The goods: Chef Elida Villaroel transforms Charlotte Bistro into Mesa and offers a gourmet take on Latin cuisine.
Ambience: The petite Miracle Mile space with a small sidewalk patio is brightened by hot pink Barbarella silhouettes, pop-art murals by local artist Andres Risquez and fresh, locally grown flowers.
The grub: Modern Latin cooking with Asian influences. Venezuelan-born, French-trained Villaroel sources much of the produce from the co-owner’s Homestead farm. Prices are neighborhood-friendly: a $12 two-course lunch special, $6-$14 starters and $14-$35 mains.
The meal begins with toasted flatbread and house-made black olive tapenade. Starters include Venezuelan tequeños (fried dough stuffed with cheese) with cilantro sauce; baby arugula salad with pear, smoked almonds, goat cheese, fennel and a drizzle of orange dressing; classic onion soup and eggplant timbale accompanied by eggplant caviar. Mains include a crab risotto with truffled hearts of palm, duck leg confit and asada negro with red wine sauce. Dessert brings quesillo criollo, a Venezuelan cake, and decadent chocolate soup topped with coffee ice cream.
Verdict: Charlotte Bistro’s chef and her gourmet dishes in an intimate, revamped space.