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Now Open - Cielito Lindo Mexican Gastronomy

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Cielito Lindo Mexican Gastronomy opened in early Sept. in a space that used to be a Thai restaurant across the street from Bonn Lair in East Sac.

I ate dinner there on a Thursdays in mid-September, and here are my initial impressions.

When we first walked in, the modestly-sized restaurant was pretty empty. But it was early on a Thursday evening, and they had just opened. While I have no idea what Mexican Gastronomy is, my guess based on the menu and the white tablecloths is that it's supposed to signify an elevated Mexican dining experience.

We were presented immediately with chips and two salsas. The first was a traditional, tomato-based salsa, and the other was a lime-based salsa that tasted a lot like ceviche, but without the seafood. It was unique among the table salsas that I've ever been served.

When it came time to order, we asked the waiter for recommendations for dishes that would make us want to come back. He suggested we get the Estofado de Granja and the Swordfish Al Pastor ($19.50).

Before we got our first entree, we were given an amuse-bouche.

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It was essentially a mini pork tostada. It was really well done. The tortilla was well fried without being greasy and the pork and salsas provided a great flavor contrast. I really enjoyed this free first bite to start the meal.

 

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Estofado de Granja - Delicious combination of steamed cooked pork and chicken, with mushrooms and nopales all in an adobo sauce of "cascabel and pasilla" pepper. Served with "arroz rojo," beans, green sauce and a nopales "pico de gallo" topped with shredded queso panela.

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Swordfish Al Pastor - Fish fillet marinated in an "achiote" sauce cooked "papillote" style, bathed on "al pastor" sauce. Served on a roasted slice of pineapple with a bacon salad with pineapple and white rice.

Both dishes were unique among dishes we had ever tried at a Mexican restaurant. Our favorite was the Estofado de Granja. The pork was moist and flavorful. The Swordfish was different, but I'm not sure I'd order it again. I'm glad I tried it, but the bacon salad with with rice had tons of coconut in it. I'm not a fan of coconut, and it wasn't listed on the menu, but it detracted from an otherwise solid dish.

For dessert, we ordered the Flan de Chile Ancho ($6.50).

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Flan - Flavorful experience from Mexico. Smooth creamy flan with an orange touch and aromatic ancho chili peppers.

This dessert was also unique, but good. The flan had a slight hint of spiciness to enliven the dish. It was a great twist on a traditional dish.

For a dinner for two including tax and tip, we spent $58. We didn't have any alcohol since they didn't have their liquor license yet.

As we were looking at the menu, we thought the restaurant closest to what this new restaurant was trying to be is Mayahuel. We weren't surprised when the waiter later told us that the new owner was part of the culinary crew that opened that Downtown Mexican restaurant at 12th & K.

By the description the waiter gave, I think the chef's goal is to become the Mexican version of The Firehouse in Old Sac. I'm not sure that's where they'll arrive. I think it's more likely that they become a Mexican version of Tuli - a great neighborhood bistro.

By the time we left, the restaurant was more than half full. Based on the quality of their food, their location, their price point relative to the neighborhood they're in and their aspirations, I think they'll ultimately be successful. You should give this place a try so you can join them along their journey to becoming their destiny - a great neighborhood bistro.

Cielito Lindo is located at 3672 J Street. You can find them online at CielitoLindoMexicanGastronomy.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

The Sac Bee's Chris Macias recently wrote about a lunch he had there. Read about that in the Sac Bee.

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