Saturday, February 5, 2011

La Fogata Grill -- Corpus Christi, TX

This one is quickly becoming a favorite for us. La Fogata Grill (no relation to La Fogata in San Antonio, which is also a wonderful restaurant), has only been opened a few months. It is located at 6646 S. Staples, formerly The Sultan, and serves upscale Mexican Cuisine. This was our third visit to La Fogata Grill, and I can honestly say that we have not had one bad meal there.

The atmosphere is relaxed and casual, yet refined. The waitstaff is friendly and accommodating. Ariana was our waitperson. She has been there since the beginning of The Sultan's days. She has a good knowledge of the food and she's willing to make suggestions to those of us who have difficulty making up our minds. She started us off with the traditional chips and salsa, but the salsa at La Fogata Grill is not what you'll get in the typical Mexican restaurant. This salsa is dark and smoky made from roasted tomatoes and peppers. It has a bite, but not so much that you can't load up those wonderfully light tortilla chips and enjoy its rich flavor.

This night, I was determined to have something new. I have never eaten duck, and decided it was time I did because the Duck Enchilada just sounded so darned good! Rob went with the Spicy Shrimp Diablo. Now, let me just say that Chef Phillips knows what she's doing! First we'll discuss the Duck Enchilada. The menu description: Slow roasted duck confit in chile ancho sauce, stacked between corn tortillas and topped with Queso Fresco, Queso Blanco, tomatillo sauce and jicama slaw. This little stack of awesomeness is served in a moat of slightly tangy blackbeans. Now, the tangyness of the beans may be contributed to the tomatillo sauce running into them and infusing them with new flavors. The duck is shredded and so abundant that I had trouble finding the tortillas. I did find, though, that I like duck; at least in this application. The flavor of the duck was more delicate than I had expected for a dark meat fowl, but the sauces did not overpower. They were applied lightly, not too spicy and did their job of enhancing the flavor of the duck quite well, as did the cheeses. Muy bueno!

Rob's Spicy Shrimp Diablo features chipotle and orange marinated shrimp, sauteed with peppers, garlic, tomatoes and green onions served over rice. According to Rob (no, I didn't eat his shrimp, but I did take a bite of the rice), the shrimp was perfectly cooked and lightly spicy (translation for the average person: moderately spicy) and the lightly sauteed vegetables still had a crispyness to them, just like he likes. The whole mixture was is served atop a bed of rice that clings to the flavors that have been infused into the oil during sauteing. He's had this dish before and said that this time there was a bit more oil in the bottom of the dish than last time, but it was still very good. He says that he wouldn't consider it their best dish, but he did enjoy it.

Ariana suggested the Capirotada for dessert. We asked about other desserts on the menu, but the others are not produced in house, so we took her suggestion. The Capirotada is a wonderful bread pudding with cranberries and apple in a sweet brandy sauce that is served on a fajita skillet sizzling as the brandy sauce and sugar combine and caramelize on the hot iron. Not only is it a spectacularly simple presentation, but the dish itself is melt in you mouth delicious! Just a hint of cinnamon combines with the bits of cranberry and apple to send your taste buds straight into ecstasy! Even Rob, who dislikes -- no hates -- bread pudding, thoroughly enjoyed this dish, and said he would order again. Be warned, though, we received an ample serving that is plenty for two, or even three.

According to Ariana, Chef Phillips has been with La Fogata Grill from the beginning and was the chef for the Sultan. Having never eaten at The Sultan, I cannot comment on her abilities for Mediterranean cuisine, but it seems she has found her niche with Mexican. If I understood correctly, she is from here and studied culinary arts in San Antonio, She worked for a time at Biga on the Banks there. Evidently, she returned here when her father became ill, to care for him. However she made her way here, we are certainly fortunate to have her.

We highly recommend La Fogata Grill. In addition to the specialties that I've mentioned, they have a full menu of more classic Mexican dishes, all reasonably priced in the $7 to $10 range. Specialty dishes range from $11 to $21. They have a full bar including a fair range of wines and a nice variety of beers (not just your typical domestics).

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