By BRITTANY SEEMUTH
Shredded beef slowly roasted in Coke, Modelo beer and orange soda. It’s topped with cilantro and onion, then wrapped in a corn tortilla. If your mouth is not already salivating, I’m sure your interest has been peaked – and with good reason. Bring an appetite ready for “south of the border” comfort food at affordable prices to the new BelAir Cantina, which opened in downtown Wauwatosa this past summer. BelAir Cantina aims not to deliver an authentic experience, but rather, to deliver quality food with an edge.
As I walked into the spacious, open restaurant, I noticed a lack of the stereotypical decorations and atmosphere for a Latin American-style restaurant. Personally, it didn’t matter one bit.
One interesting detail I did note in its decor was a garage door on the south wall which opened onto an outdoor patio. This eye catching feature was closed today to my dismay due to Wisconsin’s frigid November weather.
The Cantina offers a popular $2 “Taco Tuesday” deal.
My guest and I were seated in a booth with a view of a ruby red surfboard mounted overhead and got straight down to taco business.
Our server came immediately to the table with a complimentary triad of salsa and warm tortilla chips. I am not ashamed to admit, we finished every chip and drop of salsa. We proceeded to order the shrimp ceviche as an appetizer.
Made with chilled shrimp, fresh lime juice, tomatoes, radish, onions and cilantro, the ceviche was similar to the taste of pico de gallo, authentic Mexican salsa, because it is a fresh dip composed mostly of tomatoes. Though, I found the dish bland. An added spicy kick to the dish would have really knocked the flavor up a few notches.
I was eager to order some tacos because I had heard some recent reviews of these flavor-packed entrees.
The meals come with rice and beans when one orders three tacos, so I ordered a taco called the ninja pig. You read it right, I ordered the ninja pig taco, and yes, I ordered it for the name alone.
The ninja pig taco is made with crispy pork, topped with a hoisin glaze and cucumber and jicama slaw. Hoisin is a Chinese dipping sauce that has a similar taste to barbecue sauce, while jicama is a Mexican vine that has a sweet flavor, like an apple.
Unfortunately, it was my least favorite of the three. For one, the pork was hard and difficult to chew. On the other hand, the flavor was surprisingly sweet, with a fresh, fruity flavor.
Next, I tried the chipotle mahi mahi. Compared to ninja taco, the mahi mahi was cooked to perfection. The fish was covered in a chipotle cream sauce and corn salsa. The taco had a savory balance of spices which combined pleasantly with the fresh taste of the fish.
As for the barbacoa, the juicy shredded beef cooked in Coke, Modelo and orange soda described earlier, it left me wanting more. The soda enhanced the meaty flavor. This made it the best of the three and a must order on my list.
When contemplating dessert, think about ordering the flan. It’s described by the servers as the creme brulee of Mexico. I was impressed. The flan has a gelatin-like texture and tastes like sweet caramel. Add a dollop of whipped cream for an extra treat.
Four out of five spoons is awarded to the BelAir Cantina due to the fast service and delicious entree selections. Stop in when you’re near Wauwatosa (especially on Taco Tuesday!). Be sure to order the barbacoa and flan. Take full advantage of the complimentary chips and salsa. Afterward, smile at your small bill.
Is Tosa out of your way? BelAir Cantina has a second location open on the east side of Milwaukee too, at 1935 N Water St Milwaukee, WI 53202