“No chopped lettuce here, we’re not rabbits.” So said Ivan Marquez, owner and cheerleader of Frida’s, a new Mexican restaurant in Stanley. If you are familiar with Ixtapa in the Northland or Guadalajara Cafe at 103rd and State Line, you know this is not Tex-Mex. All three restaurants are owned by the same family, who pride themselves on exposing Kansas Citians to authentic Mexican fare. Marquez and the servers explained each dish with love and patience, like a professor trying to drive home the intricacies of calculus to a student who only knows geometry.
Six of us went on a recent Sunday evening and the restaurant was doing quite a business. We closed down the place–it was an early crowd, but it was a school night. We started off with three appetizers, all of which were devoured. The guacamole duo features traditional and pomegranate guacamole, and though obviously very fresh, I do think they each would have benefited from more jalapeno and cilantro. The pair of tamales were excellent, one stuffed with pork and the other with strips of poblano chile peppers. The real highlight was the quesadilla stuffed with goat cheese and squash blossoms, the latter an ingredient rarely found on menus in Kansas City, though this particular dish can be found at all three of these restaurants. The corn tortillas are homemade and as Manny said “thin, thin, thin, soft, soft, soft” and he was right–they were exceptional. They were also served with the entrees and were perfect for dipping in the flavorful sauces.
In fact, those tortillas made the Tacos Placeros platter a real treat. The steak, cilantro, guacamole and onions were arranged in little piles on each tortilla and served with soupy beans and spicy salsa. If you had this dish in Mexico, you’d be a happy camper.
Pollo en Mole is one of my favorite Mexican dishes, because of the rich and complex flavors in the sauce. Like everything else on the menu, the mole is homemade, a vast improvement over some restaurants that use bottled mole paste to make the sauce. The chicken pieces were very tender, and I used the side of rice to eat every drop of sauce.
Chiles en Nogada, a specialty of Mexico, consists of a pepper stuffed with beef, fruits and nuts, and topped with a cheese sauce and pomegranate seeds. Though tasty, it was a bit too rich to eat even half of the large portion.
Save room for dessert. The corn milk “ice cream” is not ice cream at all, but outstanding nonetheless. We had a chocolate flavored rendition as well as one with caramel. Be sure to ask your server to tell you the story behind the “mistake” that led to this fabulous creation.
My only disappointment was the salsa. Though freshly chopped with chunks of tomato and onion, it didn’t have much flavor until I mixed it with the hot salsa that I requested–though too spicy for most palates, it was just right when combined with the mild one.
Marquez is clearly on a mission to convert diners to his style of cooking–judging from the crowds and praise from all corners, it seems to be working.