Don’t let the lack of an ornate entrance sign fool you—there is nothing nondescript about Talavera. In a city better known for its Cuban cuisine than authentic Mexican fare, the brains behind the Jaguar Ceviche Bar are on to something with their newest venture. Forget all of the cheesy wannabe chains that offer little more than watered down versions of the originals. Talavera is the real deal.
“The important thing is that it’s real Mexican food that is made following all of the original techniques,” said owner Lalo Durazo who, along with managing partner Martin Moreno and partner/executive chef Oscar del Rivero, comprises the Jaguar Ceviche Group. Talavera, their most recent endeavor, has only been open a few weeks. “It’s a very unique way of cooking because it comes from humble roots. We’re not pretending to come up with a fusion of different types of foods. We’re making food the same way it’s been made for hundreds of years in our country.”
Named for a type of pottery that originated in Spain in the 16th century, the restaurant is adorned with the blue and white Puebla Mexican design (formally called Talavera Poblana) from the plates to the salt shakers to the three-piece mural on the back wall. It wouldn’t be true Mexican without a little tequila, a fact I was reminded of the moment I walked through the door into the spacious dining room. Met with a sampling of delicious hibiscus and cilantro margaritas at the front bar, I was then whisked away to a sit-down feast of some of the best that old-school Mexico has to offer. Beginning with guacamole with hand-made tortillas, next up was shrimp and snapper ceviche tostadas, a delectable blend of marinated seafood with citrus juices, red onions, chile peppers and cilantro over a baked tortilla cracker. For those who like to spice things up a bit (such as myself), fresh hot pepper purees were on hand to complement the citrus flavors.
Following the fresh bevy of fish was another appetizer, Los Quesos Fundidos, or searing hot pans of melted Oaxaca and Gouda cheese paired separately with both chorizo and poblano peppers (for those who don’t dine on the swine) with flour tortillas. And to wash it all down? Tamarind margaritas and three different types of mezcal, a native distilled Mexican alcoholic beverage made from the agave plant, poured heavily into shot glasses the size of water glasses with accompanying sliced orange and three different types of salt (one made from dry crushed worms). Mexican and Spanish wines were served with dinner as well.
Besides the free-flowing libations, most notable was the mouth-watering mahi-mahi entrée. Steamed in a parchment paper tent with potatoes, tomatoes, vegetables and cilantro pesto sauce, the marriage of flavors in this dish was sheer bliss in a bag. Room for dessert? Hardly, though I did manage to squeeze in a few bites of the heavenly chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream, guava cheesecake, and creamy flan with buñuelo sticks.
Before you make an appointment with your trainer, make a reservation at Talavera. For a reasonable price (appetizers ranged from $4-$12, entrees from $15-$25), you too can indulge in the old-world flavors of Mexico. And you don’t even need your passport to do it. 2299 Ponce de Leon Boulevard, Coral Gables, FL 33134.