An Arkansas-based restaurant group has opened Loca Luna Mexican Cuisine, its first restaurant in Dallas, in the former Maximo space behind the Galleria, with a menu of fajitas, chiles rellenos and excellent house-made tortillas.
Owners Hector Gomez and Refugio Reyes describe the food as a modern fusion of Tex-Mex, traditional Mexican and continental specials such as rib-eye steak. But the signature dishes are Mexican, Gomez says.
"There's our enchiladas poblanas, enchiladas Mexicanas — one with chile guajillo and sour cream sauce and the other with tomatillo sauce," he says. "We have a lot of tacos, and we make our mole in-house."
The corn tortillas alone are worth the trip. The restaurant buys masa from a local company and makes the tortillas in-house; what's so good about them is that they're extra-thick. The flour tortillas are purchased from Houston-based La Rancherita, and they're good, but definitely order a side of corn tortillas.
Those tortillas were a high point of the fish tacos ($11.95 at dinner), a trio filled with fingers of mahi mahi, dipped in a batter and fried. An accompanying slaw was wilted, but the chile morita — a salsa made from dried red jalapeños — was smoky, with a nice hit of heat. Other taco options include al pastor, chorizo, carnitas and tacos "Governador" filled with shrimp and poblano rajas (in cream).
Chiles en nogada ($16.95) was a rich, elegant dish. A poblano was filled with picadillo, consisting of ground beef cooked with peaches, raisins, apples, carrots and peanuts. Ladled over like a blanket was a thick, creamy white sauce made from ground almonds. Fresh pomegranates and chopped pecans sprinkled on top were as pretty as they were gourmet.
Chiles rellenos ($12.95) had two medium-size chiles filled with cheese and coated in a soft, thin, eggy batter. Getting two to an order meant that you got more chile pepper, which was a good thing: They still had some body and weren't just flaccid green shells enclosing a wad of cheese.
An appetizer of sopes ($9.95), corn discs filled with toppings, could easily serve as an entree. Lined up on a rectangular plate, there were three different kinds: "pulled" chicken, potatoes and chorizo, and brisket with guajillo sauce. The base was a thick, moist disc of corn, its edges fluted up as a rim to contain the filling.
One nice touch is that the complimentary chips come with a trio of dips: chunky mild red salsa, flavorful verde and creamy bean dip. There isn't much in the way of vegetarian dishes; even the spinach enchiladas ($13.95) come with bacon, but you can order them without, and the spinach itself was fresh.
To establish a more casual, comfortable atmosphere, they've added homey furniture such as the leather loveseat and coffee table with flowers in a vase in the center of the dining room. The restaurant also has a number of metal and copper pieces made by artisans from Mexico.
Gomez and Reyes are part of a Little Rock-based group with more than 20 years of experience. They own 22 restaurants across Arkansas and Louisiana, including such concepts as Salsa's Mexican Grill, El Jimador and El Acapulco.