Redwood City's newest downtown restaurant, La Viga, is not your average Mexican restaurant.
Owner, manager and head chef extraordinaire Manuel Martinez has filled his new restaurant's menu with original recipes that blend traditional Mexican dishes with fresh seafood and unique flavor combinations. Manuel said he sources fresh local, seasonal, sustainable and organic ingredients to create innovative dishes.
"La Viga's food is unique because it all comes out of my own recipes," Martinez told Patch. "And, I like to change up the flavors a lot."
La Viga's menu features nearly every kind of seafood one can imagine, including snapper, shrimp, coconut-crusted prawns, calamari, mahi mahi, salmon and even octopus. Other favorites include pork, grilled flap meat, roast chicken and more. For dessert, diners can choose from flan and homemade churros with chocolate sauce.
Martinez said some of the most popular dishes so far have been the ceviches de dorado, featuring mahi mahi; the tacos de cochinita, featuring Yucatan-braised pork; fajitas de camarones, featuring broiled prawns; caldo de mariscos, which is an original seafood stew; and his paella mixta, which features chorizo, prawns, chicken, mussels and saffron rice.
Another popular item on the menu is one of Martinez's own inventions, his aguas frescas, which are fresh, handcrafted fruit drinks, which come in flavors like guava, mango, lime, tamarind and "Jamaica."
If Chef Martinez' name sounds familiar, that's because he has long roots in Bay Area fine dining, having previously worked as a chef for restaurants like Left Bank in Menlo Park, Reposado in Palo Alto, Palacio in Los Gatos where he designed the menu, and even Brigitte's French Restaurant in Santa Clara. Finally, he has his own establishment.
Martinez said that, though business has been a little slow since they first opened their doors on April 12 - as people are just learning of their existence - that every customer has appeared to really enjoy the food so far.
"Everyone really seems to enjoy what they have, and go away happy," he said.
In fact, Patch first learned of La Viga through a tip from reader Wayne Wong.
"I went there [on April 12], prompted by a San Jose Mercury blurb, and I was so impressed, I had to Yelp it - the first such post from me in years," he said. "La Viga offers upscale quality at bargain prices."
In his Yelp review, Wong wrote, "I was first memorized by the beautifully presented dishes, then, once I had a taste, was too busy eating to look up and even notice they had two flatscreen TVs. It all was delicious! May La Viga live long and prosper - and as long as Chef Martinez is around, I'm sure it will."
La Viga's small but tastefully decorated dining room features long, family-style, stained harwood tables and two large flat screen TVs that are often broadcasting the latest football (soccer) games from around the world.