On June 23rd, SOL Cocina began serving brunch with a south-of-the-border, Baja twist.
When I think brunch, I picture myself, mimosa in hand, mingling and schmoozing with socialites donned in their Sunday best — nay, more like their Kentucky Derby attire (floppy hats, sun dresses, the whole shebang).
But, in reality, brunch is nothing like that. Well, the mimosa is still in the picture, of course; those are always involved.
For this particular Sunday morning/afternoon, we decided on SOL Cocina, which had a newly added brunch menu. Now, I had only ever ventured to Olive & Ivy for brunch, and its menu consisted of dishes with typical items, including potatoes, eggs, toast, bacon, etc. So when I asked myself if Mexican food at 11 a.m. was a good idea, I had no idea what to expect. My stomach wasn’t used to digesting south-of-the-border food before the dinner (or fourth meal) hour.
After roaming the Scottsdale Quarter, we finally found SOL Cocina, and I’m still not sure how we missed it with its bright, bold-red awning. Here’s one thing to note: There is, in fact, a parking garage located right next to the restaurant.
While waiting for our other two guests, we were greeted by our spunky waitress, who informed us that the limes, hot sauce and salt on the table were considered in Mexico the “salt and pepper of the table.” Thank goodness because I was starting to worry I wasn’t wild enough for this place, thinking margaritas were in store.
If you’re a wimp like me and can’t handle spicy or hot food, go easy on the “mild” salsa when tostada dipping. Considered an eight (out of 10) by the restaurant, the waitress swore it was more of a two. No, that salsa had a spicy kick when I least expected it. Looks like I have at least one thing in common with the one who gave the salsa that eight rating — we’re salsa soul mates.
So as I washed down the salsa with my mimosa — which, by the way ladies and the only 20-something male in the restaurant that day daintily sipping on one, SOL offers $1 refills, after paying the initial $7; what a deal! — I skimmed the menu, looking over the brunch options, and this caught every one of our eyes: “Enough to feed the whole family — ”. We scoffed. Papas ‘Papi’, challenge accepted. We also ordered the Machaca Wrap Ahogado, the Breakfast Torta and the Souffle Carlotta.
Rounds of coffee, orange juice and water later, our food — or shall I say, “feast” — arrived.
Two things: One, they weren’t kidding about the Papas ‘Papi’ feeding the entire family; and two, just how big of a family are they referring to anyway?
The Papas ‘Papi’ was a heart-stopping heap of food, with potatoes, onions, melted cheese, pork chorizo, bacon, serrano chiles, green onions and pice de gallo — all smothered with crema. It made the rest of our dishes look like amuse-bouches. Surprisingly, the Papas ‘Papi’ was my favorite of the four dishes.
The Souffle Carlotta came in second, with its soft and sweet Mexican kick. Considered SOL’s version of the French toast, the Souffle Carlotta had a hint of Patron Citronage and lemon zest in the bread pudding, which, for a slight moment, brought back memories of my grandmother’s flan. (The language isn’t the only thing the Mexican and Filipino cultures have in common, even if just slightly.) Topped and drizzled with organic agave syrup, mango, berries, vanilla whipped cream, almonds and powdered sugar, this dish quickly became a favorite.
As for the Machaca Wrap Ahogado, who doesn’t love machaca? Growing up in Yuma, Ariz., I had yet to find a Mexican food restaurant in the Valley that ever came close to the authentic food found in the town bordered by both Mexico and California; but with this machaca dish, SOL Cocina is now the closest thing.
Cooked with ancho chile, onion, cumin and oregano, the shredded beef concoction folded in a flour tortilla with eggs, cheese, refried beans, all topped with red salsa and pico de gallo, had “great flavor composition,” according to one of my brunch companions. The layers of ingredients complemented one another and wasn’t as overwhelming as I thought it would be.
The Breakfast Torta, on the other hand, was a more traditional brunch entree, compared to the flavor combinations of the other three dishes. The telera roll stuffed with eggs, cheese, bacon, avocado and pickled jalapenos, however, was still a delicious treat. Compared to other greasy, messy tortas I’ve had in the past, this one tasted fresh and didn’t weigh me down. (And this is probably due to the fact that SOL Cocina works with fresh, seasonal ingredients.)
With its old world charm, SOL Cocina not only offers a comfortable, cozy environment to gather with friends and family on an early Sunday afternoon, it also offers authentic Mexican, Baja California inspired cuisine and authentic flavors.
In hindsight, I’m glad we parked on the other side of the Quarter; I definitely needed to walk off all of that food — and window shop, of course.