Masters of Mexican: Javier’s

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Come for Javier’s authentic fare and stay for the divine desserts.

By Kristin Lee Jensen | Photos by Jody Tiongco

Clockwise from top left: Diamante Negro martini, ceviche and the trio of enchiladas del mar
Clockwise from top left: Diamante Negro martini, ceviche and the trio of enchiladas del mar

White, Mexican wild shrimp. Dungeness crab. Maine lobster. Order the trio of enchiladas del mar at Javier’s, and you’re presented with a triad of the highest quality seafood, all wrapped up in warm tortillas topped with cheese, sour cream, red onion, avocado and a slice of black olive. The dish’s two sauces deliver the knockout punch—the shrimp and crab are lathered in a tomatillo sauce with serrano and jalapeno peppers, while the lobster is smothered in a green sauce thickened with sour cream—and establish the epicurean expertise that has anchored Javier’s Mexican fare for the last 20 years.

Mosaic windows add to the ambience at Javier’s.
Mosaic windows add to the ambience at Javier’s.

After closing in Laguna in 2008, the restaurant opened in Crystal Cove Shopping Center, just a short drive up Coast Highway. Javier’s expansive menu features center-cut prime steaks, tree-to-restaurant produce and sustainable seafood delivered fresh daily. The cantina’s offerings are a far cry from the misconception that Mexican food means lots of cheese, sour cream and big portions, says Javier Sosa Jr., the general manager and owner’s son. Javier’s is not “Americanized” and it is not a “fusion” of cultures; it’s authentic Mexican cuisine.

Take a seat in the main dining room, where antiquated wooden beams and mosaic windows complement a contemporary ambience, or dine alfresco amid bonfires on the patio. To start, sip a black salt-rimmed Diamante Negro martini; vodka is replaced by multi-aged Maestro Dobel tequila and blended with agave nectar and lime juice. For a fruitier flavor, the hand-shaken Fruto de Cactus margarita stars fresh prickly pear. While you nibble on house-made chips and salsa, choose from a smattering of seafood ceviches. Tossed with lime juice, onion, cilantro, serrano peppers and tomatoes, both the shrimp and Alaskan halibut provide a refreshing, tangy blend, while the octopus highlights a more delicate harmony.

One of the restaurant’s most popular dishes is the Cabo Azul, composed of a Maine lobster enchilada, shrimp and Dungeness crab chili relleno, and Ensenada-style shrimp taco. For a nonseafood alternative, try the costilla de res, a tender and juicy short rib wrapped around the bone and braised in tomato-based sauce with just the right amount of spice. The dish is served with rice and Javier’s renowned beans, made from a secret recipe that results in a creamier finish.

Corn cake is served slightly warm with vanilla bean ice cream.
Corn cake is served slightly warm with vanilla bean ice cream.

Be sure to save room for dessert: The recently added corn cake could be the star of the meal. The slightly warm cake, made from fresh ground corn, is served with vanilla bean ice cream. The dessert menu is in the works, but waiters offer a rotating choice of confections like tres leches cake and fried ice cream. Add a steaming cup of Javier’s signature roast and you’ll wonder how you ever finished a Mexican meal any other way.

 

Tip: To complement your basket of fresh tortilla chips, request a pair of house-made roasted red and green sauces, each made fresh daily.

 

Hours: Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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