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Leftovers: Fuego at the Maya

The makings of Long Beach’s own Mayan Riviera for the District:


Fuego looks out onto the Long Beach of everyone’s oceanfront dream, a seaside theater where pelicans dive with hungry, graceful precision and pleasure-seekers boat by on the last winds of summer. It’s a scene so idyllic it’s nearly unbelievable, almost as if it were constructed and choreographed by a television crew trying again to approximate Miami. For Fuego, the newest tenant of the equally new Hotel Maya, it’s fitting, a perfect backdrop for the restaurant’s high-end exploration of coastal Mexican cooking.

But that sublime setting doesn’t diminish the difficulties of upscaling a cuisine so common in Southern California that even less-than-serious eaters possess a passable understanding of its regional distinctions. As a result, successful Mexican fine dining must undeniably out-cook our taquería favorites and also compete directly with modern masters like La Casita Mexicana in Bell and Moles La Tia in East LA. Chef Jesse Perez is, by and large, up to the task.

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