Sausal offers a quintessentially Mexican menu, one that uses stylish recipes and exceptional incredients to create a nuevo rancho cuisine that stands out – in the South Bay and in the Los Angeles dining scene.
Named for the Spanish ranch that its El Segundo location was once a part of – back in the days when California was still a part of Mexico – the restaurant offers a superior blend of Mexican and Spanish culture and cuisine. It also ties in a classic American taste, making dinner there a unique and memorable experience.
We’ve dined there twice: in March and late this summer, both times experiencing a pulsating fusion of flavors in a relaxed, yet beautifully burnished restaurant with an outdoor patio and glass fronted kitchen. A fireplace that is open from both sides dominates the center of the room.
Chef Anne Conness describes her menu as one that “celebrates the bold flavors of Mexican cuisine in combination with the elemental flavors of Spain” while it “revels in contemporary bounty.” Translation: traditional flavors and recipes are updated with flare.
That flare begins with the craft cocktail menu – and a strong beer and wine selection, too. Upcoming November 16th, there will be a 4-beer/4-course pairing courtesy of the cutting edge brewery, The Breuery, out of Placentia. Having recently tasted their raspberry sour, this is an evening to put on the calendar.
But back to those cocktails. The Future Fix made with Rittenhouse Rye, has a range of flavors going for it, from spicy to sweet, salty to sour. It’s a perfect fusion of all-American rye with chili, agave nectar, salt, and citrus, fusion cuisine in a glass.
Equally potent and a fine mix of flavors is the light and delicious house margarita. House made Sangria is also a stand out. Interestingly, consulting pastry chef Natasha MacAller is behind the creation of some of these cocktails.
Of course the star here is the food itself, which does not disappoint. Traditional house-made guacamole is fresh and flavorful, accented with tomatillo salsa.
The Fresh Ceviche Mixto is revelatory, from the spicy yellow habanero salsa to the crisp celery and sweet corn that add heft to flavors of cumin, lime, cilantro and citrus. The fish itself: perfectly prepared shrimp, calamari, lingcod, and ahi.
One of the keys to dining here is the way in which Conness takes traditional recipes and renders her version of them with extra layers of flavor – the Arroz con Pollo is served with chicken thighs and rice cooked with achiote, a bright red fruit that grows in Latin America. Added in are tomatoes, scallions and mushrooms.
Slow cooked on the hearth, the Smoked Pork Tamale Pie is topped with a dark mole, jack cheese, pico de gallo, and green onions. It’s the ideal blend of a comforting, home-cooked meal and cutting edge cuisine, a marriage that’s smooth and sultry.
We loved the small — you’ll want more than one — Calabasitas Vegan Taco, crafted from guajillo-roasted pattypan squash and carrots, topped with a fragrant and heady mix of avocado, cilantro, cashew crema, habanero yellow salsa, and chia seeds.
We topped off our meals with dessert and one last drink. The Spanish Sticky Date Cake with Pecans is topped with vanilla ice cream, and once again it is the mix of flavors and textures that makes this sweet treat a standout. Naturally, our favorite was a chocolate-lovers choice, the Chocolate & Piloncillo Caramel Pudding. Textures are again key here, and go hand in hand with the two powerful but well matched flavors. Served along side is a chocolate chip cookie.
That last drink? Make it a Prickly Pear Caipirinha, a near perfect take on the Brazillian cocktail made with Cachaca rum. Prickly pear, lime cubes, grenadine, and mint are a sophisticated adult dessert in themselves.
At lunch, it’s easy to take in a variety of tastes with a choice of one taco, small soup of the day or chicken pozole (a signature of the restaurant), and choice of small salad. Other salads and specials abound, and the patio in particular gets busy on pleasant SoCal days.
El Segundo may no longer be known as “Sausal,” but it may very well become known for it’s restaurant namesake. Another winner from Conness, who is also behind Tin Roof Bistro and Simmzy’s in Manhattan Beach.
- Genie Davis, Amelia McBride; photos: Genie Davis & courtesy Sausal