Event - solita Media Preview and Tasting

We have excitedly been awaiting the opening of solita at Bella Terra in Huntington Beach ever since we first heard word that it was coming. Not only are we fans of Chef Deborah Schneider's food from SOL Cocina, solita would also be nearby to Duc's apartment and we could easily see ourselves wandering not too far for a bite to eat. Funny thing is that it also happened that one of solita's goals in coming into the area was to be that neighborhood Mexican joint. Well, after we got a taste at the media preview prior to their opening, we could see it becoming ours. The warmth of the dark woods and metals inside, the sophistication in the decor capturing the beauty of Mexico, and the high quality of ingredients and attention to cooking techniques are all winning attributes of this restaurant. With an interior area of 3,800 sq ft. and an enclosed 1,500 sq ft. for an indoor/outdoor experience (their outer walls are rolling doors that open to the patio for the bar), solita's seating will allow for multiple people to partake in their culinary treasures.

The interior design is very much influenced by Chef Deborah Schneider's travels through Mexico as well as all other ventures by the team. Everywhere we looked, there were elements that spoke of the culture and history. Their large wooden chandeliers were inspired by the large stones used to crush agave fibers for food and drink. The glass metal chandeliers were akin to the presses used during distillation of the agave fibers. Each of the chairs that every person sat in was handcrafted in Mexico itself and brought to solita, and the spanning brick wall was in reaction to a home in Guadalajara they saw. To enter this well thought-out space, guests will pass through double doors made of wormwood before eating dishes rooted in Baja cooking. As the chef explained to us, her 30+ years on the line and in the kitchen with others in the restaurant industry has exposed her to the conversations about what everyone ate while growing up and piqued her interest to explore those flavors. To whet our throats after they dried out looking at the decor with mouths agape, cocktails by their bar manager Colin Pflugradt were aplenty from classic margaritas to frozen ones to even riffs such as the horchata cocktail (my favorite of the evening). Aiming to offer high class drinks without the high class prices, he has put together marvelous libations that will quench guests' throats while not hurting their pockets. Cheers to their bar program's upcoming success that we know they'll have with masterpieces like those glasses we drank of. Pictured are sampler sizes of the solita House Margarita (100% blue agave Agavales blanco shaken with housemade sweet & sour, splash of fresh orange juice, and triple sec), a frozen El Hombre (smoky with touch of dried chipotle peppers, chipotle infused Agavales blanco, lime juice, and agave nectar), the Horchata Cocktail (housemade horchata on the rocks with Agavales blanco tequila, 1921 Crema, and cinnamon), and a frozen Kiwi-Strawberry Margarita ( fresh kiwi & strawberry with Agavales blanco tequila, fresh lime juice, agave nectar, and soda water).

But onto the food! As mentioned, the entire restaurant is inspired by the travels in Mexico that the team has done and one key part of what they have observed in the cooking is wood. It is ubiquitous to cooking. Their custom wood grill is practically the center of the entire space, adding more emphasis to their dogma that "wood is the heart and soul of the concept." There is also use of open charcoal in the cooking and an attention to how particular woods affect particular meats and dishes. For example, they will be smoking their shredded beef and whole chickens with oak. Not only is Mexico present in the food but so is Baja Calfornia so expect to see tropical and fun salads and well as homestyle soups. We sampled a variety of their antojitos first which are modeled after street vendor food. Pictured are their Sweet Potato Fries (with cotixa cheese and chipotle dipping sauce), Grilled Corn "Elote" (roasted and grilled sweet corn with butter, chipotle salsa, California chiles, cotixa, and green onion), Copa de Frutas (cucumber, jicama, seasonal fruit, lime, and chile con limon), Tequila Shrmp & Avocado Sundae (lightly cooked shrimp with blanco tequila, salsa fresca, lime juice, and chipotles layered with Marta's creamy avocado sauce), Yellowtail Ceviche Tropicale (diced fresh Gulf of California yellowtail tossed with fresh-squeezed lime juice, serrano chiles, cucumber, tropical fruit, avocado, and salsa fresca), and Nachitos Perfectos (with refried beans, red chile borracho sauce, cheese, jalapenos, salsa fresca, guacamole, chipotle sauce, and sour cream).

The dishes were certainly not completely out of the ordinary in terms of name when you looked at them but the quality ingredients made a difference. They are around to do Mexican food well. Considering the location in Huntington Beach at Bella Terra, I can see where the demand is necessary. If you are looking out for the restaurant, they are near the Corner Bakery and sits on the first floor of the residences on the property grounds. It's actually quite the smart location as I am sure that regulars will come from those apartments. Plans include having a separate walk up counter for take out as well so don't worry if you can't stay long to enjoy a margarita. You can still get your solita fix! Pictured above are Oak-Roasted Chipotle Chicken,  Quesadilla, Lazy Enchiladas, a variety of their Taco Plates (like Cadillac tacos, the 'Just Tacos' sampler, and 'El Primo' sampler), Skirt Steak Asada with Toreados, and Burrito "El Flag" from all entree parts of the menu. Our thanks to to everyone for having us that night (Rich, Matt, Colin , Jose, John, Zack, Eric, and Chef Deb); we're looking forward to you being our neighborhood Mexican restaurant!

Photography by Duc Duong. More photos available on Facebook here.

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