January 7, 2013 at 5:28am
SPICE WITH FRIENDS >>>
It's 8 p.m. on a Sunday night when I walk into Trago Mexican Kitchen and Cocina Lounge in Olympia's Capital Mall. The ambiance is nice - warm earthy tones and lots of candlelight. Around 20 people spread across the lounge - a handful saddled up to the bar. It definitely doesn't feel like I'm hanging out at the mall.
Across the room I spot Jeff and Abbie Rose - who own Paisley's Cafe, as well as Metro across from Trago - sitting with their employees. The table is one martini and one plate of nachos committed. I'm in.
To properly review a new food and drink joint, you have to try the cocktails. Unfortunately, since my New Year's Eve escapades in downtown Oly, I've been on the wagon and intend to ride it for a while. Team Metro agrees to drink for me.
Trago Mexican Kitchen opened its doors Friday, Dec 23. The Roses have a theory on why the last two restaurants - a Sushi Go Round and some kind of seafood buffet - didn't make. They believe the restaurants' open-floor plan felt like a cafeteria. Trago, which has big sister locations in Seattle, has re-configured the space into half lounge/half dining area, with plenty of coziness and curves.
The wall that separates the space is less of a wall than an aesthetically pleasing defining area where a candle-lined arched window and the see-through brick fireplace add to the atmosphere.
As we discuss what to order Trago chef Mike Beierle walks past with an interesting dessert in hand, which he intends to deliver to the owner at Tony's hair salon across the corridor. (Oh yeah, we're in the mall.) The dessert is a new creation - an avocado cheesecake with chocolate sauce and strawberry tequila sauce drizzled on top! Beierle promises to bring a slice by after it cools a bit.
Another item stopped me in my tracks: Jalapeno margarita ($8). I assign the drink to my new friend Blake (Rose's employee) who happily accepts. The danger blend is jalapeno-infused Cuervo Tradicional Silver with chunks of jalapeno and choice of lime, cranberry or strawberry puree. Blake chooses strawberry and the result is A+ - sweet and spice and everything nice.
Since we were on a spice kick, I order jalapeno rellenos, supposedly the hottest item on the menu. (Hey, I'm not drinking. I needed a kick.) The Jalapenos are stuffed with cream cheese and herbs, wrapped in bacon and drizzled with crema. It lived up to its reputation - causing sweaty palms, pink cheeks and all. By the end of the meal, I'd built up a tolerance and enjoyed the combination of savory and spice.
I need to balance out the spice - time for the cheesecake. It's rich. We all agreed it's meant for sharing. The crust is perfect. The texture is creamy divine. I'd like to see Beierle play off the jalapeno margarita by adding a touch of jalapeno to the cheesecake's strawberry tequila sauce.
Beierle says he will be expanding the menu over the next few weeks, bringing down dishes from Seattle, but putting his own Olympia twist on it.
"I want to open people's eyes to what food can be," he says. "They can come to a Mexican restaurant that's not just beans and rice on a plate."
All in all, I enjoyed Trago. Next time I will try new menu items.
The joint is packed on weekend nights. I could easily see grabbing a movie next-door at Century Theater and making a night of it.
TRAGO MEXICAN KITCHEN, 11-12:30 A.M. SUNDAY-THURSDAY, 11-1 A.M. FRIDAY-SATURDAY, HAPPY HOUR 3-6 P.M. AND 9 P.M. TO CLOSE DAILY, 625 BLACK LAKE BLVD., OLYMPIA, 360.338.0515
Off duty rules.
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