Friday, July 17, 2015

California Native for Dinner

California Native
420 Cavendish Road, Coorparoo

I've written at lengths about how much American food is trending in Australia at the moment. California Native is another development on this front with a focus on Mexican influences. Kat and I arranged to have dinner there last Wednesday night.

I thought it was really quiet when I walked in but it's because I had made a ridiculously early booking and they had only just opened. Even though California Native is quite a large restaurant, it was nearly full by the time we finished eating. That's not bad for a Wednesday night.

The menu features lots of classic crowd pleasers like chili fries and nachos. Mains include tacos, burritos and the like, as well as protein mains (chicken, pork, etc) and a section of salads for those who want to purge their cheese sins with some greens.

Complimentary corn chips and salsa

Before we had time to thoroughly digest the menu, we were brought a complimentary plate of corn chips and salsa. I thought this was a lovely gesture and after all, everyone loves freebies. The corn chips were crunchy and had a homemade quality that differentiated them from supermarket corn chips. The salsa was mild but very fresh and tasty.

Hump day cocktails

California Native is fully licensed and has a comprehensive drinks list. Kat and I zoomed right in on the cocktails. I don't know if this is very ignorant and stereotyping of me but I always associate Mexican style food with margaritas so that's what I chose. For my second drink I went for a mojito. Both were well-balanced in strength and taste and most importantly for me, not too sweet.

Chili fries - chunky seasoned fries layered with specialty chili con carne and topped with melted cheese and sour cream

When our chili fries arrived, I knew we had ordered too much. I'm a very capable eater but even so, I figure that bowl of chips and mince could have served to full us both up. The chips were hot and crunchy. There was a blanket of molten cheese and savoury mince coating the whole lot and each bite I took was heavenly. We also detected pulled beef in the mix which kept it texturally diverse. The drizzle of sour cream was the icing on the cake.

Having already eaten my fill, I then prepared for mains. I had my eyes on the superfood salad from when I first read it online but I couldn't resist adding a taco to the order at the same time. Kat changed her mind 3 or 4 times before settling for the psychedelic pork.

The food arrived roughly around the same time, shortly after our fries were cleared. There's something so reassuring about seeing a table top laden with colourful dishes. Ah, yes... this is the good life.

Carne (beef) taco - slow cooked shredded beef with cabbage slow, black beans, salsa fresca, sour cream and manchego cheese

The beef taco was snack size, which was perfect for me. I think they encourage 3 serves as a complete meal, but you can chose different fillings. I liked the slow cooked beef filling in mine. It wasn't dry like the meat in some taco shops and the salsa kept it light. I loved the soft taco shell for its noticeable corn flavour.

Psychedelic pork - twice cooked confit pork belly, served with psychedelic herb and fruit salad, finished with pedro ximinez vinegar

Kat's pork dish was the most eye-catching of the lot, with its cube of pork belly and quirky salad mix. I tried a bit of the pork and found it to have a lovely apple flavour that had soaked right into the flesh. It was fork tender and the skin was crunchy. The fruit and herb salad leant some freshness and sweetness that helped cut through the richness of pork.

Mendocino superfood salad - kale, quinoa, sweet potato, goats cheese, pinenuts, spinach and wild rocket, finished with a lemon, honey and olive oil dressing

My superfood salad was definitely enough to share. I think this is so green that it works more as a side than main, unless you add some protein to it. There was spinach and rocket galore plus the occasional burst of interest from roast sweet potato and goats cheese. It was inoffensive but otherwise boring until I decided to mix the crispy kale leaves through the whole salad. That seemed to give it some extra oomph. Overall nobody could fault this for being a great healthy choice though.

Kat and I greatly enjoyed our dinner at California Native. The location may seem obscure to some but it's near our neck of the woods so we found it to be quite convenient. The restaurant is large and I love the casual and fun decor with wood accents and fairy light trees. It would be a great venue to host a party. The food was so filling and delicious and our cocktails made the meal all the merrier.
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