There are plenty of items I expect to find on a Mexican restaurant menu, but here’s one that I don’t: fried rice.
1490 Kettner Boulevard, Little Italy
I’m at King and Queen Cantina, the upscale casual restaurant that took over the Romesco Mexiterranean Bistro’s Little Italy location last year, after that spot briefly replaced Bracero Cocina before that. It’s been a tumultuous couple of years for Baja Med restaurants at the corner of Kettner and Beech, so finding an entirely different sort of Mexican fusion catches me off guard.
Granted, I had to look past a lot of tantalizing dishes to spot it. The first page of the menu offers a litany of tacos, burritos, asada fries, asada plates, and a couple of burgers. I don’t know what inspires anyone to flip the menu in the face of all that, but I do it, and immediately get lost in descriptions of ceviche tostadas and shareable fajita platters tossing out terms like saffron rice, garlic chipotle butter, and guajillo achiote vinaigrette.
Only then, tucked at the bottom of the back page, do I see a small section dubbed “Japamex at King and Queen.”
I’m not sure I want to call anything “Japamex” out loud, but I am attracted to that fried rice, and I believe with good reason. It combines spicy crab, egg, cream cheese, sesame seeds, and avocado. I’ve had a lot of those things on the same bagel before, but not mixed with radishes, carrots, scallions, and micro cilantro, and there certainly wasn’t any rice involved. This mixed up dish is also flavored with what the menu calls “Chingon sauce” and “Chingon black sauce" – chili and ponzu sauces.
Crab fried rice with the addition of avocado would be interesting enough on its own — kind of a spin on a California roll. But the smooth tang cream cheese somehow cinches it for me, acting as the glue between two culinary traditions that don’t traditionally use a lot of the spreadable American invention.
The $15 dish is gone way too fast, before I can even come to grips with the fact I’m using chopsticks in a Mexican restaurant.