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MEXICAN cuisine has been mastered in all its majesty as Saturday is now a date to be pencilled in for a brunch experience like no other.
The Ritz Carlton, Bahrain’s Cantina Kahlo sets the scene with a colourful setting and a vibrant ambience aided by the brilliance of the late legendary artist Frida Kahlo, which the restaurant is themed upon.
Since its launch two years ago, the restaurant has captivated a growing following with its flavourful tacos, quesadillas and other saucy bites, as well as its serene outdoor setting overlooking a beautiful water garden, fountain and koi pond.
The kitchen is manned by Chef de Cuisine Cesar de Leon Torres who was born in Guadalajara, the capital and largest city of the Mexican state of Jalisco, but brought up in Uruguay before starting his culinary career around the world taking in Italy, the US and Spain.
While he specialises in several food styles, he has dedicated the last four years to his native cuisine with the aim of spreading the nation’s traditional tastes along with outlet manager Hector Vargas and the Cantina Kahlo team.
The Saturday brunch menu features everything from signature breakfasts to ‘must-have’ desserts. Since the launch less than two months ago, it has grown in popularity as the message has spread across the island. The brunch fiesta feast offers a variety of traditional flavours thanks to the cooks’ different Mexican backgrounds.
Hector said: “Cantinas in Mexico are cosy places to spend time with friends, have a drink and enjoy tasty bites. We wanted to replicate that cosiness, friendliness and family atmosphere here. We also wanted to bring the essence of Mexico into Bahrain and into the restaurant with a brunch concept. What’s special about Cantina Kahlo is the majority of the staff and chefs are from Mexico, including myself.
“It’s a hybrid brunch where you can order items either a la carte or from the buffet’s live stations, or from both. You can enjoy tacos, salads and churros all at the same time!
“We also carry classic dishes such as Huevos a la Mexicana or quesadillas.”
Be assured this is NOT Tex-Mex.
“We simply want people to enjoy our traditional flavours and you will not find these dishes anywhere else in Bahrain,” he added.
The indoor area, which can seat around 70 diners, is decorated in brightly hued fashion, various textiles, self-portraits of Frida and other artistic knick-knacks depicting Mexican culture. The large terrace can seat around 100 diners and there is a smaller private terrace area as well.
My husband, Sam, and I were transported on a Mexican journey with dishes from the north to the south plated before us in Frida-inspired fashion.
Walking into the cheerful venue was love at first sight. The décor was enchanting with its blues, greens, and rainbow colours, the scents wafting from the buffet tantalised the senses and the sea views from the terrace was lovely. The Mariachi music played on as chefs plated the mouth-watering food.
It truly was the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon. After getting a tour of the salad bar, soup area, taco station and dessert station, I opted to start off my day with a cosy crema de elote (corn cream) soup, deliciously creamy and tasty to the last slurp.
We then dived into a cheesy Baja style shrimp taco topped with red cabbage, an Alambre (grilled beef quesadilla which had steak, onion, cheese and bell peppers) and a chicken quesadilla from what looked like a shawarma grill but is known in Mexico as a trompo (spin-top) grill. The beef was tender with peppers grilled to perfection and the chicken saucy and zesty.
Waiter Pepe then brought over melt-in-the-mouth Sopecitos rancheros (wagyu short rib appetisers) and our favourite the Ceviche de Camaron (shrimp ceviche). Hector shared a spicy salsa with us to add to both dishes which Sam, known as the chili king of Bahrain, approved of with a ‘woooh’ sound.
The Ceviche, a dish from the Mexican north, was a tangy treat that packed a delightful punch.
We were urged to try breakfast dishes that aren’t found anywhere else on the island such as Huevos a la Mexicana (Mexican-style eggs with the beans and beef bacon) and Chilaquiles con Huevo (a crispy tortilla dish with Guajillo sauce and eggs). The eggs were delish and the sides complemented the flavours totally. It’s easy to see why they are the top-sellers amongst diners.
The mains featured an Angus rib eye steak and a zesty portion of grilled chicken served on a wooden board called Parrillada de Pollo y Carne with a requested side of mash and green chili.
There was just room for dessert, a sugary churro - a fried-dough pastry snack followed by scoops of ice cream.
Those that would like to delight in the brunch, its BD35net for the buffet and inclusive of beverages and BD20net for the buffet with soft drinks and juices. It’s BD10 for children over the age of four and free for those under.
Gracias, muy amable!
For details, visit www.ritzcarlton.com/bahrain or contact 17586401.