Upscale Mexican cuisine has arrived in San Clemente with the opening of South of Nick’s. While the official opening is Tuesday, January 10th, I was invited to join them for a preview this weekend. I was not disappointed.
South of Nick’s took over the historic property previously occupied by the Gordon James Grill. The new restaurant retained the original tile entry and exposed beam ceilings with upscale lighting and interior design. Similar to Nick’s restaurant on Del Mar, the bar is central to the restaurant, with booths and tables flanking it on three sides.
We were seated at a booth in the main room, and served the requisite chips (unimpressive) and salsa (pleasantly sweet). We placed our drink orders and reviewed the menu. The Skinny Margarita was the best I’d ever had. Though their drink concoctions sounded very intriguing, I’ll have to return another time to give them a try.
The appetizers offered some standards (guacamole) and a few interesting twists. We ordered the shrimp taquitos. Normally these are more tortilla than anything else, but these taquitos featured jumbo shrimp with a tortilla wrapped around it like a blanket, then drizzled with an avocado sauce and sprinkled with cotilla cheese.
For my main course, I chose the more traditional carnitas. They were delicious, served with homemade corn tortillas, guacamole, white refried beans and an amazing chipotle sauce. A solid choice, and I’ll gladly repeat it.
My fiance Joan selected the real winner: the Chipotle-dusted Chilean Sea Bass. Served elegantly with white rice, the fish melted in my mouth (yes, I got a couple bites).
For dessert, we tried the fried plantains, served with a carmel sauce and vanilla ice cream. Plantains are usually sliced, mashed and very starchy. But these were prepared with whole baby plantains. Perfectly prepared, and magically disappearing!
South of Nick’s officially opens this Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 4pm. I’ll see you there!
South of Nick’s
110 North El Camino Real
San Clemente, CA 92672
Hours: Monday-Sunday, Open at 11am