Mexican cuisine is as diverse and varied as the geography of that large country.
Yet, in Baton Rouge, Mexican restaurants tend to lean toward either chili- and cheese-heavy Tex-Mex or the handheld street foods of taquerias.
Blue Corn, which opened late last year on Perkins Road at Essen Lane, focuses on a more refined, sophisticated vein of Mexican fare.
The chefs behind Blue Corn have developed a menu with dishes rarely seen in south Louisiana Tex-Mex restaurants — things like nopales (sauteed cactus leaves) and traditional tamales steamed in banana leaves. The kitchen also prepares complex, flavorful sauces, including multiple types of mole, a time-consuming recipe requiring dozens of ingredients.
Blue Corn’s concept and menu share a few similarities with Agave Blue, a Prairieville restaurant that also serves Latin American dishes seen less often in south Louisiana restaurants. The owners of the two restaurants are friends who were raised in the same area of central Mexico.
The restaurant follows the menu’s lead with an urbane interior design using a mix of modern industrial and earthy, organic furniture. A vibrant colorful mural on the western wall evokes the artwork of traditional Mesoamerican cultures, the skulls and skeletons of Mexican folk art and luchador masks.
My fiancée and I first visited Blue Corn on a Saturday afternoon in early March. It was a warm, breezy day, and the music inside seemed a little too loud, so we chose to sit on the patio, which is as stylish as the interior, with a mixture of vibrant colors and subdued industrial fixtures. Bright yellow metal chairs surround tables made of distressed wood tops and gray iron legs, and the flooring outside is covered with homey white and blue ceramic tile.
We started our meal with the tableside guacamole ($12), and our waiter quietly constructed the dish while we watched, mixing freshly squeezed lime, cilantro, jalapenos and onions with the soft avocados. The guacamole could serve a party of four, but we polished it off pretty easily.
For my entree, I chose the Blue Corn enchiladas ($12.95), cheese enchiladas topped with spicy and smoky red guajillo sauce; crema, a thin, mild sour cream that is a hallmark of interior Mexican food; crumbly white queso fresco; and avocado. A tender, seared piece of carne asada and a mixture of pan-fried diced potatoes and carrots accompanied the enchiladas. The combination covered all my taste buds and left me stuffed.
My guest chose the mango habanero ceviche ($15.25), lime-cured shrimp with mango, onions, cilantro, tomatoes and avocado. It was refreshing and packed with sweet and acidic tones that complemented the plump shrimp. Blue Corn allows you to pick the level of spiciness you can handle with the ceviche, so my fiancée chose a mild flavor, but it was a little too mild, and she added some hot sauce later.
We made a mental note to return one warm, sunny Friday evening in the spring for ceviche and tacos on the patio.
The following week, I returned to Blue Corn for lunch. I sat inside — the music seemed a few decibels quieter.
The taco menu lists a variety of appetizing combinations, and I chose a two-taco combo ($13.95 with one side). I picked one al carbon taco filled with steak with cilantro and onions, and a Baja-style fried fish taco, a crispy fillet adorned with guacamole, cabbage, pickled onions, radishes and a chipotle sauce.
These arrived on fresh-off-the-grill corn tortillas with plenty of lime to spritz atop my meal. On the al carbon, the steak was grilled to near perfection. The fish was light and crisp, and the toppings blended to complement the flaky fish with sweet, smoky and spicy flavors.
I look forward to testing all the tacos at Blue Corn. For my side, I chose rajas con queso y elote, a dish of pan-fried poblano peppers and corn with queso fresco and crema. I was expecting roasted corn swimming in a cup of sour cream with chili seasoning. This was fresher, but not more flavorful, than the elote I had tried previously.
I'm planning to return to Blue Corn to research the extensive menu further. And take advantage of Tuesday taco specials and that patio.
Blue Corn Tequila and Tacos
7673 Perkins Road (at the Ichiban Square shopping center)
11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday
(225) 300-4601; bluecornrestaurant.com
Pros: Ceviche; tacos; an extensive menu
Cons: Prices may be high for some diners