Bone marrow sopes from the Wolfgang Puck of border cuisine

Everybody loves Javier Plascencia. He’s dashing, and he knows how to cook, and his restaurant empire in and around Tijuana has become a big international thing. All the cool kids are crossing the border to eat his modernist Baja cooking at Misión19, his funky seafood at Erizo and his retro-Tijuana-continental cooking at the original Caesar’s, and why not? He’s the Wolfgang Puck of border cuisine.

If you have forgotten your passport, or a four-hour border crossing is not your idea of fun on a Saturday night, you might want to consider Romesco, just a few minutes south of San Diego, instead. Romesco, the Plascencia family’s only restaurant north of the border, next to the Rite-Aid in what seems like the world’s largest mini-mall, and with its checkerboard floor tile and long open kitchen, it looks a little like a fancy restaurant in Torrance, circa 1988. Most of the customers, the businessmen, shaggy preps and elaborately made-up women of the borderland 1% are busy with the tapas, pasta and filet mignon for which the Plascencias are famous at their Villa Saveiros; also for that original Caesar salad.

But you are probably there for Plascencia’s refined, Mediterranean-influenced take on classic Mexican cooking – not just seafood-stuffed poblano chiles and tostadas topped with the sweet Baja shellfish known as orejas de mar, but for crunchy fried bits of small intestine; toasted gobernadores tacos stuffed with cheese and shrimp; and crocks of tongue simmered in a red pumpkin seed sauce.

And if you are lucky, you will run across bone-marrow sopes -- crisp cornmeal discs from which sprout a single roasted marrow bone apiece; served with one little dish of smoky chile salsa and another holding a kind of magical demiglace, beef stock cooked down with red wine until it becomes as thick as the yolk of a lightly poached egg. You scrape out the marrow, let it melt into the hot sope with a few drops of each of the sauces, and inhale. It may be the single greatest antojito I have ever had the pleasure of tasting.


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