Mexican Flavors / A Mexican vacation on a plate
The mole has more than thirty ingredients
Photos by Stephen Gabris
128 Genesee Street
331-3869 or casaazulbuffalo.com
When it comes to contemporary Mexican food, Casa Azul is leading the way, starting with its name, borrowed from the Frida Khalo museum in Mexico. Thanks to the experience of chefs Victor Parra Gonzales and Zina Lapi, Casa Azul’s menu is exciting and admirable. Their commitment to their ingredients and seasonality makes every visit to the Genesee Street eatery a fun and delicious experience. With nods to regional traditions like the Oaxaca-style quesadilla and the traditional mole, Casa Azul’s flavors are bright, bold, and interesting. Gonzales and Lapi manage to please the traditionalist palate while showing us new and creative dishes and ingredients.
Chef Zina Lapi; mole
If you have the good fortune of grabbing a seat by the kitchen, you can see the team making masa and preparing tortillas, sometimes to order, or wrapping tamales in the traditional corn husks. They have introduced pescado mixiote (or mextlalpique, depending on where you are) to their menu: an achiote-paste-marinated fish wrapped in a banana leaf with tomato, habanero, onion, cilantro, and grilled over charcoal so that it steams itself while being infused with a pleasant charred flavor. Garnished with cilantro, scallion, and fresh lime to brighten it up, it’s like a Mexican vacation on a plate–pure joy.
Quesadilla; achiote-paste-marinated fish
As the chefs explain: “Casa Azul is about respecting tradition and values, combined with creativity and innovation. Every spirit, cocktail, or dish has a clear glimpse of the past, present, and sometimes future. We want each component to be reminiscent and new to both the eye and palate. Daring and exciting, yet welcoming and familiar with something for everyone to enjoy.”
When visiting the downtown Buffalo restaurant be sure not to miss:
Tongue taco: braised & seared beef tongue, pickled mustard seed, aguacate salsa, beet-marinated onions, house made masa tortilla.
Enchiladas: this dish is all about the mole (probably the most recognizable/iconic sauce in Mexican cooking). Casa Azul serves them with a mole rojo, which is chili- and chocolate-based and contains over thirty ingredients.
Tamales: not a dull tamale here! The fillings are changed often and showcase different techniques, from the traditional corn husks to banana leaf wrapping (a nod to the Guerrero and Oaxaca region, these contain more fat) and the dessert tamales.
Elote: corn ear charcoal grilled, tossed in a mescal, jalapeño, lime aioli. Dressed in queso fresco, cilantro, and sal de gusano (slightly smoky, savory salt, made from worms). A play on mezcal margarita flavors.
Pescado mixiote: fish marinated with achiote paste, wrapped in a banana leaf, then grilled/steamed.