BY ATHENA FOSLER-BRAZIL & KYLIE YEATMAN
As the new kid on the block—or the new restaurant on Ocean Avenue—Villa Sombreros may have big shoes to fill as the replacement for Artemis Turkish Kitchen; however, with vibrant colors, characteristic decor and a menu unlike any other in downtown Carmel, the Mexican restaurant stands out from its neighbors on aesthetic alone.
Colorful lights, decorative bottles and cactuses in pretty, patterned pots on each table give Villa Sombreros a festive and inviting milieu, and the extremely attentive staff of hosts and waiters add to the homey charm of the place. The music, an important factor in the ambiance of any restaurant, is also the perfect volume—not too loud but definitely audible.
The Villa’s appetizers, including a ceviche—likely the best thing offered on the menu, for those wondering—are enough to write home about, but staying persistent throughout our three-course meal, the $9 fusion of jalapenos, onions and shrimp wasn’t all we have time for on a Thursday night.
After complimentary chips and salsa (a good sign right off the bat) and deliciously spicy ceviche, beer-battered fish and $12 shrimp tacos are perfect main courses. Reasonably portioned and accompanied by Spanish rice and beans, the fish tacos satisfy the craving for the Mexican staple, complete with shredded cabbage, a spicy cream sauce and guacamole. Taking up about a third of the plate, the soft-shell tacos are so heaping with fish and veggies that it takes a moment of contemplation to figure out how to actually eat them, requiring a sort of head-tilt taco-modification to actually get a bite. This is all worth it, though, mess and all.
While the Villa’s menu is not exceptionally long, what it may lack in variety is made up for in the individual quality of its dishes. Offered with a selection of either beef or chicken, both varieties of the staple burrito are all you can ask for in a tortilla-wrapped mound of beans, cheese and various vegetables, with freshly made rice and beans on the side acting as the main course’s hype men, though not without their own appeal.
Though offering a somewhat standard selection of main courses typical of Mexican fare, even the most predictable of choices shines amid the cut-and-dry nutriment of your average Carmel cuisine.
Upon hearing the albeit short selection of desserts offered at the Villa, it becomes clear that no other choice would be adequate next to the golden, decadent flan served alongside a dollop of whipped cream, and, to add just the right amount of extravagance to the presentation, a charmingly positioned halved strawberry.
Villa Sombreros is open Monday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., staying open until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Stop by any day of the week if you’re in the mood for authentic Mexican and a lovely atmosphere.