Taléo Restaurant Is Something Special

Taléo Restaurant Is Something Special



Taléo restaurant is​ something special
I could barely get any work done the​ hour after I​ returned from lunch at​ Taléo Mexican Grill in​ Irvine (in the​ heart of​ California's Orange County) -- and​ that tells all you need to​ know.
People kept interrupting me, seeking wisdom about this good food they were hearing about.
In that hour, my lunch companion Brenda couldn't stop telling folks about the​ fresh ingredients, the​ beautiful room, the​ smart service -- and​ our simple, sumptuous dessert.
She just couldn't remember the​ restaurant name .​
Thus the​ traffic to​ my desk.
``What's the​ name of​ that place you went for​ lunch?'' Rebecca asked .​
``Can you give me the​ address?''
``Hey, Andrew, where did you take our boss for​ lunch?'' Neil said .​
``I'm heading out for​ a​ drink after work and​ it​ sounds perfect.''
Perfect is​ a​ hard label to​ live up to, but our lunch was certainly grand, and​ the​ best of​ three good meals I've shared at​ Taléo since October.
In the​ course of​ two dinners and​ that lunch, friends and​ I​ tasted our way through entrees and​ appetizers that regularly snapped with flavor .​
They came on plates presented with care and​ beauty.
A ceviché appetizer ($10) was peppery, but not overpowering .​
The chicken in​ my wife's molé poblano ($14) was moist, and​ the​ molé was a​ rich, aromatic pleasure .​
The tacos al carbon ($16) were built with filet mignon .​
The camarones al mojo ($18) lolled in​ a​ buttery, roasted garlic sauce that complemented the​ fresh shrimp's natural flavor.
The best entree was my chile relleno ($12) .​
Wrapped in​ a​ light, tempura-like batter, the​ Anaheim chile was like none other I've had in​ a​ relleno: It was firm and​ crisp, not limp or​ overcooked .​
The pork-and-mushroom stuffing was earthy and​ perfectly complemented the​ pepper's soft sharpness .​
Best of​ all, no gooey cheese filling, just a​ small sprinkling atop.
Oh, and​ the​ margaritas ($7) were pretty good .​
(Though my personal favorite, for​ a​ variety of​ reasons, gets mixed at​ a​ competitor's beach-front bar .​
That's another story.)
These meals weren't all perfect, mind you .​
The filet meat in​ the​ tacos was generally buttery, but my wife bit into a​ gristle roadblock .​
The dinner ribs ($22) we tried were tasty, but not all that differentiated to​ my taste from other ribs.
Still, you can see and​ taste that something special is​ happening at​ Taléo.
``This is​ the​ way we eat in​ Mexico,'' founder Nic Villarreal said .​
He wanted a​ place that was upscale, with a​ well-appointed dining room, the​ best ingredients, meals that fused heritage recipes with California cuisine, and​ service that never stopped.
Villarreal opened Taléo in​ July after renovating an​ abandoned Left at​ Albuquerque location in​ the​ Park Place center, in​ the​ shadows of​ two new 18-story condo towers now taking shape.
He brought along a​ decade of​ experience working at​ Houston's, including its Gulfstream in​ Newport Center (where he met his financial backers for​ Taléo) .​
That background shows in​ the​ dining room and​ bar .​
The high ceiling is​ decorated with wooden beams that summon rancho-style vigas .​
The leather chairs and​ banquettes are stitched with hacienda-style embroidery .​
Contemporary Mexican art -- paintings, sculptures, photography -- feed your eyes.
It's very clubby, yet open and​ airy in​ a​ very accessible, Houston's sort of​ way.
Villarreal built a​ management team with similar experience, and​ a​ chef, Jose Acevedo, with whom he shared a​ trove of​ family recipes.
They all gathered in​ Villarreal's Hermosa Beach kitchen to​ test the​ recipes .​
He kept hearing a​ certain refrain:
`` `If you do a​ little more of​ this, it'll be better,' Jose kept saying .​
And God almighty, there was a​ huge difference,'' Villarreal recalled.
Those touches were on display at​ lunch .​
Take the​ seabass ($15), cooked with a​ yellow molé -- roasted yellow pepper, yellow squash, yellow tomato, with a​ dash of​ vanilla .​
The fish was fine, but the​ sauce was outstanding.
We kept asking our server about it, and​ he told us about the​ ingredients, the​ six hours it​ takes to​ prepare.
Then he surprised us with a​ smart touch.
``You should taste this,'' he said, materializing after our meal with a​ ramekin full of​ red molé, roasted deep, with a​ flavor that started light at​ the​ front of​ my tongue and​ rolled back, warming and​ glowing all the​ way down.
Then we ordered dessert, tres leches ($7) .​
It's Acevedo's take on the​ traditional pan de leche, or​ sweet-milk cake.
Wow.
White cake infused with condensed milk, cream and​ topped with hand-whipped cream .​
Moist, rich, just a​ hint of​ sweet riding onto your palate and​ whisking away the​ aftertaste of​ chiles.
I asked Neil if​ he made it​ out to​ Taléo for​ drinks that night.
``We did, and​ we had food, too,'' he said .​
``It was good .​
Very good.''




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