LaVier Latin Fusion
1025 C St.
San Rafael, CA 94901
Limited wine, beer and sabe blanco cocktails
From the moment you enter LaVier, it’s apparent careful thought was put into every detail, from the large, leafy plants that separate small dining areas for more privacy (and add a tropical feel to the space) to the spicy Latin jazz playing in the background and the uniquely crafted cuisine. Husband and wife owners Guillermo Lara and Gabriela Vieyra opened the restaurant in July 2016 after establishing their culinary reputation with LaVier Catering (which they’ve operated since 2007).
Both natives of Mexico (though they met and married in the United States), they share a passion for cooking and view LaVier as an opportunity to “travel the flavors of the world” using fresh, seasonal ingredients. As a chef, Guillermo draws inspiration internationally, combining spices, ingredients and techniques from around the globe. He’s constantly studying new cuisines and brainstorming new flavor combinations and presentations. One of the more fun wall decorations is a collection of frames filled with his scribbled recipes and ideas.
We started with a tempura plantain, which had a delicate, crunchy exterior to counter the fruit’s meaty texture and natural sweetness. It was topped with lime aioli, avocado purée, bits of queso fresco and spicy chorizo, then paired with a green Thai salad for a fresh finishing crunch. My husband, who’s “not a fan of plantains,” couldn’t stop eating this; he’s now a convert.
A plate of chicken taquitos was comprised of four beautiful little stacks of deliciousness. Homemade tortilla rounds, fried crisp and airy, sat at the base of grilled chicken, black beans and sliced tomato, with lettuce, pickled onions and roasted avocado-tomatillo salsa. The rounds were just a few bites each, but the flavors were big and balanced with the tangy onion adding just the right zing.
The Eros salad—Romaine hearts, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, kalamata olives, capers, feta and fresh basil tossed in lemon vinaigrette—had a Mediterranean flair, which was unexpected (though not unwelcome). It was large enough to share or enjoy as a meal by itself. The Mexican Chicken Ceasar was also good sized; Romaine hearts were topped with jicama, tomato, charred corn, avocado, queso fresco and tortilla strips, and a creamy lime Caesar dressing coated everything and brought it all together. Both salads were gluten-free, as is much of the menu. There’s also a vegetarian section and, says Vieyra (the in-house baker), any dish can be customized to accommodate dietary restrictions or aversions.
We were already filling up, but the entrées arrived and whetted our appetites anew. Bistec de pollo was pan-seared chicken thigh meat with caramelized onions, Cuban rice, black beans cabbage salad, sweet plantain and handmade corn tortillas. The chicken was lightly seasoned and fork-tender, and all the elements worked in concert for a homey, hearty dish. The thick, chewy tortillas were a standout, perfect for sopping up all the goodness left on the plate.
Roasted lamb chops, drizzled with an ancho chile-fig glaze, were served over sautéed vegetables andmashed potatoes. The chops were cooked rare but had a beautiful outer sear, and the glaze accented the meat’s deep flavor. The potatoes were left a bit chunky—not overly creamy—and the veggies (carrot, green beans, bell pepper) were chopped large and cooked until just tender.
Desserts are similarly international, ranging from apple crisp à la mode to tiramisu. We tried caramel flanand a chocolate brownie à la mode. A wedge of flan (vanilla egg custard) was served on a small puddle of caramel sauce, topped with fresh blueberries and a sprig of mint. It was creamy, lightly sweet and lovely with a pop of fresh berry.
The homemade brownie had a crumbly exterior but was dense and moist inside, so every bite had both crunch and chew (aka perfect). It was served warm with a small scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and drizzled with dark chocolate sauce. And so I ended the meal with a steep descent into chocoland—one of my favorite places to be.
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