I love Lazaranda‘s sweet, rice-and-beans layered lobster taco, an homage to the resort town of Rosarito Beach in Baja California. But the Dallas-area restaurant—co-owned by Mario Letayf and chef Antonio Marquez, partners in other restaurants Mexico—offers more than tacos. Its name refers to the restaurant’s specialty—grilling—and the preferred tool—la zaranda (a grilling basket). During a week-long visit from Mexico, Marquez, who ditched economics for culinary school in Paris, took time to answer some of our questions.
Taco Trail: Lazaranda specializes in grilling with a zaranda. Why did you and your business partners decide to go with that concept?
Antonio Marquez: The advantage of that implement is that you can cook in the grill any type of food using it, some food direct to the grill whit the basting, marination’s and sauces, will be difficult to handle in the direct grill, small pieces too are very easy to work with the zaranda.
TT: How did it influence what dishes were put on the menu?
AM: Monterrey is a grill-lovers city, the families and friends every weekend or event, meet in patios or terraces with all the different types of grilling equipment, they share their recepies and secrets. So using the zaranda gives diners that type of taste experience.
TT: When it came to adding tacos to the Lazaranda menu? Were there tacos you insisted be available? How did you decide what tacos to offer?
AM: First of all, grilled tacos, that’s because the grilled corn tortilla get’s a better flavor. They are easier to handle and last longer before getting soaked and the tortilla start to break. We can do all types of tacos. Remember that the tortilla becomes a plate to taste the flavors inside it. And I always try to put flavors and techniques for all the different customer preferences, grilled items, roasted, barbecue, fried, etc.
TT: My favorite Lazaranda taco is the Rosarito-style lobster taco. Why was it added to the menu?
AM: We have different tacos in all the different parts of Mexico. Lobster tacos are famous in that part of Mexico, and we try to have the best tacos from different parts to give the client the opportunity to try different flavors of Mexico. The only thing I’d change in some tacos is the way they are presented and maybe a little ingredient that I think will enhance the flavor or texture.
TT: Many of Lazaranda’s tacos have rice and beans inside? Why?
AM: That helps the protein and seasonings not to fall apart, and the flavor profile is balanced, instead of adding refried beans from a bowl.
TT: What is the most popular taco at Lazaranda? What is the most popular taco at your restaurants in Mexico?
AM: The rib-eye planchada taco. In Monterrey, the shrimp and cheese taco.
TT: What marks a great taqueria and/or lonchera for you?
AM: Variety of items, excellent tortillas and extraordinary salsas!
AM: Villamelon, next to the bullfighting arena in Mexico City. The campechanos are the best. But there’s a taco place for any different event or state of mind. For example, in all over Mexico the tacos you eat in the morning are different of those taquerias at night. We have so many good variety that will be difficult to say this one is the best, also the protein changes from north to south and the coastal line.
AM: I like a lot to try the new styles and forms, to my profile of flavor. I like Urban Taco.
TT: What would your dream taco be composed of?
AM: handmade fresh corn tortilla, barbecued piglet (lechon), serrano and lime sauce, onions, cilantro and avocado
TT: If youre last meal was to be a taco, what kind of taco would it be?
AM: A gaonera taco, beef tenderloin, green salsa not cooked and lime. That’s for the memories from kid, being with all the family eating this taco from Mexico City.
TT: How do you see tacos in the United States versus Mexico?
AM: It’s a growing thing and won’t be stopped. It’s easy, fast, can be any flavor or protein, not expensive. So I think in some time tacos also will be a part of the American diet, all over the country, with some differences in the different states.
TT: When it comes to pairing drinks with tacos, what do you prefer: tequila or beer?
AM: Beer, definitely!
TT: Are there any cookbooks or reference books you would recommend taco lovers read?
AM: Not necessarily for tacos. I would start with a book of salsas and moles because they’re the heart of the taco. The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy, and The Tortilla Book, also from her. Then, play with everything you can think.
TT: What’s next for you?
AM: Keep inventing some new tacos and food plates.