will be safe, you will not be killed, you will not be robbed. The hardest part of dining in Tijuana is crossing back north.

                            1. re: DiningDiva

                              DD, I actually missed you! I think I was keeping an eye out for "the middle-aged table speaking Spanglish", but your group obviously looked younger than you are! So, when can I try your mole? :)

                              1. re: shouzen

                                I want to try the mole too :)

                                FN, I was looking around for you, but I didn't really see anyone around that matched your photo...

                                Shouzen, DD and I were talking and you guys did actually meet before at Snout to Tail....

                                1. re: karaethon

                                  Near the entry, high-top table, in the company of a local food writer who is not my wife. You may have been there at a different time, you'd have detected my aura.

                                2. re: shouzen

                                  We were the first 6-top on the right hand side along the north wall (next to the cesar salad station).

                                  We were actually seated across from Mr. FN

                                  I can put together a mole evening at my house sometime if there is enough interest

                                  1. re: DiningDiva

                                    Um, say what now? Count me in.

                                    1. re: shouzen

                                      I'd love to try it as well :)

                                    2. re: DiningDiva

                                      I'm in!

                                      1. re: DiningDiva

                                        We will definitely come

                                        1. re: DiningDiva

                                          Love love love me some Mole...you make that from scratch DD?
                                          Solid..

                                          1. re: Beach Chick

                                            Yes, I make several varieites of mole from scratch :-). It's actually pretty easy, just very, very time consuming.

                                            There are literally thousands of varieites of mole (and probably millions of recipes) from family specials toeveryday moles, to moles made in specific areas or communities to the iconis mole negro or Poblano. Mole is from the Nahautl mullí, which means mixture...as in guacamole. Moles can have a long laundry list of ingredients - often in small amts - and the hallmark of a good mole is that no single ingredient dominates the flavor profile and that they all blend together to create a sauce that is the sum total of everything in it, but a completely new flavor.

                                            In Mexico mole is about the sauce and you will get a plate full of sauce and a fairly small portion of protein or vegetable, the sauce is the star and the protein just a vehicle for getting it to your mouth. In the U.S. it's often just the opposite, a big ol' hunk of protein and only a little bit of sauce with the sauce often taking a backseat to the protein.

                                            Mole can be as rustic or sophisticated as the cook makes it. Mole Negro won Rick Bayless Top Chef Masters, and I'm pretty sure his version wasn't very rustic ;-). I've eaten wonderfully elegant mole negro in Oaxaca prepared by Zapotec cooks (most of the aromatics were buried in the hot earth around their outdoor horno (oven) to toast) that had more nuance and layers of flavor that it's sometimes difficult to reconcile the simple ingredients with the end result :-).

                                            1. re: DiningDiva

                                              I'd bring some chips.

                                              From El Indio, Josh's favorite.

                                              <ducking>

                                              1. re: Fake Name

                                                I can bring a 12'er of Bud Light, Old El Paso mild hot sauce, some Tostido's cheese sauce and some French Onion dip to go with those chips..
                                                ; )

                                                DD..for me, it's about the sauce...what's your fave mole to make?

                                                1. re: Beach Chick

                                                  The 3 I like to make most are Poblano, Xico and Manchamanteles. I also like making encacahuatado (say that fast 3 times) and verde.

                                                  I like making amarillo least. For mole negro you literally hae to burn the toasted chile seeds. This is a task best done outside due to the noxious fumes the chile seeds give off. For my money Chichilo is the most sophisticated of the moles, and one of the least known. It's signature ingredient is ash...not the worlds most common ingredient, we can't exactly toddle into Von's and find ash on the shelf ;-)

                                                2. re: Fake Name

                                                  I like the chips. Their one good thing. I don't think that's what the line is for, though.

                                                  :-)

                                      2. re: shouzen

                                        I think you nailed it. Those images are surprisingly good, given the conditions- well done!

                                        Couple of my own observations- first the wine pairings were great with this meal. Simple wines with fairly straightforward flavors, but unusual. Especially the Rosé served with the tostaditas who's name now escapes me.

                                        My favorite dish was the risotto- a play on "Mexican" rice and beans. But that's where the comparison ends. I'd travel to TJ just for that dish.

                                        If I had a least favorite, it's the dessert. But it's still one of the better and most clever desserts I've had, thoughfully paired with a thick porter-style beer (beer geeks- you may slay me for misdescribing the brew). The beverage arrived before the dessert making me wonder what could possibly justify this flavor at this stage of the meal.

                                        Other than that, just read Yao's comments.

                                        1. re: Fake Name

                                          Danke, FN. We ordered the txakolina rosé by the glass, and did find it quite unusual.

                                          Still thinking about the cardamom cotton candy... yummy. Personally, not a fan of big chocolate desserts though.

                                          1. re: Fake Name

                                            On the wine pairings, I didn't like any of the "odd course" pairings but loved all the "even course" ones. Maybe I just don't like *really* beer, but I didn't like that pairing at all with the chocolate.

                                            1. re: Fake Name

                                              Mision 19 has a risotto w/ beans and black truffle, so you're in luck!

                                              Interesting to note the several comments about dessert not being as good as everything else. That was my experience at Mision 19. Dessert was still tasty, but I liked the apps and entrees better.

                                            2. re: shouzen

                                              Your pics were a reminder of what a great time my party and I had last night, shouzen. Thanks for posting! Your review was equally entertaining and pretty spot on.

                                              I'm with the others who said the risotto was the highlite of the evening, although I don't think anything disappointed. The cardamon cotton candy was sure a nice touch.

                                              On our way out of the restaurant, the chef was standing near the door and I was able to shake his hand to thank him for the wonderful meal. And all of that for $40? If that wasn't the deal of the century!

                                        2. LOVED reading all of your comments and hearing your experience. Wish I could have been there, and will find a way to get to Mision 19. I was sold after the New Yorker profile, but your reviews are a big kick in the pants to go. thank you.

                                          12 Replies
                                          1. re: pickypicky

                                            Just go. It's worth it. I love the Mision 19 space, it's casual, airy and sophisticated without being stuffy.

                                            If you go, just make sure you have the address and phone number with you. Many taxi drivers don't know exactly where it is. They all eventually find it, but some have been known to call while driving for better directions :-)

                                            1. re: DiningDiva

                                              Thanks for the advice. I have a friend with a pass (sentinel?) so I may bribe him to drive us, if I buy dinner. OR negotiate the taxis for us, since he works in TJ. I loved the idea in the NYorker profile of Plascencia promoting TJ using the idea of -- food of place--, which I admire in principal and wish more chefs in SD would consider.

                                              1. re: pickypicky

                                                All the passengers in a vehicle in the Sentri lane must have individual Sentri cards. There's also a special pedestrian lane for Sentri cardholders, but if you don't personally have a Sentri card, you have to go to the back of the (very, very long) regular line. We found this out the hard way when we went to Casa Plascentia with a couple that had Sentri cards....

                                                1. re: mikec

                                                  Two words - Passport Card. If you qualify for a /RFID passport card. It costs about $30 U.S. and you can use the RFID lanes.

                                                  1. re: Gypsy Jan

                                                    But..can't they tear the thought from my head if I consent to such an invasion of my electromagnetic space? They could steal my aura!

                                                    1. re: Gypsy Jan

                                                      They were not honoring the RFID auto lanes a couple of weeks ago with the all of the construction of the northbound border lanes. It was a free for all. Not sure how long that little glitch will last.

                                                      DD, have you finished the SENTRI process yet? We met a couple from SD at Los Pelicanos that said it was a breeze.

                                                      1. re: foodiechick

                                                        My SENTRI application is still pending. It's been about 6 weeks and they say right on the web site that if you don't hear in 8 weeks to contact them. The process is not difficult. All my friends that have them said it was pretty easy. One also said that once I get an interview date to actually go down to the San Ysidro office in person and see tell them i'd like to get an earlier date because I'll be traveling and that they'll usually accommodate you. Since I'm going to Oaxaca in a few weeks I thought I'd try this tactic if I get the interview date before I leave.

                                                        The thing about SENTRI, RFID, GOES, etc is that everyone in the vehicle has to have one of the accpeted types of trusted traveler identifications. The SENTRI lane at Otay seems to usually be not too busy the last 3 times I've crossed there.

                                                        I think I read in the UT that the READY lane at San Ysidro was open again?

                                                        1. re: DiningDiva

                                                          Gosh, thanks for this tutorial on border crossing. I had no idea. So, we could cross by foot with our Sentri friend who knows his way round TJ, but on returning, he'd breeze through and leave us in a long line to come back? DD, do you need to provide a reason for a Sentri pass? Or can anyone do it? Or is it best to just bite the bullet (poor pun) for an occasional trip to TJ and endure lines. Does Mision 19 do lunch?

                                                          1. re: pickypicky

                                                            Many SENTRI drivers drop off their non-SENTRI passengers in the pedestrian line, which is usually fairly short at nite (after dinner hours). Then they meet on the other side.

                                                            1. re: pickypicky

                                                              Mision 19 does, indeed, do lunch, but I would recommend going for dinner and here's why. The lines coming back seem to be shorter in the late evening (aorund 10 pm +/-) than in the day. I've not had to wait more than about 5-10 minutes to cross (on foot) later in the evening on a Friday or Saturday. I crossed back on a Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago and waited 90 minutes.

                                                              SENTRI is part of the "trusted traveler" program, and it is one of several options. Here is the link for more information - http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/tru...

                                                              I haven't been through the interview portion yet so I don't know if they'll ask me about a reason for the pass, I'm assuming they would. But a cursory inspection of my passport record will show why :-). On the application, IIRC, they do not require a reason for the pass.

                                                              1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                thanks jay and diva. where else would I have gotten this info so clearly! at least now I feel I could attempt it.

                                                                1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                  and now more than ever I understand why TJ's economy has been crippled by forces beyond MX crime.

                                                2. I also attended, and here are my impressions. Since I'm not cool, I have to post all the text to comply with CH guidelines. The photos are ISO1600 due to the aforementioned horrible lighting, so a little grainy

                                                  Full review with photos: http://www.gastrobits.com/2012/03/jav...

                                                  Somehow after posting for over a year, I have yet to post about any Mexican food in San Diego. This grievous oversight is on the level of missing out on an entire Internet meme like Shit Girls Say. Fortunately with the help of a well-time popup dinner, I will be able to rectify my error.
                                                  In the continuing series of guest chef pop up dinners at El Take it Easy, Jay Porter (owner of The Linkery and El Take it Easy) invited renowned Mexican Chef Javier Plascencia to hold a popup. This popup, unlike the previous ones, was an all in gambit where the regular menu of El Take It Easy was left off in lieu of only serving the special menu. An alcohol pairing was offered for each course as well.
                                                  Chef Javier Plascencia hails from a family of cooks, chefs, and restauranteurs. He trained in several San Diego restaurants before traveling the world and developing his own style of "Baja Mediterranean" cuisine, which uses the freshest farm to table ingredients to highlight Mexican flavors. Chef Plascencia has recently gained much renown for opening his flagship restaurant Mission 19 in Tijuana and being featured in Street Gourmet LA. After a visit from local foodie DiningDiva, Chef Plascencia was also featured in articles by the New York Times and New Yorker; the latter of which was well-timed to allow Chef Plascencia to be the only non-American Chef to be invited to Chefdance 2012.
                                                  The popup dinner was a five course affair, featuring one dish from each of Chef Plascencia's restaurants: Mission 19, Caesar's, Villa Saverio's, Erizo Baja Fish House, and Casa Plascencia.

                                                  Amuse:
                                                  amuse - sea scallop, beef tendon, salted nopales
                                                  alcohol - tequila, lemon juice, fresh agave, tobasco
                                                  The amuse was an interesting bite featuring the similar textures of sea scallop and beef tendon, but different flavors. The inclusion of the green onion packed a contrast in flavor while the nopales added some textural contrast.
                                                  The alcohol pairing was a little strong as the bold masculine flavors of the cocktail wiped out the delicate feminine flavors amuse. However, the acidity present in the cocktail was what exactly needed to open the appetite for the rest of the meal.

                                                  First Course:
                                                  tostada trio - (left to right) green shrimp ceviche, ahi with short rib chicharron, sea urchin
                                                  alcohol - txakolina rose '10, pais vasco, spain
                                                  I'm not sure if this was Chef Plascencia's intention, but I felt the trio represented a past, present, and future look at Mexican seafood tostadas

                                                  The shrimp ceviche tostada was a good starter as it represented what a traditional ceviche might taste like. This preparation stuck with traditional flavors, preparations, and didn't really show more than any classic ceviche.
                                                  My favorite of the tostadas was the ahi with short rib chicharron, which seemed to represent the present. The ahi was well marinated and full of flavor while the short rib chicharron provided a stark savory contrast as well as textural counterpoint. The dish was highlighted by the spice which started off dull, but ended the tostada with a long finish on the palate. This dish used techniques that I felt largely represented what many Mexicans see today in food.
                                                  I felt the sea urchin represented more of the future look on Mexican food. While a flan is Mexican and produced today, I felt the overall presentation, flavors, and mixing of a sweet element into a savory course showed more of a Modern Technique approach to food versus the traditional preparations. The flan was a success as the sea urchin flavor integrated into the flan and carried out the flavor of the uni longer on the palate as a long finish.
                                                  The rose was a nice sipper on its own and ended up pairing well with the flan as the sweetness of the two elements married well. However, the alcohol did little in pairing with the first two tostadas for me.

                                                  Second Course:
                                                  authentic tijuana caesar salad
                                                  alcohol: kuentz-bas alsace blanc '09, alscace, france
                                                  I appreciated the traditional preparation of Caesar salad with the whole romaine leaves. I really enjoyed the crouton as well as the garlic in the crouton accentuated the dressing of the salad.
                                                  The real hit for me was the pairing of the alcohol. The alsace blanc was the perfect complement for the cheese in the salad and really brought up the enjoyment of the dish for me. The pairing was a perfect example of how a good alcohol pairing can really improve the enjoyment of food.

                                                  Third Course:
                                                  heirloom bean risotto - wild mushrooms, black truffle, huitlacoche powder, epazote air
                                                  alcohol: chateau thivin gamay '10, cote de brouilly, france
                                                  The risotto was a home run. While the risotto itself was a very well-prepared truffle risotto, it was also a bold play of Mexican beans and rice - the staple of any Mexican meal. To elevate that preparation so high showed great finesse and technical prowess. If there was a minor criticism on the dish, it is that the huitlacoche powder was lost a little in the other flavors.
                                                  While I enjoyed the gamay on its own, I found that it didn't pair well at all with the risotto. When I drank the gamay after the risotto, I found it acted more as a palate cleanser rather than complementing the risotto. This was a travesty considering the flavor it was wiping off was black truffle.

                                                  Fourth Course:
                                                  berkshire pork en caja china - mole de fiestas, root vegetables, chochoyones
                                                  alcohol: santa ursula cabernet sauvignon '08, baja california, mexico
                                                  This was my favorite course of the night. The root vegetables included peas, parsnip, guava, beats, fennel, carrot, radish, and a plantain chip. This dish was all about the mole; the spicy sweet complex flavor coated every element of the dish and elevated it. Mole with sweet, mole with bitter, mole with savory, mole with everything was a celebration of the mole and the flavor explosion in my mouth. Perhaps the crowning portion of the mole was the chiccharone in mole as the salty savory crunch held up and was really enhanced by the mole. When I finished this dish, I wanted to pick up the plate and lick it clean.
                                                  The cabernet was an equal surprise to the dish; it packed a serious punch and made me feel like I had been slapped when I took the first sip. Further, the cabernet featured a long finish, which is rare for such a young wine.

                                                  Fifth Course:
                                                  mexican chocolate - coffee, cardamon cotton candy, mezcal compressed strawberries
                                                  alcohol: ballast point black marlin porter, san diego, usa
                                                  While I've heard some others be less than happy with the dessert, I thought found it satisfying. I wasn't looking for anything overly sweet, and the coffee flavors helped to dampen the sweetness of the chocolate. Additionally, the chocolate reinforced the base flavor of the mole for me, which evoked my favorite portion of the meal.
                                                  I have yet to understand beer pairings with dessert - let's leave it at that.

                                                  Conclusion:
                                                  Overall I was extremely happy and satisfied with the meal. At the price point given, the meal was a great peak at the flavors and technique of Chef Plascencia. This meal taught me two things; one, I need to get down to Mission 19 for Chef Plascencia's full experience and two, I really need to cover more Mexican food as it is so ubiquitous in the area.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: karaethon

                                                    Excellent report K...photos were great too..
                                                    That risotto looks fantastic.

                                                    1. re: karaethon

                                                      Nice review.

                                                      1. re: karaethon

                                                        Beautiful report. Thank you!

                                                      2. Here's another blog post about this event. The pictures are exceptionally good, plus if you scroll down to the end, there are some photos of the caja china.

                                                        http://www.lifeandfoodblog.com/?p=2461