The aboriginal affair we noticed about BelAir Cantina, the Cali-Tex-Mex taqueria that opened on Martin Luther King Boulevard aftermost August, is the astronomic convolute bar that is an ideal fit for the roomy, flush restaurant.
And you can’t absence the West Coast sports vibe, with wall-size photos of bodies surfing and accommodating in agnate alfresco activities. The restaurant additionally appearance abounding windows that acquiesce accustomed ablaze to flood the space, and our accumulation accepted that the music arena in the accomplishments and the chat in the dining allowance were not too loud.
It sets the accent for BelAir, an active restaurant that specializes in tacos with artistic fillings and executes them well. The accomplished abode exudes an upbeat, hardly affable vibe, which wouldn’t go far after a acceptable kitchen putting out fresh, locally sourced and appetizing fare.
Meals activate with warm, crispy, house-made chips and a leash of salsas, additionally all fabricated in-house: a salsa verde fabricated from beginning tomatillos, garlic and jalapenos; a attenuate broiled amazon salsa with jalapenos; and an orange “spicy arbol” that seemed to abridgement abundant aroma at all. Instead, we angry to bottles of hot booze at our table to calefaction things up.
The card is congenital about a nice array of affordable tacos, which run amid $3 and $5 except on Tuesdays and Thursdays, back a baddest agglomeration is priced at $2 each. They appear with a best of abrade or blah tortillas, two per taco.
The blow of the card includes appetizers, soups and salads, tamales, fajitas and burritos.
Among appetizers, the kitchen’s guacamole ($7.27) is one of the best in town. It comes with abounding chunks of avocado, garlic, onion, agilely pickled radish, cilantro and the appropriate alloy of spices.
Another appetizer, esquite ($4.10)—a Mexican artery blah bowl featuring broiled blah kernels, adhesive aoli, cotija cheese, chile lime, cilantro and crema all served in a bowl—was all right, but it wasn’t as appetizing as others I’ve had about town. The blah didn’t assume to be broiled as advertised, which would accept added some acidity and texture.
But we begin affluence of acidity and arrangement in the restaurant’s tacos acknowledgment to the admittance of a citrus slaw on best of them.
The mango tilapia taco ($3.59) appearance broiled tilapia with mango salsa and chimichurri booze in a adorable aggregate of flavors, but I adopted the Baja tilapia ($3.49), which allowances from the citrus slaw, breaded and absurd fish, and a affably affluent avocado salsa.
Also abundant was the kitchen’s shrimp taco ($3.99), which featured the aforementioned citrus slaw, beefy shrimp, pico de gallo and chipotle ancho mayo.
A atramentous bean and blah taco ($3.31) combines broiled blah queso adorn with beans, broken avocado, cilantro and crema for addition acceptable recipe.
The ninja pig ($4.25) comes with brittle pork, hoisin coat and beginning cucumber and jicama accouterment an absorbing adverse to the meat. The Korean beef taco ($4.55) offers chunks of dark, marinated meat and lots of veggies.
The alone absolute disappointment was the soy chorizo taco ($2.95), which absent the mark in agreement of acidity with soy pieces, diced potatoes, avocado and pico de gallo.
A ancillary of Mexican rice and atramentous beans was a adequately accepted but nice accompaniment to our tacos, whose alluringly timed accession says acceptable things about the account overall. Account was alert and able-bodied timed, as mentioned, but never acquainted like an intrusion.
Although we focused on tacos, BelAir offers some attractive burritos and burrito bowls, including carne asada ($11.96), which combines broiled steak with atramentous or pinto beans, crema, guacamole, rice, lettuce, cilantro, chipotle ancho mayo, salsa roja and queso fundido.
BelAir additionally has a abounding account of affair and added bar drinks, which accept accustomed it as one of the city’s admired blessed hour destinations.
I wouldn’t say it offers the actual best in Cali and Tex-Mex cuisine in the city, but BelAir has absolutely staked its affirmation as a mainstay of the city dining scene. And if you hit it on a Tuesday or Thursday, you can accept a accomplished and bushing meal for beneath than $10.
Bill Livick is a freelance biographer who writes ball belief and Madison-area restaurant reviews for The Gazette.
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