Going back to caliente

Owner and chef Rigo Sedano prepares steak and shrimp caliente.

Owner and chef Rigo Sedano prepares steak and shrimp caliente.

Photo By Allison Young

For more information, visit www.rigossparks.com.

Lovers of Mexican food enjoy it for its flavorful kick, use of fresh, aromatic ingredients and colorful presentation. Mexican cuisine incorporates the cooking of ancient Aztecs and Mayans with ingredients and cooking techniques to create its unmistakable flavor. Owner/chef Rigo Sedano cooks with this tradition, passion and the freshest ingredients he can buy, often hand-picking his products daily.

The place sits at the back of a strip mall at the corner of East Prater Way and Sparks Boulevard. You have to look for it, but it’s well worth the effort. The restaurant seats 72, and the bar will hold another 60. It has a comfortable décor with colorful chairs and seat cushions. The staff is very congenial and service-oriented.

The lunch specials start at $9, and daily specials for $6. Dinner specials are $9 with menu items ranging from $8 for appetizers, $12 for salads, full plates, $13-$17, including fresh rice and beans. Burritos and tacos, $11-$13, combination plates, $11-$13, and a kids menu for $5.

They have one of the best chips and salsas I’ve had. The chips are made fresh, and so is the salsa. Roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, roasted jalapeños and habanera, some homemade tomatillo (a slightly sweet, citrus flavor) and cilantro are all puréed. This was addictive from the first bite. One note: the first batch is on-the-house. The seconds cost you two bucks.

For an appetizer, I tried the basil quesadilla ($8): sautéed mushrooms, fresh basil, a combination of cheddar and queso blanco (a creamy, soft, mild, unaged white cheese) wrapped in a corn tortilla created a rich and savory, slightly minty dish that fit the flavor profile nicely.

Salmon in Sedano’s “Adovo” sauce topped with sautéed prawns ($17) caught my eye, something unusual for a Mexican restaurant menu. A generous piece of Atlantic salmon came served atop a corn husk covered in the adovo sauce made with red peppers, cilantro, canella (white cinnamon, lighter in flavor) and cloves producing a slightly sweet with a gentile spiciness and very aromatic with the cloves adding a woodiness on the nose. The prawns were covered in a delicate, citrus white sauce made with lime, tequila, and garlic—a nice marriage in presentation and flavors. On the plate was a colorful combination of chopped pineapple and tomatoes in a gentle, savory dressing … another texture, another creative flavor.

Chef offered up the steak and shrimp caliente ($17), asking how spicy I wanted it—to which I said, “mucho caliente.” I like spicy food. A New York strip, medium rare, topped with a half dozen large shrimp and covered in a red sauce that with one whiff, I knew my sinus would be opened with the first bite. In the sauce were sautéed mushrooms and onions bathed in a combination of sauces—enchilada, habanera and adovo. This ran the gambit of tastes: savory, spicy heat, slightly sweet, and slightly tart. If you’re into hot food, ¡ay Chihuahua! This produced a lasting hot-flash from head to toe. Know that Rigo will spice anything to anyone’s palate.

They have a specialty cocktail list with things like a spicy mango martini, all at $6. More than two dozen tequilas, a nice array of beers including four on draft ($3-$3.50) and a full bar. A very simple wine list but homemade sangria ($7), and that was good enough for me. Starting with merlot, add some brandy, O.J., lime juice, and a little sugar—behold the nectar of Tezcatzoncatl (Aztec god of wine). It was light and fruity, a nice off-set to the heat from the food.

Deep fried ice cream ($4) for dessert and then roll me out. As one of the most versatile and varied cuisines, the cultural aspect of Mexican cuisine takes on a personality of its own; at Rigo’s a new personality comes across with every dish—con mucho gusto.