Food Straight From The Garden

New Todos Santos restaurant focuses on farm to table dishes
BY: LACEY STORER

There’s a new restaurant in Todos Santos that’s giving diners an elevated culinary experience. That last part is a little pun, since the restaurant is located at the south end of town, on top of the hill where Tres Santos has started building what they call their town farm homes. (Or, as we like to call them, the houses sitting in a cabbage patch.)

Jazamango, which is Spanish for arugula, is a new project from James Beard-nominated chef Javier Plascencia. A Baja-native, Plascencia has restaurants in Tijuana, Guadalupe Valley and San Diego. He chose Todos Santos for his newest restaurant because he liked the artistic culture of the town, and he wanted to add his culinary contribution to it.

Jazamongo’s concept focuses on farm to table ingredients. In fact, it’s so farm to table that we saw a sous chef pluck a small flower bud from a pot in his kitchen and use it to decorate a dish he was preparing. My boss was scampering up and down the rows gobbling up free samples that she picked. The menu features local products and organic produce straight from this garden, which the restaurant is adjacent to. If you have some time, it’s worth taking a walk around the garden to look at all the different fruits and vegetables they have growing there. Not sure if you’re supposed to be scarfing down the goods growing there.

There are rows and rows of different types of lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, beets, strawberries, olive and pomegranate trees, and more. And if you gardening aficionados wonder why they let some of the plants get so tall - as in foot-high stalks of romaine lettuce - it’s done on purpose so the plants will flower and bring in the bees for pollination. We didn’t know that.

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Also spotted in the garden is a drying rack for sun dried tomatoes and bread that will later be turned into croutons. Venture further back, to the far corner of the garden, and you’ll find the chicken coops and bocci ball courts (separated, of course, no feathers will be flying during your game).

The food at Jazamango is a blend of fresh produce, roasted meats and smoked dishes, with interesting finishing touches like fresh herb salsa, vegetable and corn tortilla ash and green strawberry sauce. The menu offers a variety of small plates, ranging in price from $7 to $12 USD, which include beet aguachile with octopus, aged beef tartare, sweet corn soup and yellowtail ceviche. On the entree side, there are dishes like tacos with crispy suckling pig and baby lamb, house made pasta with butternut squash, pork belly in a black mole sauce and a slow roasted sirloin that we can attest is mouthwatering. Most entrees are priced similarly to the small plates, with a few going into the $15 to $20 price range.

Jazamango is a modern restaurant that’s nice enough for a fancy date night, but not so upscale that you can’t show up in jeans and sandals (it is outdoors, after all).

There are several different dining areas, most of which come with a view of the garden and the town. In addition to the regular restaurant tables, there are several lounge-style areas with comfy chairs and fire pits. Or, you can sit at the bar and watch the cooks make your food. And then there’s the standout: an eye-catching, two-story structure made out of large sticks that houses several tables inside.

Jazamango opened two months ago, and so far business has been very good, especially on the weekends. General manager Gail Diberardinis told us that on one recent Sunday afternoon, the restaurant had 55 people come in to eat within 10 minutes of opening. If you go during the week, the crowd is much thinner which means little to no wait time for a table.

In addition to the restaurant, the Jazamongo people are also working on opening a small coffee shop/deli bar where they’ll sell food and drinks, along with fresh bread from their bakery and excess produce from the garden.

Right off the entrance to the coffee shop/deli is a bike trail that runs all the way down to Punta Lobos where the fishermen come in. It’s not technically part of Jazamango, but we think it’s worth mentioning. If you feel like working up an appetite before your meal, or burning some calories after, it’s just a three-mile ride (and a dash across the highway) to the beach. And back. Just a guess here, but the ride back, (uphill), is also about three miles.

One downside is that Jazamango doesn’t open until 1 p.m., so if you’re wanting an early, or even usual noontime lunch, forget it. Eat a late breakfast and then drive out to Todos Santos for lunch or dinner. Or you can graze in the garden like the boss did.

For more information, visit the website at jazamango.com or find them on Facebook at Jazamango.