If you’ve been to any quaint Mexican town, chances are that you’ve come face to face with a street-side Taquero, or Taco Man, grilling up meats and vegetables on the plancha and serving up the freshest, most flavorful tacos.
There is no arguing that this facet of Mexican cuisine and culture is one of the most romanticized and sought-after experiences for anyone who has been fortunate enough to indulge in it.
What if you could bring the flavor and charm of the beloved Mexican taco stand – and even the taco stand itself – into a full-service restaurant setting? What if you could preserve the tradition and authenticity of the foods and recipes, but present them in a modern setting that fits our lifestyle and how we live and eat? What if you could have someone familiar with the original experience execute it with the utmost quality and finesse, in an intriguing and comfortable setting?
The answer is Descanso.
Descanso is a modern taqueria in that it celebrates authentic Mexican flavors and recipes executed on a traditional plancha and prepared a la minute in front of the guest, in a full- service setting. Concept creator Rob Arellano pulled from his own Mexican heritage to create a never-before-seen restaurant experience rooted in nostalgia and comfort, that speaks to how we live and eat today. The guest comes face to face with the chef as Mexican classics are made to order and served hot in a lively setting that brings in the music, smells, energy of a busy Mexican town.
With Chef Sergio Ortega at the helm in the Kitchen, Descanso presents Classic Central Mexican street-inspired cuisine, rife with bold flavors and the freshest, seasonal ingredients in dishes that are complex and layered with history and flavor. Born and raised in Morelia, Michoacan, Chef Ortega was drawn to cooking with his grandmother and aunts. He gained a diploma in international cuisine, but it wasn’t until he moved to Southern California a decade ago at the age of 22, that he pursued a culinary degree at the Art Institute in Orange County. During his time in culinary school, he gained experience working at Raya Restaurant in The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel and as a Tournant Chef under Chef Helene An at AnQi in Costa Mesa. Over the past 10 years, he has run kitchens in Orange County, Los Angeles, Austin, and even Melbourne.
The menu features artful dishes that successfully marry tradition with modernity. The cuisine is inspired by the Taquerias of Chef Ortega's childhood. As someone who grew up from humble origins with access to limited ingredients, Chef Ortega is dedicated to cooking with season ingredients, sustainable seafood and humanely raised meats. Salsas are made fresh daily. Meats and vegetables are cooked in front of guests on a tradition plancha. Guests can enjoy tacos, quesadillas, and alambres con queso made with options ranging from Sirloin steak, carnitas and al pastor, to mahi mahi, and relleno chile.
The menu is not limited to the plancha – Descanso offers small plates, soups, salads and entrees from the cocina. Small Plates feature light, fresh dishes like Yellowtail Aguachile and a Mexican interpretation of poké featuring local Big Eye Tuna, to richer dishes like Choriqueso and Tamales Dorados. Chef Ortega utilizes his grandmother’s recipes to create fresh soups, including Pozole Verde with roasted Sweet Corn, Wild Mushroom Broth, and Fideo, a traditional Mexican toasted noodle soup.
Guests may opt for Plancha entrees. Among the tempting options are Pescado a la Talla with Xoconostle pico, Fried Rice, Salsa and Tortillas; Chuck Eye Steak with braised potato, albañil sauce and toreados; Pechuga de Pollo Asada with sautéed mushrooms and fried rice; Lobster with Chile Toreado salsa, and corn puree; and Xoconostle Shrimp with fried rice and grilled vegetables.
Descanso features a full-service bar that features Mexican and Spanish wines and craft beers, as well as local SoCal favorites. The bar highlights only quality tequilas and mezcals that help in making up the restaurant’s fresh and unique margaritas and specialty cocktails. Margaritas simultaneously celebrate creativity and simplicity, utilizing only fresh- squeezed lime juice as the house mix. They showcase culinary elements as they incorporate ingredients from the kitchen.
The list features Bad Hombres, a margarita made with Herrardura Reposado Tequila, Pineapple, Serranos, Lime, Salt and Pepper; Hibiscus Smash, with Tito’s Vodka, Hibiscus Syrup, Mint and Lime; and Media Noche, with Cana Brava Rum, Cheery Herring, Blackberry Honey, Lemon and Activated Charcoal.