There are few Mexican restaurants in Beverly Hills: Frida and El Torito Grill come to mind. Aside from generic chain-type spots, there isn't much to choose from. Slated to open May 1st, Taberna Mexicana is replacing the long-gone Luau Hawaiian restaurant on North Bedford Drive. Honduran-born chef and restaurateur Alex Padilla, who created the menu for Taberna's first outpost in Scottsdale, Arizona, is prepping for the opening by apartment hunting and scoping out local farmers markets. "Whatever is in season I'll put it on the menu," he says.
With a background in French-California cuisine, Padilla spent 17 years working with Nancy Oakes of San Francisco's Boulevard, and helped launch three restaurants in Northern California. The chef also spent time traveling through Mexico and Europe to find the best menu items for Taberna, which offers dishes such as pumpkin seed crusted scallops; tequila poached shrimp cocteles; crab cake rolls; and pacific spiny lobster with tequila mushrooms.
But you won't find huge plates of rice and beans here, unless you ask for it. "You get what you pay for," Padilla explains of the meat and fish-heavy entrees. "I've got my own style of cooking. I don't use lard, but olive oil and kosher salt. People can have the choice of ordering rice, beans, vegetables. They decide."
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Though it's pretty standard, Padilla suggests ordering the guac. "Everything is made from scratch," he says of starters such as fried plantains and blue corn tortilla chips.
There's no signage up yet, but construction is well underway at the 4,200 squarefoot Legacy-owned space, which will have indoor and patio seating for up to 110 people. The architecture and design will be similar to its Scottsdale location with a high-end dining and lounge vibe.
Taberna Mexicana will be open seven days a week for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Friday; and 10 a.m. to midnight, Saturday and Sunday.