My Meal Cost: $34.02 for 2. Health Rating A. Yelp 4 stars
So, I've been away from this for a while. After taking a year to finish Garey Avenue, I took a little time off and then started a new Dining in Pomona blog. After only 9 entries I got busy with other things, including, as president of Pomona Public Library Foundation, planning a major fundraiser, The Mayor's Gala, which was very successful in raising money for library support and programs.
During that period I visited a brand new restaurant downtown, Corazon Urban Kitchen with the Foundation treasurer, and fell in love with their upscale Mexican dishes, great service, and pretty plating. I revisited it again with the president of the Library Board of Trustees, and finally with the Lovely Mrs. C, and to a person they all loved it and we all returned multiple times. On that first visit I met Sergio Nogueron, the owner and arranged to have his restaurant as part of a package for our Gala Silent Auction. Sergio is a local guy, a graduate of Ganesha High School who attended Mt. Sac. He started working in restaurants while going to school at the age of 16 and opened his first restaurant in Carson. He then returned to Pomona to open Corazon Urban Kitchen.
Only four weeks after my first visit, I went back to finalize the Gala participation and the place was closed. What a disappointment! It turned out that he had a disagreement with his landlord and closed. But this was not to be the last of Sergio, who I met last week at the Cheers wine and food festival at the Fairplex. His was the most popular spot in restaurant row that evening with the longest lines.
He has bounced back and found a new location and tonight, yes tonight, June 30, he opened the new Corazon Urban Kitchen on Garey Avenue across from Pomona Valley Hospital, two doors south of Mama Mia Pizzeria.
The lovely Mrs. C and I decided to walk, according to my smart watch, approximately 900 steps to this new location which is adjacent to all three of the historic districts. Though the location is much smaller than his location on Second Street downtown, with seating for up to 40 in the small dining room, the food is exactly as I remembered it.
Upon being seated by the very friendly staff, we were brought chips and salsa. The chips were freshly fried and still warm. The salsa was mild and chunky with a smoky flavor from roasted tomatoes with scallion, cilantro, and just a hint of pepper. Mrs. C, the self described "gringa" not only ate the chips with the salsa, but asked for a second bowl of the salsa, something she's never done before. So the meal was off to a great start.
Because this was the first day they were open, a really soft opening, they don't currently have a liquor license and because of the size of this place they have applied for a beer and wine license only, as opposed to the full bar license they had downtown (on one of my trips to Second Street I ordered their bloody mary which had a terrific Mexican twist). Mrs. C decided to order a Mexican Coke in a bottle while I stuck with water. Sergio suggested that next time we bring our own bottle of wine and until he gets his license he will waive any corkage.
Mrs. C decided to order the short rib taquitos, which come beautifully arranged on a mound of guacamole with queso fresco, crema, and radish and onion garnishes. This was ordered off the appetizer menu but it was enough that she ended up taking some home. On a visit to Second Street with the Trustee president I had the papas (potato) version of this and it was very good.
Since I've visited this place and sampled their food four times now, each time trying a different menu item, I decided to try the short rib quesadilla. Mrs. C and the Trustee president had this on other occasions and were very enthusiastic about it. The quesadilla came in four wedges filled with short rib meat and melted cheese and topped with queso fresco, sliced red onion, cilantro and crema, along with a mound of guacamole. I must say that I can see why the others were enthusiastic. The braised short ribs were juicy and tender and the combination of flavors, with the guacamole, complimented each other. This was also an appetizer and also ended up with a good portion coming home.
One of the reasons that we had for bringing food home was that we also ordered a third appetizer to share. This was one of the hits of Cheers, the El Esquite. This is roasted corn topped with mayonnaise, cilantro, and powdered chili. The sweetness of the corn with the tang of the chili and the creaminess of the mayonnaise makes this a dish that as delicious as it is memorable.
On another of my visits on Second Street I had a short rib burrito which, according to the menu comes with red or green sauce (all their burritos are served wet), however, the waitress suggested that I try it with their mole sauce. It was unbelievable (IMHO). All of their enchiladas, and burritos can be ordered with your choice of the sauces and tonight's waitress even informed me that one of their most popular dishes, which I don't see on their menu, is mole fries, which sounds like a Mexican variation of poutine.
Other items on the menu that look interesting are a wide variety of tacos, including a veggie taco, gorditas, sopas, chile verde, chile colorado, chile relleno, mole poblano, el molcajete (with grilled angus beef, white shrimp, chorizo, chicken, roasted tomatoes, chile de arbol, salsa, queso fresco, onions, and nopales, this is their highest priced item at $25 but looks like it would feed 3-4), fish tacos, churrasco al a Mexicanan (grilled angus steak with jalapeno chimichurri over roasted veggies), camarones a la diabla, and a chorizo burger that looks like you would need to unhinge your jaw to eat.
One of the menu items that I will absolutely have to try next time is the chipotle Brusselas, roasted Brussels sprouts with lime, fresh cheese, pepitas, served with chipotle aioli sauce.
One of the challenges Sergio's going to have with this space is the lack of parking. Most of the street parking out front is limited to 24 minutes (due to the liquor store?) and while there is some parking on the south side of the building, it's not often available. He said that he's working with the USA Gas station a few doors to the north to secure an unused portion of their property for parking. He also hopes to add sidewalk seating as well as developing a back patio for additional dining and/or as a private party space.
If you watch cooking competitions on TV you know that they judge on three criteria, taste, creativity, and plating, and restaurants need to add to that atmosphere and, friendly efficient service. Corazon Urban Kitchen scores high on all counts and I look forward to my next meal there.
And don't be surprised if Sergio reappears downtown. He revealed to me that he's in negotiations for some property in the downtown core on the Arts Colony side of the Garey.
How could we get so lucky?