by Glori Fickling
The long vacant space above Broadway�s Food Court, most recently occupied by the Crab Zone, has finally introduced a taste of smart sophistication to the perpetually laid back unit, and instantly added an intriguing Mexican accent. Enter Carmelita�s Kitchen de Mexico, based on the Heredia family�s trio of successes originated in the Sacramento area circa 1962.Partners Clemente Heredia, Sr, & Jr., after locating a long sought after Laguna Beach site, launched their newest venture engaging the brilliant expertise of local architect, Mark Walpin. To widen the modest space, he took over an adjacent café to accommodate the daily supplies of fresh seasonal ingredients which are a Heridia hallmark, then blasted the flat ceiling to expose rustic beams. Rich dark chocolate hues handsomely embellish the room complemented with romantic lighting beneath suspended basket style ceiling lamps, further enhancing the ocean view. Mahogany tables dominate the contemporary dining room and an elongated bar at left leads back to open kitchen seating where guests may watch bustling chefs preparing the many-faceted menu. Heredia Jr. also features his private brand tequilas from Mexico.This is not simply a �purty face with naught behind� though. Beyond the tempting bill of fare, delicious is the key and I heartily concur with early patrons who enjoyed the menu within the first week of an unannounced opening. Special accolades abounded for the fresh fish and beef entrees sided with vegetables and rice or potatoes prepared with the younger Heredia�s personal take on a more modern approach to Mexican fare His carne asada features bone-in prime rib with roasted tomatillo and Portobello mushrooms. Chili rellenos, often vacant on some Mexican menus here, show up with lobster, shrimp, pasilla and salsa roja. For dos y tres tastes, comes a choice of relleno. taco, enchilada, or tamale, though the latter seems so in demand they were sold out on a few occasions.Perhaps a bit pricey with filet mignon and lobster tail at $38, most dishes are in the $10 -$!4 range. So, let�s welcome Carmelita�s and enjoy this decidedly enticing south-of-the-border dining experience.217 Broadway, Laguna Beach949 715-7829Open 7 days from 11 a.m.