La Fonda Restaurant
Los Cabos Guide Restaurant and Dining Review by Sabrina Lear - February 2006
With La Fonda, Chef Christopher Chong the corporate chef for Solmar corporate, has done it again. You’ll have to venture a bit off the tourist track to find this new colonial-themed gem serving authentic Mexican dishes, but when you do, a wonderful surprise awaits. North of the Cabo San Lucas tourist zone, ten blocks up Morelos, between Obregon and 12 de Octubre, La Fonda has been carefully designed to accommodate couples, families and larger groups. The smaller, 32-seat non-smoking dining room is surrounded by the long windowed kitchen, deli, and bar, with beautiful tile accents, wood tables and chairs, a lovely three-tiered fountain, and wood-trimmed beveled windows facing a second dining salon and covered terrace. Servers are dressed in traditional Mexican clothing, complementing the upscale décor, reminiscent of a mainland hacienda with wood beamed ceilings and cut stone lintels. Special touches, like wrought iron purse and jacket hangers at each table, show the attention to detail the Chong Boone family is known for. The larger dining area opens to a covered terrace and seats 48, with equipale-style dining chairs nestled in metal frames around polished granite tabletops. Cigar smoking is permitted in this area, so reserve a table in the smaller dining room for a smoke-free atmosphere.
Highlights family recipes from Christopher’s mother and grandmother, with authentic and unusual dishes not found in many of the mainstream Mexican restaurants geared to tourists. This explains La Fonda’s instant popularity with its Mexican clientele, for where else will you find crispy chapulines (fried grasshoppers) and gusanos de maguey (the famous worm in the bottom of mescal bottles)? At La Fonda, of course!
We were fortunate to have Chef Christopher on hand during our visit in February, and after studying all the tempting possibilities on the menu, we asked him to surprise us. Chef Christopher was happy to oblige and we were treated to a tasting menu.
We began with carne en su jugo, or beef in its juice, a campesino dish of bits of beef and beans in a flavorful broth. To this you add pieces of chicharron (fried pork skin), radishes, onions, chile, lime and a spicy (but not too spicy) green chile sauce. Fresh tortillas hot off the comal, and a full-bodied Negro Modelo, a Münchener-style beer, were the perfect companions to this hearty starter. Our next course was a sampling of sopes (thick corn cakes and pronounced so-pay), gorditos (like a small pita pocket, but made of corn masa), and tacos, which need no explanation. Each was topped or filled with a savory mix - shredded beef on the sope, chicharron in green salsa inside the gordita, and the Yucateca specialty, cochinita pibil (tender pork marinated in achiote paste), filled the tacos. A cheese enchilada topped with red chile sauce appeared, along with a plate of crispy chapulines and gusanos de maguey. We tried to restrain ourselves to a bite of each to save room for our entrées, but the flavors and textures were so addictive we couldn’t resist. Still, we found room for the delicious chile rellenos (stuffed ancho chiles with Oaxacan cheese) and the torta ahogada (a savory shredded pork sandwich drowned in red chile sauce). The secret to really enjoying Mexican cuisine is to follow the Latin example of taking time with each course and savoring the many flavors, so plan on at least an hour and half for dinner. La Fonda’s menu also includes steaks, chicken, fish and a nice selection of homemade soups and salads.
After a pair of smooth house margaritas, we were ready for dessert and a couple of añejo tequilas, equal in every sense to fine cognac. Chef Christopher introduced us to gelatina de elote (corn gelatin), a silky not too sweet concoction I instantly fell in love with, along with a zucchini cake with a mild ancho chile sauce. Both were a lovely end to a wonderful evening; sure to be repeated soon.
La Fonda has private parking out front with plenty of street parking, and is open daily from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. Dinner entrees are $9.50 to $29 U.S. For reservations, call (624) 1436926 or 1720176.Sabrina Lear