Luna Modern Mexican Kitchen
980 Montecito Dr.
Corona, CA 92879
We have had some real good luck with what I would call, "upscale Mexican" restaurants. In OC we have several good options for this genre of cuisine. Sol Cocina, Gabbi's, Cha Cha's, and some would even include Javier's in the mix (I wouldn't though!). The trend has even spread to the Inland Empire, and lucky for us we were going to be meeting up with our good friend Anthony, and his wife Sabrina.
Luna Modern Mexican Kitchen is kind of in an awkward area, so if you are not looking for it you might miss it. The area is dominated by some office buildings and the aroma of Lone Star Steakhouse nearby. In fact, Luna is located on the bottom floor of one of these office buildings. After entering the restaurant we had the feeling we were not in Corona anymore. The vibe here reminded us of a Vegas restaurant. A high tower of all the tequilas they feature are enclosed in a glass case behind the hostess stand, the lighting, and the wood dominated interior all lend to this Vegas aura.
We had made reservations for seven o'clock on a recent Saturday night. Even though this restaurant is in an out of the way place, it was filled to the brim with people. We were originally going to be sat on the patio, but with the stifling heat we have been having lately, it would have been way to uncomfortable. The hostess was very accommodating, and found a comfy booth for us in the air conditioned bar area.
Luna opened a year and a half ago. The owners and management are very hands on from what we observed. I also noticed online that they take time to answer their critical reviewers on Yelp. I really like when a restaurant is willing to state its case in this public forum, and explain or apologize for a guests experience. At this point I was curious to see how we would like this place, so let's get to the food.
So be it a modern Mexican restaurant or a "hole in the wall" joint, most will start you off with chips and salsa. Luna was no different. The chips here were okay, but the salsa was the thing that caught our taste buds. Not wickedly hot, but just enough heat to get ya going. I liked the thickness of the salsa as well.
Making anything tableside is an added plus in my book. It is kind of like getting a show to go along with your food. That is the way Luna prepares their Guacamole Autentico ($7.50). Here they use three avocados, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, fresh lime juice, and chilies. The preparer asked us if we wanted this mild, medium, or hot. We chose the medium to start, but added more jalapenos later on. This was a very clean tasting guacamole. The ingredients were all fresh, and the added elements really complimented the avocado well.
We were pretty hungry, so we ordered another starter, Chef Ruben's Sampler Platter ($13.95). This platter came with BBQ sticky pork ribs, grilled cheese quesadilla, chicken taquitos, and steak and chorizo empanadas. All of these were pretty tasty, with the steak and chorizo empanada being the best. The flavor of the filling was really unique, they added dried fruit, Oaxaca cheese, and creme fraiche to the meats here. The BBQ sticky ribs had a very sweet sauce that went well with the tender pork. The cheese quesadilla was fine, and lacked the grease that I thought it would posses. The only appetizer here that failed to satisfy was the chicken taquitos. Not that they were awful, but they really had no taste to them, and kind of were forgotten.
Main course time, so let's start with Katie's selection, the Grilled Chicken Breast Fajitas ($14.50). As I have written on this blog before, I usually shy away from ordering chicken in Mexican restaurants because it usually comes out dry. This was not the case here. The chicken was moist, and had a nice sweet sauce over the top of it. Almost like a sweet BBQ sauce, just a little less thick. The veggies were cooked well, and while the plate that this was on was not huge, they did give out a fair share of chicken. Katie was pretty pleased with this dinner.
Anthony really looked like he was having a hard time deciding what he wanted here. He ended up having the Carne Asada Enchiladas ($11.95), and seemed pretty happy with his choice. He called this dish excellent, adding that the meat had a great flavor, while being tender. He was also a big fan of the sauce. The only complaint Anthony had about this plate was the beans. He felt they really added nothing to the dinner. He did find the rice to be very light and flavorful.
I hate to say this, but both Sabrina and I wanted the same dinner on this night, but I relented and let her have the Carnitas De Lechon Pibil ($12.95). I can be nice to this hard to please woman sometimes. At Luna, they steam their carnitas in banana leaves to help make it moist. It was moist, and had a different flavor from what we are used to. Not bad but different. The meat almost tasted like it had cinnamon in it. It was a little on the sweet side. Sabrina really enjoyed her dinner.
Even though Sabrina swiped my dinner choice, I still managed to have a different variation of it, with the Pibil Carnitas Burrito ($11.00). This burrito had the same sweet carnitas that was on Sabrina's plate. I liked this burrito, but was not wowed by it. I think it was missing something, not sure what. I did add their smoked chile de arbol salsa to this, and it did boost the flavor quotient up a notch or two, The rice was fine, but like Anthony was saying, the beans were very average. When I saw this plate, I felt it was not going to fill me up, but it was deceptively large. I finished this plate, but it was a struggle to pack it all in.
We did not have too much room for dessert, but we had gone this far, so we all decided to split the Envueltos De Crispy Sweet Banana ($5.25). Here they wrapped a banana around a flour tortilla and cinnamon, then fried it. Kind of like a banana churro. This was served with a espresso piloncillo chocolate sauce. I liked the thin sauce, but it dd not stick to the tortilla too well. As with all of the fried items at Luna, the absence of grease was worth noting. I thought this was going to be greasy, but it wasn't.
I usually do not post about the drinks that I have on this blog, but these were pretty unique. The one on top is an El Pepino Margarita ($8.00). I liked the mix of flavors with this drink. The cucumber was way more prevalent than the jalapeno, which resulted in a much more subtle cocktail. It was really refreshing on this very warm Corona night. The Strawberry Fields Margarita ($8.50) did not hit me the right way at all. It was not sweet, and kind of plain tasting. I would get the El Pepito over this one for sure.
My dining partners really enjoyed Luna Modern Kitchen a lot. I liked it too, but was a little less wowed by it. I might have just chosen the wrong item on this night. I do think that this restaurant is a great alternative for people that are looking to try a more upscale Mexican restaurant. The flavors are definitely different from traditional Mexican eateries. The meats at Luna were more on the sweet side, which was a nice change of pace. The food is well made, and the ingredients were all very fresh. We had great service on this night. Our waitress was very attentive, even though they were so busy. Glad to see that the upscale Mexican trend has made it out to the Inland Empire.
Out of five hunks of cheese, (because Luna in Spanish is translated as moon, and some people thought the moon was made of cheese), five being best to zero being worst, Luna Modern Mexican Kitchen gets 3 hunks of cheese.
For more information on Luna Modern Mexican Kitchen, click here: http://lunammk.com/