The revival of downtown Tijuana's Ave. Revolución, is very alive and well. San Diego's Chef Chad White and partners have teamed up to open the latest gem, La Justina Gastrobar. His partner Jaime Brambila, is at the forefront of La Justina's ingenious concept. This new urban spot, decked out in reclaimed industrial materials, features hand built tables and chairs, as well as a live wall planted with succulents. After speaking with Chef Chad White about the creative concept and the design of the space, it was important to them to be resourceful and utilize what was available to them. They repurposed the materials and added their own personal touches. He states, "We found 150 year old wood, that was underwater, and had taken on interesting colors. We added some resin, and the colors of green, orange, and blues really came out. Why not make our own chairs with it?" When you see these beauties, you will know exactly what he is talking about. Striking details such as the exposed brick wall, and sharp lighting add a feeling of warmth to the space, that is studded with cool metals and concrete accents.
Chad White's appreciation for the creativity and culture in Baja California truly shines. He has never been one to think "inside the box" per say, and reveals that Tijuana is the perfect place to let his ideas and passion run wild. The menu features comforting dishes highlighting Mexico and Baja, but they have put them more into a gastropub approach. "The food is eclectic, new age, some fusion is involved, and it's just real raw and rugged. It speaks to what the whole concept is by itself." says White. He can't speak highly enough about his amazing team in the kitchen, featuring one of the head chefs Iker Castillo. To wash it all down, the restaurant serves local craft beers, as well as hand crafted cocktails that were developed specifically for La Justina.
That evening we had the pleasure of enjoying a few plates from the menu. We began with a plate full of fresh Kumiai oysters, topped with avocado en escabeche, accents of lardo, and furikake.
Next up their version of elotes en vaso. This classic street side snack is an all time favorite of mine. Their rendition adds in crunchy bits of chicharrón, in-house made butter and mayonnaise, hints of lime, chile, and a hearty dusting of cotija cheese. I kept going back for more, I just couldn't stop.
The tostada de mar. A tostada piled high with sea snail, octopus, avocado, cilantro juice, and peanut salsa. The cilantro juice adds a nice bright note to the dish.
Sea snail cooked sous vide, sharing the plate with roasted cauliflower, briny capers, dates, and smoked almonds.
Pork belly drizzled in an apple salsa, and lavender honey, and arepas. A bite of the tender pork belly, and corn dough arepa together, show that they are just so right for each other.
The final dish of the evening, lamb and bean pizza prepared on hand stretched dough, and cooked blissfully away in their wood-fired oven. If you have never had beans on your pizza, now is your chance to embrace a new experience. The pot of beans is actually cooked underneath the lamb, making sure to get every last bit of the drippings and juices from the lamb. The are a truly delicious base, combined with the earthiness of the lamb, melty queso Oaxaca, and sweet red onions.
La Justina Gastro bar is a fantastic place to head out with friends, order a few plates from the menu, your drink of choice, and just let the night slip away.
Chef Chad White could not be more excited about the opening of La Justina Gastro Bar. "This place is a giant collaboration. A bunch of individuals, like minded, but different enough to create this space." He goes on to state, "This is a dream come true!".
La Justina Gastro Bar
22000 Tijuana, Baja California
VIDEO : La Justina Gastro Bar
Kristin and Antonio blog at Life & Food and you can follow them on Twitter at @lifefoodblog and Facebook. They also created "Club Tengo Hambre" where they visit the most delicious spots of Baja California.