We “norte-americanos” may think we know Mexican food. But any time spent south of the border reveals a wonderfully diverse cuisine that reflects Mexico’s geography, Hispanic and pre-Hispanic heritage, the contribution of immigrants (the delicious tacos al pastor have their roots in Lebanon) and the creativity of thousands of chefs, many world class, from Mexico City to San Miguel de Allende, Oaxaca and the Yucatan, who are reinventing Mexican cuisine on an almost daily basis.
In short Mexican food is no one thing, no monolith — it’s different from and a lot more than the stereotypical combination plates we grew up enjoying back in the day (I think of Ramona’s in Redding, next to the railroad tracks, where Gironda’s is now).
Which brings me to Cicada Cantina on Hilltop Drive.
Some folks don’t seem to get Cicada. But for me, fresh from a month in colonial Mexico (Guanajuato, Leon, San Miguel, Queretaro) Cicada seems part of that new tradition — of experimenting, reinventing, of mashing up old and new flavors and combinations.
For diners it may require an open mind and a sense of adventure, but it can be well worth the effort.
For example a few months back we dined there with some friends and I ordered the Mexican paella — shrimp sautéed with chorizo sausage, garlic, bell peppers and served on a bed of red rice and topped with cilantro and green onions.
It was delicious — and delightful to look at. My wife ordered tiny street tacos, reminiscent of those you’d find in Mexico City. For dessert I had churros (think Mexican doughnut) and ice cream.