The unmistakable aromas of delicious cooking are the first appealing
note one encounters when approaching La Sirena Grill, the spacious
cornerstone restaurant at Aliso Creek shopping center. When guests
take their first bites of this delectable Mexican cuisine, the oohs
and aahs that follow are final testimony to the busy lineup of hungry
guests awaiting orders from the sizable display kitchen.
The inspired creation of enterprising Scott Cortellessa, La Sirena
Grill was originally conceived exactly four years ago on sleepy
Mermaid Street Downtown. The name is a delightfully accurate Spanish
translation of the fantasy fish. The original little cafe with its
miniature kitchen and small stand-up bar, became an instant hit with
locals who recognized the fresh tastes of the superb Cortellessa
family recipes and the happily minuscule prices. Soon, to accommodate
increased business, little al fresco tables sprouted up. So, it was
small wonder when, less than three years later in March, 2002,
Cortellessa launched this second location which more than quadruples
the size of the continuing Mermaid Street locale.
Myriad multi-paned windows surrounding this attractive venue
immediately beckon to indoor and outdoor seating at simple pine
tables matched to ladder back chairs. With the added attraction of a
beer and wine license, the enticing bill of fare offers a dozen
intriguing categories. Start with a basket of tri-color tortilla
chips and dip the crisp curled triangles into cups of tangy pico de
gallo and the most memorably delectable guacamole you will ever
savor. Then peruse the inviting menu commencing with the interesting
gold-backed listing of Specialty Plates.
The Sirena Plate features grilled pasilla chiles with
herb-marinated bell peppers, onions and cheese bedded on corn
tortillas then topped with chopped pico de gallo. Succulent blackened
shrimp heads the list of half a dozen embellishments ranging in price
from $6.75 to $9.95. Included are carne asada, chicken, carnitas,
seafood plus tasty grilled vegetarian toppings. Similar ingredients
are offered for Enchiladas Plates and Taco Plates, both served with
beans, rice and a choice of red or green salsa. The Taquitos Plate at
$7.50 comprises a trio of crisp chicken cylinders sided with sour
cream, guacamole, queso fresco, rice and pinto beans. You may order
any of these singly for a mere $2.
The impressive choice of ingredients for tacos, prepared with
fresh corn tortillas, cabbage and mild salsa, includes blackened
shrimp, salmon and albacore plus carnitas (shredded pork), marinated
grilled chicken and carne asada (grilled marinated steak). These are
incredibly priced from $1.85 to $3. With the addition of
herb-marinated vegetables, similar fillings distinguish burritos made
with flour tortillas and tortas sandwiching lettuce, tomatoes,
guacamole, jack cheese, jalapenos and aioli. Quesadilla aficionados
are sure to flip over the basic filling of sauteed mushrooms, onions,
jack cheese and chipotle paste on giant flour tortillas generously
folded over any of the above and sided with succulent mounds of that
superlative guacamole, sour cream and pico de gallo.
A big bowl of tortilla soup topped with pinto beans, cabbage,
queso fresco and fresh salsa is all of $2.25. Add 25 to 50 cents for
meat, chicken or pork, $1 more for blackened albacore or salmon.
Salads are dinner size presentations. An avocado-lime toss of greens,
avocado, tomatoes, onions and cheese is $6.25 going to $9.95 for
blackened salmon. As this is definitely a family favorite small fry
have their own little menu featuring taquitos, tacos, burritos,
quesadillas at a kid-priced $1.50 to $3.50.
* GLORI FICKLING is a longtime Laguna Beach resident who has
written restaurant news and views columns since 1966. She may be reached at 494-4710 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.