Victor Bocos talks about his mole sauce with the same reverence and eloquence he usually reserves for a fine wine. The sommelier and his wife, Julieta, own the new Fort Lauderdale restaurant, Casa Frida, one of the few destinations for excellent, authentic Mexican cuisine in Broward.
The couple opened the restaurant in January and for a few months, served only breakfast and lunch while they waited for a beer and wine license and he worked a second job as cellar master sommelier at Da Campo Osteria. Foodies were already buzzing about the place before they added dinner six weeks ago.
The Bocos, who grew up in Mexico City and owned restaurants in Cancun (where they met), named their cozy, cheerful restaurant for the famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, who lived in The Blue House in Coyoacan, near their home in the city.
Kahlo’s well-known self-portraits decorate the colorful walls, and videos about her life are often playing on the flat-screen TV.
Cooks from Mexico City and the Yucatan add to the Bocos’ repertoire of made-from-scratch dishes, most tweaked from their mother’s or abuelita’s kitchen, served at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Friends who recommended Casa Frida rave about their breakfast, especially the huevos motulenos, a combination of fried eggs, ham, peas and roasted tomato sauce with fried plantains on the side — it sounds like sensory overload, but it’s delicious.
The new dinner menu is also winning raves, complemented by a diverse, reasonably priced selection of wine. It’s not often we peruse the wine list at a Mexican restaurant, but Victor covers a range of grapes and regions, largely choices from Spain, Argentina, Chile, France and California. His reserve list includes selections like ’08 Clos Albalta, an award-winning Chilean blend from Casa Lapostolle for $110 or a ’06 Napa Valley Silver Oak cabernet for $120.
We’re happy with the $31 Spanish Albariño, Serra da Estrela, especially good with their bracingly clean ceviche and seafood platters or go for the heavenly sangria loaded with fresh fruit.
We always start a visit here with must-have, creamy guacamole — the key is perfectly ripe avocados and fresh ingredients. Other appetizer faves include the plantain empanadas and queso fundido, like a Mexican-style cheese fondue — dip flour tortillas into melted Chihuahua cheese, or jazz it up with a topping of chorizo or roasted poblano peppers.
Mole sauce can be too smoky, too sweet, too overpowering, but at Casa Frida, the housemade sauces are subtle and sublime. Savor mole as you would a fine wine, Victor tells his patrons. Like the pinot noir, the red mole, made with 14 ingredients, has many layers of flavor. First you taste cinnamon, then the smokiness of toasted peppers, the sweet-bitter flavor of dark chocolate, the nutty taste of almonds and walnuts. The velvety green mole, with its roasted pumpkin seeds, cilantro and tomatillos, is fresh and herbal like a grassy sauvignon blanc. We love the sauce on chicken enchiladas or salmon (a daily special).
While kids will likely prefer their terrific tacos and enchiladas, grownups should try intriguing dishes like the Mayan-inspired cochinita pibil. The pork is marinated overnight in an achiote paste with citrus juices, then tucked into banana leaves and slow-roasted. Take a second to breathe in those aromatic juices, then dive into the aromatic meat plated with pickled red onion escabeche, cilantro rice and refried black beans dusted, but not smothered, with queso fresco.
For dessert, splurge on the luscious cinnamony churros served with a goat milk caramel and ice cream topped with a guava-passion fruit sauce or try the palate-cleansing mango mousse. Add hot Mexican chocolate to end your sweet culinary journey at Casa Frida.