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Let's Eat Out

Mexican Food in a Relaxed Family Style

April 23, 1987|JOAN DRAKE | Times Staff Writer

There's a line in a current radio commercial that claims "and Agoura really isn't that far," especially if people are looking for a bargain. The advertisement is for mattresses, but the same could be said for Mexican food, thanks to the Latigo Kid, a restaurant tucked away in Whizin's Shopping Mall.

For those living in the west San Fernando Valley or anyone else who doesn't try to drive west on the Ventura Freeway during the evening rush hours, Agoura isn't very far. Reach the restaurant by taking the Kanan Road exit, then head east on the frontage road along the south side of the freeway. Turn right into the entrance of the shopping mall and the restaurant is on the west side of the plaza.

This is a relaxed, casual place suitable for the entire family. White stucco walls and dark wood are accented with colorful sombreros and serapes. We found the dining room more comfortable than the enclosed porch overlooking the plaza, but would be perfectly satisfied to dine in either room. And although out of context, I can't help commenting that the restrooms were immaculate--which in my opinion tells a lot about the cleanliness of an entire restaurant.

Almost as soon as you're seated, a complimentary basket of warm tortilla chips and dish of salsa arrives at the table. The chips are light, crisp, not greasy--some of the best we've tasted. The salsa is fresh, with a nice bite.

Of the seven comienzos (appetizers) sampled, ranging in price from $3.75 to $4.50, we recommend the quesadilla and mini chimis, both served with excellent cilantro-accented guacamole and sour cream. The quesadilla was amply filled with cheese and chiles and cooked to perfection. The mini chimis are anything but mini, and three amounted to a very substantial serving. They were nice and crisp, not at all greasy.

Margaritas are oversized, frothy and not too sweet--delicious and very refreshing. A strawberry variation is also offered, along with pina coladas, Mexican and domestic beers and wine. Soft drinks, milk and coffee or tea, Mexican coffee and three liqueur-laced variations are also available.

The extensive menu offers an excellent selection of familiar Mexican fare. Dinner prices range from $5.95 to $10.95; a la carte items from $1.95 to $4.75. A restaurant regular recommended the a la carte carnitas burrito with the beans served on the side on the first visit, and we found it outstanding--the pork was crispy on the outside, very moist inside.

Dinner entrees are served with a choice of soup or salad. The albondigas soup, billed as the best in the West, is certainly very good with crisp vegetables and a peppery flavored broth. Portions of everything we ordered were ample and we noticed many customers leaving with doggie bags.

Service was fast and attentive, yet certainly not rushed. Some of the waiters apparently speak a limited amount of English, but this didn't pose a problem. We had no trouble communicating.

Not everything on the menu is flawless. The sea bass tampico recommended by our waiter on one visit was a disappointment--the frozen fish had been thawed before cooking and exuded a very fishy odor. He noticed our lack of enthusiasm, however, and removed the cost of this entree from the bill with no prompting on our part.

Also slightly disappointing were the steak fajitas. Too heavy a hand with the teriyaki sauce made you wonder if you were eating a Chinese stir-fry. On one visit, the appetizer taquitos were a bit overfried and the dessert flan was popular only with the most junior member of our party. Still, there is plenty more on the menu to enjoy and bring you back.

The Latigo Kid Mexican Restaurant, Whizin's Shopping Mall, Roadside Drive, Agoura Hills, (818) 889-1195. Lunch served Tuesday through Friday, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; dinner served Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 4 to 9:30 p.m. Closed Monday. MasterCard and Visa accepted. Lot parking. Reservations accepted for larger parties. Dinner entrees $5.95 to $10.95.

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