Baja Californian with a French accent
Mackerel with fennel pollen, citrus and lemongrass
Ensenada-Tecate Highway KM. 83, Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California
+52 646 155 2556
Chief reason to visit: Nestled in the beautiful Valle de Guadalupe in Baja California, Jair Téllez’s remarkable destination restaurant is an homage to the surrounding countryside and its products. The stone barn-like building was built in 2001 by the chef-patron with the help of a group of local workers, many of whom eventually became part of his team. Winemaker Andres Blanco later joined as co-proprietor, making the most of Laja’s original vineyard.
A few words on the chef: Téllez trained at The French Culinary Institute and worked at Daniel Boulud’s eponymous flagship in New York. At Laja, he focuses on local products from his orchard and fields, fusing classical French technique with American and Mexican influences.
The experience: Bare-wood tables and non-traditional crockery are part of the rustic, convivial and unpretentious offering at Laja. There is a strictly seasonal four- or eight-course menu, changing weekly based on what is harvested from the kitchen garden. Expect starters such as fresh garden vegetables, followed by mackerel with fennel pollen, citrus and lemongrass; and bread ice cream with apricot and nuts to finish. The restaurant enjoys lovely views of the Guadalupe Valley and there is an outdoor space with communal tables under an old oak tree.
What else: Téllez owns three more restaurants: Merotoro and Amaya in Mexico City and Fayuca in Vancouver, the latter having opened in early 2017.
Images: Hans Paul Brauns