Restaurant: Los Pinos Restaurant and Bar
Address: 3420 Palmer Drive in Cameron Park
Hours: Serving lunch and dinner daily. Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; later hours by demand.
Chips and salsa is something you eat until you lose your appetite. They are always there, at virtually every Mexican restaurant I have ever been to, tempting me to “gorge away” while I await my order.
I try to resist, I truly do. Just one chip and dunk before my meal arrives, I tell myself. Ok, one more, but just one. Next thing I know half of the chips in the basket have been devoured.
Los Pinos Restaurant and Bar, the new Mexican restaurant in Cameron Park, does it a little differently than most, though. The chips are there, of course, and are of the “normal” variety, nothing special. But they come with different dipping sauces: regular, garden variety hot salsa, a fire roasted salsa and an absolutely delicious warm bean and cheese purée.
Thank goodness I brought someone with me on this review or I most likely would have downed the whole tray.
Los Pinos is located at 3420 Palmer Drive, just off Cameron Park Drive, and is what I consider a “casually elegant Mexican eatery,” which is to say that the décor and the food, strives for something a little more than your garden variety Mexican joint.
It offers a mix of Latin fusion cuisine along with a more traditional Mexican fare, all “expertly prepared using only fresh ingredients.”
The interior is clean and almost completely devoid of the usual multi-colored/rainbow trappings, but still has enough authenticity to let you know you’re in the right place.
My guest and I arrive at around 2 p.m. and the place is deserted. I’m not surprised, though. It is a little late for lunch, but the upside is that we have our pick of booths and our meals come out in record time. I just may have to do all of my reviews at this time from now on.
I chose the asada burrito ranchero, which is steak sautéed with tomatoes, onions, jalapeños and cilantro and topped off with a dollop of sour cream and shredded cheese. The beef was tender, the portion was large but not excessive and everything tasted fresh and made to order.
I was ecstatic to see that the dish was accompanied by delightfully different cilantro rice and, yes, black beans instead of the garden variety refried beans you usually get with Mexican dishes. It was a lovely compliment to my burrito, which was great.
My lunch companion had the chicken burrito which, other than chicken instead of beef and the addition of some guacamole, was prepared exactly the same way as my dish. While she enjoyed it, she did comment that the chicken was a tad too salty for her taste.
The menu is large and has pretty much what you’d expect on it, but there are a few nice surprises, such as the puerco con frambuesa (pork tenderloin medallions sautéed in a chipotle raspberry sauce and served with roasted red potatoes and fresh, seasonal veggies). It sounded amazing, as did the pasta Mexicana (a mix of shrimp, chicken and habañero sausage, all sautéed with onions, tomatoes and garlic).
The most pleasantly surprising part of the menu at Los Pinos, however, was that it contains seven vegetarian dishes that sound just as delicious as the meat ones.
The enchiladas potocinas, which consists of crispy corn tortillas stuffed with red chili sauce and Mexican cheese and topped with a creamy black bean sauce, sounded like something I’d have to try the next time I’m in the area.
Los Pinos is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
It is located at 3420 Palmer Drive in Cameron Park. The phone number is 530-672-1403.