“Miguel Angel Guerrero shot a deer, so we’re going to La Querencia for venison.” Up until that point in the day, our dinner plans were unclear, but nobody was about to argue with Bill Esparza’s oh-so-promising proclamation. During our first group sojourn to Tijuana in July, La Querencia yielded my favorite meal in Tijuana’s Gastronomic Zone, and for reasons that didn’t even include venison, this meal was even better.
To quickly review, Guerrero is a fourth generation Tijuanan who attended culinary school in Mexico City before inventing a style of cooking called Baja Med by combining Mediterranean, Asian and Mexican influences. He’s owned La Querencia – a seasonally inspired restaurant in Tijuana – for the past nine years. It’s also where he hangs (and cooks) his hunting prizes.
On our first visit to La Querencia, Guerrero dazzled us with his carpaccios. This time, we doubled down on thin-shaved meat, seafood and vegetables, ordering a five-part Carpaccio Mixto (270 pesos). We once again partook in the grilled beet and blue cheese carpaccio, but that was our only repeat. We also indulged in rosy tuna shaved with Parmesan, smoked duck crumbled with feta, and both salmon and sea scallop showered with tangy green olives, red peppers, chives and capers. At La Querencia, Guerrero treats every carpaccio with a nine-chile oil that accents instead of overpowers the carpaccios.
La Querencia’s tuna sashimi was another winner, lavished with soy, Worcestershire and Maggi sauces, which The Glutster tells me is a traditional Baja raw fish treatment. The rosy cuts of fish also luxuriated in fresh-shucked avocado and creamy avocado salsa.
Every dish was compelling, but the showstopper was probably the taco sampler, featuring two preparations of venison (venado). The crisp but pliable corn tortillas were folded around machaca de venado, shredded, well-spiced deer meat. That was probably a more successful version than venado en mole, with mole that overpowered the shredded venison. The highlight was undoubtedly the taco with tart hibiscus blossoms, tangy goat cheese and sweet shrimp. I also enjoyed the duck taco flavored with complex soy, sake and tamarind sauce.
The most dramatic presentation involved octopus and shrimp set aflame in iron skillet with garlic, butter and rosemary and served with crispy tortillas. The fire added a nice smokiness and pleasantly chewy texture.
With so many options, it’s rarely tempting to repeat meals in a distant city, but nobody balked at round two at La Querencia. I’d gladly welcome a third tango with Chef Guerrero’s refined Baja Med cuisine.