You bet tacos, tamales and enchiladas are available at La Cava Fine Mexican Cuisine, but these are upscale versions - as are most of the dishes associated with south-of-the border cuisine. This is what puts La Cava in a league of its own. You pay for the privilege, but it's worth every bite.
As soon as we were seated, our server asked if we wanted warm chips and salsa. He was quick to mention the $3 charge. He then recommended the house margaritas ($10). We said yes to both.
The margaritas are made with fresh lime, triple sec and simple syrup. It's rare to find a house drink made with quality liquor, but that's the norm at La Cava.
The chips are from house-made corn tortillas, and were served with a smoky salsa that was not at all spicy. In fact, we were told not to expect much (spice) heat in any of the dishes. The emphasis was on the flavor on the ingredients rather than generating a response to too much fieriness.
We started with tostadas de ceviche ($10). Finely diced white fish, with onion, tomato, cilantro and lime piled high on a crunchy corn tortilla. The plate was drizzled with a "burn sauce," an intentional preparation that imparts a strong, bitter but pleasing flavor.
Several entrees caught my eye and I know I will return to sample them in due time - if they are still available. We were told the menu changes frequently. For example, the online menu indicates that Mole Poblano is one of the entrees. Yet, it was nowhere to be seen on the menus in hand. Still, I was intrigued by the Chili en Nogada ($27), which is a poblano chili stuffed with pork, beef and dried fruit. You don't find this very often en los estados unidos.
Neither are the Vaca Bichi ($19) nor the Chuleta Michoacan ($29) standard fare. The former is beef that's braised for hours with herbs and spices, tomatoes and onions. It's then shredded and served without any of the liquid. It contains a slightly acidic element that enhances the seasonings. Several corn tortillas and a small serving of beans accompany the entrée.
The chuleta (pork chop) is cooked in a three-stage process, which requires about a 25-minute wait time. First the chop is seared, then grilled and finished in the oven. It features that aforementioned "burn sauce." Nonetheless, the chop is caramelized; it's tender and juicy despite its massive size. The dish includes beans, a roasted green chili stuffed with cheese and potatoes, reminiscent of home fries, and bits of chorizo. Instead of a plate, the meal is impressively served on a slab of hardwood.
The lunch menu, which I didn't sample, features fish tacos ($14) and several tamale varieties including mushroom with cheese and spinach with cheese ($10). The item that jumps off the page for those unfamiliar with Sonoran food is the hot dog ($12). It's topped with bacon, beans, lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, chorizo, mayo and mustard. Not exactly what you might eat at a ballgame.
Faux stone walls, thick overhead beams and subdued lighting create a relaxed ambiance. The restaurant sits far from the street. La Cava was busy the night of our visit, but there was no sense of frenzy, although we did have to wait for the margaritas to arrive.