Mosto is a Spanish word that means “the pressed juice of a grape before fermentation”. But “Mosto” sounds so much better, doesn’t it? Leave it to the romantic Spanish language to make ‘grape juice’ roll off the lips.
There is a restaurant called Mosto in Tijuana, the owner Javier Esparza has something to say and do with this gastronomic town. Recently discovered and recognized by the likes of Anthony Bourdain, Andrew Zimmern and Rick Bayless.
At the entrance of the affluent neighborhood Chapultepec, in a little strip mall stands Mosto. Nothing pretentious, very simple but nice, with a few tables, a couple of booths and an open kitchen. Behind the kitchen you find 3 young chefs that look right out of culinary school, maybe because they are. The owner is there to greet us and has prepared an array of the restaurants dishes.
First up is a trio of octopus, shrimp and white fish ceviches, each delicious in its own way. Next up a marlin spring roll served with a spicy and sweet sauce, a clever Asian dish with an obvious Mexican influence. We were then presented with what I consider to be one of the best dishes in Mexico, a very simple but cooked to perfection sautéed wild mushrooms with baby calamari and shrimp with a chipotle oil, salt and pepper. WOW! That is the only word to describe it. There are few dishes I consider I can’t describe and this is one of them. You must simply absolutely try it. For our entree we were served a delicious bone in filet and a poblano chili risotto. Amazing.
There was never a doubt in my mind about the deliciousness regarding this restaurant. What came as a pleasant surprise was the people that encompass it. Beginning with the owner Javier Esparza who started his career selling, and still does, industrial kitchens. His company “Cocinas Institucionales” is a Baja tradition for the best in kitchen appliances. Mosto is the result of 20 years in the industry mixed in with his love for food. And it shows. Javier is heavily involved in the culinary scene of Tijuana as a restaurateur who constantly brings in foreign investors. As is the case of a few new projects that he casually mentioned. But I’ll tell you about them later.
The three men behind the kitchen are what I like to call “humble showoffs”, if there was ever such an oxymoron. These chefs are out to show you what they are made of. Daringly making a Jalapeno Jam for the breakfast menu. But when you talk to them there is nothing but humility and the desire to keep learning and keep perfecting.
The food style of Mosto is described by the owner as Baja Contemporary, in my opinion, a fine definition of what I just ate. In Baja you’re bombarded by the use of the word Baja-Med which means a fusion between Baja California cuisine and Mediterranean Cuisine. But as Javier puts it, my food is not Mediterranean, my food is Baja, and since it hasn’t been named before it must be contemporary and he’s completely right. Baja contemporary is the right name.
Local breweries and wineries love him because he gives their products an opportunity to shine, something that not many local restaurants do. And granted sometimes a local winery choice is a miss, when that happens you will not see a charge for that in your bill and can be assured that product will not stay very long in their cellar; but at least Javier has a venue for these culinary distillery entrepreneurs.
A local mover and shaker for the better in Tijuana gastronomy. Javier Esparza’s first restaurant Mosto is a must.
See you next week.