‘TOP CHEF’ ALEX EUSEBIO’S CASCABEL BRINGS FRESH
‘COASTAL MEXICAN’ FARE TO TOLUCA LAKE
‘Top Chef’ alumni Alex Eusebio is a familiar and popular face in sleepy Toluca Lake. His Sweetsalt is a favorite gourmet café/bakery serving fresh soups, salads, and sandwiches along with a variety of homemade sweets. It’s also a great place to people watch and star-gaze as his clientele is strictly A-list celebrities who come by daily for their coffee fix as well as to satisfy their sweet tooth.
Now Chef Alex and his wife Sara Mann Eusebio have also opened Cascabel, an entirely fresh ‘Coastal Mexican’ restaurant that offers a new take on traditional Latin cuisine, including an assortment of fresh seafood dishes, plus a full menu of beer, wine, signature margaritas and other specialty cocktails.
The oft-recognized ‘Top Chef’ season five alumnus hails from Madrid, Spain and spent much of his childhood in the Dominican Republic before eventually finding his way to New York City. Chef Alex is beloved for his flair and passion for Nuevo Latino cuisine. And when it came time to open Cascabel, which means “rattle” in Spanish (think rattlesnake), opening shop again in Toluca Lake was a no-brainer.
“When we started to scout for a location, we considered everything from downtown to Santa Monica,” recalled Eusebio. “However, Toluca Lake really embraced us when we opened Sweetsalt in 2010. Now there’s something of a culinary awakening happening here as the neighborhood becomes a dining destination for all Angelenos. We very much want to be a part of that.”
Tucked away on Riverside Drive, chances are good that you’ll pass right by Cascabel on your first try but once you find it, you’ll step into a charming, wood-driven 74-seat dining room. You can also opt to look through a large glass window that looks into the kitchen where you can watch Chef Alex in action.
We started with the Smoked Bacon Guacamole and chips, which is a fine starter item to share. You’ll find that satisfying guacamole taste we all love, only elevated thanks to some smoked bacon—genius.
Other recommended appetizers include the Crispy Lobster Tacos, served with dill, tomatoes, blood oranges, grapefruit, crème fraiche, lime zest and black roe. An interesting dish that slightly misses the mark is the Chile Relleno prepared with pulled chicken, crisp chorizo, roasted poblano aioli, mache-frisee, and tarragon-tomatillo salsa. This dish is served cold and is more like a salad, which is fine but when you call it a chile relleno, certain expectations are created that need to be met. If you want something unique, you may want to order this but if you’re looking for the classic chile taste, well, you may be disappointed.
The tacos at Cascabel are a house specialty and there are several to choose from for all types of eaters—meat eaters to veggie lovers. The list includes Fried Chicken tacos, which were my favorite. Who knew fried chicken tacos could be so good? These are a real find. Seriously, consider these a must-have.
Other tacos include Brussels sprouts; Mushroom; Hanger Steak; Duck Confit; and Pastor. The duck confit tacos, as well as the pastor (pork loin) are fine choices, as are the Brussels sprouts, and mushroom, which are great healthy options.
If you’re looking for heartier choices, the Braised Lamb Mole with red wine mole sauce, roasted pepitas, and tortillas are a standout option. I am a mole maniac and this braised lamb mole is a menu standout.
Adding a little sweetness to Cascabel, Sweetsalt’s Pastry Chef Heather Ward is crafting the dessert menu. Formerly of Bottega Louie, Ward brings her vast experience and unique twist to Cascabel’s dessert menu with items including Chocolate passion Fruit Marquise, and a Cajaeta Coconut-Avocado Panna Cotta.
“Our goal is for Cascabel to be the place people come for sophisticated Latin cuisine but without any fussiness,” explained Chef Alex. “We want to be your new neighborhood spot, even if your neighborhood usually happens to be Koreatown or Century City.”
Cascabel is located at 10717 Riverside Drive in Toluca Lake. Hours: Monday – Thursday: 5pm – 10pm; Friday – Saturday: 5pm – 11pm. Call 818-927-4210.
Photography Courtesy of: Cascabel
Story by Jose Martinez