Thursday, February 26, 2015

Totopos Offers Bold, Fresh Flavors

Great food knows no borders. 

Tucked away from passersby yet easily accessible, Totopos in Cary features Mexico City-style cuisine in an inviting cantina setting. Its name is the Spanish term for corn chips.

Begin your meal with fresh guacamole. Besides the traditional style, more adventurous options include bacon-mango and chile arbol and chicharron with pickled jalapeño peppers. Can’t decide on just one? That’s okay. Just ask for the trio tasting, and you’ll get all three at once. 

Also among the starters are sublime deep-fried taquitos encompassing spicy chicken tinga, Muenster cheese, crema dulce and pico de gallo. Gluten-free tostadas a la Veracruzana involve shrimp, capers, green olives and bell peppers.  

Presented like a work of culinary art, tamales chock-full of chicken tinga, pico de gallo, morita salsa, crema dulce and cilantro showcase the skillful execution of chef Miguel Cuevas.

The perfect entrée for two arrives in the form of plato Gordo. Served on a large cast-iron skillet, the family-style meal features grilled pork carnitas, shrimp, chicken, steak, Muenster cheese, onions, grilled vegetables, corn on the cob and blue corn tortillas.

More than half a dozen varieties of tacos are available, including slow-roasted pork carnitas and transcendent carne asada (superbly seasoned grilled skirt steak). Order the folded-over-and-filled blackened mahi mahi with mango salsa, which deserve most-exalted fish tacos status.

Whether you choose enchiladas or quesadillas, fajitas or chilaquiles, it’s all a can’t-miss proposition. Dessert lovers should consider these tempting possibilities: Madagascar vanilla lemongrass crème brûlée; guava flan; a sorbet trio with lime, mango and wild berries; and fried plantain, a typical Mexico City street dessert, served with vanilla ice cream, cinnamon, sweet cream and condensed milk. 

When it comes to libations, a centrally located full bar offers Mexican and locally crafted beer. Diverse assortments of margaritas are concocted with fresh-squeezed juices, 100 percent Blue Agave tequilas and agave nectar. Try the house specialty Totopos margarita made with orange and lime juices or La Watermelon containing fresh watermelon juice and spicy powder on the rim. Tequila flights are also available. 

Décor at Totopos is festive and endearing. The ceiling is indigo blue. Mosaic tile tables and banquettes sit atop red brick flooring. Veladoras, which are candles with a religious motif, are situated throughout the restaurant.

A section near the main entrance displays a collection of wooden trompos, or toy spinning tops. Just across the room are painted steel rods produced by local artist Edwin White, while assorted colorful wooden crates flank the bar area. One corner of the eatery resembles a wrestling ring, complete with padded ropes, turnbuckles and various intriguing lucha libre masks. 

Closed Mondays, Totopos is open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner and Sunday for brunch and dinner. 


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