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  • Writer's pictureA.H. Plotts

Mexican Food with French Flair: Tortilla Flats

It is rare that I wander far from the Monterey coast for a meal. Soquel is at least a 30-minute drive when the traffic is good! For this little gem of a restaurant, I was willing to make the trip.

At Tortilla Flats, in Soquel Village, the ambience of the place is highly festive. When I first arrived, I felt as if I had stumbled into a tiny bodega somewhere in Mexico City. The noise level can be loud when the place is full but that just adds to the jovial atmosphere. One wall holds a fabulous collection of what looks like Tlaquepaque, a type of red clay pottery from Mexico. Colorful banners and artwork decorate the rest of the walls.

But what about the food? It did not disappoint!

We tried a number of appetizers to start, including calamari (squid) rings, poblano relleno, guacamole and chips, coconut prawns and jalapeño poppers. The fried foods were lightly battered and served hot. The poppers and relleno were filled with a delicious combination of cheese and spices that perfectly complimented the chiles and salsa. The star for me was the guacamole!

The big mistake I think many restaurants make is that they tart up their guacamole recipes by adding chiles and onion and tomato and even mayo or sour cream. Tortilla Flats’ guacamole was more like what I crave. Avocado, a little chopped tomato, and salt to taste. That seemed to be it. These simple flavors meld so well together. I tasted avocado the most, which is the way I want my guacamole to taste.

I was pleasantly surprised to see a straightforward list of margaritas on the drink menu. There were only a few modifications, such as mescal instead of the traditional tequila, and mango as a flavor choice. I stuck with the traditional, basic margarita and it was anything but basic. It was a perfect blend of ice, margarita mix, and tequila. Not too heavy and not too light on the alcohol, either, which is exactly what I wanted.

Now for the entrees!

What I especially liked about the menu options were the variations on the enchilada! So often I have been to a Mexican restaurant that might serve one or two different types of enchiladas. Usually with a red or a green sauce. Sometimes you might get lucky and find a mediocre cheese sauce on the menu. What I found at Tortilla Flats is one of my favorite options of all: mole (mo’- lay). Now that I've found mole in Soquel, on an enchilada, I have my own little piece of heaven on the central coast!

I really liked that I could mix and match the sauces and the enchiladas. I had one enchilada with green salsa and one with mole. I ordered both enchiladas filled with chicken but there are many meat and non-meat options on the menu. I was a little concerned that mixing different sauces might mean the salsas would end up melding with each other and I’d be unable to differentiate between my two choices. That was not a problem. The different enchiladas were distinguishable, each served with its own sauce. The chicken inside the enchilada was delicious! Tender and juicy, similar to pollo asado that had been flavored with the salsa of choice, which is the way I like my enchilada filling. This chicken was cooked perfectly and melded beautifully with each flavor combination. My only complaint, and it is infeed a small one, is that I would have loved more mole and green salsa added to each enchilada! Pour it on!

Finally, there was dessert. Traditional flan, churros and Mexican hot chocolate were on the menu, along with a daily dessert special. I was tempted to try all three of the traditional choices but stuck to my favorite Mexican snacks, the churros. These churros were served with dulce de leche (a rich milk caramel sauce). I also ordered Mexican hot chocolate for dipping. The churros were substantial, freshly fried and perfectly dusted with cinnamon and sugar. They were delicious on their own. Yet, dipped into the Mexican hot chocolate they were even more of a treat. The chocolate was served hot with a high crown of whipped cream. The milk-to-chocolate ratio was just right, allowing for the melding of the cocoa and spices with the creaminess of the dairy in such a way that you could taste the spices and chocolate! I cannot tell you how many times I have had hot chocolate in a Mexican restaurant and was highly disappointed. This version was delicious!

So, there you have it. A delicious and well-rounded meal that more than satisfied my taste buds. There is a subtle, French influence on these dishes that enhances ther than takes anything away from the Mexican roots of the recipes. I found this combination muy sabroso (very tasty).

Tortilla Flats, 4616 Soquel Drive in Soquel Village, CA 95073, (831) 476-1754.

Order online from their website.

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