The Best of Puerto Vallarta Cuisine now being served in La Jolla
August 13, 2010
Mexican food with a distinctive twist!
By Jessica Goodwin
While there isn’t a shortage of tasty, traditional Mexican food in San Diego, too many restaurants redundantly offer the same predictable plates of carne asada tacos and cheese enchiladas. A new restaurant in La Jolla breaks that redundancy and creates unique, coastal Mexican dishes with a twist of the unexpected. Tikul, which opened its doors on July 1, is located on Prospect Street in La Jolla, and is the creation of Alberto and Renee Perez who own three successful restaurants in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. La Palapa, the name of one of the restaurants in Puerto Vallarta, has been in the Perez family since 1959 and under Alberto’s operation since 1986.
Each of Perez’s restaurants is located in three different marina, beach and mountain zones of Puerto Vallarta, giving each one a distinguishing atmosphere and concept. Tikul is a culmination of Perez’s favorite recipes from those three restaurants that come together to form the authentic menu for people to enjoy in La Jolla. In other words, Perez has brought “la crem de la crem” to San Diego.
“What sets us apart is that we’re not traditional Mexican food and we’re willing to take a risk,” said Alberto Perez. “We believe it’s good and you’re going to experience something different.”
The items on the menu maintain some traditional Mexican aspects but with certain unexpected twists. For example, the salmon con birria y poblano plate, takes two traditional Mexican ingredients, but combines them to make a delicious and unique tasting entrée.
“We put the meat on the salmon, which is a surprising place to see Birria,” said Alberto Perez.
Another plate that epitomizes traditional cuisine with a modern twist is the three, irresistible fresh corn sopes de camaron appetizer, which is served with watercress, pickled onions and chile cascabel sauce. It is a plate that transforms a simple Mexican classic into a delicate, gourmet delight.
Not only is Perez mixing and matching to make unexpected culinary combinations, but he has also included several dishes with international flavor. Each year, Perez is invited to participate in the Festival Gourmet de Puerto Vallarta where chefs from all over the world come to show off their skills in the kitchen. Traces of flavors from Bali, Maui, Dubai and even Bulgaria can be seen on the menu at Tikul such as in the macadamia encrusted Chilean sea bass with cilantro and potato puree.
Adding to the individuality of Tikul is the offering of live Latin music every night. In fact, diners will often times find themselves being serenaded by Alberto Perez himself, accompanied by other musicians. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, Latin music with drums is offered creating a livelier, upbeat atmosphere that might even bring some diners to their feet. Renee said she wants to start offering a Salsa dancing night on Thursdays.
On top of the food being tasty and unique, dining in the relaxing ambiance of Tikul is the other half of the experience. Hand-made lamps from Tlaquepaque decorate the ceiling and create a dim, romantic mood in the dining room. David Villaseñor oil paintings of coconut trees adorn the walls and bring a little bit of tropical Puerto Vallarta to Tikul.
With the help of their crew from back home, the Perez family has managed to set up shop in three short months. Perez said it has been a challenge coming to the United States, but that technology has been very helpful throughout the process. At first, for example, the profiteroles, a type of pastry used for a delicious desert served with chocolate sauce, weren’t turning out right, so Perez called his pastry chef in Puerto Vallarta to help him solve the mystery. Through several phone calls of trial and error in the kitchen, Perez and his chefs were able to get them just right.
As for Perez’s bottom line? He’s trying to serve up dishes that people will enjoy so much that they won’t forget them.
“We’re trying to bring a memorable evening to the people with the food,” said Perez. “We want people to really enjoy their evening here and remember what they ate.”