Seven-time James Beard award winning Chef Rick Bayless is back with another regionally-inspired menu at Frontera Cocina. The Taste of Oaxaca menu follows up two other regionally-inspired menus rolled out earlier in the year. Bayless has been traveling around Mexico for decades, and is sharing his experiences with Disney Springs diners.
We were the invited guests of Frontera Cocina, but it didn’t affect our opinions shared in the review.
Guacamole with Chile-Lime Chapulines – $11
First up is, without a doubt, the most adventurous item off of the Oaxaca menu. Chef Rick Bayless was excited to share that he’s included Chapulines in his already famous guacamole. Chapulines are actually toasted grasshopper and are quite popular in the Oaxaca region.
As always, Chef Bayless not only offered a colorful dish, but also colorful backstory to his dish. Chef Bayless told us that Chapulines can be widely found in the region. From streetside stands to restaurants, Chapulines are commonly found in dishes and offer a crunch in addition to an easy to eat flavor. As for the Chapulines in our guacamole, we found them to offer a nice crunch and a flavor very similar to a sunflower seed. As visually intimidating as the Chapulines might be, the flavor was quite nice and complemented the historically wonderful guacamole smartly. We can definitely recommend this appetizer not only for the flavors, but for a unique photo as well!
12-hour slow-roasted bone-in shortrib, roasted peanut mole, Cotija mashed potatoes, sauteed Swiss chard, crispy onions, toasted peanuts (contains peanuts, seeds, gluten, soy)
After reviewing two other regionally-inspired menus, we have to say that the Oaxaca menu has been the best, top to bottom. The shortrib here has a single, large bone and plenty of meat to be considered a solid portion size.
Here’s a reverse look at the shortrib, revealing all of the tender, juicy meat behind the bone.
A steak knife is included with the plate, but is largely useless given how easily the meat separates from the bone. Honestly, a spoon would be more than sufficient, it’s that soft.
As far as taste is concerned, you’ll find a traditional shortrib flavoring – smokey and tender. The peanut was almost there more for decoration than an overarching flavor. While we don’t usually include an “in progress” photo, we had to really drive home the point of how tender and easily separated the meat was from the bone. A really solid dish!
Oaxacan Mole Chicken – $27
Crispy half chicken, Oaxacan red mole, plantain rice, warm corn tortillas (contains gluten, seeds)
This is actually a regular menu item that fits wonderfully into the new Oaxacan theme. Just like the shortrib above, you’ll find a big portion size here. The chicken is cooked well and it’s easy to see how this has become a favorite among guests visiting Frontera Cocina over the years.
The steak knife provided is necessary here, as you’ll have to navigate a few bones. The best way to enjoy this dish is to use the warm corn tortillas provided and create your own chicken tacos. The mole is a nice, robust sauce that’s close to a refried bean in consistency, but packs a slight bit of spice. It’s a wonderful dish that I’m sure will stick on the main menu beyond the Oaxaca menus run.
Bunuelitos – $9
Crispy flour tortillas, cajeta-caramel mousse, red wine drizzle with raw sugar & Mexican cinnamon, dark chocolate shavings, mezcal-infused cranberries, roasted almonds (contains dairy, gluten, tree nuts)
A favorite from the region, the Bunuelitos is a robust dessert offering that combines a variety of flavors for a delicious outcome. The tortillas have a nice, brittle crunch to them.
Inside, the cajeta-caramel mousse is light and airy. The caramel comes through wonderfully, pairing well with the chocolate shavings and mezcal-infused cranberries. When talking with our server, she said that she recently made a trip back to Mexico and was very pleasantly surprised at how well this traditional dessert was brought to Frontera Cocina. I think the real brilliance in the regionally-inspired menus is the conversations that are started between you and your server. They will oftentimes link a dish or dessert with their childhood or family traditions, and the traditions of the Bunuelitos run deep in Mexico. A recommended dish!
Mezcalita – $15
Banhez mezcal, Ancho Reyes liquor, orange juice, chocolate bitters
A refreshing, but strong, citrus drink is at the top of the Oaxaca drink list. It’s a sturdy pour that contains citrus throughout and hints of chocolate bitters. The Ancho Reyes liquor adds a slight bit of spice, but nothing that is too overpowering. Where we might have had some issues with a drink or two on previous regionally-inspired menus at Frontera Cocina, the lineup from the Oaxaca menu starts off strong with the Mezcalita.
Oaxaca Daiquiri – $15
Paranubes Oaxacan rum, banana, guanabana liquor, agave nectar, served frozen with brown sugar-chia rim
Fans of banana and rum will surely enjoy the Oaxaca Daiquiri. While banana is the presiding flavor, the rum is hinted throughout as well as the guanabana. If you’re looking for a strong drink, this isn’t it, but if you’re interested in a daiquiri, it’s a solid choice.
Mexican Chocolate Martini – $16
Montelobos mezcal, chocolate liqueur, Avion espresso tequila liqueur
Whew, this was a strong drink! Definitely meant to be sipped and with every ingredient screaming “chocolate”, this drink is definitely focused when it comes to flavor. The chocolate shavings offer a fantastic crunch to this drink that we didn’t know we needed! It may look like a dessert, but this is an adult drink in every sense of the word. If you’re looking for a strong drink, we can safely recommend it as one of the strongest we’ve tried at Frontera Cocina!
In addition to the above items off of the Taste of Oaxaca menu, there were four new seasonal options as well. Let’s dive in!
Frontera Harvest Salad – $13
Arugula and shaved brussels sprouts, cilantro-serrano vinaigrette, poblano rajas, pomegranate, mezcal infused cranberries, bacon, goat cheese, pepitas (contains dairy, seeds)
As has been the case in the past, Frontera Cocina has executed a light, flavorful salad here. There are a variety of flavors competing for your attention. From fruity cranberries to bacon, the salad has something for everyone. It’s presented as an entree, but it will hold up nicely as a shared starter as well.
Herby-spicy Grilled Swordfish – $28
Plantain rice, roasted tomatillo-serrano aioli, sauteed Swiss chard
If you aren’t going to order the shortrib from the Oaxaca menu, this is as close to a “must order” as you’ll find. The swordfish is tender to the fork and the roasted tomatillo-serrano aioli provides all the flavoring you could want. A lime is included and we recommend a light sprinkle over the top. The cilantro crema makes a triumphant return from the shrimp tacos from the Taste of Baja menu, but really isn’t needed. This dish was the clear winner of the entrees for the night, and we’ll certainly be back to enjoy it again soon!
Chile-roasted Cauliflower Gratinado – $6
Toasted sesame seeds, golden raisins, crunchy Cotija cheese (contains gluten, dairy, seeds)
Personally, cauliflower is something I avoid, if I can. That said, these were actually quite enjoyable. The crunchy Cotija cheese drives the flavor here. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it, but I think you can do better with this menu.
Pumpkin Cream Tart – $9
Graham cracker crust, spiced pumpkin “espuma”, whipped cajeta cream, allspice candied pumpkin seeds (contains gluten, dairy, seeds)
We may have saved the best for last. The pumpkin cream tart was an outstanding offering, and perfectly in-line with the flavor of the season. A spiced pumpkin flavor is consistent throughout. Cajeta, or caramelised goat’s milk, is a wonderful topper, providing a light and flavorful whipped cream. We can definitely recommend this dessert!
If the other two menus didn’t already, the Taste of Oaxaca menu really solidified the fact that Chef Rick Bayless and Frontera Cocina are doing something special. There is a richness of ingredients that is rare to find with seasonal offerings. Chef Bayless and his team are uniquely positioned to deliver traditional menu items that excel at providing their guests a peek into the culture and tastes of Mexico.
The Taste of Oaxaca menu will be available until January 2019 and is worth a try if you’re looking for a good meal at Disney Springs.