Eat Drink KL: Fresca Mexican Kitchen @ The Gardens

Monday, May 7, 2012

Fresca Mexican Kitchen @ The Gardens

As 2012 gathers speed, Mexican cuisine is setting the pace for KL's gastronomic zeitgeist, ensuring that fans of fajitas are not left behind.

Fresca Mexican Kitchen at The Gardens Mall in Mid Valley City is the city's second major Mexican restaurant to launch this year, hot on the heels of Loco at Changkat Bukit Bintang and potentially a month ahead of La Mexicana in Ampang's Terrace at Hock Choon.
Entries on Loco: March 26 and April 18.

Fresca opens today, but its management held a trial session recently to test its kitchen and servers. Thanks to Royce, Liz and Meng Jan for letting us crash the party uninvited and munch for hours on treats like tortilla chips with pico de gallo (tomatoes, onions, coriander and chili).

This friendly restaurant hits most of the bases, from enchiladas, fajitas and quesadillas to "sopes" _ the street snack originating from the valley city of Culiacan. Topped with tender chicken, refried beans, lettuce and feta, it should come with a "Danger: Addictive!" warning.

Fresca feels a little more commercialized than Loco, but it still strives for a measure of authenticity, having consulted a Mexican chef for a menu sprinkled with regional specialties like Veracruz-style fish, sauteed with tomatoes, onions, olives and jalapenos in a Mediterranean-influenced recipe popular on Mexico's east coast.

We haven't seen this in awhile: Pollo con Mole Poblano, chicken smothered in a thick sauce constructed with chocolate, chili peppers, nuts and more ingredients than we can remember after downing too many margaritas.

Tacos Ensenada. Flour tortillas with beer-battered fish, taking their name from a port city, served with house-made coleslaw. Fresca's prices seem fair _ this platter costs around RM20.

Avocado alert! Fresca's Sopa De Tortilla is a rich broth, subtly flavored with guajillo and ancho chili peppers, teeming with avocado, feta cheese and tortilla strips.

Tacos Dorados _ chicken-stuffed corn tortillas _ for simple but satisfying evidence of why Mexican cuisine merits a mention on UNESCO's "intangible cultural heritage" list.

Breadcrumb-coated jalapeno peppers _ fat, juicy ones, packing a spicy wallop and packed with a fist's worth of Monterey Jack cheese and minced beef, served with sweet mango chipotle salsa.

Poblano chili peppers stuffed with rice, mushrooms and mozzarella. Kinda like an Italian-Mex culinary hybrid, it whets our appetite for more Mexican meals in the future. Ay caramba!

Aguas Frescas are available _ traditional non-alcoholic coolers, flavored (on left) with hibiscus and cranberries, or (on right) with rice and cinnamon.

But the fun is in imbibing. Perfect for marking Cinco de Mayo, this cocktail _ sharing the name of the May 5 holiday _ comprises Reposado tequila, creme de cassis, clover honey, lime and orange juice. One of the most purely pleasurable beverages we've had this year.

For a fiery flavor: Jalapeno Margarita, served on the rocks.

Frozen Watermelon Margarita, made with Jose Cuervo Reposado and Cointreau.

Electric Blue Margarita, another mega-hit, featuring Tequila Reserva 1800 Anejo (100 percent agave, aged for over a year), blue curacao and fresh lime juice. Really refreshing.

Our only issue: the slow pace in which the kitchen churned out our orders, but we were notified of that in advance. If that's fixed, Fresca will be off to a flying start.

Fresca Mexican Kitchen and Bar,
G-242A, Ground Floor, The Gardens, Mid Valley City, Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 03-2201-2893