Despite its small size and low-profile location away from most of the action downtown, Nuestro Mexico continues to evolve as one of the best Mexican restaurants in Bakersfield, which is saying a lot.
Others have noticed. They were singled out at another a lifestyles website looking for the best tacos in the state (what an impossible task that must be) and have done so well they opened a lounge/bar in the northwest at 9919 Hageman Road. Not a restaurant, just a Vegas-style lounge. You might worry that such an expansion might cut quality at the downtown location, but we didn’t find that on our most recent visits, and we’ve stopped in quite few times since last writing a full column about the place in 2015. Owner Francisco Martin is still running a tight ship.
One of the things I like about the restaurant is the way they try to calibrate the heat level of the food you’re ordering to your individual tastes, like an Indian restaurant, since, let’s face it, all of us have varying levels of tolerance for tongue heat. On this visit, one of my companions ordered the chile Colorado made with beefsteak ($17.95) and our waiter asked how hot she wanted it. Another example of the Chipotle effect — give the customer’s exactly what they want. She chose spicy and it wasn’t habanero hot but it was as good a husky, home-style version of this Mexican classic as we’ve had around town.
There are marks on the menu guiding you to items popular with Yelp reviewers but one that we’ve loved in the past that is not as publicized as much are the shrimp scampi tacos ($15.95). Who doesn’t love shrimp scampi with the butter and the garlic? Toss that on tortillas and call it a day, though the parsley added the crowning touch and having a small dish of extra butter to pour over the white rice served with it made it a great choice. Just looking at a picture of the plate I took with my phone recalls all the satisfying flavors.
Our biggest disappointment on this trip was a second companion who ordered the enchiladas suizas ($13.95), which the menu said would be served stacked New Mexico style. This friend had never had them prepared that way so we built it up to be like Mexican lasagna and a very different experience, but what she was served was straight old rolled enchiladas, without explanation. Odd.
What we’ve enjoyed in the past few years in particular: the fajitas salads ($12.95-$14.95, depending on choice of protein), a favorite because they typically mix two types of squash into the usual mix of fajita vegetables, making it far more interesting than what you get at most places; the fish fillet with chili verde sauce ($15.95, though we love to add shrimp for $3.95 more); the grilled chicken with the chipotle sauce ($15.95); the steak borracho ($14.95) made with vegetables and beer; and the garlicky spicy shrimp with cheese ($15.95).
On my next trip visit, I’m gonna have to try the shrimp soup ($14.95), which a friend raved about especially for the variety of vegetables selected. It’s served with tortillas, but I still have to have a restrained appetite to think of soup as a meal, and I hear the siren call of all those other menu items. And we’ve never sampled the most expensive menu item, the filet mignon with salsa negra ($29.95) that sounds tempting. Tacos made with chorizo and nopales ($14.95) also seem intriguing.
Over the years, Nuestro Mexico has expanded its signature drink menu to include trendy drinks like Old-Fashioneds, brought in local craft beers from Lengthwise and Temblor. The wine list, while not long, shows some thought and has very moderate prices, all under $30 for a bottle. And four vegetarian entrees have been added since our last column. Keep your eyes on the specials board, too, as they add some interesting items. After we visited, they brought out mashed plantain croquettes with pork cracklings and goat cheese, an African/Caribbean-influenced creation. If they have it when you visit, the coconut tres leches cake is pretty incredible, too.
Nuestro Mexico can be recommended for a fine dining experience.