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The Beach Gourmet: Lula Cocina Mexicana: Color Me Good!

Imagine the scenario: an Irish gal arrives in Southern California in 1977, visits Mexico and adopts superstar chef Lula Bertran as her mentor, subsequently develops skills as a top-notch kitchen magician, gains national prominence and now owns a number of splendid restaurants, including the delightful Lula Cocina Mexicana on Main Street in Santa Monica.

Well, that gal’s name is Gerri Gilliland, and I recently visited Lula’s, her Mexican maison, and was immediately impressed with the fiesta of color contained within the walls of this inviting cocina.

Turquoise, yellow and blue walls, some super bright “day of the dead” artwork, vibrant murals and tasteful tiles make for a definite mood-enhancing experience, to say the least.

With a spacious dining area, a huge menu, a massive tequila bar and a cute outside patio, Lula’s just about satisfies any and all inner voices yelling: “I want, I want.”

The food is Mexican with a Oaxaca and Veracruz-style slant, and the menu also contains one or two surprises such as the Papa Mixto (baked potato stuffed with jack cheese, Crema Mexicana, salsa and a choice of beef, chicken or vegetables with tomatillo chipotle sauce, $12.95).

I started with the obligatory chips, salsa and guacamole ($7.95) and was happy to discover that all three are produced in-house, are flavorful and tasty and arrived within seconds, to boot.

As I mentioned earlier, the menu is very, very extensive, and as I fished through the options I thought: Aha, fish! I want fish! So, shortly after ordering the Pescado del Dia (fish of the day), Jorge, my very happy and attentive server, delivered me a rather well-presented plate of grilled salmon topped with tomatillo sauce, rice, cooked with a hint of spinach and cilantro, and black beans.

The portion was sensible, and the first thing I noticed was that it was well-balanced with a smart proportion of rice and black beans to the salmon. The rice was very nice indeed, with subtle flavor and a perfect texture, while the black beans were tasty and saucy. The salmon was delightful. Moist and flaky and topped with the freshest of tomatillo sauces, it certainly satiated my piscatorial urges.

I enjoyed my repast at Lula’s, and as I relaxed and digested my meal the manager, Martin, pointed out that the tequila bar was stocked with two hundred and seven different kinds of the agave nectar and I was tempted to try one of each. However, a clear head was required, and prevailed, so that a clear pen could be applied here. A wise decision, I think, otherwise my entire review may have consisted of “I went to Lula’s, I think.” Not the most stimulating of reads, I am sure.

So, go ahead, check out Lula’s and bring a bit of color into your life. I did!

Lula’s, 2720 Main Street, 310.392.5711.

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