La Sirena Grill a thriving success

Glori Fickling

Boasting two distinctly different locations, La Sirena Grill was

originally conceived by enterprising Scott Cortellessa whose avid

dream in the summer of 1999 was to convert a charming little cottage

on tiny Mermaid Street Downtown, into a haven for contemporary

Mexican cuisine.

La Sirena, Spanish translation "the mermaid," emerged in June that

same year encompassing a miniature kitchen fronted by a small order

counter. Limited seating and a few tables directly outside the

elevated interior soon attracted guests who immediately caught onto

the fresh tastes and inviting aromas of the coveted Cortellessa

family recipes. The friendly place became an obvious favorite for

take-out ordering, and within months additional outside tables

allowed more guests to indulge their appetites on premises. Thus it

came as no small surprise when, within less than three years, a

second more expansive La Sirena Grill became a reality.

The newer venue in South Laguna will celebrate two successful

years next month, both sharing the identical bill of fare, a prime

reason for the success of the two deliciously inspired

accomplishments.

Diverse dining categories start with a quartet of plates. Sirena

plates add up to half a dozen main ingredients accompanied with

grilled pasilla chiles, herb-marinated bell peppers, onions and

cheese topping fresh corn tortillas crowned with tangy pico de gallo.

While awaiting your order, it is fascinating to observe the cook

in colorful Mexican attire as she pats golden mounds of corn flour

into flat round discs. These tortillas will be contained with

blackened shrimp, carne asada, pork, fish, chicken or vegetarian

fillings of herb-marinated mushrooms, bell peppers, onions and cheese

grilled to perfection and priced from $6.95 to $9.25.

Enchilada plates, at $6.50 to $7.25, are two of these taste treats

with choice of similar fillings sided with black or pinto beans, rice

and red or green salsa. One may further enjoy taquito plates, a trio

of chicken taquitos for $7.50 (or $2 singularly) lavished with sour

cream, guacamole, queso fresco plus rice and beans. Taco plates

feature two each with rice and beans, $5.25 for pollo or carnitas,

$7.40 with blackened shrimp.

Salads are not to be missed. Based on exotic crisp greens, these

are generously laced with avocado, cucumber, tomato, a crunchy

scattering of fried onion bits and grated cheese under a savory

lime-cilantro dressing. At $6.25, the salads easily feed two hefty

appetites. For a dollar or so more, the addition of meat, chicken,

blackened salmon and shrimp turns this into a deliciously healthy

main course. A half order, moreover, makes for a satisfying preface

to any of the a la carte selection of tacos, tortas, burritos and

quesadillas, these from $l.85 to $3.

Equally enticing starters are spicy chicken soup garnished with

tortilla strips and jack cheese for $2.50, and corn tortilla soup at

$2.25 topped with pinto beans, cabbage, queso fresco and salsa. Add

carnitas or pollo for 50 cents more, blackened albacore or salmon

with pico and aioli for an added $3.25.

Help yourself, while waiting, to additional embellishments posed

at a little corner stand with take-out containers. Refreshing

beverages in 16 ounce containers are $1.50 to $1.75 -- the latter

for a delectable watermelon/strawberry drink and a luscious

cinnamon-spiced coconut milk concoction. Special entrees for kids are

$1.50 to $3.50.

NEWS BITES!

Shoreline Restaurant, which debuted at the Holiday Inn late last

summer is undergoing extensive revamping of the sadly neglected

Courtyard Patio. It will now, once again, attract the many diners in

search of refreshing al fresco ambience. Owners Tom and Susan Winch

have promised a comfortable New Orleans-style setting ready for

breakfast, lunch, dinner enjoyment within the next few weeks. Phone

(949) 494-1001.

* Dining suggestions and questions may be e-mailed to

ghoneywestr@aol.com or phone (949) 494-4710. Glori Fickling is a

longtime Laguna Beach resident who has written restaurant news and

views columns since 1966.

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