3433 N. 56th St.

With spectacular views of Camelback Mountain, the proprietors of the new restaurant on 56th Street and Indian School have inherited a great location. Arcadia has been hungry for the right restaurant to take command of this space for a while.

The menu at Vecina is seasonal and focuses on Latin-inspired ingredients. With only 18 items, each dish has a flavor that stands on its own, as evidenced with the presentation.

“The goal of Vecina is to bring a chef-driven concept to Arcadia. We want to stand out and be something different from the chain restaurants,” Chef Eric Stone said. “While being different than the Arcadia norm, we want to create a faster-paced, independent restaurant which focuses on amazing food that utilizes flavors and spices from around the globe.” 

From the server’s recommendation, I started with the Shrimp Aguachile and the Elote (a Mexican corn dish). The shrimp was served with tomatillo, cucumber and crispy plantains; the color and flavors are both bright. 

The Elote, with chorizo butter, lime créme fraiche and toasted chiles, was the perfect combination of sweet and salty, with neither flavor overpowering the other. Although the portion looked small, it was filling.

Following was the pork belly tacos; one of the most popular items. This entrée is served two to a plate. The pork was tender and dressed in a sweet and smoky tomato jam, with lime-flavored peanuts giving the soft tacos a slight crunch. “Sweet” and “savory” are two words that pop into mind when describing this dish.

As the People’s Choice winner of at a recent Taco Festival, I had to try the Faroe Island Salmon Tacos. This dish is served on flour tortillas and accompanied by an amarillo aioli, grapefruit and mandarin oranges and pink peppercorn. 

Each bite of the generous portion of salmon had a burst of flavor, whether tart from the citrus or creamy and sweet from the aioli. The unique flavor of the aioli reminded me of a deviled-egg type filling – combined with the salmon and citrus, I was blown-away by this dish.

“Both Chef James and I put so much thought and experimentation into the usage of flavors and spices.  Each dish is balanced with acidity, spices, and fresh herbs to create a composed dish that becomes complete by incorporating each component of the dish in every bite,” Chef Stone said.

The evening was topped off with a serving of Camote, a sweet-potato dessert. 

Two halves of a sweet-potato generously drizzled in a sugary glaze and topped with a goat cheese crème fraiche mousse and corn nuts; this dish sounds like something that would be served during Thanksgiving. Each bite of the fluffy potato and airy mousse was a delight that completed dinner flawlessly. 

Vecina is also looking to provide a unique libation experience.

“Our cocktail menu is to reflect the vibe of the food, modern American plus Latin inspired. Most of our spirits come from Latin America and are incorporated into our cocktails,” Bar Manager Miguel Mora said. “While we have familiar brands behind the bar, we like to promote smaller ‘boutique’ brands as well as spirits from those countries.”

Most of the drink ingredients are made in-house, with no pre-made drink mixes. Prices range from $12 to $18. Vecina features smoked cocktails, bartender calls and seasonal specials.

“The idea of our cocktail menu is to bring guests out of Arcadia and into a small getaway for the time they are with us. Our ingredients are fresh, made daily and curated with care,” Chef Stone said. 

According to Mora, the most popular cocktail is the El Santo, which is an island-inspired tiki drink made with pure cane rum from Michoacan, Mexico. 

“I feel that when you visit Vecina, we take you away to your own personal getaway,” Mora said. “Our cocktails reflect the vibrancy of the food, our flavors match the complexity of the plates, and when you combine all of that, you’re taken to your own personal paradise.”

Add to that the warm ambience, music that makes you want to dance and the tantalizing dishes, and Arcadia has found Latin America right in its backyard.