Inspections are afoot and the hotly anticipated La Prensa Tacos & Tapas will likely open the second or third week in November, says chef-owner Santosh Tiptur. “We are pushing really hard. We were supposed to open on Cinco de Mayo and Covid happened,” says The Conche chef. “It was rough but we are there.”
Tiptur admits that opening in La Prensa’s Sterling location is more of a challenge than he’d expected when he started planning two years ago. At the time, there were no taquerias in close proximity. Now there are at least three, he says. The difference? La Prensa is offering outsize international flavors as well as authentic Mexican recipes that Tiptur learned from Latin chefs and touring Mexico while working on a cruise line.
Tiptur has been testing his menu by serving tacos as specials at The Conche. Currently, he says his favorite recipe is the al pastor, which combines pork with traditional roasted pineapple, but enhances the basics with a green apple salsa flavored with fennel. Harissa chicken tacos use some of the flavors from one of The Conche’s popular entrees. The tangy, mildly spicy chicken is paired with labneh, feta, roasted green tomatillo salsa and watermelon radish. And yes, Tiptur is following the birria taco trend and serving his own version made with beef short rib and pear pico de gallo. Fillings are all available as a taco, sope or gordita. Other items include enchiladas and quesadillas and there are vegetarian options in every category, including a jicama al pastor taco.
La Prensa will have counter service during the day when tacos are on the menu. In the evening, these will be replaced by table service and tapas. “For the first few months it will only be tacos at lunch and tapas at dinnertime and we will see how it goes,” says Tiptur. Diners will be able to choose from 16 different tapas, including classics like patatas bravas, croquetas de jamon and tortilla española. But there are plenty of options to keep things interesting. There are scallops with potatoes and apples; traditional sandwiches called montaditos filled with Serrano ham and manchego cheese, shrimp, or mushrooms; and seared beef filet with piquillo peppers and shallot jam.
Of course, Tiptur is at heart a pastry chef and sweets aren’t neglected. There’s a flan, churros, guava cheesecake and chocolate sweet bread covered in ganache and served with olive oil ice cream. Also in the tradition of The Conche, cocktails play a featured role. There are frozen cocktails, which change daily, as well as margaritas (including a spicy version), and a Latin take on an Old Fashioned, featuring sherry and orange bitters.
Tiptur anticipates that the new roughly 50-seat restaurant will be busier for take-out and delivery than table service, but he isn’t concerned about gaining an audience. After all, two years of work has gone into perfecting the place. // 21305 Windmill Parc Drive, Sterling
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