Barrio Star, in Banker’s HIll, is a nuevo latino restaurant with the culinary stylings of LA chef Susan Feniger’s Border Grill. Like Border Grill, Barrio Star both upscales and updates Mexican cuisine, taking creative liberty in occasionally delving in other Latin American touches.
Barrio Star shines as a happy hour hangout, so the bar and high chair tables can be cacophonous and crowded. Food can be just as bright, but can also be a series of hits and misses.
BS’s Tortilla soup was warm at best and tasted and had the creaminess enchilada sauce. While the combination of cotija cheese and cilantro lime drizzle works, heat would do this dish justice.
BS’s sirloin plate is dutifully seasoned and sauced in with the very same cilantro lime drizzle used on the soup. Sitting atop a blossom of purple flowering kale, its presentation does little to complement taste. The steak is served with a generous helping of plantains pretending to be fries.
BS’s version of the Chile relleno is creative, but meager and overpriced. A single anaheim is served with a protein of your choice over a bed of rice with corn saturned by rings of the often used cilantro lime (green) as well as a mild guajillo chile (red). Here, sauces blend wonderfully, but the sirloin was served less than warm. At $18, perhaps two (do I hear three?) chiles would be in order, but overall, it is a tasty dish.
Dessert is underwhelming and limited. Instead of the coconut flan with blackberry sauce - likely the better option - this flourless chocolate cake does little to satisfy. Its saggy texture does little create textural contrast with either of the ganache or whipped cream.
Barrio Star could be more consistent about serving warmer plates, but ambience and innovation deserve kudos. Amidst the uniformity of low-grade cheese taco shops (hey, I love them, too) and the embarrassment of double dipping into Old Town’s weak salsa, Barrio Star has its place in this culinary universe.
2706 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92103