The tastes emerging from downtown San Clemente’s new contemporary Mexican restaurant Gema are influenced by its chef’s childhood memories and high-level culinary techniques.
Partnering authentic ingredients straight from Mexico with locally sourced seasonal fare, Gema’s Executive Chef Juan Pablo Cruz takes tradition and gives it new life. His menu is scratch-made and inspired by authentic Mexican gastronomy which “supports local farmers markets, purveyors of naturally and humanely raised meats, sustainable seafood and the use of top-quality products and ingredients.”
Al pastor, birria, fish, shrimp, and wagyu take center stage at this seaside city’s newest upscale eatery, accompanied by quesillo cheese, habanero glazes, and tamarindo or jackfruit adobada.
I am a huge, huge fan of ceviche and always feel compelled to order the seafood specialty in the hopes of sampling the freshest of fish enhanced with each chef’s unique, flavorful spin on a traditional favorite. Gema’s iteration arrived with cuts of fresh fish (varies per the freshest available each day), mandarin habanero glaze, kumquot salad and blue watercress.
Remaining in keeping with my seafaring theme of the evening, I opted for another appetizer as my main course: the Camarones Flameados, crunchy shrimp with grasshopper creme, charred heirloom tomatoes, corn croutons, macadamia dust and sorrel mix.
If you’re a meat eater like my husband, menu options include the Wagyu steak – an MB-8 Australian filet accompanied by scalloped potatoes, the Birria de Res (tender prime short rib) and the grilled prime cut NY strip loin steak enhanced with bone marrow butter.
Other popular entrees include the Halibut Al Pastor (Alaskan halibut, achioto infusion, pineapple foam and serrano puree) and the Sea Bass Meztlapique (Mexican sea bass enhanced with a bergamot basil salsa macha).
Share a couple of sides, partake in a tostada de wagyu or Duranzo salad (elegante mix greens, blood orange vinaigrette, house hibiscus cheese, castilla walnut), and finish the night with a delectable dessert.