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Originally published Friday, May 11, 2012 at 5:32 AM

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Dining Deal

Fonda la Catrina exhibits a talent for Mexican sauces and more

The aromas of garlic, cilantro, mole, slow-cooked pork, freshly made tortillas and roasted peppers waft out of the open kitchen at Fonda la Catrina in Georgetown to remind patrons that despite the artsy setting this restaurant is all about the food.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Fonda la Catrina

Mexican

5905 Airport Way S., Seattle

206-767-2787

www.fondalacatrina.com

Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 4-10 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday

Etc: Credit cards accepted; street parking; handicap accessible; full bar

Prices: $

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This is my new favorite Mexican restaurant. I'm having a hard time breaking myself of... MORE

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Nestled in a pleasantly gritty section of Georgetown across from an old brewery building, Fonda la Catrina bills itself as a contemporary Mexican restaurant and cantina that treats "food as art." That's an apt description because owner Enrique Trejo has given the former Tileworks building where the restaurant is located the sleekness of a downtown gallery, complete with polished concrete floors and works by Latin American artists on the walls.

But the appetizing aromas of garlic, cilantro, mole, slow-cooked pork, freshly made tortillas and roasted peppers wafting out of the open kitchen remind diners that despite the artsy trappings, this place is all about the food.

The menu: A simple menu executed with an expertly balanced mix of earthy and springy ingredients makes for a dining experience that is undeniably crowd-pleasing if not especially challenging. The luscious but light cactus salad ($3) and creamy guacamole with thick, homemade tortilla chips ($4) work well against hearty platters of pork braised in green sauce with pinto beans, Yukon Gold potatoes and grilled cactus ($12); chicken enchiladas in green or red sauce ($8); tacos filled with chorizo, pork or steak ($6.50-$8); and tamales with chicken and roasted tomatoes or pork with tomatillos ($4).

What to write home about: The spicy, chocolaty, smoky brown sauce on the mole poblano enchilada special ($9) somehow managed to be magnificent, despite some of the listed ingredients (plantains and anise, in particular) lacking prominence in the dish and the fact that the chicken version was served instead of the vegetarian option we ordered.

The green sauce on the enchiladas verdes had a memorable brightness, thanks to lots of citrus and cilantro.

The setting: Candlelight and industrial chic prevail. Trejo, a former contractor, used reclaimed wood and metal to bring warmth to the open, gallerylike space.

Summing up: Guacamole and chips with a side of red salsa ($5), cactus salad ($3), enchiladas verdes ($8) and mole poblano enchiladas ($9) came to $25 plus tax and tip.

Tyrone Beason: 206-464-2251 or tbearson@seattletimes.com

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