If you are hungry for enchiladas and burritos, Acopio in San Jose might not be the Mexican restaurant for you—they are not on the menu. But tacos? Owner Lorena Vidrio says everything can be a taco.
“I’m not going to speak badly about those things,” she told San José Spotlight. “But we feature our tortillas because that is our bread and is typically how you eat in a Mexican home; you share your tacos with each other.”
At Acopio, tacos are served as a make-it-yourself family style, with ingredients such as pork in achiote with spicy pickled pineapple or mushrooms and hibiscus flowers with chili aioli served in a bowl, along with hot, freshly made tortillas.
The tortillas could not be more authentic, with corn imported from Mexico and subjected to nixtamalization, the process of soaking the kernels in lime water overnight. The corn is then finely ground, hand-shaped and fried on the griddle until the tortillas puff up like balloons.
“Corn is so versatile,” Vidrio said. “It can be so many things in our food that it might not be the thing that shines. In a product like a tortilla, you don’t think of it as a corn product even though it is.”
Acopio began as one of two Taqueria Lorena restaurants, named for Lorena by her parents. In 2013, this location burned to the ground, and it took Vidrio and her sous chef brother Carlos until January 2022 to reopen, choosing a more traditional and regional theme for the place.
It would be a mistake to think of Acopio as only a high-end taqueria.
“We’ve taken up a challenge,” she said. “We want to make sure that people understand there is more to Mexican food than just burritos. We want them to know the diversity of the cuisine and all that Mexico has to offer.”
The menus became a collaboration between Vidrio and her head chef, Marshall Reid, as she tried to explain the concepts she wanted to bring to life.
“I took him to Mexico City,” she said, “and went on various field trips around town where we could go to see what’s happening in the food scene. Then he dove even deeper into his research.”
Reid comes to the restaurant via Alexander’s Steakhouse in Cupertino and has helped elevate the menu by adding steak, duck and seafood dishes using the best techniques he has learned over his career.
“I never went to culinary school,” Reid said, “so I don’t have the classical French training that most culinary schools teach.”
In the Aguachile De Salmon, for example, the serrano-cucumber emulsion and smoke trout roe complement salmon that has been prepared Japanese-style, wrapped in kombu seaweed sheets and cured with citrus juices.
“(This) lends it a really nice oceany flavor,” Reid told San José Spotlight. “Then we slice those, and we roll them so it almost looks like little pieces of sashimi, but all the components are all Mexican.”
Other seafood is more straightforward. With the Ostiones Asados, for example, the oysters are served swimming in melted chipotle mezcal butter and lime, while Ostiones en su Concha brings a chef’s selection of Pacific oysters accompanied by habanero mignonette and cucumber mint raspado.
Pipián Rojo con Pato was the choice of first-time diners Ruby Valera and Larry Quinn. A duck confit leg is served with pipián rojo, a red mole made with pumpkin seeds, lemon-thyme masa cake, green peas, baby carrots and an apricot-dijon demi-glace.
“This place is a hidden gem and hits a different note,” Valera told San José Spotlight. “It’s much different than other Mexican restaurants, and the food makes you want to come back for more.”
Having shifted from being a taqueria to serving elevated Mexican cuisine, Vidrio said the challenge now is to get people to visit the slightly-out-of-the-way restaurant at 399 S. 24th St. in San Jose.
“I recognize that we are quite far from a hub location,” she said. “But we have a lot of history here, and I just want to share my food with everybody. I want them to experience elevated upscale Mexican food that is inspired by tradition—and not have to go to Mexico City to do it.”
Contact Robert Eliason at [email protected].
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