Bar Review: Flores, Corte Madera, California
Flores is a popular Mexican restaurant and bar in San Francisco, and the owners have just opened a new outpost in Marin County’s Corte Madera, just north of the bay. Marin, while it’s wedged between San Francisco and the NorCal wine country, isn’t known for being a hotbed of great bars and restaurants, mainly serving as a bedroom community for those working north or south of here. That’s slowly changing, though, as upscale joints like Flores are slowly creeping into the mix.
We recently visited Flores to experience both its cocktail selection and tastes from the kitchen, and found it jam-packed on a weekday evening (even with the California fires pouring smoke into the region). Cocktails, as you would expect, are heavy on tradition, with four types of margaritas offered (though one’s a paloma) and tequila and mezcal well represented elsewhere on the menu. I found the classic margarita to be a little thin, and the De Flores (mezcal, curacao, lime, and orange) to be a little sweet, in need of some tart lime to balance it out. Flores’ La Pinata cocktail, a wild mix of tequila, mezcal, manzanilla sherry, pineapple-habanero shrub, and lemon juice , sounded like a winner, but I found its vegetal, herbal notes too dominant (a common problem with sherry-based cocktails). At our table, the Vampire was more divisive and interesting, a heavily floral mix of vodka, hibiscus, lime, Mexican fernet, allspice, and ginger beer. This concoction provided an appropriately holiday vibe to the evening, and the flowery notes really grew on us.
The Playa Zicatela cocktail (mezcal, aperol, passion fruit, lemon, and mole bitters) also sounded like an easy win, but its bitterness and smoke were a bit overwhelming. All of that, however, was prelude to my definitive favorite cocktail of the evening, the Curious Jorge, which mixes rum, piloncillo (unrefined cane sugar), mint, yellow Chartreuse, banana liqueur, and ancho chile into a wildly complex drink that was worthy of continued analysis and discussion, its sweetly fruity notes in perfect balance with the herbal Chartreuse. I’d happily drink this any day.
Hits weren’t hard to find coming from the kitchen, which sent out healthy snacks (the spicy pumpkin-seed based Sikil P’ak with jicama sticks), ceviche with tons of heat, and hearty sopes de Palmito, made from homemade masa and filled with black been puree, cheese, and avocado. The carnitas here were heavily fried and quite crispy, which leaves them full of flavor but a little tough to chew on. We were stuffed after all of this, but found room to squeeze in a delightful flan with mango gelee and tres leches cake paired with ice cream and fresh coconut.
Give me one of those desserts and a Curious Jorge and I’d be a happy man no matter what’s on fire outside.