Blending the bold flavors of her childhood with local ingredients, Coastal cocina of Pequín Executive chef Frank Barajas, of Santa Maria, hopes his new restaurant will fill a void in the area for fine Mexican-inspired cuisine.
Launched June 28 and replacing Somerset Grill at Vespera Resort on Pismo BeachPequín owes its name to one of Barajas’ childhood favorite spices – a bright red chili pepper that packs more heat than a jalapeño.
Introducing adventurous diners to the “coastal Baja” cuisine of his youth “has always been a dream of mine,” Barajas said.
In Pequín, the culinary team will offer brunch and dinner options that bring “classic Mexican culinary techniques to the forefront using local ingredients and fresh flavors,” he explained. “The sauces are not whipped with butter or thickened with flour. The proteins are seasoned and marinated in warm spices and citrus notes for a lighter touch.”
Barajas said the inspiration for his dishes came from California’s abundance of fresh fish and produce; traditional Mexican recipes from her parents, who grew up in Baja California and Michoacán; and “the street food I ate as a kid with my dad in Tijuana, Mexico, which is only 30 minutes from San Diego, where I grew up.”
Barajas main courses – sourced from Morro Bay fish markets and Central Coast ranchers – include pozole verde seafood and sea bass in banana leaves, roasted three-tip steak with pequín salsa and avocado salsa verde and, of course, tacos.
“Tacos of all shapes, flavors and sizes are always a favorite,” Barajas said. “There will be plenty of special preparations offered throughout the year to showcase some of the creative ways we can elevate the simple hand dish.”
The restaurant’s swordfish al pastor tacos are already locally famous. The dish, completed with crispy cheese, currant salsa borracha, onion, cilantro, pineapple and pop rock sweets, earned Barajas top chefs top honors at the 16th annual . Taste of Pismo competition last summer.
He also adores – and only prepares – churros. Fried chicken and white mole churros are served at brunch, while the dessert menu offers crisp pastries in a glass cloche filled with cinnamon steam.
Extensive vegetarian selections are inspired by local market produce. Among the chef’s most popular options are the watermelon tomatillo salad and the dragon fruit ceviche with cucumber, Fresno pepper, mango, red onion, avocado and leche tiger, or tiger’s milk, a tangy marinade.
The menu is complemented by seasonal salsa selections as well as traditional spiced guacamole or a savory alternative to strawberries and herbs.
Vespera Resort General Manager David Morneau of Arroyo Grande said he was honored and delighted to provide Barajas “an outlet to cook what he loves and create dishes inspired by his more than 20 years of cooking.” ‘culinary experience’.
Barajas and Morneau joined the Vespera Resort team last summer and are a great duo with extensive culinary and hotel experience.
Prior to moving to the Central Coast, Barajas served as Senior Executive Chef at Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina and Executive Chef at Monarch Beach Resort at Dana Point.
Other previous stints include sous chef at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, executive chef at the Villas at the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, and sous chef at the Pala Casino Spa Resort, a Native American-owned property in the county. of San Diego where he began his career.
He attended the culinary program at the now closed Art Institute of California in San Diego.
Morneau, meanwhile, was previously room manager at the Ojai Valley Inn and held the same position at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in Chicago. He began his career at Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and eventually rose through the ranks to become Director of Housekeeping at Fairmont Pittsburgh.
He was also a collaborating professor at Kendall College in Chicago and holds a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management from Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island.
Morneau was thrilled to partner with Barajas given their experience “developing menus, helping with branding and developing a culinary team for up-and-coming luxury properties,” said he declared.
“Frank is an exceptional person and chef,” added Morneau. “He is very passionate about his role as executive chef of the resort and is a true cook. I admire his creativity, sense of duty and passion for cooking incredible food.”
Guests can enjoy Baja de Barajas coastal cuisine indoors or al fresco, with ocean views and a full bar. Signature cocktails range from spicy mezcal-based Hot Lips and Honeydew Paloma to Mango Collins and Brewjeria, a passion fruit beer mojito.
Menus for late night bites and canine companions are also available.
Live music is offered on Saturdays and Sundays from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., and special events, such as winemaker dinners, are offered throughout the year. On July 19, the resort will host a five-course winemaker dinner with Stephen Ross Wine Cellars.
Guests who choose to stay overnight at the 124-room resort, an Autograph Collection hotel, can also enjoy a second outdoor bar, poolside fare, and in-room dining, all overseen by Barajas.
In the long run, Barajas hopes its innovative menu will turn heads and impress the palates of locals and hotel guests alike.
“We welcome everyone to Pequín to give us a try,” Morneau added, “and we hope everyone feels our team’s passion for this new concept.” Δ
Flavor writer Cherish Whyte’s new favorite taco is Pequín’s Swordfish al Pastor. Contact her at [email protected]