Beso Cocina in Nipomo plates up fusion fare with a Mexican twist

Photo by Bulbul Rajagopal
LOFTY INTERIOR: Beso Cocina is quickly becoming known for its glowing red flame symbol and dark interior set off by a constellation of black wrought iron lamps hanging from the ceiling.

The red flame insignia of Beso Cocina glowed invitingly against its Willow Road abode in Nipomo.

Though located on a quiet street, the inside of the restaurant buzzed with diners enjoying their meals and conversations under the golden light of roughly four dozen black wrought iron lamps hanging from the ceiling. 

Revamped from the structure that formerly held the combination market, deli, and wine bar Willow, Beso—meaning “kiss”—is the latest creation of the Central Coast Restaurant Group. It joins the group’s plethora of local eateries like Blast Brewing Company, Blast & Brew, Blast 825 Brewery, and Me N Ed’s Pizzeria and Crafthouse.

“There is a lot of Mexican restaurants here but not like the one we have here,” head chef Ernesto Picazo said on March 7. “We have authentic ingredients, but we’re using everything available here instead of trying to get everything from Mexico. We’re not just a Mexican restaurant, we’re influenced by worldwide cuisine.”

Before leading the culinary team at the three-week-old Beso, Picazo served as the executive chef for Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort. He’s a storied chef with a lengthy career that encompassed roles at Full of Life Flatbread and Pico in Los Alamos, and at San Luis Obispo’s Novo, Ciopinot Seafood Grille, La Esquina, Big Sky Café, Sidecar, and Mint and Craft, as well as Mason Bar in Arroyo Grande. 

Many of Picazo’s restyled Mexican dishes for Beso use ingredients traditionally found in cooking from the Mexican city Puebla—where his roots lie. He plans for the menu to be seasonal, incorporating dishes from beyond Mexico, like pastas and pizzas.

“Our pizza oven is coming up in two weeks. We’re going to have our flatbread pizzas or a tlayuda,” he said. “Mexico doesn’t really have pizza; tlayuda is kind of our pizza. Even there, I’m infusing it as a naan [an Indian bread] because I’m making a bread out of it. It’s weird!”

click to enlarge Beso Cocina in Nipomo plates up fusion fare with a Mexican twist
Photo by Bulbul Rajagopal
NO KNIFE, PLEASE: The chile colorado contains chunks of fork-tender steak simmered in a delicious and delicately spiced guajillo chili sauce.

Beso patrons can try Picazo’s tlayuda-naan hybrid on May 4 at the restaurant’s grand opening, which will also include a mariachi band and dancing horses. 

Currently, Picazo said he’d excited for people to try Beso’s shrimp and lobster versions of chile relleno made with Oaxaca cheese, bell peppers, onions, and tomato, and the dish comes with a bean puree. He’s also concocting a duck mole.

“The mole that I’m making has 38 spices,” Picazo said. “The recipe is my grandma’s from the ’50s or ’60s.”

Beso’s culinary team produces elevated yet hearty food and plates them on stylish dishware. I ordered the shrimp and blood orange ceviche, which arrived on mini tostadas and was topped with discs of watermelon radish. The shrimp was plump and pleasingly citrusy. It made for a moreish appetizer. 

The complimentary basket of piping hot flour-corn hybrid tortillas and orange-flecked honey butter is Beso’s play on buttery dinner rolls. They became the table favorite, and I requested a second basket but forced myself to stop afterward to make space for our entrees. The citrus butter immediately melted into the piping hot tortilla, and the whole process of lacquering the spread and rolling the tortilla was reminiscent of a beloved Indian snack—rolled up chapatti (an almost paper-thin flatbread) with butter and sprinkled sugar. 

Then came the generous portion of chile colorado with sides of rice and creamy ranchero pinto beans. The steak arrived in a brick-red guajillo chili sauce. It was delicately spiced and the meat was extremely tender—I didn’t use a knife at any point. Much to my delight, another set of tortillas accompanied this platter. The chile colorado appeared to be a popular item as several other customers also requested it that busy night. 

Our server recommended the tres leches chocolate cake, vindicating my decision to resist more tortillas. The tres leches element—literally translating to “three milks”—was evident from the get-go. Perfect for two people after multiple courses (or one if you don’t feel like sharing), the hunk of chocolate cake was incredibly moist and loaded with chocolate bits. It was a creamy and delectable end to round out a satisfying dinner. It’s worth being a regular at this fledgling but already bustling restaurant.

click to enlarge Beso Cocina in Nipomo plates up fusion fare with a Mexican twist
Photo by Bulbul Rajagopal
SWEET STOP: The tres leches chocolate cake lives up to its name, making it a moist and decadent dessert to round out a hearty dinner.

“It’s been busy every night,” Picazo said. “Our patios are not quite done but eventually, in a month, we will be 100 percent open, and it will be a whole different story.”

Picazo added that the concept of Beso as a fusion-style restaurant with Mexican roots has been in the works for 10 years. Eventually, the space also plans to open a Prohibition-style bar that serves craft cocktails made with liquors like mezcal, tequila, and whiskey. 

“Sometimes, you reminisce about those things you never thought would happen, and here we are. We made it happen,” he said. “Believe me, there are a lot more surprises.”

New Times Staff Writer Bulbul Rajagopal, from the Sun’s sister paper, will take all the orange honey butter and flour-corn tortillas to go. Send seconds to [email protected].