Cafe Society

Come to Papas

Page 3 of 3

There's another explanation for the Cantonese slant to Los Cabos's menu. In 1997, Francesa Reese opened the third incarnation of Los Cabos in a space around the corner at 1512 Curtis Street, the former home of the Ocean Palace restaurant, keeping the cooks who'd been working the line there and serving a two-way menu -- half Peruvian, half Cantonese. Last year, she moved her restaurant to its current, less capacious and more comfortable spot (it's the third Los Cabos II, and Reese's fourth address overall). The straight-up Chinese beef and broccoli and lemon chicken dishes didn't make the trip, but the memory of such Asiana lingers. The tallarín saltado is advertised as Peruvian beef lo mein. The aguadito is chicken or fish in a cilantro-rice broth.

This is how menus get made sometimes, in the same way that culinary traditions are built, piece by piece and immigrant by immigrant -- a slow accretion of flavor and understanding and ingredients. The menu at Los Cabos doesn't move in a straight line or walk through a rational temporal progression from potatoes and guinea pigs to paella to curry to spaghetti to beef lo mein. Rather, it's a wild jumble of a dozen influences all rubbing up against each other in unusual ways. It works the way history does, telling its story in a series of unexpected collisions and crossed inspirations. And with each successive visit, I've come to understand just how much it has to say.

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Jason Sheehan
Contact: Jason Sheehan