The Cantina a family-friendly Mexican dining experience |

The Cantina a family-friendly Mexican dining experience

Tahoe Daily Tribune Staff Reports

The Cantina, located on Emerald Bay Road, serves fantastic Mexican cuisine in a casual, friendly setting. The interior is painted in soft hues with murals of fuschia-colored bougainvilleas. The sky-blue ceiling with cumulus clouds gives the diner the impression of al fresco dining at an authentic Mexican cantina.

Our party of eight converged on the Cantina one Saturday, and seating us immediately was not a problem for the accommodating staff. Our server, Kelly, was gracious as she explained the specials. Ahi fajitas was the special most of the adults chose, while the kids ordered the combination platters of beef or chicken tacos, burritos, tamales, and enchiladas. All combo plates are served with rice and beans. Warm tortillas chips and salsa graced both ends of our table and were refilled by the attentive staff.

The Ahi fajitas were sautéed with onions and red and green peppers, and served with cilantro, onions, cheddar cheese, guacamole, and sour cream, with corn or flour tortillas. They were the hit of the evening! Before Kelly explained the specials, three of the four adults were thinking fish tacos, another house favorite. The Ahi was cooked to perfection, was extremely eye-appealing when served and – we all agreed – delicious. The fish tacos are prepared with grilled mahi-mahi in flour tortillas with a lime-cilantro mayonnaise, sided with shredded cabbage, onions, guacamole, and rice and beans.

The Cantina offers a wide range of beers on draught, specialty margaritas and summer drinks. The kids devoured the Woodies and smoothies, a house-blended fruit drink.

One thing for sure is you will not leave the Cantina hungry! They serve an amazing amount of food, and if you have room for dessert, be careful. The desserts are huge! The chocolate brownie sundae could feed at least two adults. It is served with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. The fresh lime pie and the apple burrito head the list of wonderful dessert options. The apple burrito is a flour burrito with apples and brown sugar, fried golden brown, then sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, and served with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.

When you are looking for a casual restaurant that caters to family reunions or birthday parties, that is kid-friendly and moderately priced, the Cantina offers this and great Mexican food. Voted “Best Mexican Restaurant” for the last seven years by South Shore Locals.

Cantina Bar and Grill, 765 Emerald Bay Rd., South Lake Tahoe, 530-544-1233

Fish tacos

Chef John Ash, culinary director of Fetzer Vineyards at Valley Oaks, offers this fish taco recipe from his wine country cookbook, “From The Earth To The Table.”

1Ú3 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon ancho chile powder

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 four-ounce fillets of halibut, sea bass, cod, or (like the Cantina) mahi-mahi

4 grilled 10-inch flour or corn tortillas

Cabbage slaw (recipe follows)

Citrus salsa (recipe follows)

Cilantro aioli (recipe follows)

This meal serves four.

Prepare a charcoal fire or preheat a stovetop grill. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, chile powder, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Brush liberally on the fillets. Grill the fish until it is just done. To serve, place a warm, grilled tortilla on each plate. Top with one-quarter of the cabbage slaw, a portion of the grilled fish, a heaping tablespoon or two of the citrus salsa, and a spoonful of the cilantro aioli. Fold and eat.

Cabbage Slaw:

2 cups finely shredded green cabbage

1Ú2 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper

1Ú3 cup thinly sliced red onion

1Ú4 cup finely sliced basil or mint leaves

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons corn or other light oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients but salt and pepper in a bowl. Gently toss and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Citrus Salsa:

2 oranges peeled and segmented, membrane removed

1 blood orange peeled and segmented, membrane removed

1 lemon, peeled and segmented, membrane removed

1 lime, peeled and segmented, membrane removed

1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon seeded and minced serrano chile

2 teaspoons seasoned rice wine or vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the citrus segments in a bowl. Add all the other ingredients and gently toss, season with salt and pepper.

Cilantro Aioli:

1 teaspoon of drained capers

1Ú3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 teaspoons minced garlic

4 tablespoons minced scallions, green part only

1 teaspoon of seeded and minced serrano chile

1 egg

1Ú2 cup olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a blender, combine all the ingredients except the oil and salt and pepper. With motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil and salt and pepper until the aioli is emulsified. Scoop the aioli into a bowl and season with salt and pepper.

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