Frida Mexican Cuisine has been a casual staple on South Beverly Drive for close to two-decades. Over the past several months, the Frimex Hospitality Group has expanded to an upscale full- service restaurant and bar on North Beverly Drive.
You might recognize dashing Argentine- born manager and wine connoisseur Abel Santillian who had worked with Robert DeNiro for 22 years at Ago West Hollywood and Nobu, as he greets loyal customers in his stylish signature sports coat at the reception desk.
Santillian is trying to shake things up in the otherwise quite Golden Triangle area of Beverly Hills. “I want to bring passion and fun to the neighborhood with action, people, music,” he said over the loud brass bar backdrop. The place is packed on a Thursday night by 6 p.m. and a crowd is already forming out to the sidewalk anxiously waiting for a leather- clad booth in the large industrial-chic space.
Santillian is trying to disrupt the otherwise early-bird dining options in the area yet bring more atmosphere than just a watering-hole to the community. “The idea has been that Beverly Hills is mostly old school,” he told the Courier. “I’m trying to bring younger people something different and bring life to the area after 9 p.m. when all the other restaurants are starting to close and most people are going to West Hollywood or downtown.”
The vibe here might be festive but the interior evokes the old-world patio charm of colonial Mexico with reclaimed wooden tables and black olive trees, traditionally meant to be a gathering spot for friends and family. The food is derived from the art of “Mexican gastronomy,” according to CEO and founder Vincente Del Rio who started his enterprise with taquerias in Mexico City when he was still in college.
The menu also reflects the communally shared gathering concept. “The main aspect of the menu is the family-style sharing plates, authentic of the old Cantinas in Mexico,” said Del Rio. “The ingredients are of a higher quality as to match the location and quality of the restaurant.” So far, the crowds are also loving the octopus and white fish ceviche and fajitas made with tender filet mignon steak. “We serve small plates with our perfect combination of textures, rich flavors, colorful ingredients, and culinary methods,” he told the Courier. “Our fresh tortillas are hand-crafted every day from scratch in our kitchen with the best ingredients SoCal has to offer.”
Among the other culinary ‘art’ is table- side guacamole mixed with onions and herbs in a molcajete (Mexican mortar and pestle) that is a great order for a group and conversation starter, along with an icy salt-rimmed margarita. Ease into the next course of mix and match tacos from shrimp with Oaxacan cheese to the signature crispy black bean with poblano which can be ordered with flour, corn or lettuce wraps. But the real star is the larger format plates such as the chicken mole. “The mole is a very traditional, authentic Mexican sauce from prehistoric times. Made from over 20 ingredients, including chocolate, tortilla, bread, clove, cumin, spices, and chile,” confirmed Del Rio. Here they serve two versions: one recipe from Oaxaca and another one from Puebla which is not easy to find in the 90210 zip code.
Opening this location in Beverly Hills has been a longtime goal for the restaurateur. “Location is the main point as to why this concept is a more elevated endeavor, just like the service is more personalized, a larger more upscale wine list, Mezcal and tequilas unique to Los Angeles.”
Now open for lunch and dinner, Del Rio explained that the Cantina was created to bring the trendiest approach to an experience where you can enjoy distinctive cocktails and the finest mixology from different regions in Mexico. “From top-shelf mezcal to the most extraordinary hand-crafted tequilas, we wanted to bring a delightful touch to traditional Mexican cuisine in a modern dining environment to the city.”
Santillian concludes, “There’s an amazing community here in Beverly Hills and this is not just a bar or a place to eat but a place to enjoy life.”
252 N. Beverly Dr. Beverly Hills