It is always interesting to venture into a city you’re not all that familiar with, and find something delicious there. This is the case when we find ourselves at Luna Estrella, a little Mexican restaurant in Whittier.
Located in a quiet strip mall, it is only one of a few businesses open at night. It looks deserted, perhaps, even a little intimidating driving into the parking lot, but the welcoming lights of Luna Estrella beckons, and so here we are.
The restaurant itself is non-descript, a little bare even, but that has never deterred me from eating somewhere. Food is always the number one draw for me regardless of service and décor, even though, the two latter add to the whole experience.
We start off with some complimentary chips and salsa while we peruse the menu. The house salsa is a smoky offering, and I am surprised at how good it is.
We quickly order Guacamole Fresco ($4.99), while we continue to look through the menu. It is well-seasoned, possessing enough salt and lime for my palate. Tortilla chips accompany and they are a touch warm when they arrive.
The owner arrives at the restaurant and I see him walking around, talking to customers. When he arrives at our table, he chats with us briefly, then brings us two more salsas – a tomatillo, and a spicier habanero option – to try. I am impressed by the obvious care they have put into something as simple as the condiments, and I am excited for the rest of our meal to arrive.
I don’t usually order Flautas ($5.99) but my dining companion wants it, so who am I to say no? We choose chicken – there is also shredded beef. They arrive crispy and rather tasty. It is served with a drizzle of, what is described as, luna sauce on the menu, plus a dollop of guacamole and a sprinkling of cotija cheese. I’m definitely giving flautas a chance next time.
Elote Callejero ($3.49) catches my eye almost immediately. I can’t resist the temptation of street cart corn on the cob. Hell, I like corn – a LOT! This is served traditional style with mayo, butter, cotija and tajin. It is good! REALLY GOOD! I wanted another, but thought best to save room for other things.
Another thing I am not able to resist is aguachile. Agua Chile Shrimp ($12.99) – served with warm tostadas — has all the flavor of a true Mexican aguachile I’ve eaten south of the border, but the only difference is, the shrimp is not raw. Still, the mixture of cucumber, red onion, sliced mango, chile de arbol and lime spicy chile is absolutely spot on with the distinctive tart flavors which I crave. My mouth is puckering right now at the mere thought of this dish!
Don’t miss out on the Tacos ($2.99-$3.49). We try the al pastor which is packed with flavor.
I’m not a fan of burritos so I had no plans to order the one on the menu. However, owner Juan insists we try the signature dish of the restaurant and brings one over. Burrito Mojado ($9.79) is stuffed with your choice of protein – carne asada in this case – with rice, refried beans (or black beans), onions, and cilantro. It is generously smothered in a house green salsa, sour cream and cheese. The burrito is huge, enough for two to share if you’re ordering some appetizers.
I didn’t think I would like the burrito, but I am wrong. I think I don’t like eating a burrito with my hands because it can get messy. I’m eating this with a knife and fork and find that the flavors meld together very well. I am also surprised to say I did not find the mayo in the sauce offensive. If I had known there is mayo in this dish prior to trying, I think I would have passed on it.
So there you have it. Never judge a book by its cover. Luna Estrella might not look like much from the outside, but it offers a solid menu. I like that they’re not trying to do too much, but staying focused on what they are serving and doing it right. You can also enjoy some wine and cervezas with your food and there is also live music on Friday nights.
I’d like to see where the road takes them in a year’s time! An absolutely delightful find in an expected area.
11125 1st Ave
Whittier, CA 90603