Dining review: Mi Corazon offers a lot to love

Frida Kahlo and Our Lady of Guadalupe gaze down lovingly at diners, their ornate frames nestled among carved crucifixes and colored glass hearts. They are emblematic of the care owners Vanessa and Jeremy Swan have for their customers at Mi Corazon, a new restaurant in charming Kenneth Village. No growth hormones, corn syrup or genetically modified foods will pass through patrons' lips on their watch. Only naturally raised, organic ingredients are used in their homemade Mexican specialties. Most of the dishes taste as if someone's talented abuela from Oaxaca has been cooking all day, but a few lack the complexity and quantity one might expect from the price tags.

Right off the bat, the chips are different. They're thin, delicate and in perfect juxtaposition to the dense, roasted flavors of the salsa roja. (If only there were a margarita to go with it. Mi Corazon is currently waiting on its liquor license, but allows you to bring in your own wine or beer for a $5 corkage fee.) Refills on the chips and salsa arrive before you know you need them. The service here is top notch, with staff moving in seamless harmony. Our waitress had no problem with the various special requests of our large party and food was delivered at a snappy pace.

Standing out among all the things on the table was the Chile Verde ($17.50). No meat chunks swimming in green sauce here. This pork is stewed slower than an uphill-bound cement truck, every warm fiber imbued with fresh green chilies and spices. The Fish de Oaxaca ($17.50) runs a close second. The wild-caught red snapper in cream sauce with jalapenos, red peppers and onions literally melts in your mouth. Juicy black tiger shrimp from the waters off Baja California, grilled with spices and squeezes of lime, make the Tacos de Camarrones ($16.50 for 3) the best taco on the menu, far superior to the uninspired potato, tinga or fish tacos. However, the crispy carnitas and the creamy rajas tacos, the latter with roasted poblanos, corn and pepitas, did satisfy mightily.

The Mexican rice that comes with most entrees is fragrant and light. The velvety pinto beans are obviously freshly made. The Corazon Salad ($7), while full of beautiful farm-fresh greens, has a citrus chili vinaigrette we found too sweet and lacking heat. The verde sauce on the enchiladas (cheese, $10) is rich and complex. I was really looking forward to trying the famous mole sauce, but sadly, they were out.

Authentic Mexican sauces are a good reason to come to Mi Corazon. The service and the naturally raised meats, seafood and produce are excellent reasons too. The environment is comfortable (though a cool mural would kick up the folk decor a notch) and would be a great spot for a lazy Sunday breakfast. On weekends they serve Chicano specialties like chilaquiles and molletes.

The steep prices and lack of margaritas might challenge some Mexican food enthusiasts, but these things may change. Even still, there's a lot to love about Mi Corazon.

LISA DUPUY has reviewed more than 100 area restaurants. She welcomes comments at LDupuy@aol.com.

What: Mi Corazon Mexican Restaurant

Where: 1402 W. Kenneth Road, Glendale

When: Tuesday through Thursday, lunch 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., dinner 5 to 8 p.m.; Friday, lunch 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., dinner 5 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, breakfast and lunch 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., dinner 5 to 9 p.m.; Sunday, breakfast and lunch 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., dinner 5 to 8 p.m.; closed Monday

Prices: Starters and salads $5 to $9; Enchiladas, burritos, tacos and entrees $9 to $18.50; lower prices at lunch.

Contact: (818) 500-8100, www.facebook.com/MiCorazonRestaurant

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