RICHMOND, Va. -- Chef Danny Mena and Beverage Director Lauren Spain recently opened Big Kitchen Hospitality's newest restaurant Conejo in Richmond, Virginia.
For Mena, a native of Mexico City, Conejo is a chance for him to show off a side of his hometown he finds under-represented at many Mexican restaurants in the U.S.
"Mexico City is very cosmopolitan. It's not the typical idea that a lot of people have of Mexican food. It's a big city with a lot going on. And that's my influence," he said. "I'm a city boy, born and raised. And so that's what we're trying to bring [here], a modern take on traditional food."
Mena cooked in some big-name New York City restaurants and opened two of his own (Hecho en Dumbo and La Loncheria) before he was tapped to lead the Conejo kitchen.
And in that kitchen, Mena said he and his team lean on quality ingredients.
"The quality of meat that we use, the quality of ingredients that we do is far superior [to many other Mexican restaurants]," he said. "We luckily have the time, the effort, the knowledge, and the resources to be able to do that."
So what should you order on your first visit to Conejo?
"The best seller, and this is every Mexican restaurant, is the guacamole. People go into a Mexican restaurant and before they look at a menu they order guacamole and two margaritas and then look at the menu," Mena said. "But really our best seller right now and is a Baja taco. It's one of those we put on that we kind of play with a lot. We use a fish called hake, which is similar to cod, but it's a little bit firmer, but still nice and flaky. We do this beer vodka batter. So it's kind of somewhere between like a Korean fried chicken beer batter and like Japanese tempura. So it's crispy, it's nice and light and flaky."
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