If you are looking for a culinary experience in Baja, look no further than Finca Altozano. Owned by the one and only Javier Plascencia, a local celebrity chef to the Baja and San Diego regions, this popular restaurant was the next stop on our adventure in the beautiful Valle de Guadalupe. Javier continues to be a major player in the world of Mexican cuisine. Having been featured in numerous nationwide media outlets as well as ABC’s “The Taste,” we were looking forward to tasting some phenomenal dishes.
Arriving early to the campestre style restaurant gave us time to explore the grounds, which is something I would highly recommend to you. The vast sweeping valley is the first thing that you will notice. The restaurant has 180 degree views of the mountains to the West and the vineyards below to the East, and I was taken aback by the quiet peace that the valley offered. The constant action and excitement of the restaurant presented the perfect balance with the solitude of the valley. Scattered around the property were huge barrels with spiral staircases that made for perfect lookout points to relax and enjoy the landscape. We took a few steps down a hill past the restaurant and found a large herb garden and livestock cages with roosters, chickens and pigs. This offered another reminder that we were about to eat at an alfresco self-sustaining restaurant like nowhere I have ever eaten at in the US!
The design and atmosphere of the restaurant was charming, complete with rustic wooden tables and distressed turquoise chairs, an oyster bar, gift shop and Lucas, a playful Boston Terrier who was always looking for the next pal who was ready to play. With a roof overhead, gorgeous views and friendly staff, you will be ready to browse the extensive meat and seafood menu and sit back and relax.
To kick off the meal in our Baja setting, Brady insisted that we order mescal. He heard about it from our bartender at Hotel Boutique, which piqued his interest. Mescal is known for its strong smoky flavor. It is much stronger than tequila and should be sipped slowly (and respected) or else it will hit you hard. It was served in a miniature tin cup with seasoned salt and an orange wedge, which you will need to get through it. It’s a popular drink in Baja, so we had to try it!
The first item we ordered came highly recommended by many people who knew we would be eating at Finca Altozano: the Grilled Octopus from the Pacific. Served in an iron skillet, the octopus was cooked with cilantro, soy, ginger and peanuts and was presented with tostada chips. Hands down the octopus was our favorite menu item that we tried. It was a deliciously unique seafood dish with an Asian twist. Insider tip – I was told by someone that this dish is the perfect hangover cure!
No meal is complete without vegetables, right? I had my eye on the Fried Brussels Sprouts, which were also served in a skillet, soaked in malt vinegar and aioli and topped with parmesan cheese. They were delicious and the portion was enough for at least two people. I definitely had my Brussels fix when we were done!
I always seem to gravitate toward lamb whenever it is on the menu. In this case there were two lamb dishes and our server recommended the Lamb Birria. Served in a skillet, the pulled lamb meat was garnished with pickled onions and a nasturtium leaf. To complete the dish were handmade tortillas right out of the oven. This made for some delicious lamb tacos, which was a first for me! I would definitely order this item again and recommend it to all lamb lovers.
We had an excellent experience at Finca Altozano and got the chance to experience the extremely relaxed and laid back atmosphere of Baja. We had the opportunity to speak with Javier about his menu and enjoyed learning more about his restaurants and passion for cooking. For being a local celebrity, his calm and humble demeanor was refreshing. I am so glad that we got the chance to experience true Mexican cuisine and would recommend you definitely make this restaurant a stop if you are anywhere near Ensenada. The views were beautiful, the food was fantastic and the staff was very gracious and welcoming. A huge thank you to Chef Javier and all of the staff at Finca Altozano for hosting us and creating a memorable experience that we will always remember!
If you are unable to make it to the Valle de Guadalupe anytime soon, not to worry! You still have the opportunity to visit two of Javier’s award winning restaurants in San Diego. Romesco Mexiterranean Bistro is located in Bonita and has been going strong for ten years now. His latest restaurant Bracero will be opening in Little Italy in June.