Nouveau Mexican Cuisine
4750 Grand Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55409
Phone: (612) 825-4142
Its tucked in near the south end of Grand – the Minneapolis Grand Avenue – not the more storied St. Paul Grand – among shops owned by aging hippies who, when the tie-dye shirt and hand carved hash pipe markets tanked, moved on to other things - ethical shopping experiences, glassware, bronze statuary, art glass candles, handcrafted soaps, custom picture frames, reupholstering, moongate garden design, etc. It’s on 48th and Grand right next to A Little Bird, a purveyor of scented candles and fragrances for sensitive souls. The building sits back from the street. A garden and small tree in front of La Fresca partially obscure the outdoor seating and what you can see of it from the road blends into the chairs and benches in front of A Little Bird. We drove by it twice.
It is owned by Hector Ruiz, the South Minneapolis food entrepreneur who brought us Café Ena (2 blocks north) and Rincon 38 (10 blocks north) also on Grand. Café Ena blends Latin American cuisine with French presentation while Rincon 38 is our local neighborhood Tapas bar. La Fresca promises Nouveau Mexican cuisine. Entering La Fresca from Tangletown is a lot like crossing the border from Laredo Texas to Neuvo Laredo Tamaulipas – you step from Lutheran bland into walls colored with pastel and primary colored geometric shapes, abstract vegetable paintings and little Día de los Muertos (day of the dead) figurines – papier-mâché Satans and various skeletal figures playing musical instruments grace the walls.
The house, including the handful of tables and chairs outside, seats about 50. The crowd is neighborhood – a few sensitive scented candle types, families, and assorted fans of Hector Ruiz and his restaurants. People are dressed South Minneapolis casual. Tonight our waiter is Ernesto. He’s good. He knows the food and he shows up at just the right time.
The menu is divided into Primeros, Segundos And Terceros (appetizers, soups and salads, and entrees) obviously suggesting that each of you order one thing from each category . Don’t. Nancy and I are big people with big appetites and we usually get by quite well by ordering one thing from each category and sharing them. Tonight we start with Flautas De Hongos – mushroom flautas presented like egg rolls. They are deep fried with a crispy crusty roll-up filled with a wild mushroom ragout, pepper jack cheese, Oaxaca cheese, red onion and topped with a tomatillo-avacado salsa. There are 9 other things on the Primeros menu all in the $9 to $13 range and a couple could get by quite well sharing 2 – 4 of these.
We moved on the Segundos – there are three of them on the menu tonight at $10 each. The last time we were here we ordered Frida which is red wine braised pears, oranges, baby spinach, toasted almonds, fennel, and apple with a honey-chipotle red wine reduction. Tonight Nancy orders the Betabel salad from the selection of Segundos. It comes looking like artwork with slices of roasted beets, cubes of honey roasted butternut squash, candied almonds and bits of goat cheese crumbs sprinkled over a mix of fresh lettuce leaves. This wonderful medley of flavors clears the palate of the Primeros and sets the stage for the next course.
The seven Terceros range from $23 to $25. There is one meat dish and the rest are seafood. Tonight Nancy orders Yucataca – Chilean Sea Bass with a Mayan sauce over zucchini, squash, chard corn, leeks, rabano (radishes) and pickled red onions. It is a very flavorful and refreshing dish. I get the Mariscada – red snapper, scallops, calamari, shrimp, cilantro brown rice, braised fingerling potatoes, fennel stems in a shellfish pepper broth covered with a sprinkling of blue corn chips. The pepper broth is spicy but not too hot and not so heavily spiced as to overwhelm the flavors of the sea food.
To finish, Nancy ordered an Espresso Crème Brulee with espresso custard, cinnamon sugar and mascarpone crema. I liked it. Nancy didn’t. I ordered a tres leches cake with rompope sauce and fresas con crema. We both liked it.La Fresca does not have a liquor license but they have eight bottled beers – one alcohol free – and two ciders. The bottled beers include four from Mexico and three craft beers. The prices average $6 per bottle. They have a decent wine list with glasses ranging from $6 to $8. Nancy had the sangria and loved it. Review 6-27-14