Tijuana’s Gastronomic Zone is a wonderland of globally inspired dining options. They’re almost all stylish, enticing and within walking distance of one another. We visited four restaurants along the strip during our Baja bender, and none was as innovative or satisfying as La Querencia, Miguel Angel Guerrero’s nine-year-old showcase for seasonal, locally sourced ingredients.
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 an avid hunter, shooting quail, rabbit and deer on a regular basis, which is why La Querencia’s walls are decorated with taxidermied carcasses. Guerrero has another restaurant in La Paz, and when he ventures south, he SCUBA dives before hunting for wild goats in his SCUBA suit.
We started our market-fresh meal with zucchini carpaccio, made with vegetables plucked from Guerrero’s garden. The colorful plate was decorated with thin-shaved zucchini, capers, bell peppers, onions and chile oil, all showered with salty shaved Parmesan.
The horde of bloggers descended on other plates, which is why the grilled beet and blue cheese carpaccio was ravaged by the time it reached our end of the table. No big deal. The crunchy beets still tasted sweet and complemented the soft crumbles of funky blue-veined cheese.
Guerrero hollowed out a cucumber and filled it with sweet minced sea scallop, pine nut and garbanzo bean hummus. Up top, he added bursting little whitefish caviar and frizzled leeks for texture. The dish probably didn’t need the watery cucumber, which diluted the flavor some, but overall, the flavors melded well.
The only dish that didn’t gel involved a square of sweet cornbread topped with shrimp, caramelized strands of red onion and a single tomato. The black ancho chile oil was smoky and flavorful, but couldn’t quite salvage the “dessert.”
Chef Guerrero left a lasting impression with his flavor, presentation and the freshness of his ingredients. A return trip is definitely in order, hopefully after he returns from a wild goat hunt or duck shoot.
Thank you to the Tijuana Convention and Visitors Bureau, Crossborder Agency, Cotuco (Tijuana Tourism Board), and Tijuana Canirac (Tijuana Restaurant Association) for sponsoring our eye-opening culinary tour of northern Baja. Thank you to Bill Esparza from Street Gourmet LA for leading the tour and for supplying so much invaluable information.