CVIndependent

Mon07062020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

With a menu of traditional Latin America-inspired fare and an interior filled with colorful Mexican folk art, one of Palm Springs’ newest restaurants strives to offer a dining experience that’s as vibrant and authentic as the artist it’s named after.

Casa de Frida, which takes its name from well-known Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, deals largely in homemade dishes from regions across Mexico, but there’s cuisine from Cuba, Venezuelan and other countries to be had as well. One dish is even described as "a Latino version of the French classic beef bourguignon."

The restaurant itself is somewhat of a shrine to Mexican art, with hand-painted tiles adorning many surfaces. Visitors are greeted at the entrance by a large papier-mache skeleton straight out of a traditional Day of the Dead celebration. Wooden masks, a huge stylized glass portrait of Frida Kahlo and other decorations complete the south-of-the-border vibe.

The food, however, is a far cry from what many diners think of when Mexican food comes to mind. There are no chimichangas covered in cheese and red sauce, nor are there quesadillas. At Casa de Frida, the focus is on dishes with items like rich mole sauce, or chile en nogado, a dish that hails from the city of Puebla and features pasilla chiles, walnut-cream sauce and pomegranate seeds.

"What we do here is a combination of recipes that my grandmother and my mother and basically all the women in my family have been making for years," says chef and part-owner Victoriano Rodriguez, who is originally from Sinaloa, Mexico. "Because of our heritage—French, Mexican and Spanish Castilian—the dishes are both traditional and, at times, unique."

Other dishes like tortilla soup, ceviche, enchiladas and several salads and starters are also available, as is a full bar and a medium-sized, yet ample, wine list.

Chef Rodriquez says the menu will change every three months and that he will be bringing in dishes from Peru, Brazil and other Central and South American countries.

"We’re trying to give American diners a chance to see how we really eat in Mexico," said Rodriguez. "We aren’t a restaurant with piñatas or tequila shots and beer signs. We try to be a little more gourmet and a little more aristocratic, without being pricey."

Casa de Frida, located at 450 S. Palm Canyon Drive, also has a weekday happy hour with drink specials and $6 small plates. Brunch is available on Sundays. For more information, call 459-1681, or visit www.casadefrida.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

What: Gypsy veal schnitzel

Where: Johannes Restaurant, 196 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $25

Contact info: 778-0017; http://www.johannesrestaurants.com/

Why: Because of the variety and intensity of flavor.

Johannes, located just a wee bit off the beaten path in downtown Palm Springs, offers a variety of Continental cuisine, especially Austrian/Viennese favorites—and while the restaurant celebrates its 13th anniversary, included is an entire menu of schnitzels (mostly made with veal, of course, but some made with organic chicken).

While the schnitzels offer a variety of ingredients and, therefore, flavors, the gypsy is the one that has the most flavor. On top of the nicely crunchy schnitzel is a flavorful green peppercorn-brandy sauce, capers, baby pickles, onions and roasted fingerling potatoes. This is not a dish for people who like nuance; this is a dish for people who like a full-throttle taste-buds assault.

The mix of intense flavors makes this dish a real winner. All dishes come with a ewer of yogurt with dill and cucumber, which makes a nice contrast to the schnitzel.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The fish tacos (Baja fried or grilled)

Where: Shanghai Reds, inside of Fisherman's Market and Grill, 235 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $3.95, or $2.95 during late-night happy hour (8 p.m. to close)

Contact info: 322-9293; www.fishermans.com/shanghaireds.php

Why: Because of the tortilla. Trust us.

These tacos aren't exactly a secret around these parts--they're perennial honorees in the Desert Magazine Best of the Valley competition (not that you should necessarily value such honors all that much)--but we're surprised at how many valley residents don't know about the delights at Shanghai Reds, the bar/casual area tucked behind Fisherman's (which also has a location in La Quinta).

The taco's ingredients are not that unusual: The taco includes white fish, topped with pico de gallo, shredded cabbage, citrus and a tasty white sauce. What makes these fish tacos special is the wrapping--namely, the tortilla. It's a thick corn variety that spends a moment or three on the grill before meeting its contents, and that maize/char/yummy flavor ties the whole package together.

Somewhere along the line, far too many Americans settled for tortillas that are mere packaging--flavorless vessels to deliver flavor to one's mouth. Shanghai Reds reminds us that it's not supposed to be that way--and proves that a good tortilla can make oh so much difference.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

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